New York Times on Florida’s Nature Coast

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Finally scored a copy of the New York Times on Friday. I have been sorely missing reading a good newspaper since I moved to Florida. (The Tampa Bay Times is OK, probably better than most  surviving metro dailies. But it is NOT the New York Times or the Washington Post.)

Publix in my neighborhood carries the New York Times, in theory. But only a few copies are delivered to the store, and they are snapped up quickly. As you may know, I’m not exactly an early riser. So the Times is always sold out for me. I’ve been told the customer service desk gets frequent requests from people who would like the store to hold a copy of the NYT. Far more requests than they can honor. I have yet to find any store in my area that carries The Washington Post. I like to think you could find the Times or the Post in Miami, maybe even in downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg.

But where I live, a little north of Tampa- St. Pete, no. Seems to me, this is a growing suburban area. Maybe the farthest northern reach of the Tampa Bay suburbs, but also the far southern tip of Florida’s more sparsely populated Nature Coast. Off the map as a prime newspaper circulation area. Despite the general decline in daily newspaper readership, the New York Times is definitely still in demand here in Florida. The demand is not being matched by supply. Maybe I can do something about that?

— John

God Save The Queen

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America has nothing to match the British monarchy and royal family.

I’ve mostly ignored the royals, and I doubt I’m getting sentimental in my old age; I’m getting cynical. Never watched a royal wedding before, but Saturday I watched the entire ceremony in the cathedral, and a bit of the endless processionals before and after.

It was a well-choreographed show, with generally excellent execution, a splendid display of nationalist symbolism that has been perfected through centuries of practice. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, had the starring roles, and St. George’s Chapel was the setting.

But the royal wedding was about something far grander than one young couple. Harry is only sixth in the line of succession to the throne, after all. And where is Sussex?

The pageantry of the royal wedding generated strong and genuine emotion for millions of Queen Elizabeth’s subjects throughout the British Isles and the Commonwealth. Such symbolism and emotion, and the patriotism engendered, are of inestimable value.

The Queen and Prince Philip and the monarchy provide amazing spine-stiffening support for the British people and the British nation state.

By the end of the wedding, was there anyone in Britain who would take issue with the words “God save the Queen?”

— John

Wisdom All Gone

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Finally had the last wisdom tooth extracted. The one on the upper left. Yesterday. It’s been on the to-do list for years. Near the top of the list for months. The tooth was in deteriorating condition. So said the dentist. Figured I might as well deal with it now, while I’m still of sound mind and body — more or less — than later. You never can tell about “later.”

I could have my lights turned out for the procedure. So said the oral surgeon. But only if I came in the a.m. and had a driver take me home. Or I could choose local anesthetic in the p.m. My neighbor across the hall and I have a mutual accord regarding driving assistance for such occasions. I’ve taken him to and fro the hospital in Tampa a couple times. But I opted for afternoon. I never willingly schedule anything before noon.

Oral numbness was accomplished. The extraction itself was over in five minutes. No prescription pain-killers prescribed; Motrin or Tylenol recommended. I went with Tylenol. Bleeding continued for a few hours, until all the wisdom drained out. Tylenol did the trick. After-surgery pain was not as bad as advertised. Need only a little Tylenol now, on the day after.

I am under doctor’s orders to avoid exertion and fatigue. No heavy lifting or blogging today.

— John

Thinking About A State To Call Home

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Via Facebook, I see that the question of where to live in retirement strikes a chord.

A friend from high school and college (he’s definitely a retirement-eligible Baby Boomer)  provides some interesting info. He reports that the best five states to live in, if you want to stretch $1 million in retirement savings, are Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kansas, and Oklahoma. I can see how they’d all probably be among the low cost-of-living states. And Tennessee is picturesque, plus it has Nashville. I don’t know that I’d be interested in the other four. ($1 million in retirement savings? Only in my dreams!)

Long as we’re on the subject, my friend reports the five worst states to spend your $1 million are Hawaii, Washington, D.C., California, Oregon, and New York. Or maybe they’re the best places to spend a million real fast. They all sound plenty pricey. Hawaii is probably worth it. And the other four all have some advantages to recommend them, depending on your individual preferences.

An excellent source for all kinds of U.S. geographical information is Bob Wells, famous for his Santa Claus beard and his YouTube channel, CheapRVLiving. Bob goes into the question of home states in some detail, including four long videos on YouTube and posts on his website, CheapRVLiving.com.

After listening to Bob, you’ll understand that choosing a state to call home is not an inconsequential matter. Far from it! It’s a lot more than cost of living, although that is important. First, he sets us straight about legal issues. You can own or rent a home in more than one state, if you can afford it. But Bob says only one state is your legal domicile. You can only have a driver’s license or vote in ONE state. “Domicile Sweet Domicile.” Doesn’t sound poetic, but it has serious implications.

I’m not going to repeat everything Bob Wells explains. Go to his YouTube channel or Website. Some of the most important domicile considerations for retirees who aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare are medical. Does your health insurance cover you wherever you roll in the USA, or only in your home state?

Bob approaches the question of legal domicile from the perspective of folks who live on wheels, in their recreational vehicle (RV). It could be a travel trailer, a Class A, B, or C motor home, a van or pickup truck, or even a car. Whew! Come to think of it, more than a few retired folks choose exactly that lifestyle. Once they were tied to jobs, now they’re free to take to the open road.

Bob Wells identifies some of the best states for RVers to consider as a domicile, even if they’re rarely in that state. They are: South Dakota, Florida, Texas, and Nevada. A major item of interest to RVers is how easy the state makes it to become a legal resident, get a driver’s license and register your vehicles. In SD, FL, TX, and NV it’s pretty easy. South Dakota is easiest of all. And all four states offer the advantage of no state income tax, a major attraction for many retirees.

Other states with no income tax are Washington state, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Alaska. I’m not sure about Tennessee.

I think the Middle Atlantic states are generally among the higher cost of living and taxes. My state of Maryland has an income tax, plus a county income tax that piggybacks on the state tax.

Many people from Maryland move to Delaware for retirement. Far as I know, Delaware has income tax, but no sales tax. My Uncle Joe owns a home in southern Delaware, and besides no sales tax, he brags about his low annual property tax. Uncle Joe just turned 90 and he’s sharp as a tack.

Remember, it’s not all about money. Low cost of living and low taxes are not the only considerations, and maybe not the most important. Please don’t make any decisions based on the information in this post, or anything else you see on the Internet. Do your due diligence and make decisions based on verified correct info.

In a day or three, I’ll get back to why I chose Florida. Hint: It’s not about the income tax.

— John

Geography And Retirement

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green trees

MARYLAND IS A DELIGHTFUL PLACE TO LIVE. IT’S GREEN, IT HAS MOUNTAINS AND SEASHORE. THIS IDYLLIC SPOT IS IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY. BUT . . .

Time to get serious about answers to that pesky question:

How and where do I live a good life at this late age on a sustainable basis?

As I approached and passed the retirement point, the where question was the most urgent one for me. I’m still working on the more elusive how, and I’ll leave that one for later.

For many retirees, where is not an issue. If you live in a home that you love and can afford to keep, AND there’s no strong attraction to a different location, then case closed.  For most folks in that situation, proximity to children and grandchildren might be the only reason to consider relocating. I had never in my adult life established a permanent home, and I have no children or grandchildren, so I was free to move or stay put.

Two issues convinced me I badly needed a change of geography.

I didn’t mind the weather in my home state of Maryland until my fifties. But after 50 I came to dislike the winter months more with each passing year. Even so, I might not have moved for climate alone. I liked Maryland in most respects, and I have siblings, nieces and nephews, and friends living there.

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MARYLAND WINTERS CAN BE COLD AND SNOWY.

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HOW DEEP CAN SNOW GET IN MARYLAND?

The deciding factor was cost of living. As job prospects deteriorated in my fifties, I moved to smaller and smaller apartments. Income declined and debt increased. It became obvious that I couldn’t AFFORD the Washington-Baltimore region of Maryland, where I’d lived most of my life. I began researching the alternatives long before I would qualify for Social Security at 62 or Medicare at 65. I started the research close to home, in the different regions of Maryland, and gradually expanded outward.

In a day or three, I’ll pick up the geography story.

— John

 

The Most Privileged Americans

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Income insecurity is not an important problem for retired Americans.  Not at present.  In fact, it’s just the opposite. Retired Americans probably enjoy more income security than the vast majority of people around the world and throughout history.

I’m a retired American on the brink of 70. I’m not wealthy or even affluent, but neither am I poor or insecure. I’m very grateful for the life and security I enjoy at this point.

The most privileged people in the world today are the following:

  1. The top one percent or five percent of Americans. I don’t know exactly where to draw the line. Maybe it’s the top 20 percent or 40 percent.
  2. Most elderly and retired Americans. (However, it must also be acknowledged that too many Americans, including elderly Americans, remain trapped in poverty.)

Just my opinion.

Some people reportedly believe that older Americans are a wealthy class, living the high life at the expense of impoverished children and struggling younger adults. That’s because we enjoy remarkable income security, thanks to Social Security and Medicare. Many of us also have some pension benefits and even some savings. Younger and middle-aged Americans are rightly skeptical that they will enjoy similar benefits. The stage is set for intergenerational contention. The future is impossible to predict. The income security of younger generations is a matter of politics and economics, and I don’t want to go there. At least not today.

What I want is to present an honest picture about the realities of retired life. It’s not all about money. It’s true that many will need to cut back spending and lifestyle to be in balance with our retirement income. But my previous post about income and spending may have left an incorrect impression linking income and spending issues entirely with retirement. In fact, people can suffer a sudden loss of income at any time in life, and for myriad reasons. Loss of job, divorce, recession, business failure, and illness, to name a few.

Most of the natural world and human life run in cycles. It’s Biblical. Seven wet years and seven dry years. And so forth. The business cycle of expansion and recession is notorious and causes much misery. Financial consequences can be cumulative. An adjustment of income and spending at retirement is simply a part of the much larger cycle of human life. It may be that we are at the peak of the Social Security and Medicare cycle. I hope not.

I will turn soon to lighter subject matter.

— John

 

Income can decline quick and easy, spending seems frozen

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One thing I know. It’s easy for income to crash and burn. It’s not so easy to reduce outgo, that is, spending.

People become accustomed to a standard of living. It’s painful to take an ax to that standard of living after a loss of income. People cling to the familiar. Spending seems frozen solid. It thaws slowly.

If you live in a house, mortgage payments won’t go down, at least not easily. Selling the house could take months, or years. If you live in an apartment, you might at least have to wait for the lease to expire before you can move. And then, move where?

The kind of clothes you’re accustomed to wearing, the food you’re accustomed to eating, the entertainment you enjoy, whether lavish or simple. The car you drive! And the cost of gas. All the familiar things constitute your lifestyle. They cost money. Lifestyle is change-resistant; cutting spending is slow and painful. It’s the way of the American capitalist-consumerist economy.

A few days ago, I promised to outline the steps that brought me to the present, which includes being able to restart this blog. I don’t want it to be all about money. Money is not important; that’s been my philosophy. Nonetheless, income and spending dictate the details of the way we live.

When I turned 65 in the summer of 2013, and became eligible for Medicare, I imagined I could afford to retire. You know, stop working. So when the motel closed at the end of the season, I told the owner I wouldn’t be back for the 2014 season. Even now, I can’t say if that was the right or wrong decision. No point in looking back.

I moved to my home county, because that’s where I grew up and where most of my relatives still lived. It seemed the logical thing to do. But the Washington, D.C., metro area is high cost-of-living. It became apparent that I couldn’t afford to rent an apartment congruent with my accustomed lifestyle. (And I was accustomed to living in quite small, one-room efficiency apartments.) Since rent is the largest item in my budget, rent became the central issue.

So I decided to stop working (retire) in 2013. Retiring and moving in the same year are probably not a good plan, but that’s what I did. The reality of the income/spending lifestyle predicament soon became obvious. I should have been more aware that retirement would reduce income and require adjustments.

The obvious question, which I raised two posts ago, presented itself:

How and where do I live a good life at this late age on a sustainable basis?

Before long, in early 2014, I began pondering and researching the above question. Researching consumed most of 2014, 2015 and 2016. In a day or three, I’ll pick up the story.

— John

Wild Birds Of Florida

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In response to requests for photos of Florida wildlife.

 

A Little Change Is OK

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Housekeeping is not what I do best. In fact, mostly I avoid housekeeping. However, I realized that restarting this old blog is going to require a little. A little housekeeping, I mean. As little as possible. Please bear with me.

Until this month, I hadn’t posted here since the end of 2016. Seems like my will to blog faded away after the sorry election of that November. Not a single post in all of 2017! After all that time, the blog seemed to need repair.

You might notice that I’ve been tinkering with the blog title and the visual theme. I might  cull out a few old posts that no longer seem relevant. Maybe fiddle a little with categories, tags, widgets.

Housekeeping will be done soon, or I’ll simply give up on it. I’ll turn my attention to blogging. But the posts will be different. Writing will be more concise. My political opinions will be banned. Simplicity will be the focus. I hope to have photos and observations on my new life in Florida.

In a day or three, I shall return with a brief outline of the changes necessary to bring me and my life to this time and place.

— John

How To Revive An Old Man And Restart His Old Blog

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Friends, I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging on a regular and dependable basis. However . . . There have been challenges . . . It’s so easy to make excuses, so easy to procrastinate. It’s what I do best.

Mainly, it’s a matter of re-energizing and motivating the old blogger. This post will be simply a teaser. Tease myself into action, and tease long-neglected readers that more posts will be coming. At least, I hope so.

The prerequisite was figuring out an answer to the following question:

How and where do I live a good life at this late age on a sustainable basis?

The answer required several years and a lot of research. I’ll reveal the answer as I’ve been able to discern it, and consequent actions required, in future posts. God willing.  — John

Florida Next Winter

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Note: This post was first published Jan. 8, 2015 on one of my experimental blogs. Now it’s December 2015. The year has come and gone, and a new winter will begin Dec. 21. And I’m not in Florida yet. My excuse is that major life decisions take time. I’m working  on it. 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Tuesday, we had snow and 26 degrees. Wednesday, it was 17 degrees in late afternoon, and down to 12 degrees by the time I got home from work, around 9:30 p.m. I live in the Mid-Atlantic states. The climate here is supposed to be relatively moderate.

Except when it’s not. Tonight, it’s cold as a witch’s tit.

The heater in my 216-square-foot apartment runs constantly all night. It can’t raise the temperature inside high enough to cut off.

Is it any wonder that every year about this time, my thoughts turn to Florida? I’ve only been there once. I flew into the Tampa airport to help rescue my brother (he was very ill) and drive him back to Maryland. I have very little direct experience of Florida, but I know a lot about it second-hand. (Update: Took a two-week road trip to Florida in June 2015 to research housing options. So I’ve made a little progress.) Continue reading