One Year In Florida

ducks for blog

THE DUCKS THINK THIS BRIDGE WILL TAKE THEM ACROSS THE BORDER TO CANADA. 

As of Aug. 1, I’ve been a Florida resident for one full year! Driver’s license, car registration, voter registration, all accomplished within the first couple of months. Survived my first hurricane, too. Last week, I signed a lease renewal. Small rent increase, now will pay $699 a month. And my typical electric bill is around $46. Zero commuting time and distance.

Won’t try to write a full account of the year, but if I did, it wouldn’t be long. Compared with the first nine months of 2017, which included putting my financial house in order and removing myself from Maryland to Florida, the past 12 months have been a walk in the park.

I met the neighbors in the other three apartments on my floor. Three lone individuals, like me. I speak to one of them nearly every day. Big improvement over the $900 basement apartment in wealthy Montgomery County, where my neighbors were the storage room, the trash room, and the laundry room.

I soon discovered two excellent public libraries and one big bookstore with excellent discounts. And I tried a few churches. Like everyone else, I shop at Publix supermarket and Walmart. Four cheap restaurants are nearby. They meet my need for simple food and ambiance. But I eat in the apartment a lot. I know where to recycle newspapers and aluminum cans, but not plastic bottles.

Each apartment has its own air conditioner outside. My unit died in early July. No problem. Apartment management installed a window unit to tide me over two days while a new outside air conditioner was installed. It is powerful and efficient. Inside air temperature is NOT a problem, I can assure you! The outdoor temperature, humidity and rain in summer, that’s another story. Don’t even want to talk about it.

You have not seen lightning until you’ve lived in the Tampa Bay region.

Full disclosure requires me to report that I turned 70 in June. I’ve been aging at an alarming rate the past few years. Sleep too much. I accomplished the move to Florida on adrenaline fumes. Did it in the nick of time; not sure I’d be able to manage such a feat five years hence.

Truth is, I’m well on the way to becoming a cynical old man. Possibly I’ve already arrived. If a man isn’t cynical at this point, he just hasn’t been paying attention.

The move to Florida was necessary, and possibly life-saving. I escaped the nasty winter cold and the impoverishing Montgomery County cost of living. I haven’t had bronchitis since departing Maryland. Here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I survive nicely and balance my budget. And that’s enough honesty for one blog post.

— John

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Geography And Retirement

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.

My car 2

MARYLAND WINTERS CAN BE COLD AND SNOWY.

SnowMon5

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

 

Income can decline quick and easy, spending seems frozen

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

How To Revive An Old Man And Restart His Old Blog

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

Good Intentions . . . In A Tiny Apartment

small kitchen sink piled with dirty dishes

I promised myself I wasn’t going to let this happen in the new apartment. Famous last words.

On the positive side, the sink is small — you might even say tiny, as kitchen sinks go — so it limits the number of dirty dishes that can pile up. Plus, I left most of the dishes at the old apartment. How many dishes does one bachelor need? Continue reading

American Politics According To Alice Waters

Alice Waters at JWU: Lecturn

ALICE WATERS  (Photo credit: Andy Ciordia)

Alice Waters, a leading light in the movement for nutritious, organic, and local food, was interviewed in the Washington Post this week. One quote would be a good meditation for all who are concerned about the human condition in America, as we approach the 2014 midterm elections.

“I’m in this very political place right now and feel like we have to collaborate in different ways to make a big impression, to change the way that we are living our lives, which is destroying our health and the planet. I certainly want to feel like I have tried to take care of this planet for the kids of this world. I really have to do something.”

Please focus your attention on the word “collaborate.”

Politicians have oversized egos. Continue reading