SOMETIMES, I’M embarrassed to live in Florida.
Late-night talk show hosts have plenty of fodder for their jokes given the behavior of residents, visitors and our politicians. Fortunately, I don’t know anyone who fits the stereotype of “Florida Man,” but such folks clearly exist, or so these memes suggest.
We also endure hurricanes, scorching summers, soaring homeowner’s insurance rates and all kinds of odd creatures, from the native alligator to invasive species such as the green iguana and the giant African snail.
I NEVER SAW THE NEED to buy prescriptions from anywhere other than the local pharmacy until—for reasons that still aren’t clear—a medication I’ve been taking for years jumped in price.
Until January, I’d been paying $8.86 a month for the medication through my Humana Medicare Advantage plan. Suddenly, it jumped 200% to $26.85. In a series of calls, Humana agents gave me the following varied reasons:
The manufacturer increased the price.
I’d reached my donut limit for co-pays,
AS I SURF THROUGH my streaming channels, I wonder if I’m paying too much for too much.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the choices on Netflix and similar services? Are your personal watch lists constantly expanding because a channel keeps suggesting shows you might like? Even in retirement, who has that much time to spend? Before you know it, some shows on your list have disappeared—and you’re wondering whether you’re getting your money’s worth
I still believe streaming is a bargain compared with the outrageous cable bills I once received.
I WAS HAPPY TO receive this year’s boost to my Social Security benefit—but I’m regularly reminded that it doesn’t match the endless inflation.
A case in point: The same oil change at the same gas station for my 2020 Honda Fit cost me 28% more last week than it did nine months earlier. With detailed invoices, I could compare the reasons for the jump. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the cost of four quarts of full synthetic oil,
AS A RETIREE FOR WHOM Social Security payments are my financial foundation, it’s worrying to hear about a potential cut in benefits 11 years from now—because I’ve seen this movie before.
If Congress does nothing, benefits would drop 23% in 2034. It’s an unfathomable situation, but one that most pundits believe is unlikely. Let’s hope. Thankfully, I feel secure that my state pension—one third of my monthly income—will stay solvent.
More than 40 years ago,
IT WOULD BE EASY to sell my home “in a snap” for a no-obligation, all-cash offer—or so I was told in a mailing I received last week. I frequently get letters, texts, emails and phone calls from companies that want to buy my two-bedroom condo for cash.
It’s tempting to sell. I’m retired, and both my children have left to find their fortunes in bigger cities. But I suspect the new owner would then rent out my unit for some jacked-up price.
I BOUGHT AND SENT 16 Christmas cards this year. Why spend $6.99 for the box of cards and $9.60 for stamps? I frequently communicate with most of the recipients via email and texts—but that’s why the cards are special.
Apparently, many other Americans feel the same way. Billions of cards are still bought and presumably sent each year, despite the cost of postage, according to the Greeting Card Association.
I could send virtual cards.
THE BEST FINANCIAL advice I could give to a Gen Z or millennial is this: Join a credit union. But they probably wouldn’t listen.
A GOBankingRates survey earlier this year found that fewer adults under age 40 are banking with credit unions, instead preferring national or online banks by as much as a two-to-one margin. I’ve done all my banking with a local credit union for almost 18 years, and it’s provided me with a degree of personal customer service that’s likely less common with banks.
LIKE MANY RETIREES, I’ve thought about moving. My two children are living elsewhere, and I have no other family in the Florida city where I’ve resided for more than 17 years. For two years, I’ve researched buying a condo closer to the ocean or even moving to Mexico, where my modest fixed income would go much further. Perhaps I should return to my hometown up north—something two friends from high school have already done.
I RETIRED TWO YEARS ago this week. I’d been in a job that was a bad fit for my skills, experience and university degrees. The pay was paltry, but it was the only job I could find four years earlier.
I calculated that my Social Security and state pension would match my take-home pay because they were based on my highest earnings, which were many years earlier. COVID-19 was a threat to old guys like me and my employer was offering a modest retirement incentive,
I NEVER PLANNED to retire early. But I was toiling away in a job that had nothing to do with my college degrees or my previous work experience, plus it paid 40% less than the post I’d held for the prior 10 years. When my employer offered a meager early retirement package in 2020 to cut labor costs during the pandemic, I took it.
I’ve lived frugally ever since, as I had during the four years in my last,
ALMOST SEVEN MONTHS on, I’ve failed miserably with one of the New Year’s resolutions I wrote about for HumbleDollar—but I’ve done well with the other.
I’d like to take credit for my success in not obsessively checking my IRA, but the discouraging reality of the financial markets has a lot to do with it. This year, going online to view my account several times a day—which I’ve been known to do—would have left me feeling truly hopeless.
WHETHER FOR GOOD luck or because I’m thrifty, I still stoop down to pick up pennies. But there might not be any in the future.
Thanks to their copper content, pennies now cost twice as much to produce as they’re worth—and skyrocketing inflation is only exacerbating the problem. There are even rumors that the government will stop producing pennies, but so far the U.S. Mint has made no such announcement.
Instead of using my debit card for groceries,
I REMOVED THE YOKE of cable TV several years ago. Thanks to today’s streaming channels, I have endless options—and I’m still saving money.
If you thought cable offered an overflowing abundance of choices, buy a Roku or other streaming device. You could stay glued to the screen 24/7 and never see anything twice, probably for years.
A Roku device, available for as little as $24, will give you access to more than 200 channels,
MY KIDS THINK I’M cheap. I tell them, “If I’m so cheap, why don’t I have more money in the bank?”
I learned to be thrifty at the knees of my father and grandfather. During this time of high inflation, they provide me with examples to be emulated. Grandpa never owned a car and kept a vegetable garden into his 80s. He built a loom to weave small rugs made from rags, and then sold them to friends,