The couple retired two years ago with a salary of about $27,000 a year. Here’s how it goes

In May 2019, Joan and Steve Reid left their part-time day jobs – Joan at the public library and Steve at the florist – and moved from the affluent New York City suburb of Pearl River, NY , to the coastal community of Vero Beach, Fla. The couple’s aim, both 67 years old at the time, was to retire, cut spending, and live on less than $30,000.

Come back then, Next Avenue wrote about the Reids and their plans in the story that became one of its most popular, “Retirement in a Depression”. Next Avenue thought it would be interesting to check back to see how things went, and how things look, two years later.

“Overall, our total costs are about the same between New York and Florida,” says Joan.

But even though their savings didn’t pay off exactly as planned, the couple were happy with their decision to move. “Our standard of living and place of residence is already a complete plus. We live the way we always have,” says Joan. “It’s not luxurious, but it is comfortable.”

How does retirement feel?

However, the geographical and spiritual transition was not easy. “Our feeling was no longer one of gratitude because we made a decision and what we had in retirement turned to a sense of loss, which has diminished,” says Joan. They still miss the seasons of New York, especially fall.

In 2019, they eagerly look forward to a quieter and slower pace of life in Florida. That turned out great. “We’ve adjusted to a slower pace, but it may have more to do with retirement comfort and acceptance, which is an opportunity to slow down,” says Joan.

Their income: before and now

Today, the Reids have income from several sources, just as they did in New York.

Steve, who creates art from found objects and mixed media, sold two pieces of art this year for a total of $350.

From November 2019 to April 2021, Joan worked as a content editor for two local magazines, bringing in $800 a month. “This is an incredible boost for us,” she said. She makes $630 in 2019 from freelance writing, editing, and teaching, but only $305 in 2020 and zero so far in 2021.

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After leaving her job as an editor, Joan focused on writing “Joy: A Woman’s Path to Retirement,” which she self-published on Amazon
It documents how the Reids approached retirement, their planning process, and ultimately their relocation to Florida. Joan is expected to earn $45 in royalties from it in November.

The book’s message, she says, “is not to require a person to be financially rich in order to retire.” Although there are no upfront costs to write the book, Joan pays shipping on sales and covers the cost of copies by any authors. “I do my own marketing through social media and email,” she says.

This couple received a $2,400 pandemic stimulus check from the US government in 2020 and a check for $2,200 in 2021, which was a great help.

They also receive a total of $257 in pension per month. And while their Social Security benefits go up a little bit each year (both start claiming at age 62), so does their Medicare premium, so that’s basically a cleansing.

All told, they forecast 2021 earnings of $24,769, which is roughly the same as in 2020 but down from $27,000 in 2019. Florida has no state income tax, which helps them keep more of those what they bring.

What happened to their costs?

Their total daily living expenses are on par with when they lived in New York, although medical, food, and auto insurance costs are higher.

In 2020, their total medical expenses were $423. This year, they hit $583. Joan explains: “Steve’s medications have increased, which means more doctor visits and follow-up visits. And the copays became more frequent. ”

To reduce prescription costs, the couple signed up for patient assistance programs with pharmaceutical companies, and Steve was able to get free medication for his dry eye syndrome.

Medical copays skyrocketed from $848 in 2020 from about $505 in 2019. “The Cleveland Clinic has swallowed up a lot of medical facilities in Vero Beach. “It adds another level of payment to each doctor visit,” says Joan. Now they try not to use the medical methods associated with the Cleveland Clinic, in 2019 Takeover of Indus River Medical Center in Vero Beach, yes First time to South Florida three decades earlier.

To save money on doctor visits, Reids take advantage of free blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checks at their primary care physician’s office.

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Joan says that dental work costs more in Florida, but they found a dentist who “worked with our needs and budget, and we were able to get some of the work done with installments. ”

Gasoline, $60 a month, and car insurance, $100 monthly, the cost for Reids is about the same as in New York. They drove a 16-year-old Chrysler with 195,000 miles on it.

The couple’s biggest savings: rent. In New York, they will pay $1,450 monthly. While their Vero Beach rent has increased by nearly 10%, from $800 to $870, they still saved some money.

Meanwhile, the Reids have been trying to pay off some debt and are currently owed $1,580, down significantly from $4,000. To do that, they managed to remove some of the interest and fees on credit cards by contacting creditors directly.

“I have directly emailed the letter of appeal to the CEO of Capital One

and one for Care Credit,” Joan said. “Both intervened on our behalf by removing more than $800 in interest and freezing account balances with no interest charged. Accounts have been effectively closed. “

Also, Joan notes, she calls Sears
+ 80.00%

and negotiate with customer service to close the card there, paying off the remaining interest with small automatic payments. The couple plan to be debt-free by early 2022.

Reids have also saved a bit. Right now, they have $2,400 in a rainy day fund. But Joan says she doesn’t have a specific plan to save. “It was hit and missed,” she noted.

Have a job?

In the 2019 Next Avenue article, Reids mentioned plans to get part-time work (“less than 10 hours per week for each of us, at minimum wage”). They abandoned that idea. “We look initially when we arrive,” explains Joan. “But we both quickly realized that we were square pegs trying to fit round holes.”

Instead, she said, “What we’re doing to help ourselves is getting Steve’s artwork out to the public, and I’m writing.”

Steve has had two solo art exhibitions this year and is featured in a local magazine. “The exposure boosted his artistic career in the area,” says Joan.

Overall, she notes, “retirement has given us more time to commit to a profitable artistic pursuit.”

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Cut costs: think outside

Even with her editorial work through the spring of this year, Joan said she and her husband “need food assistance and have been helped by a Salvation Army food pantry several times.”

To reduce food bills, they don’t order takeout or dine out and have eaten more vegetarian meals this year.

For fun, they borrow books and movies from the library rather than paying for them. Reids has no television service. Joan explains: “We watch shows on YouTube connected from a personal hotspot on my iPhone.

They take advantage of free admission days at the Vero Beach Art Museum and free outdoor dance parties with live music at a local park.

They also shop for kitchenware and clothing at Goodwill. “I can’t remember the last time I bought clothes from a regular retail store,” says Joan. They regularly go to dollar stores to buy basic things like sugar, paper products, $21 greeting cards, soft drinks, cold drinks, shampoo, sheets, underwear, and shoes.

A small sum: Joan joins the nearby McKee Botanical Garden at a cost of $60 a year. “The environment and surrounding nature make it my peaceful place to communicate with Mother Earth,” she said.

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Other free outdoor activities: They forage for seashells on beaches less than 10 minutes away and hike to the trails in nearby Greenway Lagoon.

Is there anything they would do differently in hindsight?

“Our situation has turned out the right way,” says Joan, “and our plan is to live the best we can with what we have,” says Joan, “and continue to pursue our passion for art. vision and writing.”

Debbie L. Miller from Brooklyn, NY This is her 17th article for Next Avenue.

This article is republished with permission of, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

More from Next Avenue: The couple retired two years ago with a salary of about $27,000 a year. Here’s how it goes


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