May 18, 2022

Grownups in The Room

 

The title grabbed my attention: 10 Ways to Live More Frugally. In the section on retirement, this article in a national newspaper listed ideas for cutting back spending during retirement.

Unfortunately, the author used an approach I refer to as "Eat Your Vegetables," meaning the information is so basic, so much common knowledge, it is like telling someone to stop smoking, exercise more, and eat more fruits and vegetables to improve his health. There is nothing new, nothing that hasn't been suggested a million times before.

A sampling of the 10 Ways included:

* Plan carefully if you are thinking of moving
* Plan your meals for the week
* Review your cable or streaming bills
* Be a savvy grocery shopper
* Check out discounts and freebies

I am a little surprised that the list didn't include: don't walk in front of a bus, and close the windows when it is raining. OK, that is a bit snarky. But, seriously, the best this national newspaper can come up with is to review your Internet bill and look for dining discounts?

Sometimes I think folks who write retirement articles are all in their 20s or 30s and look at us as if we have lost the ability to think. They present ideas as if their target reader is a class of 2nd graders. They have no clue what our life is like or what steps we have already taken to ensure a satisfying retirement. They tend to overlook that we have had to make a lot of decisions and hard choices just to be old enough to qualify as a retiree! 

A thoughtful article on ways to cut expenses during retirement is always welcome. Cutting out waste and evaluating where our money goes is important. A  national survey of those 65-74 suggests that we spend 43% of our money on our home and house-related expenses. 14% for transportation, 13% for food, and 11% for health costs (thank you Medicare!). 

If those numbers are accurate, nearly half our money each year goes to keeping a roof over our head and in good repair. Logically, there are substantial saving possibilities in that category alone. Everything from freezing property taxes for those over 65, or getting help with utility bills if your income is low enough to qualify, to the potential savings from installing energy-efficient windows, solar panels, new siding, or using LED lights are worth exploring. 

My bottom line is simple: articles in national newspapers and magazines that target retirees should be putting more effort into the content. We are not simpletons that need to be told to look for coupons to save money when dining out. We are grownups who have done quite well, thank you very much. Give us meaningful, actionable information that isn't a simple repackaging of hackneyed, trite, and obvious material. 

Does this qualify as a rant?

I feel better now.

28 comments:

  1. Not nearly angry enough for a rant. And I agree, if a retired person hasn't figured out those before now....they are in deep doo-doo.

    43% on housing? We're at 27.3% for 2021 and that is for 2. What on earth is costing people so much? My tracking includes all maintenance, all utilities, all annual/perennials, we spent $3500 having dying trees removed at the cabin, snow removal for 5 months.......and we are average per this factoid. Oh, our primary home is just 14.2%.

    "The average retirement income for married couples over 65 was $101,500 in 2020. Since high incomes tend to pull up the average, the median retirement income may be a better benchmark. The median income for married couples over 65 was about $72,800 in 2020."

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    1. We spend about 10% on housing and that includes a houscleaner every two weeks, taxes, and mainenance.

      The 43% figure must include those who are in expensive retirement communities where rent can easily be $4,000 a month (or more).

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    2. Do you have statistics on single persons? As a single, never married female I would love to have that amount each month!

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    3. The most I could find was the average retired household, which can mean one person, averages $3,800 a month, or about $45,000 a year. 15% of retired women do live on Social Security checks alone.

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  2. I often see those lists and get suckered into clicking on them. Like you, I find them pretty useless in general. I am also not impressed by the lists I see in the AARP newsletter with "99 Ways to Save Money." Most of them are either things we're doing already, or they are things that aren't worth the effort to save a few pennies. Example: We could get cheap pay-as-you-go cell phones, but where we live we would have dropped calls and really poor reception. I guess we're fortunate not to be paying 43% of our income on housing either. That's high!

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    1. I find the AARP Newsletter too simplistic, also. I do like their monthly magazine, however. The interviews and information seems more substantial.

      For those at a full service retirement community the 43% likely includes meals, utilities, cable TV, a fitness center, maintenance, and other features. So, it is not as out-of-line as it may seem. But, living in your own home and spending that much on housing would be very, very risky.

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  3. I'm probably pretty close to that 43% but am a single woman living in a wonderful small apartment community with everything I could possibly want (including a stellar maintenence staff) in the suburbs of Philly. I'll have to give up extensive traveling but there's so much to do in the area that it seems a fair exchange. It's all about allocating your dollars in ways that work for the indiividual IMO. Thanks

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    1. Abdolutely. When one figures everything that is included in a rent situation like yours, the percentage you are paying seems very reasonable.

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  4. Yeah, whereas I'd agree it's a vent, I wouldn't go so far as to say rant. lol
    We're not even close to 43% on housing, more like 7%. We live in a townhouse with HOA fees of $250 per month, but the cost is pretty negligible compared to current home prices. We bought our home in 2012 at nearly the bottom of the market and financed with a 3% interest rate. Wish more folks could get that now! It's terrible that housing costs are so out of reach for so many. I feel very blessed. That said, I agree with what you're venting about, I shouldn't be treated as if I wasn't smart enough to get to this place originally. My husband and I sacrificed, saved, researched, and worked hard to get here. We were also in the right place at the right time with the right circumstances.

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    1. I just object to a younger author passing on information that assumes we kind of blindly staggered through life without exactly the kind of learning you mention.

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  5. Those pretty useless "suggestions" remind me of the politician that told Millennials to stop whining about the high cost of living and just stop eating so much avocado toast. No one likes their very real challenges to be dismissed with bumper sticker "solutions." Vent or rant, you made some excellent points.

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    1. As culture we love easy solutions to complex problems. Blaming avacado toast (even in jest) is a none too subtle shaming attack on lifestyle choices.

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  6. Thanks for all you have done, Bob, through the years to lay out well thought-out considerations.

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    1. You are very welcome. I appreciate your comment.

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  7. I definitely agree. None of those articles are helpful or insightful. Usually a waste of time to read. Maybe that’s because it really is simple? I think we’re all smart enough to know what to do even if we don’t do it. Kind of like my diet!! 🥴

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    1. Sometimes I think folks read articles like these to reassure themselves they are doing it "right." A little validation is not wrong. Just don't depend on these "eat your vegetable"' type of articles to include tremendous insight.

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  8. I agree with what you said Bob we need insightful articles to help us design our own unique retirement lifestyles. I'm currently working on my last retirement book which will be released in Sept and to celebrate the occasion I'm giving this one away for free to anyone that wants it. Will tell you more about it later.

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    1. How exciting! I look forward to more details.

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  9. Well, it sure helps if you own your own home and have paid up the mortgage. According to the info. I've found, roughly three quarters of us own our own home, and about one quarter of older homeowners are mortgage free. It also helps if you live in a low-tax state like AZ and not NJ or NY. (I'm in middle-tax PA). As for saving money, the best advice I've seen is: Enough already ... don't give any more money to your kids!

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    1. One of the most consequential decisions we made was to pay off a mortage early, hit a hot real estate market, and buy the next house for cash. Whether you pay cash or can pay off a mortgage, there is no stronger sense of security than knowng it is 100% yours.

      And, yes, being in a place with low real estate taxes helps.

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    2. I felt exactly that way with my Medicare intake appointment. The resident actually complimented me and told me "good job" for walking across the exam room. I walk 2-3 miles four times a week. It was pretty insulting. I should have told his supervising Dr. when he came in, but we talked some other things and I did not. It is still the same idea as the newspaper article.

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    3. The image of the dottering olster dies hard. Younger people have images formed by TV shows and movies. Today's retiree or person of the same age is nothing like a generation or two ago, thank goodness.

      Next time challenge that resident to an arm wrestle!

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  10. I get suckered in on the headlines also of anything involving budget, savings, simple life, etc. 99% seems to be the simple rehashed ideas I've seen a million times. Some magazines seem to run similar articles and lists every year with very little improvement. I guess after you read a few years worth of these articles there really is nothing new out there. Lately it seems the newer and fresher ideas or comments come from blogs I read rather than mainstream articles. New books on retirement or anything money related also seem to involve the same old ideas only repackaged with a new flashy title and cover.

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    1. The fact none of these sources realize is that each retirement is unique in how it unfolds. And, if you haven't learned the basics of finance and health care by now, a magazine article will be too little and too late.

      Even so, our attention is grabbed by the headline!

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  11. I wonder if the weak content of these articles is part of a larger tendency in our culture to infantilize the old and to devalue the wisdom that comes with age. I am in the market for a new sewing machine, and I recently did an internet search for reviews of the best sewing machines for older sewers. The search turned up one article that seemed right on target -- until I read it. The author assumed that the reader would be a daughter buying a sewing machine for her elderly mother and that the elderly mother must be suffering from dementia! Yikes!!

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    1. Those 55+ control more financial resources than all younger age groups combined, though you would never know it from the way advertisers spend their money. I guess the thinking is, we know how to control our spending impulses better than those younger than us. But, the blatant ageism that article promoted is simply wrong.

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  12. I guess my walk would best be described as doddering since I have severe back/spinal problems that make it difficult to walk. So, people assume I am mentally deficient, too. I had someone volunteer to help me. She was 32 and had 6 children, the oldest was 18. Right...lol. She felt she had to give me advice all the time! She spoke softly and kindly in a condescending manner. The advice she gave was all wrong. She was not very bright and totally out of touch. I highly resented her attitude towards me. I was the one really giving her good advice. Just because I am 75 and cannot walk well, does not mean I am senile or out of touch! Nothing else about me indicated I was so old as I had no wrinkles or obvious aging. I actually pitied her.

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    1. Making assumptions about someone else has gotten this country in a world of hurt. Your story is a perfect example of age/physical ability discrimination. It happens all the time once we reach a certain point in life. While your "helper" was probably motivated by a sincere desire to help, she started from a wrong assumption simply based on perceptions.

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