Wow. It seems like only yesterday I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, stupid young buck, fresh out of college. I started my career at the Department of Defense in 1984, and I remained there for almost 34 years. This is because I am a dedicated person. I’m also a moron who couldn’t get hired by anyone else.
Now I’m retired, and I will spend the rest of my life as a burden on society.
Even if you’re decades away from retiring, all the information in this book is pertinent to you because you will retire someday. If you are retired, then you’re reading this between medical visits.
There are many factors to consider when planning to retire, including where to live, what leisure activities to do, health care, and finances. All of these will be addressed. But don’t read only this book. You really should do some research on your own, because when planning something as important as where to spend the final years of your life, you probably don’t want to depend on someone whose house is a brewery.
Several times throughout this book I will suggest that you check the Internet for further information. Which raises the question: why should you bother to read my crap when you can get so much more information online? I’ll tell you why: because I will make the learning process fun. My humor – or my pathetic attempts at it – will entertain you as you slog through all the information you need to consider in determining where you will die.
The first thing some people think of when they consider retirement is Social Security. They wonder, “How much will my benefits be?” “When should I retire?” “Why is Ben such a putz?”
You’re eligible for Social Security (SS) benefits if you or your spouse has worked and paid SS taxes for at least 10 years. Benefits are determined by your 35 highest earning years and the age at which you start receiving benefits. Until you’ve worked 35 years, each year working adds to benefits because otherwise the zero income for those years hurts your average. After 35 years of work, each additional year working will increase benefits only if your income (indexed for general wage changes throughout the years) is greater than it was in at least one of your other working years because that year’s lower income gets replaced by this year’s higher one. This should be the case because if you’re not earning more than you were 35 years ago then you’re an even bigger putz than I am.
You must be at least 62 to start collecting. The longer you wait (up until age 70), the higher your benefits will be. However, you will collect for fewer years before you die, so a number of “catch-up” years will be needed in order for waiting to be advantageous. For instance, if you start collecting at age 70, your SS benefits might be 75-80% more than what they would be if you started collecting at 62, but because you missed 8 years of payments, it would take more than 10 years to make up for it, so you would be 80 before waiting those extra 8 years started to pay off. Most of us are dead by then.
I plan to start collecting SS benefits when I turn 62 because life is short and I don’t know when the aneurysm is gonna hit.
You don’t have to work right up until you start receiving SS benefits; you can stop working at any age (though you must wait until age 62 to start collecting). Nor do you have to stop working when you start receiving benefits. However, if you are younger than your full retirement age, which ranges from 65 to 67 depending on your birth year, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn above a certain limit (which was $15,720 in 2016).
SS benefits are federally taxable if and only if your total income is above a certain limit. Form 1040 instructions contain a worksheet for calculating what portion, if any, is subject to federal taxes. I’ll talk about state tax on SS benefits in chapter 3.
I suggest that you go to the Social Security Administration’s website and set up an account. It has calculators to help you figure your benefits at different retirement ages. It also has a link you can click to apply for benefits.
Y'ever been driving home, and just as you approach your house one of your favorite songs comes on the radio, so you drive around until it ends? I do that. Unfortunately I'm a lover of classical music. The other day Beethoven's 9th Symphony started playing while I was driving home, and I was in Vermont before it ended.
If you plan to buy a home when you retire, the purchase price will be a significant factor in determining where you live. Unless you’re a rich and famous rapper, in which case you will be more influenced by where pot is legal.
Before going into potential house costs, let’s define two terms: average and median. In a given set of data figures, the average is simply the total divided by the number of figures, whereas the median is such that half the figures are above it and half are below it. Median can be a more helpful figure than average because every state has a small percentage of ridiculously expensive houses that artificially inflate the average. For example, let’s say that a state called Alatexafornia has eleven houses and the prices are:
You can research the median house price in each state, but the results can be misleading because the median size of a house varies from state to state, and larger homes tend to cost more. A state that looks expensive at first glance might not be if you choose a modest sized house. By the way, the state with the largest median house size is Utah. Which makes sense because they need lots of space to raise all those kids.
A better way to compare house prices by state is to look at the price per square foot (the median was $119 in 2016). The cheapest states on a per-square-foot basis are Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. The most expensive places in the continental U.S. are California, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and New York. Basically the more liberal a state is, the more expensive it is to live there. You pay a lot to live near welfare-doling intellectuals who can’t change a tire. You can save a lot of money by living among gun-toting religious wingnuts who drive vehicles the size of military aircraft. There. That should have offended everybody.
The most expensive state to buy a house, in terms of both absolute price and price per square foot, is Hawaii. In 2016 the median home price in Hawaii was over half a million dollars, and its price per square foot was $420. Both were more than three times the national average. It sure costs a lot to get lei’d.
Even more important than the state you live in is the county. Houses in or near large cities tend to cost more than those out in the boonies, so you can find inexpensive housing in almost every state as long as you’re willing to live where the most rented porn film is Deliverance. For example, in 2013, the median price for a home in the San Jose CA metropolitan area was $750,000, while the median price in the El Centro CA area was $160,000. Of course, you have to weigh what you save in purchase price against what you lose in burglaries. Check out Trulia to see the median house price in each U.S. county.
Another consideration is acreage cost. If you buy a piece of land, you will pay a certain amount per acre. This varies greatly from state to state. You can pay a few hundred or more than ten thousand dollars per acre. If you buy only an acre or two, that will be only a fraction of the cost of the house you build on it; but if you want several acres, then price per acre becomes more important. In general, midwestern and southwestern acreage is the cheapest because there is a lot of open land there. For not much money you can buy a huge, secluded ranch in Arizona or New Mexico, which is great if you hate people.
You might not want a detached house. Perhaps a condominium or townhouse would be better for you. A detached house can be too big, too expensive, or too much work to keep up. I don’t care about all that. I want privacy and my own parking space. Most people are selfish and irritating, so as long as I can afford it I will put as much space between them and me as possible.
No matter what type of home you buy, it is easy to find real estate online. You can use the Multiple Listing Service (mls.com) or contact a realtor (realtor.com).
You don’t have to buy any home at all. You can rent. Owning a home involves paying for property taxes, insurance, and all repairs; the possibility of its value declining; paying closing costs when you buy and/or sell; and the hassle of finding a buyer when you sell. When you rent you can leave any time you want with little bother. Are your neighbors assholes? Has the neighborhood gone to shit? Pick up and move. If you’re on a lease, read the terms to see whether you’re on the hook for several more months or you can get away with sacrificing only the security deposit.
While renting saves hassle and some costs, the monthly expense can be high. You might pay two or three times as much in rent as you would pay in mortgage, especially when you consider that mortgage interest is deductible on your federal tax return while rent is not. Plus you build up equity when you own.
The longer you live, the more it behooves you to own because there is a greater chance that you will pay the house off, at which point mortgage payments will cease and therefore your monthly expenses will decrease dramatically. If you’re an old geezer and you expect to die within a decade, then don’t buy a house; instead, invest in Depends and a defibrillator.
Another thing to consider when renting versus buying is the fact that if you buy, all that money is tied up in your house. Even if you are able to buy a house with cash so that there is no mortgage, you just sunk $300,000 or $500,000 or however much into it. When you rent, most of your money is available for vacations, drugs, and prostitutes.
Nine states have no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. This means that they will not tax any kind of salary, pension, IRA, 401(k), or Social Security. Woohoo!
Some of these states get you in other ways. New Hampshire and South Dakota have high property tax, as do parts of Alaska, Florida, and Texas. Tennessee and Washington have high sales tax. Florida has high homeowners insurance. Tennessee taxes dividends and interest at 6% (the first $1250 is exempt). New Hampshire taxes dividends and interest at 5% (the first $2400 is exempt).
You don’t have to move to one of these states in order to avoid income tax. Most states exempt pensions and/or Social Security from income tax, so they’re good for people who have income that they don’t earn. You know, like Congress.
There are nine states that, while they have income tax, do not tax Social Security or federal, military, or in-state pensions: Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan (for people born before 1946; for people born later, a portion will be taxable), Mississippi, New York, and Pennsylvania. Three of those do not tax IRA or 401(k) either: Illinois, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania. In Alabama, you can deduct your federal tax from state taxable income, and if you’re aged 65 or older you pay no state property tax (but some cities and counties impose their own property tax). Georgia taxes retirement income but exempts a large portion of it for people aged 62 and older.
Some states have obscure tax laws that might benefit you. For example, as a result of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in Bailey v. State of North Carolina, retirement benefits received by retirees of the North Carolina and U.S. governments (including military) are not taxed if they had five or more years of creditable service as of August 12, 1989. (I just squeaked in on this one: I started working for Uncle Sam on August 6, 1984.)
If you live in Alaska, not only will you pay no income tax, but you and each family member living in Alaska – including minors – will get an annual dividend check from the state’s oil wealth trust fund (it was over $2000 in 2015). The only drawback is you live in Alaska.
If you own a home rather than rent, you will pay property tax. The tax is levied by state and local governments, not federal. The national average is about 1.3% of a home’s assessed value per year. Even if your house is paid in full, every state will charge you for the privilege of owning it. This is so they have enough money to build roads that you can drive on to look at all the houses you can’t afford.
Property tax is divided into the state portion and the local jurisdiction (county or city) portion, the latter of which is usually much bigger and can vary greatly within the same state. In fact, in some states almost all the property tax you pay goes to local governments. This is so they can smoke local weed.
Here’s an example of how much difference there can be between local government property taxes in the same state. The rate in Ziebach County South Dakota is 0.74%, while the rate in Shannon County South Dakota is over 4% (more than triple the national average). Also, some parts of Alaska have fairly high property tax, while others have virtually none. So check the tax rates in the jurisdictions in which you are considering buying. Remember that tax rates can be determined by county, city, and/or municipality.
I pay more than $3000 a year in property taxes. And yet I complain when I pay $9 for a beer.
According to the Tax Foundation, the state with the highest property tax rate, when all jurisdictions are averaged, is New Jersey. In 2016 the median home price was $319,000, which means that the average New Jersey homeowner paid more than $7300 in property taxes. And the place still smelled.
You’ve heard that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. Well, sometimes they go together. When you die, the federal as well as several state governments can impose an estate tax. So we have two horrible things – death and taxes – going together, like Mike Pence and Donald Trump. The good news is that there is an exemption of at least $1.5 million in each state, and the federal exemption is over $5 million, so unless you’re rich, nothing you leave behind when you die will be subject to estate tax. And if you do have millions sitting in the bank, why the hell didn’t you spend it or give it away while you were alive? What kind of schmuck are you?
Alas, estate tax is not the only death tax. There is also inheritance tax. Yes, there is a difference. Estate tax is levied when property is passed to certain close relatives such as spouses, parents, and children. Inheritance tax is imposed when the property passes to other relatives such as siblings, nieces, and nephews (which relatives fall under which tax varies by state). This means that anything you leave to your spouse and/or children will be exempted, but anything you leave to siblings, cousins, and friends might be subject to inheritance tax, for which state exemptions are usually low or even nonexistent. There are six states that impose inheritance tax: Nebraska, Iowa, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. This is one reason that I might move out of Maryland. Yeah right, like when I die there’ll be anyone left to give my money to.
So, which is the most tax-friendly state for you? It depends on your financial situation. Are you working? Drawing a pension? Do you own a home? Each state has a different permutation of income, property, inheritance, and sales taxes, as well as exemptions for Social Security, pension, and 401(k) income.
Overall, the most tax-friendly states for non-working retired homeowners seem to be Mississippi, Nevada, and Wyoming. They don’t tax Social Security, pensions, 401(k), or inheritance; and they have fairly low property tax (in most counties). If you’re a federal retiree, Pennsylvania is great because no federal benefits are taxed. Certain counties in Alaska, Florida, and Texas are also good due to low property tax as well as no income tax. If you’re on a federal government pension and you started working there before August 12, 1984, then North Carolina is great because it has the Bailey exemption as well as no tax on Social Security. Arizona has income tax but it’s fairly low, and property taxes are also low. If you don’t have a 401(k), then Alabama, Hawaii, and Louisiana are good due to low property tax and no tax on Social Security or most pensions. If you’re considering retiring to Hawaii, however, the cost of living is so high that it outweighs any tax savings. But it’s a great vacation spot because it’s got beautiful weather and the hookers work for pineapples.
Now let’s look at the most tax-unfriendly states for retirees so we can avoid living in them during our retirement.
All states, excluding those without an income tax and the exceptions I mentioned earlier, tax pension, IRA, and 401(k) income. The highest income tax rates are in District of Columbia, Vermont, New Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, and California. It’s not a simple matter to determine which state has the highest tax rate since they tax different income brackets differently. For example, California has the highest marginal tax rate of more than 12% for income over $500,000, but income under $8000 is taxed at only 1%; while Oregon’s highest marginal tax rate is just under 10% for income over $125,000, but it levies a 5% tax on all income under $3350 and 7% on further income up to $8400.
As of 2017, thirteen states either fully or partially tax Social Security: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia. Fuck them.
As I mentioned earlier, property taxes are more dependent on local jurisdiction than state, so you’ll have to do some research.
The highest sales tax rates are in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Washington. Sales tax can be avoided for many items that we buy online, but not large ticket items. For example, you cannot avoid sales tax on vehicles by buying out of state because the dealership you buy from will collect your state’s sales tax. The bastards.
So, what if we live in a tax-unfriendly state but we don’t want to move from there? Is there a way to declare residency in a tax friendly state? Not legally. By law, your legal state of residence is the one in which you live more than half the year. This means that if you have a place in Florida but live there less than 183 days per year, you cannot legally declare Florida as your home state. Crap.
Note that I said “legally”. Now, I am not advocating breaking the law, but if you wanted, hypothetically, to commit tax fraud by declaring the wrong state of residence, here are some tips.
Register your vehicle in your declared state. This is a no brainer. I mean, try explaining to the IRS why you live in Florida and your car is registered in New Jersey.
Get a driver’s license in your declared state. In Florida there is no written test because the people who live there are so old and blind that they can barely find the DMV let alone read.
Register to vote in that state. If it’s Florida, you don’t actually have to know how to vote, as evidenced by the 2000 election.
Establish a residence in your declared state and use that address for all bank and credit card accounts. It must be a residence; a Post Office box will not do. Nor will a mail forwarding service. If you don’t want to rent or buy a place, then you’ll have to find a friend or relative willing to let you have your mail delivered to their mailbox.
How do you get your mail when you’re in one state and it’s being delivered to another? One option is a mail scanning service. It scans all your envelopes for you, and you can view them on your smartphone or computer. For each piece of mail you can choose to have the contents scanned, forwarded, or destroyed. However, to make use of this service, your mail must be mailed to the service’s address, not your residence. If you ever get audited, this will look suspicious.
Locate a doctor, dentist, proctologist, etc in your declared state, and go only to them for medical services. Find out whether you need to fill out a form to legally declare your residence. For example, Florida requires that you file a Declaration of Domicile.
Credit card transactions leave an electronic trail. How will you explain to the IRS that most of your purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc were made in a state where you claim to spend less than half the year? One solution is to pay cash everywhere except when you’re in your declared state. This will make it necessary to walk around with a large stack of greenbacks. You might be an accountant named Murray, but you will henceforth be known as Murray the Pimp.
A director was shooting a movie in the desert. An old Native American came up to him and said, “Tomorrow rain.” Sure enough, the next day it rained. A few days later the Native American appeared and said, “Tomorrow storm.” The next day there was a terrible storm. A few days later the director saw the Native American and said, “I have to shoot a big scene tomorrow and I’m relying on you. What’s the weather going to be like?” The Native American answered, “Don’t know. Radio broken.”
Weather is a big consideration, and not just because we’re old farts who don’t handle weather extremes or snow shoveling too well. Even young people want to live where they don’t have to wear a parka half the time and they can leave their car in the sun without it becoming an oven on wheels.
Climate is, for the most part, a function of latitude and elevation: the higher they are, the lower the temperature. But there are other considerations such as humidity, wind, and precipitation. Weather also varies according to season. For example, Minnesota and North Dakota have miserably freezing winters, but their summers are okay.
Northern states tend to be considerably cooler than southern ones, and western states tend to be drier than eastern ones, which is why states in the southeast get so hot and humid that bugs can grow to the size of a Yugo.
Inland states tend to have greater weather extremes than those near the ocean because water heats and cools slowly. For example, Montana can get as hot as 117°F and as cold as -70°F, while Hawaii never goes above 100°F or below 12°F.
As with taxes and house prices, weather can vary within a particular state, so your individual location will be more important than which state you settle in. For example, the south/central California coast has great weather; but California’s Death Valley National Park is the hottest spot in the U.S., where even nighttime temperatures can exceed 100°F. It once got up to 134°F.
Which area has the best weather for you depends on what you want. Are you a warm weather person? Most of us are, but some people actually prefer cold weather. I know some of these lunatics. In winter they walk around wearing shorts, and it pisses me off. When the temperature drops below 60°F, I put on a wool hat.
Here is a brief synopsis of the places to move for specific types of weather:
Seasons mean that, with few exceptions, no place will have great weather all year. If you want summers that aren’t too hot, you might have to endure cold winters. If you want mild winters, you might have to deal with hot summers. This is why some folks spend summers up north and winters down south. These people are called snowbirds.
There are many ways to be a snowbird. One way is to own two homes and spend part of the year in one and the rest of the year in the other. This requires enough wealth to be able to purchase and maintain two homes. Good luck with that.
You can cut costs by renting out the vacant home. This presents a few potential problems. First, it entails the risk of renters not paying, or trashing the place. I’ve heard enough horror stories to keep me from ever considering being a landlord. Also, if you’re going to be living up north in summer and down south in winter, that means you’ll have to find someone stupid enough to rent a northern house in winter or a southern house in summer.
Another option is to own one house and rent the other. Or, for that matter, you can rent both places, but that would mean that there would be no permanent home for your personal belongings.
One advantage of snowbirding is that, with residences in two states, you can claim the one with the lower tax burden as your primary place of residence. So what if you’re only in Florida three months out of the year? Who’s gonna know? Who’s gonna check?
Another method of snowbirding requires no stationary residence at all, as we’ll see in the next chapter.
THE RV LIFESTYLE
Wanna own a home but don’t want to pay property tax or utilities on it? Tired of mowing the lawn, vacuuming, shoveling snow, and replacing the roof? Want to be able to move on a moment’s notice? Then the recreational vehicle (RV) lifestyle might be for you.
An RV is a house on wheels. You can transport yourself, your loved one(s), and your possessions just about anywhere, anytime. You can visit a national park, a city, or friends. You can travel the northern states during summer and the southern states during winter.
An RV can be a single item that is a home and vehicle in one (a motorhome), or it can be a trailer that gets hitched to and pulled by another vehicle. Motorhomes are much more expensive than trailers. A trailer needs a truck or other strong vehicle to haul it, but the total cost is still usually less than that of a motorhome. A truck+trailer is more flexible because you can unhitch them and drive just the truck. Also, if something in the drive mechanism needs repair, the truck can be dropped off at a garage; whereas if you have a motorhome, your entire house will have to sit at the garage until it’s fixed, leaving you to stay temporarily at a motel or homeless shelter.
RVs are dependent on campsite hookups for electricity and plumbing. If you want to be able to take showers, cook, watch television, stay warm or cool, and pee/poop conveniently, you will have to pull into a campsite every day. This limits where you can stay, and of course you’ll have to pay rental fees, which will usually be between $10 and $75 per night. Also you’re not guaranteed a spot since many parks fill up at certain times of the year. If you don’t mind going without amenities you can always park overnight in the wilderness, assuming you don’t get eaten by bears.
A good source of free overnight RV camping is Walmart. More than 80% of its locations allow RVs to park in their lots overnight. You won’t get electricity, plumbing, or wi-fi, but you’ll get a guaranteed spot. Plus they open early in the morning so you’ll have easy access to food, supplies, and a bathroom when you wake up. For a directory of Walmart locations, as well as a listing of which ones do not allow overnight RV parking, go here.
If you’re in a pinch, just about any parking lot will do, but it might be against local ordinances, so don’t be surprised if you get a knock on your door from police. If possible, you should first go to the local police station and ask them what their policy is on parking an RV overnight in a lot. They might even let you use theirs.
Even though you’ll have no actual state of residence, you are required to declare one. Obviously you don’t want to pay state tax, so see the chapter on taxes to get an idea of which state might be good to call “home”. Keep in mind that you will have to pass through your “home” state occasionally for vehicle inspection, so you probably won’t want to declare residence in Alaska or Hawaii. Also, although you won’t have to pay real estate tax, some states levy personal property tax, meaning that you will pay tax on your RV. The most popular state for RVers to declare residency in is Texas because it has no income tax or personal property tax, and it lets you renew vehicle registration and drivers license by mail. It also has a very liberal absentee voting program, which is nice if at your age you’re still naïve enough to believe that your vote makes a fucking difference.
What about mail? Nowadays, with smartphones and the Internet, you can pay all your bills electronically. You can also do your banking this way. However, some business transactions and notifications are still done via snail mail, plus friends might mail you birthday and Christmas cards, so you will probably want to get a Post Office box. Of course, you won’t get your paper mail very often since you’ll be traveling a lot, but you can’t have everything. You might give the Post Office box key to a friend and ask him/her to retrieve your mail every few weeks and let you know when you get anything important, such as a subpoena for running over that homeless guy in Albuquerque.
Another mail option is a mail scanning service, which I mentioned in chapter 3.
You can only fit so many possessions in your RV. You won’t need much furniture, or a lawnmower, or other bulky stuff, but what about your wardrobe? Your photo albums? The body parts in your freezer? If there’s no room in your RV, you might want to rent a public storage unit. The cost of the unit should be weighed against the value of what you plan to store in there. Even a modest-sized storage unit can cost more than $100 per month, which is $1200 per year, or $12,000 in ten years. Is your stuff worth $12,000?
Without a house you won’t be able to throw many parties, not only because an RV is considerably smaller, but also because you’ll be traveling. Who do you know in Wyoming?
You don’t have to live in an RV. You can live in a house, and own or rent an RV to travel in. This gives you all the benefits of living in a big solid structure, as well as the ability to travel comfortably at a moment’s notice. At three miles to the gallon.
There are many RV clubs that can provide information and help with things like overnight parking and mail scanning. A listing of RV clubs can be found here.
As we get older and lose physical strength and mobility, we become more vulnerable to crime. We can’t fight or flee as well as we used to. This is why each of us needs to buy a gun.
Or we can live in a place where the crime rate is low. It might be that some states are “safer” than others, but for the most part, crime is in direct proportion to population density and in inverse proportion to wealth. This is why you find a lot of crime in cities such as Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis, Birmingham, and Cleveland. Other cities such as Camden NJ and Chester PA are also bad. So the biggest step we can take to avoid crime is to avoid big cities. Well, that and don’t get married.
Some cities are fairly safe. These tend to be moderately sized cities with populations between 200,000 and 300,000 such as:
One way to increase safety is to live in a gated community. This doesn’t guarantee safety, as outsiders can still find ways to get in, but it is safer than non-gated areas. Then again, you can always get mugged while you’re out shopping, so either way you’re screwed.
There are many gated communities for seniors, and since they’re so popular, I’ll spend the rest of this chapter talking about them.
A lot of gated communities prohibit children from living there, which cuts down on noise and vandalism. Many of them also have a rule that in 80% of the homes, at least one resident must be 55 years of age or older. This ensures that a high percentage of residents are retired, which cuts down on traffic since not a lot of people are commuting to and from work. Of course, they’re going to several medical visits every week, so it all evens out.
Gated communities don’t only offer protection. They also offer amenities. Typically there is a clubhouse, tennis courts, a pool, and a fitness room. Often there are various forms of entertainment and social events in the clubhouse, which provides a convenient way to have an evening out. You might also find it easy to make friends since many of your neighbors will be around your age. But they’ll be dead in a few years so don’t get too attached to them.
Gated community grounds are often maintained by hired help, which means that you never have to mow the lawn or trim the hedges. Complain all you want about illegal immigrants, but they do a great job landscaping, and for little pay. I firmly believe that both the House and the Senate could be run much more fairly and economically with illegals than with the canker sores that currently run them.
The benefits of gated communities don’t come for free. You will pay a homeowners association fee, which will be hundreds every month, which means thousands every year. My possessions aren’t worth nearly enough to warrant paying that much in order to prevent burglaries. If someone broke into my house, the most they could hope to gain would be a laptop with so many viruses that I routinely feed it Valtrex.
If you want to move to a safe place, do your homework. Get on the Internet and research the safety of any area you consider retiring to. Look at crime rates, gang presence, and what percentage of the residents are lawyers.
You probably want to live reasonably close to civilization. A nice house in a beautiful natural setting is great, but how far are you from a grocery store? A hospital? An airport? Cultural events? Do you want nightlife? Would you like to make new friends? Or are you a psychotic loner who makes bombs and writes manifestos?
While it is true that cities have a lot of entertainment, many less urban areas have plenty going on. Most places have parks, theaters, occasional festivals and concerts, and restaurants out the wazoo. Sure, certain big events happen only in big cities, but you can drive or take public transportation into town for those few events. You can also take a taxi, but they can be costly. One time I took a taxi to a drive-in. The movie cost me $236.
For extra convenience, you might consider one of those developments where condominiums/townhomes are placed right next to shopping centers. This way you can walk, or drive a very short distance, to just about any amenity you’ll ever need: food, clothing, doctors, housewares, etc. There are many city areas where you can live walking distance to shopping, but often the shops are disgusting. Have you ever been to a city grocery store? Everything in there, including the customers and the guy working the register, is repulsive. Russian peasants refuse to shop there. So unless all you ever buy is cigarettes and Twinkies, you should live outside the city.
If you absolutely must have convenience to amenities, you might consider living in a retirement community. Just about any retirement community will have all the amenities you want, either within it or not far away. Many of them offer free transportation so you can shop or go to medical appointments even if you don’t drive anymore. Retirement communities should not be confused with assisted living, which caters to people who need help with some of their daily routine (see chapter 12).
You’ll never guess what seniors consider to be the most important amenity in a retirement community. Convenience to restaurants? A pool? A nearby hospital? Nope. Pet-friendliness. A lot of retired people have pets: they have time to care for them now that they’re not working, and they want the companionship because they have less frequent contact with humans. Many retirement communities have restrictions on pets, such as having to be under a certain size. This is why so many seniors own small dogs. And you should see how they pamper and fuss over them. If they only knew that when they die their beloved pets are gonna eat their faces.
If you can’t do your own grocery shopping because you’re old and feeble, or strung out on meth, you can get food delivered right to your home. Places like Safeway, Giant, and even Walmart will deliver. Find their online grocery delivery site, open an account, and shop! They will charge you a delivery fee, but it might be worth it because of the time you’ll save. The main problem I see with this service is that the person filling your order might not pick the exact items you’d prefer. For example, if you want some peaches, he/she might just grab random bruised ones instead of the nice smooth ones you’d pick. Of course, the same happens in restaurants. Do you think the braised beef they put in front of you is the best piece of meat they have? More than likely it’s the one they accidentally dropped and then quickly washed off and disguised with broccoli and parsley. “Braised” is a made-up word; it’s derived from “bruised”.
If you love the outdoors, then you might want to live near forests or mountains or a beach so that you can enjoy great views and/or hike. This does not necessarily mean that you have to live in East Buttfuck. There are areas that have both natural beauty and the amenities of civilized society. Following is a partial list:
TAX-DEFERRED SAVINGS ACCOUNT WITHDRAWALS
When Charles de Gaulle decided to retire from public life, the British ambassador and his wife threw a dinner party in his honor. The ambassador’s wife was talking with Madame de Gaulle. “Your husband has been such a prominent public figure, such a presence on the French and international scene for so many years! How quiet retirement will seem in comparison. What are you most looking forward to in retirement?” Madame de Gaulle replied, “A penis.” A huge hush fell over the table. Everyone heard her answer and no one knew what to say next. Charles leaned over to his wife and said, “Mon cherie, I believe ze English pronounce zat word, ‘appiness’.”
If you have an IRA, 401(k), or other tax-deferred savings account (TDSA), deciding how much to withdraw each month can have your head swimming with numbers. There are several factors to consider such as other income, expenses, taxes, and life expectancy.
In a perfect world you could just take the entire amount as one lump sum and thereby avoid doing math. The problem with that is you’ll pay more tax than if you were to take just a portion of it each year. This is because the federal tax structure, as well as that of most states, is graduated, not flat.
First let’s look at the tax structure. We’ll focus only on federal tax, since that is where most or all of your tax burden comes from. As a single filer in 2018 you pay 10% tax on the first $9525 of taxable income (salary, pension, Social Security, capital gains, etc minus standard/itemized deductions, capital losses, etc), 12% on any amount from $9526 to $38700, 22% on any amount from $38,701 to $82,500, 24% on any amount from $82,501 to $157,500, and after that it doesn’t matter since we’re not gonna have that much retirement income unless we get jobs in Congress.
Okay, let’s say that your taxable income, excluding what you withdraw from your TDSA, is $35,000. You will pay 10% on the first $9525 and 12% on the remaining $25,475. When you withdraw from your TDSA, you will pay 12% on the first $3700 (because it brings your taxable income up to the $38700 cut-off), 22% on the next $43,800 (because it brings you up to the $82,500 cut-off), etc. If you withdraw only $3700 each year, you will avoid ever paying more than 12% federal tax on it. If you withdraw more than that, the tax rate on that portion jumps to 22%.
If your TDSA has a lot of money in it, you might want to withdraw more than $3700 a year even though you’ll pay more tax, because if you don’t then you will die with a lot of money you never spent. In this case you will have to bite the bullet and fork over 22% to those government bastards. (Sorry. I hate them too.) You could keep your withdrawals low and let your kids inherit what you don’t spend, but is that a good idea? You already spent 20+ years feeding them, changing their diapers, disciplining them, putting up with their tantrums, driving them to sports and social events, and buying them everything from toys to clothing to education. What little money you have left is yours, dammit, and shame on you if you don’t enjoy it.
So, if you want to get all your TDSA money before you die while minimizing your tax burden, how much should you withdraw each year? Well, you could use the simple formula of savings amount divided by the number of years you expect to live. For instance, if you have $700,000 and you expect to live another 35 years, you can withdraw $20,000 per year. I suggest taking (and spending) more than that, even though you’ll pay more in taxes, because life is short and you never know when you’re gonna get cancer.
Now let’s consider expenses. If you’re lucky then your income exceeds your expenses so there’s nothing to worry about. But what if your expenses are, say, $36,000 a year, and your only income is $14,000 (after taxes) from Social Security? Then you’re gonna need at least $22,000 each year from your TDSA. Federal taxes will be at least 12% on whatever you withdraw, so you’re gonna need at least $25,000 per year gross to end up with $22,000 net. What if you only have $51,000 in your TDSA and you’re probably going to live at least another 20 years? Well then, you’re fucked.
A young blonde goes to her doctor and tells him that every time she touches her shoulder it hurts. She touches her shoulder and winces in pain. He checks her shoulder, but doesn’t find anything wrong. Then she says that whenever she touches her knee it hurts, and when she touches her knee the pain is evident in her face. So he checks her knee and again doesn’t find anything wrong. Then she complains that every time she touches her hip it hurts and they go through the same procedure. After checking her hip and finding nothing wrong the doctor looks at her finger. "Are you a natural blonde?” he asks. “Yes. Why?” she replies. He says, "Because your finger is broken.”
No matter how well we eat, how much exercise and rest we get, or how much we avoid smoking and politicians, the skin bags we walk around in are going to crumble before our very eyes. God gives us healthy bodies when we're young and stupid, and when we’ve matured to the point where we can appreciate them, He ruins them with arthritis, heart disease, and incontinence. What a schmuck.
Since we will need more medical treatment in our retirement than ever before, we should live near good doctors. Even so, we won’t be able to use them without a good insurance plan (unless we pay out-of-pocket). Shitty insurance plans, such as HMOs, tend to have shitty doctors. One time I saw an HMO dermatologist for a condition where certain areas of my skin would harden, peel, crack, and bleed. She told me that I had “dry skin”. I pointed out that the condition was only in small areas, such as parts of my right middle finger, so why weren’t my other fingers dry too? She told me to use moisturizer. I told her I did. This bitch actually told me that I used the “wrong” moisturizer. At this point I was very tempted to let her more closely inspect my middle finger. She said that I should use Neutrogena. I bought some and used it. My condition got worse.
Eventually we might need inpatient care. Again, not being insured by an HMO will help. I once had an intestinal condition that landed me in a hospital. The HMO imbeciles put a tube in my nose and down my throat – a painful procedure – in order to pump out the bile. I spent a very uncomfortable, sleepless night with it. The next morning they X-rayed my stomach to see whether the tube was positioned correctly (they never explained why they couldn’t do this right after they shoved it down my throat). It was not down far enough, which was why nothing had drained overnight. So I spent 12 miserable hours for nothing. Then they started talking about procedures such as “resection”, which I flatly refused because I didn’t want to get operated on by Moe, Larry and Curly. After three days they had failed to diagnose or properly treat me, so I insisted on going home. I subsequently recovered, no thanks to them.So the bottom line is have a good insurance policy. This will increase your chance of finding doctors who aren’t stupid.
Insurance premiums for individuals are ridiculous. You can easily pay $5000 a year, which is several times as much as it takes to insure your house or vehicle. You might be able to get group insurance, which costs less. Do a Google search for “group insurance membership organizations”.
Medicare and Medicaid might help. Medicare, like other health plans, covers certain medical care costs as long as the doctor or hospital that treats you accepts Medicare. You automatically get Medicare if you are over 65 or have a severe disability, and you or your spouse has paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. Medicaid provides coverage if you have very low income. It is possible to get both. Medicare/Medicaid fraud amounts to tens of billions per year, so get sick now while these programs are still solvent.
If you’re collecting Social Security benefits, you should receive a Medicare card in the mail a few months before your 65th birthday; otherwise you can sign up for Medicare by calling 800-772-1213 or searching the Web for Form CMS-40B.
Medicare has four parts. Parts A and B constitute what is known as Original Medicare, and are administered by the Federal Government. Parts C and D are administered by private companies.
Part A covers care that you receive in a hospital, nursing facility, or your home. There is no premium for this!
Part B covers doctor visits, outpatient services, lab tests, X rays, preventive care, mental health care, etc. As of 2017, the monthly premium is $134 (or $109 if the premium is already being deducted from your Social Security check), and you might pay more if your income is high enough. The premium is usually deducted from your Social Security checks. You can opt out of Part B if you want to avoid paying this premium (follow the instructions on your Medicare card). Whether you should do this will be discussed a bit later.
Part C allows private insurance companies to provide Medicare benefits via what’s known as Medicare Advantage plans. You can choose Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare (but not both).
Part D provides outpatient prescription drug coverage through private insurance companies. There are many plans to choose from, and their premiums, copayments, and deductibles vary. Some Medicare Advantage plans include drug coverage, and this might be a good reason to choose Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare.
Medicare does not cover 100% of all medical costs: for many services there are deductibles and copayments. You can purchase extra insurance to pay for these gaps in Medicare coverage. This Medicare supplement insurance is called Medigap. While it covers some things, it does not cover others such as long-term, vision, or dental care; hearing aids; eyeglasses; or private-duty nursing. See https://www.medicare.gov for more information about Medicare, Medicaid, and Medigap.
Once you become eligible for Medicare, should you drop your current insurance policy in order to avoid the cost of its premiums? It depends. Medicare Part A does not carry a premium, but it also doesn’t cover all hospital, nursing home, and hospice care costs. Maybe your policy covers more. Medicare Part B has a monthly premium. Is it more or less than your policy’s premium? Does it pay more or less for what it covers than your policy does? How about prescription drugs? Would it be worth signing up for Medicare Part C and/or D?
There are several factors that go into these decisions: premiums, benefits, copayments, deductibles, and the likelihood of needing coverage. Let’s look at a hypothetical example:
Let’s say you currently pay $5000 per year for private insurance, which provides inpatient, outpatient, and prescription drug coverage, as well as dental care, with out-of-pocket expenses being only small copayments. You’re paying a lot up front, but your additional costs are minimal.
Now let’s see if it would be beneficial to switch to Medicare. Under Part A you would have 80% of your inpatient costs taken care of for free. So far so good. Doctor/outpatient coverage under Part B would cost you $1600 in premiums per year for 80% coverage with a $200 deductible. Prescription drug coverage under Part D would cost, say, an additional $300 in premiums with a $400 deductible. So your annual costs are at least $1900 per year under Medicare (if you receive no care at all), but will probably be $2500 or more due to doctor visit and prescription drug deductibles and copayments. This is still less than the $5000 for your private insurance premium.
But what if you get hospitalized or need surgery? Bills can easily go over $10,000. Medicare Part A covers only 80% of it, which leaves you with a bill of $2000, or maybe $3000, or $5000. What would your cost be under your current insurance? How about doctor visits, lab tests, etc? Does Part B cover those as well as your current policy does? What if you need dental work? Medicare doesn’t cover that at all. A simple crown or implant can cost thousands. Maybe your private insurance would cover part of that.
You don’t have to choose between your current policy and Medicare; you can have both, and they can work together to provide better coverage than either provides individually. Many insurers will waive all of your deductibles and copayments if you use Medicare as your primary insurance. That is, if you use Medicare to pay 80% of your costs, your private insurer will pay the remaining 20% because you save them quite a bit by making Medicare foot most of the bill. Check your policy to see whether it offers this deal. The drawback is that you’re paying for private insurance, but remember that the 20% of major medical expenses that you’ll pay under Medicare can be even more than your private insurance premium.
As you can see, figuring out whether to use Medicare, private insurance, or both is about as easy as teaching Dubya how to say “nuclear”. There are many variables, including the great unknown: will something happen that will require expensive medical attention?
If your employer provides group rate health coverage with a premium of under $2000 annually and gives you the option of keeping it throughout retirement, then my advice is to keep it. If you need hospitalization/surgery, use Medicare Part A for primary insurance and have your private insurer pay the rest. For doctor visits, outpatient surgery, and prescription drugs, use your private insurance and forgo Medicare Parts B and D because their total cost would be more than what you’re paying now.
Everything I told you in this chapter could become obsolete because as of this writing, members of the Trump administration are proposing various methods of altering the Medicare program or even replacing it with a system of vouchers that beneficiaries would use to purchase coverage through private plans. This would hurt a lot of people because:
Any good service will cost money, whether you need a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, or a mechanic. This is why it is important to make and save money during your working years in order to pay for these things, as well as get health coverage, either through an employer or on your own. A lot of people don’t have medical coverage, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for them, but I can’t. Did they work hard for a marketable degree and a career with good health benefits? Or did they get a low-level degree (or none at all) and accept some low-paying job with crappy benefits? Whose fault is that? Yeah, I know: “Ben, you’re such an asshole.”
Four retired men are playing golf. One of them hits his ball into the woods. As he's looking for it, the others start bragging about their sons. The first one says, “My son sells cars. In fact he’s doing so well that he gave one of his friends a free car.” The second one says, “Well, my son sells boats, and he's doing so well that he gave a friend a free boat.” The third one says, “That's nothing. My son is in real estate, and he’s doing so well that he gave a friend a free house.” As the fourth is returning from the woods, they quickly shut up because they know that his son is gay. The fourth man says, “I know what’s going on. You were bragging about your sons, and you look down on mine because he’s gay. Well, my son is doing better than any of your sons. Why, just last week, one of his lovers gave him a boat, another lover gave him a house, and another lover gave him a car!”
As our friends and family move away or die, there are fewer people left in our social circle. Therefore we might want to live near loved ones, preferably ones that are our age or younger so we die first. Sure, we can save money by living in a state with no income tax, but will we be happy with no friends or family around us? Even if we have a life partner, one person can’t satisfy all our social needs, and of course this person could die before we do. We can make new friends wherever we live, but that depends on how sociable we are and how sociable the people we meet are, plus we might not live long enough to develop long friendships with them. It’s always nice to be with loved ones that we’ve known for a long time. Unless they’re jerks. Then we should move.
With our new-found free time we might want to travel more. When we worked we might not have traveled as much as we would have liked, and we probably rarely had time to spend two or three weeks at a resort or foreign country. Now we have the freedom to spend as much time as we want going wherever we want as long as we can afford it. If we plan to fly to a lot of vacation spots, we might want to live near a major airport. This isn’t really a problem since there are airports everywhere. However, some of the plains and western states contain vast areas of land without major airports: the Dakotas, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, and Oregon.
You might have heard about seniors’ cruises. I’ve searched the Internet and I can’t see how they differ from regular cruises other than the fact that the average age of the passengers is deceased.
One interesting thing I read is that some people spend their golden years cruising instead of in assisted living homes. The cost is about the same ($100-$200 per day) and cruises are much more fun than retirement homes: there is unlimited good food, swimming pools, maid service, entertainment, transportation to exotic lands, a doctor on board, and new people every 7 to 14 days. Even more important is the staff. Many of the people working at retirement homes are apathetic or mean, and some of them steal from you. Cruise ship staff are top-notch. You see, most people who work on cruise ships are foreigners who desperately need their jobs in order to send money to their poor families. If they don’t get top ratings from the people they serve, the cruise line will replace them in order to keep customers happy. At a retirement home you’re stuck with whoever works there, and they are unlikely to get fired for suboptimal performance because it can be difficult to find replacements. Obviously cruise living is feasible only for those of us who can take care of our basic needs; if you need special care, then you might as well kill yourself.
When you don’t work it is easy to lose track of what day it is. Every day is Saturday. Time stops being very important, except for keeping doctor appointments. This is a great opportunity to practice zen living. We no longer need to rush around and “perform”. We can just be in the moment without feeling rushed. After all, there is nowhere to go and nothing that we are obligated to do. Whether this is a good thing depends on what kind of person you are. Some people need to be busy all the time. If so then you still don’t need to work. There are a zillion hobbies you can get into, or you can do volunteer work, or get a dog. The possibilities are endless. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you enjoy. You just spent 30-40 years at the grindstone. Now it’s time to be free.
HOME EQUITY BORROWING
A crusty old man walks into a bank and says to the teller, “I want to open a f*@&ing checking account.” The astonished woman replies, “I beg your pardon, sir. I must have misunderstood you. What did you say?” He says, “Listen up, damn it. I said I want to open a f*@&ing checking account.” “I’m very sorry,” she replies, “but we don’t tolerate that kind of language in this bank.” She leaves the window and goes to the bank manager to tell him about her situation. They both return and the manager asks the old geezer, “What seems to be the problem here?” “There’s no f*@&ing problem,” the old man says. “I just won 50 million bucks in the f*@&ing lottery and I want to open a f*@&ing checking account in this f*@&ing bank!” The manager replies, “I see. And this bitch is giving you trouble?”
If your house is paid off or nearly paid off, and you plan to spend the rest of your life in it, then a lot of your money is tied up in it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could borrow against it? Well, you can. However, this is something that you shouldn’t do unless you need to. Banks love to screw you when you come to them for a loan.
The three most common ways to borrow against your home are 1) a second mortgage, also called a home equity loan (HEL); 2) a home equity line of credit (HELOC); and 3) a reverse mortgage, also called a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM). We’ll look at the first two for a while before examining the third.
A HEL works much like a regular mortgage: you borrow a lump sum, and pay it back via monthly payments with an interest surcharge. There are also closing costs (usually to 2-5% of the loan amount) for things such as property appraisal, application, title search, title agent, document preparation, and Xanax.
A HELOC is not a loan but the ability to borrow any amount up to a certain limit, kind of like a credit card. And like a credit card, you pay it back via monthly payments with an interest surcharge. Usually closing costs are very small, if any.
The main difference between the two is that with the HELOC you can borrow small amounts (or nothing at all); whereas with a HEL you get a big lump of money all at once.
They are similar in that you must have good credit to qualify, and you’re on the hook to make monthly payments. If you die before paying the loan back, the bank will take the balance from your estate. The good thing about both of these forms of borrowing is that the interest rate is much lower than that of a credit card (because your house serves as collateral so the bank is assured of getting back what it has lent). Also, the interest you pay might be tax deductible.
The maximum amount of a HEL or HELOC is usually 80-85% of the home’s appraised value, minus whatever you owe on it. The 15 20% reduction provides the bank a cushion in case the home’s value (and therefore the collateral) drops.
I can’t see any advantages of a HEL over a HELOC. A HELOC provides more flexibility, you pay interest only on what you actually use, and there are low or no closing costs. But what do I know?
An HECM (reverse mortgage) is similar to a HELOC in that it is a credit line. However, the similarity ends there.
The best part about a reverse mortgage is that you never have to pay back whatever you borrow because the bank doesn’t call the loan until your house is transferred to someone else (i.e., you sell it, move, or die). And because you won’t have to pay back what you borrow, you don’t need good credit in order to qualify. However, you must be at least 62 years old and have enough equity to pay off the existing mortgage with the line of credit.
This is a sweet deal for you because if you live out the rest of your life in your house, you get lots of money from it, and you never have to pay a penny of it back. Of course, you already put lots of money into it in order to pay off the mortgage, so you’re basically borrowing your own money.
It’s not such a sweet deal for your heirs. When you die and they inherit your house, the bank calls the loan. If they don’t have the cash, they might have to sell the house, and if they don’t, the bank can foreclose. So a reverse mortgage is great if you hate your kids: you get to spend all their inheritance while living in a house that they’ll never get.
Now here’s the worst part. When you sign up for a reverse mortgage, the bank charges lots of closing costs. How much? Well, my mother got an HECM with a starting credit line of about $120,000, and closing costs were almost $12,000. That’s 10%. Even if you never borrow any money, the bank will collect these outrageous closing costs, not from you, but from your heirs. Plus interest accrues on the closing costs for the life of the HECM. That’s bullshit.
Also, if you become ill and have to move to a nursing home, the bank will call the loan because immunity from paying lasts only as long as the house is your primary place of residence. That’s even more bullshit.
The maximum amount of credit in an HECM varies. It’s usually between 50% and 75% of the home’s appraised value. It can increase each year by a few percentage points of the remaining line of credit. After many years the credit line might exceed the value of the home; if so you can take a loan for the full amount and the bank will only be able to collect an amount equal to the home’s value. But this favorable circumstance can happen only if you live for many years, the house doesn’t appreciate much, and you don’t borrow much. Fat chance.
Assisted living is a broad term for housing in which residents are given personal and/or medical care. There are several levels of care to suit different needs. Some people might need only laundry or transportation services. Others need help with simple activities such as meals, bathing, toileting, taking medications, or getting dressed, so they live in institutions where employees care for them. There are two types of institution: basic care, and nursing home. The main difference is that the latter is for extreme cases where residents need 24-hour care and supervision. Here you will find a bunch of fossils sitting around drooling or unconscious. No, wait, that’s Congress.
Many nursing homes have “special care units” for people with dementia. Residents are usually housed in a separate wing with additional security. This is so no one steals them.
Mostly functional people usually live in an apartment-like setting where they do what they can for themselves and pay only for services they need. There is also an option called congregate housing, which is the same except that there are common spaces such as a lobby, dining room, and/or activity area, so there are other people in one’s age group to socialize with. It’s like college really, except the residents don’t pee themselves as often.
These places aren’t cheap. The average price for a one bedroom apartment is more than $3500 per month, or more than $42,000 per year. The more care you require, the greater the cost, because the staff who feed, wash, and detest you need to be paid.
Visit any place you’re considering. Do not merely watch television ads and read websites and believe the propaganda. That’s how we decide who to vote for, and look how that turns out.
Walk around during your visit. Is it a happy atmosphere? Is the place clean and well kept? Does it smell? Do the residents seem content? See if you can talk with a few of them and ask them how they like living there. Look around outside too. Is there an outdoor sitting/activity area? Does the neighborhood seem safe?
What activities are available? Is the facility more than a place to wait to die? You might want to spend your days doing more than watching television, napping and pooping, so unless you want to slit your wrists just to break the monotony, ask what recreational activities they offer. And not just bingo either. Christ, what is it with old people and bingo? I bet that old people in friggin’ Iraq play bingo. Of course, the letters and numbers they call out are different from ours: F-14, B-52, M-16, etc.
Activities available in assisted living facilities include field trips, karaoke, dancing, classes, Wii sports, and live entertainment. The only recreational activities I’m gonna want in my retirement home are drinking and shtupping.
Speaking of which, did you know that there is an epidemic of STDs in retirement homes and communities? With people remaining healthy longer than ever, and the availability of Viagra and Cialis, old people are getting it on like wild monkeys. Wild, gray-haired monkeys with all the time in the world, access to erection pills, and no worries about pregnancy. Only a small percentage ever use condoms, and old folks are getting chlamydia, syphilis, and other diseases in record numbers. Well, I suppose if you’re 80 years old, no one visits you, you’ve completed your bucket list, and you don’t have more than a few years left above ground, how bad would it be to get a disease? Even AIDS takes 5 years to kill you.
How’s the food? See if you can eat a meal there. You’ll probably have to wait until after 7:00 PM because all the 4:30 slots will be taken.
Are the staff members courteous? Attentive? Friendly? Smoking crack?
Any assisted care facility you live in should be licensed. Each state has a particular set of regulations that this type of business must comply with in order to get a license. Everything from cleanliness to food to fire and safety must meet certain standards. Ask to see their license. Why not? Cops do it to us all the time. Well, me anyway.
Ask to speak with the reference administrator. This person sets the mood and philosophy of the place. Ask him/her for the facility’s licensing or certification inspection report.
Each facility has its own visiting hours. You’ll want to make sure that loved ones can visit you when it’s convenient for them. But let’s face it: it’s never convenient for them. How often do they visit you now?
You’ll want to know how good a place you’re considering is rated. There are websites such as aplaceformom.com and senioradvisor.com where you can search for facilities by location and see how people have rated them, but the vast majority of them charge for their services. The only free site I've found is Nursing Home Compare. But reader beware: anything written by someone you’ve never met should not be blindly believed. Unless you’re religious.
You might want to research what violations a facility has been cited for. All states have a website where you can do this, although some are better than others. I found a list here.
For further information, contact your state’s long-term care ombudsman here.
Unless you hate yourself, you will want a clean environment. Obviously staying out of large cities is a good start, but even places that look clean at first glance can hold hidden dangers. For this reason you might want to check the air and water quality of any place you’re considering retiring to.
Air and water can get polluted from distant areas by industrial plants and factory farms. Pesticides, heavy metals, fertilizer, sulfur dioxide, bacteria, etc can be carried by the wind or dumped into water sources. For example, leading pork-producing states such as Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and especially North Carolina, have problems with air and water being contaminated with bacteria from pig poop. Shit!
One activity that has polluted many areas of our country is hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. In a nutshell, this involves extracting oil and natural gas by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground. Many people have gotten sick from drinking contaminated water. This problem runs from upstate New York and Pennsylvania down to West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas; in many central states such as Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming; and in parts of North Dakota and Montana. Many of these same areas also produce coal, which is even more polluting.
As much pollution as our country has, we are not the worst. None of the most polluted places on the planet are in the U.S. You want pollution? Go to Russia, Africa, or Indonesia.
The majority of our most polluted cities are located in California: Los Angeles, Visalia, Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, and Modesto. Two are in Texas: Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. Our cleanest cities include Santa Fe and Albuquerque New Mexico; Prescott and Tucson Arizona; and Redding California. Our cleanest city? Cheyenne Wyoming. That’s because no one lives there.
On the state level, the most polluted are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. The cleanest states are in New England. But as with any other factor that you consider for your retirement location, there is great variation within each state. Check the Internet. Here is one good resource.
A lot of places offer discounts for seniors, and for some of them you don’t even have to be that old. Steak ’n Shake gives a 10% discount for anyone 50+ on Mondays and Tuesdays; Krispy Kreme gives it to 50+ folks all the time. At other places you might have to be 55 or 60. When booking a hotel or dining out, it doesn’t hurt to ask whether they give senior discounts; don’t be too embarrassed to speak up. Many places, especially car rental businesses, give AARP discounts, and you only have to be 50 to join AARP, so it might be worth the $16 yearly membership fee. A simple Google search will find many businesses that offer senior/AARP discounts.
Contrary to popular belief, Florida is not the oldest state in terms of average age of its residents. It’s only #5. Maine is #1. However, Florida does have the highest age-dependency ratio, which is the ratio of people in the non-working age range (under 15 or over 64) to the working age (15-64) population. Arizona is a close second, as, like Florida, it has many retirement communities.
So, which is the best area to retire to, all things considered? There are sites on the Internet that do this type of rating, but their criteria might differ from yours. For example, one site says that New Hampshire is best when you consider health, education, safety, and employment (while the worst states are Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas). But this doesn’t consider weather.
Which areas should be avoided? Again, it depends on what your criteria are. Thrillist published a list of what each state is worst for. Here are some of the highlights:
|Alabama:||Most child smokers.|
|Alaska:||Highest chlamydia rate.|
|Georgia:||Sleaziest politicians. (Now that’s an accomplishment!)|
|Hawaii:||Highest homelessness rate. (Great weather to sleep outside.)|
|Louisiana:||Highest murder rate.|
|Mississippi:||Shortest life expectancy.|
|Montana:||Most traffic fatalities per capita.|
|Oregon:||Most prescription painkiller abuse.|
|South Carolina:||Highest violent crime rate.|
|Texas:||Fewest high school graduates per capita.|
|West Virginia:||Fewest college graduates per capita.|
|Wyoming:||Highest suicide rate.|
Ben just keeps getting older. And his books just keep getting worse. You know how some people age gracefully, slipping quietly into obscurity as they enjoy relaxing senior years? Not Ben. As he’s gotten older, his production of the most putrid rubbish you’ve ever read has only increased.
If you want to avoid Ben during your retirement years, live somewhere cold, or in a state that has an income tax. Ben is too thin-skinned and cheap to live in any of those places.