What I’ve Been Up To.

Well folks, I’m back to being a career woman yet once again.

Don’t ask me how it happened, but it did.

My cell phone is constantly ringing (I just had to upgrade my iPhone to a newer model just to keep up with the newer technology. I now lease a phone from AT&T (at $4 bucks more per month than what I was paying before, which will get me a new smart phone every year).

A fax machine is constantly whizzing. (I fax out of The UPS Store, at a buck a page, now that I have gotten rid of my landline . Ugh.)

From 7AM in the morning till 5PM in the evening, I’m texting, talking, emailing, scanning and FaceTiming.

I’m on the phone with bankers, mortgage lenders, real estate brokers from New York, real estate brokers from Rhode Island and more real estate brokers from Florida.

By the end of the evening, I’m so tired I can barely crawl back into my bed. And some days I don’t even get out of my pajamas.

What am I doing? Here’s the list:

First I was selling my RI Beach House. It’s in the middle of having a new septic system installed. But then I realized that technically the new septic system didn’t really have to be installed till January 2016. So, why spend or waste any money on it now. I’m not going to go into great detail here, because I think it’s all nonsense. There’s nothing wrong with the current septic system to begin with. The state just wants to be more ‘green’ and I don’t mean eco green. I mean cash green. So, the septic system has been put on hold for now. (after dealing with contractors, engineers, landscapers, tree trimmers, excavators)

Next, I’m in Florida to look at real estate and there’s a plethora of condo’s, townhouses, single family homes for sale, all mostly under $100K. What a bargain. So, I get this brainstorm. Why don’t I rent out my Beach House (because if I sell it, I’m going to lose around $70,000 between the septic and the lousy economy) and once I secure a tenant, I can borrow against it (house has no mortgage) and then I can buy a place down Florida, for cash. The rental income I get from my tenant will pay for everything: the loan, RI taxes & insurance AND the Florida condo fees, insurance, yada, yada, yada. (I have a Plan B in place: I still have enough in savings to cover me for years should I not get a tenant. But I will.)

Sounds like a good plan.

Till you start to get all the balls rolling.

Yup I found an ideal condo, real close to a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Looks good till you start negotiating with the seller, whose condo has been sitting for over 5 months with no activity. Then I come along and he mistakenly thinks I have the word ‘idiot’ written across my forehead. I don’t. I’m not romantically tied to anything. I have no problem walking away and finding the next bargain. Trust me, they’re plenty. But getting sparse and few as the days and weeks roll along.

Then there are the flights back and forth between New York and Florida. And the long drives between New York and Rhode Island. And the even longer drives between New York and Florida. This is where I let out a little sigh. Ahhhhh, feels like the good old days. This is what I used to be like. Juggling balls. Hanging on the phone, wheeling and dealing for hours on end. Cindi, oh Cindi…….where have you been? Geeze but it’s good to be back in the saddle.

I won’t bore you with other details. Just know that I am loving each and every minute of this. I’m going to be extremely busy for the next few weeks till we get all of this sorted out and settled in. I just wish people didn’t change their minds so much! Everything keeps changing from second to second over here. Nothing stays the same for more than an hour!

I just told my Florida broker that on the day when DH and I are sitting in our beach chairs, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean along the Florida shoreline, sipping a Bloody Mary (him) and Pina Colada (me), I’ll know that I reached my goal: RI will be rented, equity line of credit is funded and secured, Florida condo in check, New York in check.

Gosh, retirement has turned out to be so much fun!

Who knew?

And so my beat goes on.

Friends With Not-So-Much-Better Lives.

I had a chance this past week to meet and speak with many of my childhood friends. Some of these friendships have lasted for more than forty years. We all seemed to have congregated in Florida. Some on vacation. Some on business. All chatty and willing to discuss their lives and how everything turned out.

You can learn a lot about life from talking to people. I have always liked to speak with people and find out what they’re doing, how they’re living and how they have managed the day-to-day. Most of my friends are the same age as me, or as close as possible. Some are younger. Some are older. But each and every one of them is still working. A lot! No one is retired. And when you hear their stories, you will understand why.

There’s my friend M, who is 60 years old, married to a 72-year-old lawyer. Both are still working. They adopted a baby girl thirteen years ago from a drug addicted mother. The child has ADD and whether it is from guilt or whatever, M and her husband decided that their adopted daughter could only attend the finest school that specializes in children with ‘special needs’ to the tune of $50,000 per year. M runs a restaurant and due to years and years of wear and tear on her legs, she can not stand nor walk for more than 10 minutes at a time. M’s husband, an attorney, never developed his own list of high paying clients. Because of this, he’s never been made partner at any of the law firms he was employed at. Currently he works as a real estate attorney, closing deals, working 9am to 7pm for a senior partner that is young enough to be his own son.

When the semester is over at that $50,000-a-year school, M’s daughter goes to summer camp for 8 weeks at a cost of $15,000. In the interim, most of the couple’s money goes towards this child, which is commendable. But that means there is no money left over for home repairs (their home is in total dis-repair. Homes in their neighborhood are valued at $1.25million. M’s home was appraised at $375K), no retirement funds, no vacations nor anything much else. M and her husband are trapped. All their money is funneled into their adopted daughter. On the horizon is her Sweet Sixteen birthday (which must over shine the child’s peers Bar Mitzvah parties), continued private schooling, Ivy League college and then finally, her wedding. It’s sad to realize and recognize that the father and mother may not live long enough to see all of this come true. The father works till 8PM most nights. The mother works long and hard all week-long.

Then there’s T. She’s a registered, visiting nurse, who up until a few weeks ago was earning almost $200K a year. T was recently let go because corporate decided she was earning too much money. T’s husband was working for decades with her brother running the family food import business. That business was sold last year (after being advised of the sale one year prior). So, here T and her husband sit: both at or nearing 65 and neither one of them prepared to be unemployed or retired. T was fortunate to get another job BUT will earn nowhere near what she did previously (I think she took at least a 50% cut) and T’s husband, at 65 years old, landed a job at Home Depot @$9.75 an hour.

All I want is a simple life“, T exclaimed. “I’m done with all those vacation homes I bought (her Poconos home alone has a $1700 a month mortgage……..which BTW is impossible to sell). “I can do it!” T boasts. “I can live within my means. I can go and have the early bird specials. I can live without. Please….I just want a simple life. I’m done!”

Finally, there’s D. She and her husband have filed bankruptcy last year for the second time. D loves horses and her ten-acre spread supports several of them. In order to afford all of the above, D’s husband works as a truck driver. He is 54 years old and drives six days a week. He is only home one day during the week and when he is home, he spends his whole day repairing the truck and getting it ready for the next week’s deliveries. D is home alone (with her horses) and runs everything by herself. “My husband hates his job“, D said. “Hates every second of it. But what can we do? He knows the only way he can make me happy and support all of this is for him to keep working. We can’t sell our house ’cause we’re upside down. We can’t retire ’cause we have no money. I guess he’ll just have to keep on truckin’ till he drops dead. I suppose.”

And then there’s me and my DH. We both semi-retired fourteen years ago. I was 50 years old. DH was 44. We sold our marital home of sixteen years and drastically downsized. We bought some land in a less expensive area in New York. We had a custom 1000 square foot, pre-fab home built because basically, that’s all we needed. We never borrowed against our equity, so we had enough money to build our home without a mortgage and buy 2 cars without a loan. We paid off all our credit cards and vowed never again to be subservient to the Joneses or any bank. If my children wanted private educations, they got summer jobs and paid part of their tuition. Ditto for college. Both DH and I have learning disabilities, but we overcame them through hard work, diligence and from parents who didn’t know any better.

DH and I see the world the same way: your money or your life! We both wanted to live financially free, unencumbered. We wanted to experience life, not be a slave to it. And to achieve this goal meant sacrifice, not caring what other people had to say about you and creating our own set of rules and yardsticks.

I’m not here to judge other people. But I am here to say that each and every one of us are in total control of our own lives. We make it happen. We are the masters of our own destiny. Life is a series of choices. We get to pick and choose how we are going to live out our lives. It took me a long time to understand this. I used to blame everyone and everything else for my problems when all along it was me who got me into the messes to begin with.

My newest friend and her husband bought a retirement home down here, on the west coast in Florida. They never had children. Their home is a majestic custom-built showplace. It’s over 3000 sq ft, with three bedrooms, in-ground heated pool, granite counter tops, state-of-the-art appliances with every known gadget to mankind for $450,000. She’s got a $80K Mercedes Benz convertible parked in her driveway. “I want everyone to know how successful I am,” she chanted while we went out for breakfast one morning. When the bill came, I handed her my $12 cash (for an overpriced two-scrambled egg). My new friend, in turn, handed the waitress her charge card. It was promptly returned to her marked ‘denied‘.

I, on the other hand, settled on the east coast of Florida, where I bought a 1 bedroom, 1 bath condo for the affordable price of $60,000. It has everything that I need. And that’s the keyword………need. I have every amenity that my new friend has but without the price tag. I’m a four minute drive to the Atlantic Ocean vs her forty five minute drive to the Gulf Of Mexico…..if there isn’t any traffic. I do not have the desire to impress anyone nor show them ‘how well I have done…….or am doing‘.  Because when my life bill comes, I can afford it, pay it and move onward to my next life experience.

This is the life I chose and I’m sticking to it.

And so my beat goes on.

If You’re Trying To Sell Your House, This Is NOT The Way To Do It.

I’m starting to look at properties for sale here in Florida. Yesterday, I saw around five condos. I’m not going to post all of the five, but this one that I am was probably the worst. People, if you put your home up for sale, at least tidy up. It’s difficult for the prospective buyer to get any sense of your abode if it’s filled to the brim with clutter and crap. I have to say that every single condo I saw was messy. What are these people thinking?