Happy 2020!

Mike and I hope everyone had a great holiday and that 2020 will treat each of you well.

After spending Christmas in Danville with Mike’s family (including the Burton family traditional Long John Silver’s Christmas Eve dinner pictured above and at Lois’ church’s Candlelight service) we spent the interval before New Year’s with mine in Charleston (where we cheered on the Clemson Tigers to victory and hope they will do the same in the National Championship next week-that’s Niece Madison below ready for the game to start and me in my last year’s shirt)

We had a great time with my brother, Steve, his wife Georgette and niece Madison and nephew Jack (pictures above).

Food was abundant everywhere. We had Christmas dinner in both Danville and Charleston

as well as osso bucco prepared by sis-in-law Jennifer in Danville and prime rib in Charleston.

All of this was augmented by baked goods Mike made in Danville before Christmas. We made cookies, white trash crackers, cranberry bliss bars, coconut cake, sausage balls, three kinds of bark. Some was packaged and taken as gifts to friends in Raleigh we visited during the weekend before Christmas and others were (and continue to be!) desserts.

Before leaving Charleston, we had a quick lunch with my college chum Chris (that’s him Vanna is pointing to below)

That reminds me, on our way from the cruise to Danville, we stopped in Greenville and visited friends Claudia and Klase. It was great to catch up!

Oops, now that I’ve mentioned them, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that we stopped and saw the other person in this pack-Barry (and his wife Sherron and daughter Grace) in Orlando before the cruise.

Oh crap…now I’m going backwards instead of forward in time. One more shoutout to Karen and this whole college group will be done.

We saw Karen in Dallas before we got to Houston back in November. Anyway, seeing friends and family is what this tie of year is all about!

I promise I’m gonna catch up starting with boarding the cruise in China and all of the roadtrip that got us back to Houston. But for now, let me tell you what’s happened since we left Charleston.

We drove to Richmond in New Year’s Eve-the title picture of this post was taken as we reentered Virginia. We had a great New Year’s Eve dinner with my high school friend Frances and her hubby Larry. That’s her and Mike below.

On New Year’s Day, we drove to Arlington and checked into our home for the month of January. We are in the same building as Mike’s college chum Yost and his husband Sam. Longtime readers may recall that we have traveled with them several times (river cruise, Mike’s and Yost’s 50th Birthday in Italy, etc) and that Yost was the impetus to us retiring early. When we found an Airbnb available in their building we thought now was a great time for us to spend some more time with them.

We are working on our plans for 2020-it is likely to include a spring transatlantic cruise and in April, Niece Madison is going to come visit us as her high school graduation present. It will be great to be with her the first time she see Europe!

A short budget update, we just reconciled 2019 and as expected we were over our budget but by less than $3000 which given the unplanned China trip we feel pretty good about. Also, until the stock market reacts to this craziness in Iran, we currently have significantly more money in our portfolio than we did on February 2, 2018 when we quit work!

Best wishes to all for a great 2020 from Vanna, the Christmas Unicorn and me!

Budget Update

So for those of you who have been following along for awhile, you know Mike and I have tried to be pretty frugal (despite what some of you perceive) and have kept an eye on our ongoing spending by using a great budget app called “Expenses OK” each day we spend. I also did a spreadsheet prior to us stopping wor….ahem, retiring to try to quesstimate how long our savings/investments will last.

During our first year, I updated the spreadsheet every month with our actual costs and we ended up being well under our annual budget for 2018. Given that we had pre-paid for many of our expenses, we remained worried that perhaps we were fooling ourselves and that we might have issue staying within our budget for 2019.

I just finished updating the actual expenditures through the end of July(I’ve been doing it every two or three months this year) and even with the budget busting unexpected Viking cruise we are currently almost $10,000 under budget to date. Phew!

Most of this is due to the three months spent relatively free of rent courtesy of Lois at her house at Smith Mountain Lake and our stays in some lousy motels on the roadtrip (Dr. Barrett take note! We attempted to pay our way at Smith Mountain but Lois wouldn’t take rent and one can only pay the fuel bill when there is an amount due.

Anyway the other good news is that we currently have about $20,000 more in savings and investments than we did on the day we stopped work, almost a year and a half ago. So despite the wild rides of the stock market, the dividends have covered some of our losses and even though we are now having to sell stocks instead of purchasing, we aren’t deleting our moneyroll as fast as feared. The end result, presuming that the markets don’t crash, and we continue to spend within our budget is that we now won’t run out of money until I’m 108 and Mike is 103, rather than the original 105 and 100.

So Jane, you can quit worrying, it looks like we will be fine!

On a related subject, my Cobra insurance which has been covering us since March 2018 ends on August 31st. We applied for and qualified for a subsidy from the Affordable Care Act so our insurance premium is actually falling by about $700 a month starting September 1. We do have to only visit doctors in Houston unless it’s a “life threatening emergency” (and no one could define what was life threatening, “heart attack?” “I would think so”, ” how about a ruptured appendix?”….”hmm, that would be up to our review committee”) but since we figure we will likely drive through there heading back east we think that will work for our annual physicals.

Of course we do now need to figure out whether we are going to create a “nest” somewhere in the USA in 2020 and have ACA insurance (with a $15,000 deductible) or officially move overseas and have insurance at about the same monthly cost that will be good in Europe (with no deductible) and in the USA (with a high one.). As Mike says, the USA doesn’t really have healthcare insurance anymore (well maybe for some folks under a union contract), instead we have asset protection insurance.

Anyway, we have a few months to figure out where to live in 2020….as Scarlett would say, “I’ll think about that tomorrow, after all tomorrow is another day”

Budget Update.

WhooHoo, just reconciled our budget to reflect actuals for October and November and we are currently $10,045 UNDER!!!

So unless we really blow it in December it looks like we will have made it through the first year of retirement safely….only four more to go before we can stop worrying about it so much….at least according to most of the retirement cautionary tales I’ve read. Most of them advise on being financially careful the first five years so that you don’t reduce your savings so much that your investments can’t continue to grow. Even with the recent Trump downturn in the market, it appears that we will end the year with right at or slightly more than what we had guesstimated…which means if the other estimates remain true we won’t run out of money until Mike is 100!


For those of you who are keeping track, you may have been wondering why I hadn’t reported on our budget lately. I think it was fear that we had overspent due to the unplanned Baltic Cruise. But I finally brought myself to input our September expenses into the spreadsheet and thankfully even thought we spent more than budgeted for September, the surpluses we had been running all year more than covered the overrun.

We have budgeted $5,800 a month and in September due to the cruise and its associated expenses (airfare, hotel, tours, etc.) we spent $9,937. But for the year we are still under budget by $3,900. Yay!

I don’t think I’ve posted this yet, but at the suggestion of our friends Peggy & Lowell who are joining us for the upcoming Transatlantic, we are staying aboard the ship after we reach Miami on November 19th for an additional 11 days. When I just told Mike the good news that we were still under budget for the year, he said, but we won’t be after you input the additional cruise. “Ha!” I said, yes we will…the cruise for both of us all in (including drinks and gratuities) was only $1,609 and we have $1,600 budgeted for rent in November plus $500 for food. So we should have a surplus in November too.

Of course I suspect we will need it to cover December!