An early retiree’s worries

Did I say worries?  Should early retirement life be the utopia?

I retired in April 2015, at the age of 49.  The first week after retirement was very unique.  I was up in the air pretty much the whole week.  Everything was exciting, and refreshing.  I walked even faster during the daily workout.

After one week, the reality set in.  And my daily routine was formed.

If things were to start all over again, would I do the same to retire early?  Absolutely.  I don’t have any regrets about early retirement.  I’m able to sleep more, read and write more, walk more, listen to more music, and have more time with family and friends.  My lunch and dinner are much better and healthier, as I have more time to cook.

My early retirement life has been very good.  But it is not perfect.  Today I like to share some of my worries as an early retiree.

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Check my book on Amazon:
“DAD’S BICYCLE: Journey of A Chinese Family”.

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Health care

Sometimes I wish I were 65.  Why?  I would be eligible for MediCare.  For our international readers, MediCare is a health care program by the US government.  It’s available for those who are 65 or over.  There are some exceptions for those disabled.  In most of the cases, the age limit 65 stays.

Yes, having MediCare is nice.  But, on the other hand, I’m not excited to age that fast.  Now I’m 52, and like to take it one day at a time, and really enjoy it.

Health care is the biggest challenge I face.  What worries me is the uncertainty.  I don’t know what is going to happen next year, or 3 years down the road.  And there is nothing much I can do as a private citizen, except to vote and let my voice heard.

I enrolled to Obamacare.  Thanking to this program, I was able to retire early.  But obviously it needs some fixes.  As a non-smoker, my premium for 2018 is $442 per month (for myself only). I’m not eligible for any subsidy.  My Bronze plan has deductible and out-of-pocket of $7,350.  There is no dental or vision coverage.

For my plan, the deductible and out-of-pocket are the same.  It means that, before the total amount of bills reaches $7,350, the insurance company won’t pay a penny (except the preventive care, i.e. the wellness checkup).  I have to pay the $7,350 from my pocket first.  After that, I’ll be covered by the insurance policy 100%.

My annual premium is $442 x 12 = $5,304.  So, with a big health issue, I would have to pay the total of $7,350 + $5,304 = $12,654 annually.  $12,654 is an insane amount.  But this is the reality.

The premium $442 is even higher than my own monthly bills.  The monthly bills include grocery, utility, and cable/internet/phones.  Something is wrong here in this country.

In 2015 and 2016, my plan was PPO.  Starting 2017, all the PPO plans were gone, and replaced by the HMO.  Don’t be confused by those big terms.  Here is the simple way to look at them.

PPO has a much bigger network.  It includes most of the big hospitals in central Ohio.  Even the Out-Of-Network was covered, but I had to pay more from the pocket than In-Network.  HMO’s network is very very limited.  My current plan only covers two hospitals.  The Ohio State University hospital is not even within the network.  The Out-of-Network is not covered anymore in HMO, unless it’s a real emergency.

When reading the book “Total Recall” by Arnold Schwarzenegger, I realized the health care has been an issue for at least 40 years.  Not long after Arnold came to US in 1970s, he was involved in a car accident in Los Angles.  He didn’t have health insurance then.  Growing up in Austria, his impression was that, health insurance was universal to everyone.  It was the case in Austria, but not in US.  Arnold learnt the lesson in a hard way.

I don’t see any hope for the health care.  It’s just the reality I have to deal with everyday.  The truth is that, even MediCare could be changed down the road.  Nothing is guaranteed in our country, except the tax and death.

Luckily I have been very healthy.  Fruits and vegetables are my favorites.  I eat some meat, but don’t need meat for every meal.  I like some sweet snacks, such as apple pie and cookies.  But I watch closely about the amount of sugar I take in every day.  And I exercise daily.

I feel that, life is about taking the chance.  In April 2013, I could keep going with my decades-long IT engineer career.  But I decided to try totally a different path – becoming a financial adviser.  In early 2015, I could continue working as a banker, but decided to retire early and enjoy life more.

To me, I don’t want to get stuck on the job only for health care, or money.  Life is too short.

Property tax

Here comes the lovely property tax.  It worries me in some way, but not that much as health care.

I live in central Ohio.  One year ago, a school levy was passed, and my property tax went up by 10.1%.  Late in 2017, the auditor did the county-wide reassessment.  The value of the house went up, and my property tax went up by another 38%.  Wow, double whammy!

If the tax amount paid one year ago is used as the baseline, totally the property tax rose by 52% in one year!  I wish I could get a pay raise like that.  That’s a lot of money.  But the school is still the same.  Where did the money go?  Probably I should run for the school board member, get some accountability in place for our taxpayers’ money, and tell them:  enough is enough.

Inflation?

Not really.  At this moment, inflation is not on my radar of worries.  The price went up some, but overall, the cost of living in central Ohio is low.  The green beans could cost $1.50/lb in the winter, and is as low as $0.99/lb in the summer.  That’s the same prices I saw 20 years ago.  A simple car wash costs only $6.00.

Pollution

This is a different topic, and is not related to money.  Since retired early, I got more time to care about the social issues.  Pollution is one of them.

Right after Christmas, I drove to Detroit to see my two college friends (the trip was so cool).  Once passing Toledo, Ohio, I saw the huge white clouds hanging just right above the ground, very low.  They were not far away.  At first, I thought it must be the Erie lake effect: air was too wet.  Once getting closer to Monroe, Michigan, I was shocked by the scene:  two huge chimneys were spewing the white smokes into our blue sky.

The two big chimneys were not alone.  There were some small ones in Monroe as well.  Once close to Detroit, I saw more chimneys producing smokes.

The pollution worries me a lot, because I care.  The Earth is not only for our generation, but also for many generations to come.  Each level of government and each citizen has the duty to protect our environment.

Two weeks ago, I was reading the book “Sea Power” by Admiral James Stavridis.  One of the topics covered by Admiral Stavridis is the pollution in the oceans.  Oceans seem far away, and the pollution is not something we witness every day.  But it’s a huge issue that has to be addressed now.  People dump tons of trash and toxic liquid into the oceans.  Oceans belong to everyone.

Look at the pollution in China.  It affects not only air, but also water, food, etc.  I’m glad to hear that, the Chinese government is taking this issue as a top priority.  It’s great that, the air quality in Beijing is getting better lately.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s good to China, also good to Asia and the whole world.

Regarding pollution, I have some hope.  This is a global issue.  I’m confident that, people will come to their senses, and will clean up and protect the world for better.

Do you plan to retire early?  What are your concerns?

Take a look at my eBook, a mini-memoir on Amazon: “DAD’S BICYCLE: Journey of A Chinese Family”.

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10 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    My biggest concern is healthcare. We’re okay for now because my wife is working. It’s just such a mess here in the US. I don’t understand why voters/congress can’t pass better healthcare laws. I guess we really hate that entitlement.
    I’m also concern about cost of living in general. Everything seems to be getting more expensive in Portland and California. I would like to move to a lower cost of living area, but I don’t know where yet. This one really depends on the missus because she is still working.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Joe,
      I share your concern about health care. Don’t see a solution soon. Wish I were wrong. Regarding the cost of living, mid west is much more affordable, like Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Ann Arbor, etc. It is kind of plain, no oceans or big mountains. Weather is not lovely in the winter. But they are decent to live. In Columbus, with $100K, you can get a condo with two bedrooms, two full bath, and one-car garage, not bad. Probably lived in Ohio for too long, I just love Ohio.

  2. Nick. says:

    I’ve seen the same overall lack of inflation from the small to big city. Food supermarket costs nearly the same in both areas. Restaurants vastly differ. What is the main driver of inflation? Maybe real estate prices specifically alongside the coast area. The view is stark. You’ve got incredibly boring flat plains views in the midwest. Then coastal breathtaking snowy mountains in the distance, light families of green trees, lakes in a 30 minutes drive from tall modern semi skyscrapers. Maybe they’ve added scenery into cost of home over time.

    Alot of people brag about the price of their home rising over 2 decades, yet they don’t sell and can’t see themselves selling either in their own mindset. So now they have a high appraisal, pay 10-40% more property taxes that’s bound to increase, and don’t get any cash profit from a now high house valuation. I understand some people don’t want to give up neighbors and nearby friends. But others don’t care. They downgrade a bit by selling once their kids finish h.s., university, or want to live closer to tourism areas.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Nick,
      Some people don’t like living in mid west. The factors could include the boring plain views, weather, activities, etc. Yes, moving is not easy. Leaving the known place, and going to a new place needs courage and a real strong reason to do so. Once living in a place for a long time, we are attached to it.

  3. GYM says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize healthcare premiums were so high. Have you thought of ‘medical tourism’ if needed- e.g. go to Bangkok for health care if needed. Property taxes are awful- they just keep increasing and going up and exponential values instead of with inflation!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      I’ll keep the option open. The health care in US is probably the worst in most of the developed countries. Canada has a much better system. Just hope I stay healthy. The risk is always there. Yes, property tax never goes down.

  4. Caroline says:

    So glad I live in Ontario, we have a provincial medical care system. it doesn’t cover everything but it still pretty good. Plus there is additional coverage if you make under a certain amount of money.
    Property taxes do go up a lot. Sometimes I think we should just rent , at least the rent increase is capped every year!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      That’s good, you don’t have to worry about the health care when choosing to retire. Renting has many pros, property tax and maintenance are two of them. Sometimes I miss those days when I lived in an apartment. Life was simpler then.

  5. Steve says:

    Hi Helen, wow health care is crazy in the US. Thankfully in Canada health care is a non issue. Property taxes and inflation are always a concern that we have little control over.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Steve,
      Yes, it is crazy. It prevents many people from retiring early, as people are afraid of the uncertainty. Canada has done a much better job than US for sure. It looks property tax also concern Canadians. Inflation is not so bad so far, but we never know about tomorrow. I heard in the late 70s in US, the inflation was very ugly.

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