Joy of Zero Income

We are living the story. Freedom from work! Work we sometimes despised. We put in the time, collected our checks, waited until the day retirement arrived so we could focus on work we really loved. For me that’s writing, although it pays way below the cost of living, and dream vacations to Greece cost so much.

We can move to where the weather suits us. If we can afford a house. That’s what all the saving was for when we worked those soul crushing jobs. Al and I did better at saving than most, but when we thought about it, we realized we’d have a hard time buying a home in this crazy market unless we paid cash. Because we’re retired. No income. Well, very little income. This adds all sorts of complications.

We could dip into our savings, but higher income means higher tax bracket. Thus more taxes. Taking money out of 401K also means paying even more taxes as 401Ks (unless they are Roth) are not taxed until you take them out of the market. We thought that was great when we were saving.

Social Security is giving seniors a COLA raise for the first time in forever, but Medicare is raising costs equal to that and they take it right out of your check. If you’re not collecting SS yet, you still have to write Medicare a check.

Last week consisted of crunching numbers with our banker, who is lovely and kind. It was soooo boring. She and Al loved talking finance strategies, me not so much. Now we just have to figure out what we want to do. Which taxes to pay when or if there’s a way people who are not rich can avoid them. (There isn’t.) I learned a lot about money and what it can and cannot do for you in retirement, but I still don’t understand how it is legal for billionaires to have billions of ways to avoid paying taxes. While we in the middle have exactly zero legal means unless we spend zero.

Money is a strange thing. Now this crypto-currency is weirder yet, although I do like the IDEA of minting a trillion dollar coin to pay off our country’s debt. Or is it debt ceiling? Or are we just calling off that whole thing? Sure I’ve learned a lot, but I have way more to figure out. Lucky for me, Al’s hobby is finance. And he’s really good at it.

Everything All At Once

In my peaceful yoga class, a phone rang. Twice. I was happy I’d remembered to turn mine off, until class was over and my friend showed me the two calls she’d gotten…from people trying to reach me. My father had been calling all over town looking for me, as he needed a ride to the doctor. Right that minute.

I managed to rush home to shower and get him to his appointment on time. He was in a bit of a panic, so I didn’t understand what he meant after I asked him why he hadn’t told me he had a doctor appointment. I’d seen him just the other day. We’d talked for hours! He said something like “they call me last minute.”

I didn’t get it, he’d said the other day he had a doctor’s appointment Friday and he’d arranged to have an open MRI. He’d been so relieved. But this was Thursday and he was going into a closed MRI machine (Dad is claustrophobic). He needed a ride because he’d be taking a larger dose of anti-anxiety medication than he was used to and wouldn’t be able to drive.

I didn’t want to ask him anything else because he was panicky. It’s hard to talk sensibly when you’re having an anxiety attack. I just said soothing things and acted like everything was normal. He kept saying I was going the wrong way, but I had my GPS on it said we were five minutes away. I knew exactly how my dad was feeling because I’ve been there many times. We share the claustrophobia gene.

We got to the doctor and three hours later he was done. How did it go? I asked him. “It was horrible! They put something over my face. I slept almost the entire time.” That didn’t make a lot of sense, but I didn’t press him. I could tell his meds had kicked in big time.

I was not clear on what he was getting an MRI for…I thought it was for his knee? So why would a neurologist be doing that MRI? Shouldn’t an ortho guy do that? And then the prescription we stopped to have filled. He’d shown me six new prescriptions (!) the other day. I asked the pharmacist what this new one was for and he said restless leg syndrome. I didn’t know my dad had that.

I am worried about my dad’s doctor visits, his prescription use, his health. I want to do more to help him, like sit in with him on doctor visits and ask questions, take notes. Check his medication and make sure he takes the right pills every day. But I fear his reaction. What if he thinks I’m invading his privacy? Or treating him as if he is incompetent? Still, I’m going to talk to him about all this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I also need to mail in my absentee ballot plus sign up for Medicare and Social Security. I need to do laundry and shop for groceries. Friends are coming over on Tuesday and staying the night, so I’ll be making another frittata. I just made one when we had overnight friends a few days ago. Then next weekend we are going out of town for a night and in two weeks we’re meeting up with friends in Savannah, Georgia for a long weekend. I’m looking forward to all of it, okay maybe not signing up for Medicare.

Retirement is not what I imagined. In my mind, I thought it would be relaxed and easy. It is not. It is hectic. Maybe someday things will slow down, but not yet. I am so happy to have Al to help and to lean on. I don’t know how I ever did this without him. He golfs with my dad twice a week, something I for sure could not do.

Oh, and my prescription coverage changed today. I’ve only had the new one for retirees two months. But the government put me on the Medicare one. Because it’s my birthday this month. Which is why I have to immediately sign up for Medicare. Yesterday the drugstore wanted $130 to refill a prescription that used to be $3.

If all this sounds a little scattered and confused, it’s because that’s how I feel right now. Like I need a list. Or maybe three or four lists. But I am also happy to be in Florida, to see a lot more of my friends, and to have early dinners with my dad in the warm sunshine. It really is good to be alive.


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