Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How can a senior couple retire in Florida on $1500 a month?

More viewer Mail...

A reader asks:

"How can a senior couple retire in Florida on $1500 a month?"

How, indeed!

$1500 a month is not a lot of money.  We're talking an annual income of  $18,000 a year, which is not far above what the Federal Government considers the "Poverty Line" for two people.

The problem is, just finding a place to live on that much money could be hard.  Even the lot rent on a Park Model home would be around $450 in most places, leaving only about $1000 a month to cover all food costs, utilities, transportation expenses, clothing, etc.

While such a bare-bones budget might be possible, it leaves little room for error - for example, a car repair or other unexpected expense.  And you have to hope that you have no medical needs that are not covered by Medicare.

Florida, of course, has no income tax, but makes up for this deficit in terms of property taxes (which are part of any rent payment cost structure) and sales taxes.  Since someone in such a low income bracket pays little or no Federal or State income taxes anyway, I am not sure that Florida is such a great choice, at least based on the Income tax issue alone.

I would investigate other, less popular States that are also attracting retirees with lower costs of living, before making a decision.
Retirement overseas might be one other option, although this is not for everyone, as I have noted.

This query reflects the poor planning on the part of a lot of Americans these days.  Many saved little or nothing in our 401(k) plans or IRAs, or mismanaged such savings (trying to time the market, panicking and selling out everything, or worse yet, buying Gold) so that they have little or nothing to fall back on.

Social Security benefits are pretty paltry, even if you were a high wage earner in your life.

I hope the folks who made that query end up doing OK, but frankly, it seems like a frightening scenario - to spend your "Senior Years" with barely enough money to get by - and not enough to do anything with your time other than watch TeeVee and play cards.

If nothing else, such queries should be a wake-up call to us all...