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Old 01-08-2013, 08:51 PM   #61
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MUD = Municipal Utility District. It has taxing authority.

So, we pay an average of $100 a month for water, sewer, and trash collection. Water is a base rate of $38 per month plus $5.50 per thousand gallons.

Yeah, water is the new Texas gold.

In addition to the monthly bill, there is an annual property tax. So we pay another $2100 a year or so, for a total of around $3300 a year. Or more, depending on how dry the summer is and how often we run the sprinklers. A $250 water bill is common in July/August, as is a $300 electric bill.

My other property is lakefront, although the lake is dried up right now. It has a fancy, engineered aerobic septic system with drip irrigation, chlorinator, oxygenator. A propane tank, electric coop, and a private water corporation. Total utilities for it (gas, water, electric, septic) work out to around $1800 a year.

But the property taxes on that place are killer, because it's "Waterfront" even though there isn't water right now.

So yeah, a cabin on a few acres in the country sounds pretty cost effective to me.
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:02 PM   #62
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An earlier post talked about lower RE taxes in unincorporated areas. That turned out to be not true in my case. My main home is in the suburb of a large metro area. The boonies home is in the rural area as previously described. They have comparable values, but are in two different counties. Taxes are the same!

When it snows, the county happens to snow plow only to my property (lucky me!). People down the road from me have to fend for themselves. Heck, they even grade the road themselves. Same tax, but practically no service. The higher tax paid by the better-heeled retirees and weekenders because of their higher home value supports the full-time locals, pays for their schools and tiny county libraries. The part-timers also provide work for the locals. Everybody's happy.

Due to this thread, I thought of searching the census for the survey of the area. Come to think of it, the part-timers or weekenders would not respond to the census survey as it is not their main home. So, that brings down the surveyed income quite a bit (but it is still higher than that of towns shown in the linked article), as there is no high-paying job for the locals here. In fact, I think they would be happy to have any job. There's not much to do!

All this makes me think that the towns shown in the linked article may be a better deal for retirees. The people who are not recluse, that is.
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:06 PM   #63
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Thank you. Not the kind of mud we have around here - particularly with my horses and goats...
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:15 PM   #64
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MUD = Municipal Utility District. It has taxing authority.

So, we pay an average of $100 a month for water, sewer, and trash collection. Water is a base rate of $38 per month plus $5.50 per thousand gallons.

Yeah, water is the new Texas gold.

In addition to the monthly bill, there is an annual property tax. So we pay another $2100 a year or so, for a total of around $3300 a year. Or more, depending on how dry the summer is and how often we run the sprinklers. A $250 water bill is common in July/August, as is a $300 electric bill.

My other property is lakefront, although the lake is dried up right now. It has a fancy, engineered aerobic septic system with drip irrigation, chlorinator, oxygenator. A propane tank, electric coop, and a private water corporation. Total utilities for it (gas, water, electric, septic) work out to around $1800 a year.

But the property taxes on that place are killer, because it's "Waterfront" even though there isn't water right now.

So yeah, a cabin on a few acres in the country sounds pretty cost effective to me.
Maybe it all balances out. We have 7 acres in SW Oregon, our own well and septic. Property taxes are about $1000 a year but the electricity for the well averages from a low of $25/mo during the rainy season to about $60/mo during the dry months. Our house electricity ranges from about $250 during the winter months to about $100 a month during the summer (we don't have A/C). Most of our heat is from our trusty woodstove (we cut a lot of our own firewood but if we had to buy it it's about $250/cord) typically use about 2 1/2 cords a year.
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:30 PM   #65
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... Noticed quite a few college towns in the list, maybe the student population is bringing down the median wage.
Being a long-time resident of one the several college towns on this list, and being reasonably aware of comparative costs of living here due to involvement with recruiting for my employer, I am pretty confident that the median household income quoted in the article *is* being pushed down considerably by the many resident single student "households" (as well as by recent grads who hang around for a while doing low-paying holdover jobs until they get on with life elsewhere). Don't get me wrong, this town is a great place to live and raise a family. The college town atmosphere offers a lot of amenities and a degree of economic stability that many other similarly sized towns don't have. It is not prohibitively expensive, but neither is it *that* cheap to live here, unless your point of reference is the much higher cost of metro areas like New York, adjacent suburbs, or similar. I would not feel very flush hanging my hat here on SS alone.
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Old 01-08-2013, 10:15 PM   #66
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I need to move to where you are! One of our homes outside of Austin (not in the city limits but in Travis county) is on the tax rolls at $197K and yet the property tax bill last year was $6K even after homestead exemption. The two biggest factors were the school property taxes (1.5%) and the MUD (.98%).....the rest added in (ESD, County, Hospital District, Community College, etc) resulted in a total effective rate of 3.02% per $100 of valuation.

Yes, you can "defer" property taxes in Texas - and the state will gladly charge you 8% a year in interest to do so.
It is not just the deferral of taxes (which I'm not planning to do myself)....the big thing is the cap on school taxes. In my experience the school taxes are usually the highest.

Anyway, I live in Montgomery County. I am not in a MUD. We are on septic and have private water service. The water service is through a co-op and is much less expensive than MUD taxes. When we were looking to buy our house (about a year ago) I ruled out anything in a MUD. Before we bought this house we were in Fort Bend county and had a well so had no water bill.
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Old 01-08-2013, 10:21 PM   #67
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It is not just the deferral of taxes (which I'm not planning to do myself)....the big thing is the cap on school taxes. In my experience the school taxes are usually the highest.

Anyway, I live in Montgomery County. I am not in a MUD. We are on septic and have private water service. The water service is through a co-op and is much less expensive than MUD taxes. When we were looking to buy our house (about a year ago) I ruled out anything in a MUD. Before we bought this house we were in Fort Bend county and had a well so had no water bill.
I looked at Montgomery, TX when I was pondering the possibility of moving to the Houston area. It seems to be a very nice, safe, peaceful community. I was looking at Bentwater, but found the property price, property tax, HOA dues, and club dues add up to be too much outlays.
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Old 01-09-2013, 12:08 AM   #68
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I looked at Montgomery, TX when I was pondering the possibility of moving to the Houston area. It seems to be a very nice, safe, peaceful community. I was looking at Bentwater, but found the property price, property tax, HOA dues, and club dues add up to be too much outlays.
Yes, it is. We live in a subdivision but it is an acreage subdivision and is fairly laid back. We have dogs and cats and needed a subdivision without the typical 2 or 3 pet limitation so that narrowed down our list quite a bit. And, it is nice to look out the living room window and see a deer in the front yard....
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:29 AM   #69
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I don't know anyone who can do this, including myself. And I consider myself frugal. SS forecast for me is less than $10k if I FIRE this year age 48 because I have worked about 10 years only in the US. Fortunately I have a large cash cushion.

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Some thoughts:

How would you break down $1800/month for two persons, to pay rent, taxes, food, transportation, utilities, upkeep, personal care, etc... An interesting exercise in frugality.
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:05 AM   #70
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In 2009, the median household income for those age 65 and over in the U.S. was apparently $31,354.

See Table 692 at the following link. http://www.census.gov/compendia/stat...es/12s0692.pdf

According to Social Security, the average SS payment in 2012 was $1230/month, or $14,760 per year. For a household of two, that would come to $29,520/year. http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answ...retired-worker I am not drawing any conclusions but just thought these data were interesting.
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Old 01-09-2013, 06:26 AM   #71
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In 2009, the median household income for those age 65 and over in the U.S. was apparently $31,354.

See Table 692 at the following link. http://www.census.gov/compendia/stat...es/12s0692.pdf

According to Social Security, the average SS payment in 2012 was $1230/month, or $14,760 per year. For a household of two, that would come to $29,520/year. Average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker I am not drawing any conclusions but just thought these data were interesting.
To have a shot at living off only SS you have to have minimized expenses by doing things like paying off the mortgage. Then you also probably have to have been paid considerably more than the average salary to bump your SS payment up to the max (which is about $2500/month at 66 in 2012) and you have to be frugal.
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Old 01-09-2013, 06:48 AM   #72
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To have a shot at living off only SS you have to have minimized expenses by doing things like paying off the mortgage. Then you also probably have to have been paid considerably more than the average salary to bump your SS payment up to the max (which is about $2500/month at 66 in 2012) and you have to be frugal.
Indeed. I helped my mother (71) find a home a couple of years ago, she paid cash for it and defers the property taxes. Her car is paid for, she seldom ventures out other than groceries and window-shopping, and her utilities are low. Her biggest entertainment expense is probably her internet connection at $35 a month. She receives ~$1200 a month in SS and has a savings cushion that she doesn't draw from and in fact adds a little to each month. I've tried to encourage her to get out more and maybe even take some nice trips but she doesn't; I'm pretty sure the reason why is that she's very frugal and if it can't be paid for out of her monthly cash flow from SS, it's not something she'll spend the money on.
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Old 01-09-2013, 06:54 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
In 2009, the median household income for those age 65 and over in the U.S. was apparently $31,354.

See Table 692 at the following link. http://www.census.gov/compendia/stat...es/12s0692.pdf

According to Social Security, the average SS payment in 2012 was $1230/month, or $14,760 per year. For a household of two, that would come to $29,520/year. Average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker I am not drawing any conclusions but just thought these data were interesting.
W2R: Looking at the time you posted this, you had a late night. Enjoy!
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:01 PM   #74
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W2R: Looking at the time you posted this, you had a late night. Enjoy!
I did, in fact! Thanks
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:03 PM   #75
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Yup, could live on a standard SS amount no problem. My costs have been consistently in the $1000/month range in a very expensive area, and lower in less expensive areas. In a low cost of living area, including low taxes, with a paid off house, no roommates, and some nice additional amenities that haven't really meshed well with my current and past living situations, I expect my budget would be the same amount.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:06 PM   #76
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We live in Bellingham, WA, where I expect we will stay for a while. By the time we repatriate, the house will be paid for. In extremis, we can sell and move out to the county and live for super cheap if needed. It is a small town in a low-population county; everything will still be close. We will be able to live on SS and still save money. Investments will be gravy.
One of my favorite places in the world. I lived there for 3 years in the 90's. My best friend and her husband still live there.

Definitely affordable if your house is paid for. And if you live in town, it's pretty walkable. (I owned a house a few blocks from what's now Trader Joes, best friend lives closer to just south of Lakewood, west of 5)
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:23 PM   #77
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To have a shot at living off only SS you have to have minimized expenses by doing things like paying off the mortgage. Then you also probably have to have been paid considerably more than the average salary to bump your SS payment up to the max (which is about $2500/month at 66 in 2012) and you have to be frugal.
I agree to some extent but not about having to have SS at $2500 a month.

My mother is in her late 80s and basically lives on about $1500 SS a month. She does have some additional money. She gets about $200 a month a pension and has some additional money in the bank or in an IRA. However, she spends very little of that money. A few years ago she splurged totally and bought new windows for her house.

Her life is fairly basic. She has a house that has been paid off for over 40 years. It is small and has low upkeep costs. She doesn't have cable TV or internet. She still drives but mostly that is to the grocery store or occasional doctor's visits. She eats out occasionally and rarely travels.

I know many people think that those who are part of the older old will have a less active lifestyle, but the savings will be used up by needing to pay for other services.

To some extent it is true there are more expenses. She has a lot of prescriptions (she does have a prescription drug plan which helps). She hires someone to mow the yard. Within the last year or so she decided to hire someone to regularly clean house for her. Still - those expenses are very low. She buys what she wants to (but she was always frugal).

She could probably live on the $1500 a month without having any other money at all.
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Old 01-09-2013, 08:04 PM   #78
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My mother sounds much like LakeTravis and Katsmeow described of theirs.

My mom:
  • 82 years old
  • Still has a j*b for two days per week, minimum wage
  • Could live on SS alone but likes the extra mad money
  • Still adding to her savings account (rather than spending down)
  • Very small rural Midwestern town
  • Doesn't drive; never had her own car
  • Doesn't even understand the appeal of nice restaurants, hotels, etc.

I will admit, watching her makes me feel very selfish when I contemplate my own ER. But, she has demonstrated for years that it is possible to live on just SS.
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:35 AM   #79
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My mother sounds much like LakeTravis and Katsmeow described of theirs.

My mom:
  • 82 years old
  • Still has a j*b for two days per week, minimum wage
  • Could live on SS alone but likes the extra mad money
  • Still adding to her savings account (rather than spending down)
  • Very small rural Midwestern town
  • Doesn't drive; never had her own car
  • Doesn't even understand the appeal of nice restaurants, hotels, etc.

I will admit, watching her makes me feel very selfish when I contemplate my own ER. But, she has demonstrated for years that it is possible to live on just SS.
Both of my parents are still alive...Dad is 72 and Mom is 71. Their deal is this:

  • They live most of the year in a small town here in Ohio. They bought my grandmother's house (my Dad's mother's house) when she became too ill to live there about 10 years ago, and she has since passed. My parents had never owned a home because Dad was a Methodist minister who lived in parsonages provided by the churches he served, so they actually still have a mortgage on the home they live in.
  • They live on Social Security, my father's very nice pension and some 401k money my mother put away when she worked as a nurse. They are doing more than fine, and I'm very happy for them that they are set up so nicely. They seem to have a lot of fun, and my father has mentioned several times how much he enjoys retirement.
  • They spend their winters as volunteer rangers at Big Bend National Park in Texas. They have a large 5th wheel camper they tow down there, and they have a lot of fun doing that.
  • Originally Dad had planned to retire at about age 65, but at age 60 he was diagnosed with a then incurable blood cancer that caused him great pain in his legs and feet. He retired right then and planned what he would do for the next 7-8 years he thought he had to live. He began treatment for the cancer and they put it into remission...he has now been cancer-free for well over the 5-year magic amount of time and is the first person ever to be "cured" of this particular cancer. Crazy!
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:56 AM   #80
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Both of my parents are still alive...Dad is 72 and Mom is 71. Their deal is this:

  • They live most of the year in a small town here in Ohio. They bought my grandmother's house (my Dad's mother's house) when she became too ill to live there about 10 years ago, and she has since passed. My parents had never owned a home because Dad was a Methodist minister who lived in parsonages provided by the churches he served, so they actually still have a mortgage on the home they live in.
  • They live on Social Security, my father's very nice pension and some 401k money my mother put away when she worked as a nurse. They are doing more than fine, and I'm very happy for them that they are set up so nicely. They seem to have a lot of fun, and my father has mentioned several times how much he enjoys retirement.
  • They spend their winters as volunteer rangers at Big Bend National Park in Texas. They have a large 5th wheel camper they tow down there, and they have a lot of fun doing that.
  • Originally Dad had planned to retire at about age 65, but at age 60 he was diagnosed with a then incurable blood cancer that caused him great pain in his legs and feet. He retired right then and planned what he would do for the next 7-8 years he thought he had to live. He began treatment for the cancer and they put it into remission...he has now been cancer-free for well over the 5-year magic amount of time and is the first person ever to be "cured" of this particular cancer. Crazy!
Love this story. So uplifting. Hope he remains cancer-free and that they enjoy their retirement for many years to come. Thanks for posting it.
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