Poor us

Just $1,700 a year save me and my wife from being poor.

Television news told me today that official poverty in the United States means an annual income of $22,300 or less, and we surpass that max by a measly $1,700.

Our income is my Social Security plus a miserly pension from the Hearst Corporation. We are borderline po’  folks!

And yet we live in a big fancy house, own two cars, eat in restaurants more often than we ought, have no debt whatsoever and — the Goddess willing — we’re flying to Buenos Aires next April for our 10th anniversary.

Plus, we usually vacation twice a year in a suite overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

How is this possible?  Easy. We do not live in the United States.

My advice:  Get out of there.

32 thoughts on “Poor us

  1. Would do just that in a heartbeat. But knowing how frustrating it is to get settled in a different culture/country/bureaucracy (we built and lived in a house in Belize on the beach until that country became like a police state) it’s daunting to think about. I read your posts about sitting outside reading in peace and comfort and it eats my heart out! We do still have a cottage in Canada and I think that’s going on the block pretty soon just because we’re done there with the annual drive up, getting the place cleaned and turned on to live in, then closing up and preparing to leave almost as soon as we arrive.

    • Carole: It is quite a challenge adjusting to a different world, which is why most folks stay put. But it’s doable and well worth it, especially these days. But you have saddened me. Things I write sometimes eat your heart out?! You are, of course, referring to my previous website, so I hope this new approach leaves you in a more tranquil state of mind.

  2. I knew the poverty level was somewhere in my fiscal neighborhood before the news report in question, which also detailed the tax burden on New Yorkers. It is stunningly oppressive. Of course, New York has one of the heaviest tax burdens in the United States, but it’s still incredible in other areas.

  3. Gee, I think we’ve been a poverty level for years, especially when looking at the houses and cars our friends had…
    Now some of them no longer have them, so that makes up for it. Must be the old fogie or immigrant mentality of living within your means.
    For some reason, the polititians figured you were poor if you didn’t have Color TV, a cell phone, and all the luxuries that are not important, and are willing to subsidize them when you are at the poverty line,
    I just read today that the Obama care package, the one no one read, but passed now puts a 3.5% sales tax on all real estate sales after 2012.
    Change is working, just like he promised. What they need is to change all the employees in Washington in 2012!
    You will love Buenos Aires, it is very European and was very cheap to live there awhile ago.

  4. I live on a small budget too. My financial counselor in the States is startled by what I live on. Yet I, too, have a nice house. One car. I am solo after all. And I fly to NOLA when I want. Or take excursions to neighboring Central American countries as I need.

    I thought about the cost of things yesterday. French bread, 75 cents I bought for dinner. A large Coke (indulged b/c of a cold) for 60 cents. A small personal pizza for my lunch was one dollar.

    My water bill is 5 dollars a month.

    My cell phone is usually 20 a month or less. Depending on what I decide. It’s pre-paid minutes.

    No land line, but it would cost 5 dollars a month.

    My rent for this big house is less than I charged for the one-bedroom old rental over my garage in New Orleans.

    Life is good. Except for the murders. But they have those in NOLA, too.

  5. My husband of 30 years is a Mexican Citizen. He has always wanted to retire in Mexico. I never really thought too much about it until recently. We built our home here in the mountains and it’s sad to think that when we retire we won’t be able to afford to live here. Between high property taxes and health insurance it won’t leave enough to live on.

    So now I say on to a new adventure. I’m trying really hard to learn Spanish so my husband and I can live comfortably in poverty.

    Jackie Martinez

  6. I hope this “living on the edge” of poverty means your USA taxes are also miserly! We know Uncle Sam does not tax her rich and I hope she does not tax her poorest and downtrodden.

    In Canada the poverty line is $25,319 for a family of two living in a city and $17,429 if they are “rural”. The Minimum Wage here in BC is $8 per hour or $16,400 per year, defining the term “working poor”. As far as us old folks go, the “average” income for an “elderly” Canadian couple is a surprisingly high $53,900 (after taxes). This in in the ballpark of what we earn but we spend a good portion of it living half our lives in Mexico.

    • Croft: Except when I take money above a certain level from my IRAs, which I have done on a couple of occasions, I owe no U.S. tax at all. I am, after all, poor and downtrodden, and must be left in peace in my poverty.

      • jajajaaja, IRAs, plural,

        i live on much less and i live well
        and if the gubment wants to call me poor, that’s ok with me

        • Steve: Yes, we have some money socked away, but we don’t live on that. We live on the $24,000 almost exclusively. We rarely take money out of the IRAs. However, if we go to Buenos Aires for our anniversary, we’ll have to hit the savings to do it.

      • Felipe; you have it made in the shade. We do, too, only I won’t discuss the details of my finances on the Internet.

        You seldom fail to astonish me.

        Don Cuevas

        • Señor Cuevas: I do indeed have it made in the shade. May it continue. And yes, I am an astonishing fellow. Not quite sure how I’m astonishing you at this moment. If it’s due to saying how much my income is, what earthly difference does it make if everybody on earth knows it? Won’t affect my life in the slightest way.

  7. Lots of things eat my heart out :-) I am especially depressed at the moment by the drought in Texas and water restrictions that make it difficult to keep my small green space green. I do make a good visitor to Patz, though, because it’s always a “new” experience. Whereas many people think San Antonio is a wonderful vacation/living destination, we do regrettably take it for granted. And I love reading what you write about your Mexican home.

  8. No thanks – tried that once. Maybe when we are retired, such as yourself we will try it again.
    Hey congrats on the 10 year anniversary coming up!!


  9. Gee, I am living well below the U.S. poverty line!

    Yet I live in a very nice place, have a decent car, my own pool, eat out daily, have good health care with insurance, and hit the beaches or travel just about whenever I like. How? Just like you, I got out of there, years ago.

      • Actually, Felipe, my kitchen is a good example of making something really nice on a “below the poverty line” budget. My kitchen was nearly 100% built with re-used materials and quality, reasonably-priced Mexican-made materials, and local craftsmanship. It functions well, looks great, and was not expensive.

  10. Felipe, you may receive an endless stream of solicitations, or worse, salespeople for such indispensable products such as robot vacuum cleaners, Santa Fe Quesadilla Kits, and Falling Coconut Insurance.

    There’s the risk of receiving tons of junk mail, such as the Sky Mall Catalog (as seen aboard major airlines!), such as this choice lawn sculpture, which I’m certain you’ll find irresistible.

    Don Cuevas

  11. We are too far below the poverty line to afford such lawn sculptures, if we even had a lawn.
    We have grass now, but it could hardly be called a lawn.

    Don Cuevas

  12. Well! At last a post I can comment on, since I don’t feel much qualified to comment on either the bunch of characters that inhabit the Marbol or the lives of wolves.

    I don’t think you can really consider yourselves below the poverty line, though, since there are two sides to that equation, income and expense. And in the latter category, you’ve got it made.

    That said, I still admire your ability to live in such style — two houses, two (three?) cars, vacations, and endless cafecitos on the plaza — on what you do take in.

    Any idea what the same would cost in DF?


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we are inching closer to following your lead.

    • Well, look who’s here! Mister Kim. But you misread a bit. We’re just above, not below, the official U.S. poverty line. And yes, there are two sides to the equation. And in the expense category, I have it made in the proverbial shade without doubt.

      Just two cars, but three homes, not two. Two here in town and the apartment in the capital city. Of course, I cannot really take credit for that. Much just fell into my lap. The Goddess has taken to loving me in my dotage.

      Got no idea what the same would cost in the capital. More, I’m sure, but not so much more. Of course, most depends on what you can be satisfied with.

      You have way more than enough. You are foot-dragging, mi amiguito. Inching closer indeed.

  13. And when you go to Buenos Aires be sure to travel on your Mexican passport — US passport holders pay an entry fee ($140 if memory serves).

    • Thanks a bunch, Brian. I think I had read that previously somewhere, but I had forgotten. I’m going to put it on my Yahoo calendar right now so I will not forget again. I believe I read that Argentina does that in response to some similar charge put on Argentines to enter the United States. Tit for tat. Sometimes it pays to be a Mexican and stay out of fights.

  14. Retirement income is such a subjective thing! My pension, at least my Union pension, is locked on a percentage of the wage I earned when I retired. Needless to say, those retiring from the same company today will have a larger income. I retired at age 54.99 (retired on Friday, turned 55 on Sunday). 55 is the earliest I could draw from my fully funded Union pension.

    I find I actually have much more disposable income now than I did when I worked. Back then I was busy paying off debts and pumping money into investments so I could retire. Now, eleven years later, We have each added two more pensions from our Government so between the two of us we deposit six “paychecks” per month.

    We have no debts. Period! And we never will have. All of our money, after paying utilities, maintenance and insurance on three vehicles, goes to having fun and traveling. We have a nest egg to draw from for vehicle replacements and emergencies.

    I know many people who have much more than us coming in every month that cannot come close to supporting the lifestyle we enjoy. It was not easy getting here and we do not have as expensive a house or the fancy cars as some of our friends but I do not envy them for that and they certainly envy us for our freedom!

    Anyway, back to my original point, a $24,000 income may be plenty if you have no debts and live in a place where living is affordable and you control your expenses. On the other hand, $100,000 may not be sufficient if you live in New York City making condo payments. Like most things, it is all relative!

    • Croft: I’d say you have your priorities in order. They are priorities I agree with.

      On our income, my wife and I would have a difficult go in the U.S. Down here in my new country, it’s a piece of cake. More people would move south if they had the nerve. It’s very difficult or impossible for most people to leave the world they are accustomed to, no matter the advantages of doing so.

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