Tips for selecting the right state to call home, finding free information from the U.S. government, how to make money on books you no longer want, and more.
By Janet Groene, F47166
February 2009 FMC magazine
One great thing about full-timing is that you’re free to choose the home state that works best for your situation. There are no easy answers, so each full-timer has to do some research in order to find the right address to call home. Some full-timers are interested primarily in low taxes. Others focus on climate or being close to family.
Here are some tips on full-timing better, longer, for less money.
If you’re a U.S. citizen considering retirement living in another country, visit a local Social Security office to obtain a copy of “Your Payments While You are Outside the United States.” It’s SSA Publication 05-10137, also available by calling (800) 772-1213 (in the United States only) or online at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10137.html. If you’re already out of the country, you can get a copy through a U.S. consulate or embassy. Living costs in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama are temptingly low, but be sure to investigate other quality-of-life issues, too.
When comparing living costs among states, look not only at states that have no state income tax but also at states that exempt Social Security from this tax. Depending on your circumstances, the total tax bite may actually be less in a state that has an income tax.
Only four states (Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont) tax 100 percent of retirement income. Other states exempt some or all Social Security income, pensions, or other retirement benefits. Note, too, that the definition of “retirement” varies. In some states, you receive the retirement exemption at any age; in others, you must wait until you are 50, 62, or 65. The exemption also may vary within the same state depending on the source of the pensions (federal, military, private, state, etc.).
Before making a major purchase, know the total sales tax bite in your location. In-state sales tax, as well as city and county taxes, can make a big difference in your bottom line. Sometimes driving just a few miles can save 1 percent or more. When having major work done, ask whether sales tax will be charged on labor, parts shipping costs, the environmental impact fee, and other little surprises.
Have you heard of straw bale gardening? Amazing results are achieved by soaking a bale of straw in water and fertilizer for a few days, then tucking in young tomato plants and other seedlings. If you’ll be in one campsite for the growing season, search online for “straw bale garden” for step-by-step instructions. Grow a cornucopia of vegetables in only a few cubic feet of space and without any soil.
Most highly publicized women’s events take place at resorts where participants are expected to book rooms. However, the women’s events listed at www.SoloWomanRV.blogspot.com are also available to women who bring their own housing “” RVs “” with them. The possibilities range from wellness seminars to fashion shows and women’s paddling events. Although most events aren’t held in campgrounds and are not connected to RVs or camping in any way, they are RV-friendly.
Do you have unwanted or leftover gift cards? Whether your gift cards are worth the full face amount or have only partial value remaining, you can sell or swap gift cards via www.swapagift.com. Pay a $1.99 fee to list your card, its value, and what you want for it. Say, for example, you shop for all of your books at Amazon.com and you have a Barnes & Noble gift card that you won’t use. You can swap it even, minus the $1.99 fee for listing it. It’s simple to understand, so go to the Web site and check it out.
Phil and Carol Scott, who have been full-timing since 1989, recommend the Roadhaven Resort in Apache Junction, Arizona, to full-timers who are thinking of retirement.
Assisted living facilities cost $2,000 a month or so, not counting nursing services, they found. By contrast, the Scotts have a busy, rewarding retirement lifestyle for far less. They own their own lot and have their RV plus a 12-foot-by-32-foot Arizona room.
They report spending $130 a month for maintenance, $60 a month for property tax and insurance, and $600 a month for food, including eating out often at the park’s restaurant. For a total of $790 a month, they enjoy three swimming pools, three hot tubs, planned activities under a professional activities director, crafts, a card room, and a long list of recreational amenities much like those in retirement homes that cost far more.
Additional information about the resort is available at www.roadhaven.com; (480) 982-4811.
These days it’s more important than ever to keep track of receipts, charge slips, and other papers needed for tax records and to verify credit card statements. Office supply departments sell sturdy, compartmentalized envelopes that make it easy to file receipts for fuel, food, and so on. One inexpensive option is to use a divided coupon saver, which is handy for fuel receipts and doesn’t take up much space.
Free from the U.S. Government Printing office is a new booklet titled “Treating Pain In Your Dog. Keeping Your Best Friend Active, Safe, and Pain Free.” It discusses commonly prescribed pain medications for pets; what to ask your veterinarian; and common side effects to be alert for. Send your name and address to Federal Citizen Information Center, Dept. WWW, Pueblo, CO 81009, and ask for item 503R. To learn more about free and low-cost government publications, go to www.pueblo.gsa.gov.
The government also has a hotline where you can ask questions about government services. You can call (800) FED-INFO (333-4636), Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time; or visit www.info.gov.
Driving to Canada or Mexico? You’ll need a passport or other approved secure document denoting citizenship to re-enter the United States starting on June 1, 2009. Fly-in visitors are already required to have passports.
The rotten egg or skunk-spray smell of an LP-gas leak could be an early warning sign that you may have a life-threatening problem. However, experts at Suburban Propane warn that odor fade occurs in some rare situations and may make the propane more difficult to smell. The smell may fade because of conditions such as air, water, or rust in the tank. Some people also have medical conditions that diminish their sense of smell. Use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs can also rob you of important olfactory senses. To be on the safe side, purchase and install a propane detector that has an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing.
Do you have a Bank of America credit, ATM, or debit card? Use it to gain free admission to 73 museums in 18 states on the first weekend of the month. For a list of participating museums and details about their free days or hours, go to www.bankofamerica.com/museums. At this writing the offer is good until April, but it may be extended. If you’re not a Bank of America customer, call any museum and ask whether they have free or discounted days or evenings. Most museums do.
Books are heavy to haul around, adding to fuel costs. If you’re due to weed out your personal library, it’s less painful to part with them if you receive compensation. Sell recently published textbooks, non-fiction, business, and professional/technical books at www.cash4books.net. The company is fussy about condition and they are picky about titles. However, they pay cash, including your shipping costs.
Go to the Web site and be prepared to enter the ISBN number for each book. You’ll then be told what books are acceptable and the price you’ll be paid. You’ll need a printer to print out the prepaid shipping label. Pack up the books, ship them, and in a few days you’ll get a check or a deposit to a PayPal account.
When using public Wi-Fi, use the most secure virtual network possible, advises Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Additional tips: Don’t stay connected to a radio station when the laptop’s not in use, always look for the https:// connection (not just http://), and don’t use POP e-mail software such as Outlook if it does not encrypt your log-in information. Don’t forget to log off each site, and spend as little time online as possible. You can, for example, compose e-mails off-line and save them to be sent later.
Books for travelers
Everyone spends a lot of time sitting down, especially full-timers who spend many hours in cockpit seats. Now a new book titled The Science of Sitting Made Simple ($14.95, Posture Press) makes sure you’re sitting pretty. Written by Gregg J. Carb, a certified associate ergonomist who is also a practicing chiropractor, the book starts from square one by teaching you how to evaluate your posture. It then gives guidance on improving posture and establishing more comfortable seating habits in every facet of life. The book can be purchased at bookstores or ordered through online booksellers.