Freedom Countdown Two Months, and I Love New York (Sort of)

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OK folks. It’s getting real—only two months to go until quitting time. Even Groovy Cat’s senses are on high alert. His ears perk up every time he hears us discuss our plans. “Oh boy”, he says to himself, “soon I’ll have even MORE of mommy and daddy’s undivided attention!”

In last month’s post I’m Engaged to be Retired, I wrote that I was at my wit’s end at work and informed my boss that Mr. Groovy and I plan to retire before the end of the year. I intend to provide my exact last date of employment (October 14th) during my upcoming performance review. My boss may be in for a big surprise.

Mr. Groovy filed for his pension and received confirmation his paperwork is in order. He, too, informed his boss he’s retiring and she asked whether he’s interested in staying on as a consultant. We both have mixed feelings about that. What compensation will they offer? Can he do projects and structure his own time? What about travel? Will he be required to participate in regular conference calls with clients? What about tax brackets and health insurance? Will our Obamacare subsidies get cut drastically? Or maybe Mr. Groovy’s employer will agree to continue his health coverage?

You may also remember an item from my retirement checklist was to meet with a financial planner. I reached out to several and I’m frustrated with the results, although Mr. Groovy expected as much. I clearly explained we’re not seeking a full range of services but simply an extra set of eyes to review our plan. I received responses offering packages of sessions, portfolio analysis, income projections using simulation tools, etc. Not one person was willing to provide guidance for an hourly fee. Quotes ranged anywhere from $900 to over $6,000— whaddaya kidding me? One planner, without knowing much about us, suggested we might need to work another year or two. We don’t. What was that recommendation based on? Creating fear?

I’m now looking for a good CPA who is also a Certified Financial Planner, someone who specializes in tax strategies for retirees. I’ve identified one, so far.

We attended a family wedding in New York this past weekend. In my post at six months out I mentioned this occasion as a marker along the highway to freedom. And now it’s come and gone. The ceremony was short and sweet. The party was fun, but loud. I got Mr. Groovy out on the postage-stamp-sized dance floor for a few songs. The beer, hard cider, rum and coke, and Jack Daniels helped loosened him up. He’s so cute when he’s a little smashed—except for when he twirled me while we held hands and my shoulder nearly came out of its socket.

The highlight of the trip was spending time with my brother and sister-in-law. After we landed on Friday my brother took us to a familiar haunt in Brooklyn, Spumoni Gardens. It’s known for its square (Sicilian) pizza with the sauce on top of the cheese.

SpumoniGardens

Spumoni Gardens was already on our itinerary when a few weeks ago we heard that the owner was gunned down in his backyard. Nothing like a mob-connected murder to add a little flavor to our meal.

On Saturday Mr. Groovy and I joined my brother and sister-in-law for a little New York exploring. For me, being back in Manhattan is like riding a bicycle after taking a break from it. It’s very familiar, almost too familiar. I could do without the smell of garbage and cigarettes. I could also manage without the cabbies who tried to mow us down as we crossed the street. We headed out on foot to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a dose of culture.

EgyptianTomb

When we arrived at the Met we headed for the Egyptian wing. Jackie Kennedy originally wanted the Egyptian tomb pictured above to be exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute. But the head of the Met convinced Jackie to bring the tomb to New York. His winning pitch? He would create an exhibit where Jackie could observe the tomb from her penthouse apartment, hence the lights and the wall of glass to the right. It’s so nice when the world is your oyster.

The Egyptian tomb, along with thousands of other artifacts, paintings and mummies are on display at the Met for free. That’s right, FREE. The Met has a suggested admission price of $25. Give what you want, or don’t give at all. When I lived in New York, a friend and I stuffed a dollar in the collection box for both of us when we frequented the Met. Sometimes we got sneers from the ladies who gave out the tickets—and we sneered right back at them. We returned the attitude because they were docents, or volunteers. Rather than sitting in their Park Avenue digs all day eating bon bons, they “worked” at the museum. Hey, bully for them. They don’t need to work for money but some of us aren’t so lucky. Grants and tax dollars fund the Met and the suggested admission allows the general public to enjoy it.

RooftopTerrace

After we checked out the Met’s rooftop garden (see picture above) we split up. Mr. Groovy and my sister-in-law have the patience to meander and explore at length. My inner timer goes off after an hour, especially on a Saturday at the Met, when you have to elbow your way through the crowds. My brother and I strolled through Central Park and people-watched. We passed many tourists taking photos, couples who posed for wedding photos, and even ballerinas dressed in costume for the camera. I saw at least four vain girls who posed and primped for selfies. They thrust out their legs and boobies and smiled as if they were Miss America. All that self love is very weird.

We stumbled upon some children’s entertainment too, in the form of Bubble Man.


BubbleMan2

Bubble Man hangs out in the park with a bucket of soapy water and a contraption he jerry-rigged to make enormous bubbles. He parks himself in a good, shady spot and the kids flock to him as if he’s the Pied Piper. His bubble thingamajig is a far cry from the Wham-O Monster Bubbles set we played with when I was a kid—although I was very satisfied that Monster Bubbles came with secret formula bubble fluid, a magic pan and a monster hoop.

Bubble Man is proof you don’t need money, even in New York City, to entertain children.

I’ll leave you with two more shots from our Central Park adventure. The first is the Boathouse restaurant. The second is of New Yorkers enjoying the lake (no, they’re not playing bumper-boats).


CP Boathouse


Boating2

So friends, Mr. Groovy and I are winding down, moving into the retirement home stretch. We plan to coast through work over the next two months. Hopefully work will cooperate. The only serious consideration left is to plan a special evening on October 15th to raise a little celebratory hell. Wish us luck. Stay groovy.

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32 Comments

  1. Love the pics of NYC…I often dream of moving to a lower cost area like you guys but it’s hard to leave a city I’ve known and love all my life…but mainly because our family/friends are here.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Family and friends were hard to leave. But at least on Mr. Groovy’s side they’ve all moved closer. I lived in Manhattan for 17 years before I moved to Long Island, and I grew up in Brooklyn. I don’t miss any of it, although it was fun being in Central Park with my brother. My brother walks like a New Yorker and so do I. The only time Mr. Groovy can keep up with me is when we do our power walks in the morning. He’s about 7 inches taller than me but it took him a while to adjust to my pace.

  2. Great vacation to hold you over until your forever vacation. I can’t wait to read about your performance review – talk about a pointless meeting! I wonder if they don’t believe you about retiring? If so, they really will be in for a shock.

    I’m impressed by the frugal fun that NYC has to offer. We will have to take the kids on a trip there sometime. Mr. Smith has yet to visit the Big Apple. I hear that even the really touristy stuff like visiting the Statue of Liberty doesn’t cost that much.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Ha, the performance reviews have been pointless for 10 years! The 11th will be even more so, Harmony. I haven’t given my boss a date yet so it’s possible she either doesn’t believe I’m retiring, or refuses to think about it.

      I think you’re right that it doesn’t cost much to go the the Statue of Liberty (observation deck). Then there’s the whole west side of Manhattan along the waterfront that’s been built up. And the “Highline” which is right where I used to live when I first moved to Manhattan. http://www.thehighline.org/ I haven’t even seen it yet because I hear it’s a very crowded area now.

  3. Congrats on getting so close to Retirement Day! It sounds like Mr G’s notice went well. Even if he chooses not to do the consulting, it’s nice to have the option.

    Looks like you had a fun trip, too.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Emily. Yes, being wanted or asked is always nice. NY was fun. Saturday for lunch I got a real NY egg bagel. Brueggers used to have them here but they stopped making them. We’ve got a few NY-style bagel shops in the area but none of them carry egg bagels. (I am not a bagel or pizza snob but I would do flips for an egg bagel or a challah roll, also made from egg).

  4. Jaime Lila

    I’m not really surprised about what I’m hearing, a lot of financial planners are actually sales people and are looking out for their own companies goals.

    Have you gone to a fiduciary yet? They’re typically financial planners that are supposed to look out for your own interests over their company, but in the end no one cares more about your money than you do.

    BTW, have you ever noticed how a lot of financial planners don’t retire early? You’re not the only one that thinks their financial perspective is unrealistic.

    J.D. Roth wrote about them recently on his money boss blog.

    Knowing what’s going on about your job Mrs. G I would totally pass on the consulting. I don’t like the way they were treating you at your job Mrs. G. I bet they would keep on doing the same thing.

    I think you guys have given enough of your time and energy to your jobs. You’re young enough to retire and still enjoy it.

    Anyway, cheering you on as you count down to freedom. 😀

    • Mrs. Groovy

      The planners I contacted are fiduciaries. One of them used the fiduciary standard as his reason for wanting to be so thorough. None of them mentioned products they wanted to sell. I just don’t think they’re accustomed to having clients that pay as much attention to their finances as all of us in the PF community do.

      Thanks for the tip about J.D.’s blog – I’ll check that out.

      The consulting option is for Mr. Groovy, not me. My boss wouldn’t ask that of me in a million years. She might even try to totally eliminate my position and salary so she can get a larger bonus for herself. I don’t know whether she can get away with that, but not my problem. If I wanted to consult I could reach out to the professional/academic community members whom I’ve worked with for 11 years, and do contracted work through their employers. But I SO want to put this behind me. It has no value for me.

  5. I love the Met! I prefer cities with smaller suggested donations for art. Art should be for the people! And the real problem is me and taking the suggestion too literally.

    Will your cat get a special treat as part of your celebrations in two months?

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Another great NYC museum with a suggested admission is the Museum of Natural History. I haven’t been there in decades.

      I have to think of a special treat for Groovy Cat. Maybe a special toy or some catnip.

  6. Oh wow, only two months left?! I can’t imagine how the anticipation is building for both of you. Sounds like you’ve still got some decisions to make before the big day, so hopefully it’ll all work out.
    Also, your vacation looked like a great time. Love the pictures!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Anticipation is a weird thing. Personally, I’m excited, but my mind has already exited the job months ago. I still add all the extra touches I normally give in the job, but I find myself asking why. I’m looking forward to concentrating on things that score high on the personal value scale.

  7. Kinda surprised you are having such a hard time finding a planner, figured they would agree to anything you said just to get you in the door!

    Looks like a great trip – the next 2 months will fly by!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, AE. We had a lot of fun even though the trip was short. Some of the planners would agree to a free initial consultation, but knowing that how they work doesn’t fit out style, we’d rather not waste the time and effort.

  8. Just two months to go…you must be so excited! It’s unbelievable that you can’t find a planner to do what you’re asking. I hope you can find someone to work with and help you evaluate the consulting offer. Thanks for sharing the photos of your trip.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Yes, we’re very excited about our last day of work. I received some good suggestions here on finding someone to talk with. I’ll keep you posted. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. We have another NY trip planned during the winter for my nephew’s wedding. For that one we’ll be able to drive and take a leisurely trip since we’ll no longer have jobs. Thanks for your support, Gary.

  9. Congrats on getting close. So close. It is coming.😀Loved the pics. Our two young boys just love NYC.

    Have you considered reaching out to [email protected] rootofgood. He offers his experience and consulting as a service and has done some fabulous work on tax strategies, ACA considerations, Roth conversion strategies and more. Don’t think he charges a lot either. Worth thinking about perhaps?

    Understand your frustration with finding someone for a necessary discussion yet not wanting to commit to a lengthy relationship.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      NYC is fun when you experience it as a tourist or if you have the means to really take advantage of all it has to offer.

      Thanks for the suggestion about Justin. I’ve read many of his articles but didn’t realize he offers consulting services. You’re right about his fees being reasonable.

  10. That’s huge that you’ve started finalizing plans and giving notice! Hopefully the next couple months fly by 🙂

    It’s crazy that you haven’t been able to find someone to review everything and assist with ACA subsidy info, for a reasonable fee. I would want someone to review all of that too, especially if Mr. Groovy is thinking about staying on as a consultant. If you find someone, I’d love to hear about the experience in a post.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I hope you’re right about the next few months flying by, Kate.

      I’ll definitely share the experience if we find someone to talk to. I don’t think we have too many choices for Obamacare in terms of insurance companies since there aren’t many left in North Carolina. But figuring out subsidies vs income, and also social security fees owed and tax brackets, is what concerns me. However Mr. Groovy has all the calculations laid out pretty clearly.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Funny, we listened to Joshua on our walk this morning and that was the first time I heard him mention of Paladin. Thanks for the recommendation. We’ll check it out.

  11. Those are some great pics, and congrats on being so close to your goal! I was able to meet with a financial planner from a cold call at work. I was not impressed. He kept suggesting we needed to save more for college, and I pointed out our savings will hit his “recommended amount”, and he pointed out a lot of other things like, “But what if you die?! That savings rate goes away. It’s impressive, but not sustainable if you die!”

    Hahahaha, oh man, what is sustainable if you die?

    His funniest was telling us that we needed to save almost triple what we had projected. We had even provided him with our mortgage info, 1 car payment, and typical bills, and informed him we’d be buying a house outright in retirement so no mortgage. Still, a swing and a miss on his end. He couldn’t even explain why the number needed to be so high except, a weak, (shoulders shrugged) “lifestyle inflation?”

    Needless to say, we did not go with him, but like you, we just wanted someone else’s opinion on our plans.
    Little did we know how little help they would be other than giving me confidence that reading all these blogs, forums, and investment pages had paid off because I was able to hold my own and call his bluff a couple of times.

    Good luck finding someone that’s helpful for you guys!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks for the kind words, Mr. SSC. Your scenario with the financial planner sounds like a script I’d put in a play. I bet by the time you were finished with him he was tongue-tied. He certainly wasn’t in tune with your needs. I think some of the planners are still stuck with antiquated rules of thumb about needing X% of your pre-retirement income in retirement. They don’t get us frugal folks who are more into lifestyle DEflation.

      Mr. Groovy also feels there’s tremendous value in reading blogs, forums and investment pages. At this point he’d prefer not to meet with someone, and I can’t even define exactly why I want to, except for that I feel like we should do some due-diligence.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Penny. Not bad for photos taken on an android, huh? We’ll see how the work/consulting thing plays out. Right now we prefer to start out new as free birds.

  12. Love the pics and your “groove” toward retirement is awesome! I will be really interested to hear if you and Mr. Groovy consider some consulting work in your future. That is what I am doing now and it definitely has its pros and cons. I like the people I work with, but it still ties me down a bit (not much though) – but the tax situation is interesting too. We’ll stay tuned and we’re getting ready for a virtual retirement celebration in October!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Being tied down is my biggest fear with Mr. Groovy consulting. Also, familiarity breeds expectations in this case. We’re leaning towards passing on the consulting. It goes back to that question of how much is enough. I’m glad you liked the photos – thanks!

  13. I’m bummed to hear that you’re having such a hard time finding a good financial planner! Screw those other dudes. 6 grand for a plan? You could retire for several MONTHS on that.

    On the upside, your vacation looks wonderful! I’ve only been to New York once as a teenager – at some point I should revisit as an adult.

    And only two months! They’re going to fly by!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Pia. NY was fun but we didn’t have enough time. Bad weather on Friday delayed us for what was already a very short trip.

      I understand why many financial planners want to do a comprehensive review but that’s just not what we’re looking for. I’m sure we’ll find what we need.