25 June 20XX
My Dear Lucilius:
I am grateful that the honey arrived. It is from last year's harvest, but should be good none the less. I hope you enjoy it in lieu of sugar (which, at least up here, is harder and harder to come by).
Finances. Yes, they have been a struggle for me as well. I did not intend to live on an essentially fixed income so much sooner than I did, but life often does not work out like we had intended. And even though I – we, from what I gather from as well – are on an effectively fixed income, the taxes come due none the less.
Much like you, I had a variety of taxes to consider: property taxes, state taxes, federal taxes. But events have served to effectively force my plan into place.
Sadly, I am still too young to “claim” my Social Security payments and my other investment savings are some years away from being accessible without penalty, I was left with the specter of having to either find something to do or live off of what I had. I had the money from the sale of the home and whatever I had in the bank at the time.
I had done some tax calculations prior to relocating – my wife and I had talked about it at some length – and found that for here, an income of $6,000 a year would keep us completely tax free. So that has become my maximum allowable income.
About half of that amount comes from residual on investments and savings. That is enough to pay for property taxes and utilities (electricity to supplement the solar and the water district in which I live).
Anything above that has come from a variety of sources. Since moving I have taken the odd day job – work at a ranch nearby or washing dishes for a catering event (both of which, I might add, have largely dried up) - and at the current rate of minimum wage, that is about 30 days of work. Some of it is under the table but I always report it – the last thing in the world I need now is a curious tax agent wandering through my life. And in fact, my first year here, I had no job at all. A year on $3,000 makes for a very lean go of things – after the above expenses, that left about $100 a month for everything else.
But truly, I have had no reason to complain. Even through that very lean year, my needs were met – as I mentioned earlier, you can by a great deal of oatmeal and fishing here is the cost of a license. And my interest in my garden has become more than just a hobby at this point.
That said, I am doubtful that I will ever reach the point of being able to access Social Security (as events now convince me we are closer than ever to never seeing it again). I have not fully decided to pull out my other investments at penalty (as you know, those penalties are quite steep now – almost confiscatory in nature). So I continue to live a frugal life and take the money when I can get it.
Have no worries about me, Lucilius. It is a frugal life that might be devoid of many of the “luxuries” others have, but I rest easy in knowing my little is very uninteresting to almost any one – and I am not funding the very government that so often seems to be trying to cause me grief.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca