Car-Free Transportation Options in the U.S.

Q&A with a Reader

We love your site. We have consulted it for countless years. We are not world travelers but we applied many of your principles to retiring in the city of Boston. By controlling what we spend and investing conservatively we are still thriving after 15 years of retirement.

The transportation system in Boston made it easy to go car-free. We now plan to relocate to Colorado where car-free will be much more challenging if not impossible. My question relates to car rentals. Since you do not own a car what do you do for car insurance on a rental? The rental insurance costs seem exorbitant. Any help is greatly appreciated.

All the best to you both,

Richard

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Hi Richard,

Thanks for the kind words regarding our website.

We have not rented a car for a few years and agree that the rates are high. First I would try getting a 3 week to a monthly rate….as well as talking with your credit card company to see what they will cover.

What about using Uber or Lyft? or perhaps there is car sharing like Turo in your neighborhood. You could also look on the Carfree website – (see our Transportation Page) they have information, ideas and links you might find useful.

Not to mention that you might be able to pay a neighbor to take you around to some locations. Lots of times people are looking for a little bit of extra cash.

And of course there is public transport, bicycling, and using a taxi from time to time. Even with the high taxi fee, it is far cheaper than owning a car.

Keep turning over rocks. You might surprise yourself!

Best,

Billy

 

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6 Tips for Cutting Your Medical Bill

By Fehmeen who is an MBA graduate and who owns the personal finance blog, Top Money Hacks. Be sure to visit the site to check out some top money management tips.

Planning for retirement can be challenging because there are plenty of variable expenses to look at, the biggest variable being related to healthcare. Medical bills can quickly add up after retirement because health drastically deteriorates with age and because the cost of good medical care is slowly rising with time. This means any sum of money saved for retirement may eventually run out while footing these bills, possibly leading to medical debt.

The obvious solution may be to get a robust health insurance policy with extensive coverage, but that can be costly on its own. The truth is, one can never achieve peace of mind regarding the future, but there are certain steps one can take to cut healthcare costs, even if an adequate insurance policy is in place and plenty of money has been saved up.

  1. Maintain good hygiene to keep your health

“Handwashing is like a do-it-yourself vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy.” Centre for Disease Control.

Prevention is better than cure, they say. This proverb holds true for both medical and non-medical conditions, because it’s easier to stay away from a problem than to find a solution.

Hand washing is an obvious tip that can save you from a lot of diseases in the long run, which is why it cannot be emphasized enough. Washing your hands diligently, for instance, can prevent the transfer of many viral and bacterial infections that require visits to your doctor. There is certainly no need to be obsessed with being germ-free, but simple habits like bathing regularly and carrying hand sanitizer when out and about, can keep you relatively safe.

  1. Make your home allergy-proof

According to the Eurostat website (the official source of statistics covering the European Union) respiratory diseases are one of the most common causes of death across the European Union. We often blame high levels of air pollution in urban areas for this problem, and rightly so, but we must also consider the fact that most of our time is spent indoors.

There are plenty of allergens in our homes, such as pet dander, mold, dust particles and micro-organisms that cause irritation in our respiratory tracts. While external air pollution is correlated to indoor pollution, we can control the latter to some extent by keeping our homes clean:

  • Ensure proper ventilation,
  • Remove dust from various surfaces,
  • Eliminate mold,
  • Get rid of damp spots, etc.

These practices can help reduce the negative effect of allergy triggers, and cut the number of related trips to the hospital.

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  1. Nip it in the bud

A range of preventative healthcare services are offered these days, some of them as part of public healthcare programs and some as part of insurance policies. Let’s have a look at two basic types of preventative services:

Vaccines can significantly lower the risk of catching various illnesses that are prevalent in many parts of the world. Granted, this tip is not for everyone because some people are against the use of vaccines.

Medical professionals can run a series of screening tests to catch the onset or risk of developing certain health conditions, such as cardiac diseases, bone degeneration conditions and cancer. The treatment for such diseases can be both lengthy and expensive. Fortunately, catching them at an early stage can:

  • Improve the effectiveness of treatment,
  • Disrupt the spread of the disease and
  • Cut the cost as well as duration of treatment.

Make sure you get regular check-ups and any screening tests ordered by your doctor to help nip your illness in the bud.

  1. Medical tourism can save you a fortune

If you have been diagnosed with an illness, the treatment for which involves a major surgical procedure, you probably expect a big dip in your bank balance. This is because healthcare costs in USA are extremely high, as is the case across much of the developed world (exceptions exist). Be it a hip replacement procedure or cardiac bypass, you can be sure the final medical bill will soar to tens of thousands of dollars, possibly resulting in large medical debts.

Medical tourism can help you avoid all this because you may find plenty of countries that offer good quality medical services at a fraction of the prices charged in your home country. All this, inclusive of the travel cost! This concept has been covered at length by Billy and Akaisha, on this blog’s Medical Tourism page. Do have a look.

  1. Milk your insurance policy

Sometimes, we fail to understand the exact terms of our insurance policy, which prevents us from using it effectively. I’ll illustrate this point with examples:

  • Be organized: My insurance firm reimburses me for any visits I make to the doctor if I submit the medical bill within a month of the issue date. I have been guilty of misplacing medical bills and of missing the one month deadline on a few occasions. That money could have easily been saved. Oops!
  • Be aware: The same insurance firm recently broadened their coverage to include the reimbursement of multivitamin pills. I had developed the habit of discarding pharmacy bills for these pills for the last few years, and continued to do so out of negligence (for several months) after the insurance policy had been broadened. Again, oops!
  • It doesn’t hurt to ask: One of my relatives underwent cataract surgery to change the lens in his right eye. A colleague had undergone a similar procedure a few months earlier and had a Grade B lens replaced into his eye, but when my relative decided to ask his company’s HR department about the various possible options, he was told that he could get a Grade A lens inserted under the same policy, for both his eyes! This incident took place a few months before his retirement, so the timing could not have been better.
  • Fight your case: A few years ago, a friend wanted to have her insurance firm pay for visits to an off-panel gynecologist, who served at an off-panel hospital. She pleaded her case on the basis of trusting this renowned doctor who had treated her family for years, and her poor experience with other on-panel gynecologists. After a bit of back and forth, the insurance firm agreed to pay for her bills for a period of one year, long enough to see her through her pregnancy.
  1. Buy ‘generic, non-branded’ medicines when possible

Branded medicine can cost a lot more and are more popular than their generic counterparts, even though they are the same for all practical purposes. According to the FDA website:

“A generic drug is the same as a brand-name drug in dosage, safety, strength, quality, the way it works, the way it is taken and the way it should be used.”

In other words, both types of drugs are equally safe and effective because they must pass strict tests imposed by the FDA before being sold in the market. On your next visit, ask your doctor if it is possible to get a prescription for alternative generic medicines. If you’re still in doubt, peruse the FDA catalog of all approved drug products.

These are my top tips for cutting your medical costs over the years. Be sure to keep your doctor in the loop though, because this article should not be considered medical advice.

I always say, “Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.” A healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, is vital for good health.

Can you think of any other ways to limit your medical expenses?

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Senior’s Best Friends: 5 Most Caring and Loyal Dog Breed Companions

 

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House sitting – a great way to see the world!

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As a reader to Retire Early Lifestyle, you’ll be well aware that when you’re travelling on a budget, accommodation can be a huge overhead.  Our friends at TrustedHousesitters.com provide a way to find accommodation all over the world by matching people who want to travel with home owners who want their pets looked after at home.

House sits range from small apartments to large villas with pools. Each sit is unique and 90% of the time there will be a pet involved.  One of the easiest sits you can find is to care for a cat.

When people talk about cats they often say “they’re independent”, “they just want food” or “cats are selfish”. However, cats are one of the most popular pets, for example, in the UK, 26% of households own a cat, that’s 1 in 4 families.

Cats are getting more and more popular as pets because they are easy to look after. They are independent, they choose when to go out, eat, or seek out human company.

In the first quarter of this year, TrustedHousesitters have looked after 4,500 cats and that translates into thousands of potential house sitting opportunities all over the world.

So if you want some time at the beach and are happy to look after someone’s home and cat this could be a great way to travel on a budget. Take a look at this housesit in Altona in Australia with a house right on the beach or browse the TrustedHousesitters website to take a peek at some of the great sits listed.

A house sitters story … #CatsLOVEcompany

All cat owners know that their cats are individuals. Some are bold and wild and will hunt, others love to find a warm cosy place to snooze the night away.  They all love to play, especially with their owners, but some of the stories we hear from our trusted pet sitters still manage to surprise us!

Sarah Dunn, tells the story of one of her house sits: “#newfriends We found it hard to believe when the house owners told us their beautiful Maine Coons loved the trampoline, but sure enough, every time my daughter went out to play, they would follow and stay with her! She also had the magic touch with one of the cats who we were told hated grooming. He would inevitably walk off every time I tried to groom him, but when my daughter combed him, he would sit still and gaze into her eyes!”

Why not give house sitting a try

You can travel the world looking after beautiful homes and animals and all you need to do is join the TrustedHousesitters community. For an annual fee, you can go to as many house sits as you like.

We have a special deal for subscribers to Retire Early Lifestyle. Use our link to qualify for a free one month trial. Housesitting is an exciting new way to travel the world.

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Save Money with Great Groupon Deals

 

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Caring for Your Vision: Turmeric for Overall Health On-the-Go

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This post is no longer live, but if you want to know more about financial independence, world travel and medical tourism, please visit our website.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

Thank you!

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Taking Advantage of Great Groupon Deals

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This post is no longer live, but if you want to know more about financial independence, world travel and medical tourism, please visit our website.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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Enjoying Luxury Travel- Benefits for Everyone

 

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This post is no longer live, but if you want to know more about financial independence, world travel and medical tourism, please visit our website.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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Comparing Panajachel, Guatemala to Oaxaca, Mexico as a Retirement Destination

Q&A with a Reader

Camera-shy Maya Indigenous at a market in Panajachel

Hi,

If you had to choose, would you favor Panajachel over Oaxaca as a place to live? If possible could you give the main reasons for your choice, please?

Thank you! I find your blog very interesting.

John D.

All of our books lead to adventure. Don’t miss out on yours!

Hi John!

Thanks for taking the time to write.

In regards to your question – which might be the better choice for a retirement destination, Oaxaca, Mexico or Panajachel, Guatemala let me first say that these are two very different locations in all kinds of ways.

Colonial architecture of the big city, Oaxaca

Oaxaca is in Mexico, of course, and there are different rules for retirement visas and how to go about getting them. If, while you are deciding on this city you want to take your time, you will receive 180 days visitor’s visa upon arrival, versus the 90 day visitor visa you would receive in Guatemala.

Oaxaca is a very large Colonial city known for its cuisine, theater, art, and gardens, with expert medical care readily available in the city.

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Panajachel is a funky, artsy, musical village, with a large Mayan presence and the spectacular natural beauty of the Lake and volcanoes. There is little to do in the way of museums or theater, but there is one botanical garden just right out of town which people do like to wander through.

Wooden dock at Lake Atitlan

Cuisine is “international” in that there is one Mexican restaurant which is pretty good, 2 Japanese options, a couple of Italian places, BBQ, all sorts of bakeries and restaurants that serve traditional food. Medical care here is adequate for day-to-day stuff — colds, flu, dentists and stuff like that, and there are several pharmacies. Anything of major significance (dialysis, heart surgery, eye surgery, cancer treatment) all need to be done in either of 3 other cities, Guatemala City (the capital with the best selection) Xela (which is closer and has a good selection of hospitals and doctors) or Antigua (which has some special medical procedures available like tooth implants and plastic surgery).

So those are big differences between these two places.

Restaurant Quinta Real in Oaxaca

The indigenous are incredible. Friendly, innocent, colorful and ready to engage in conversation, their culture is a boon to the whole Lake Atitlan area. You will definitely know you are in a foreign country when you are in Pana. Panajachel is also a small village with a very small expat population who live around the lake, and generally speaking, someone sneezes here, and the word gets around the lake very quickly. If you have a disagreement with someone or want to date someone… soon “everyone” will know. It’s a bit like the sitcom “Cheers” – everyone knows your name (and your business.)

In Oaxaca, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of places to hide or discover or plant yourself. No one will know your name unless you assertively build friendships. It’s a big city (but people are friendly also).

Santiago Cathedral, Oaxaca, Mexico

Pana is walker-friendly and everything is within walking distance. If you are in a hurry you can grab a tuk-tuk to take you somewhere, and if you want to visit another village, you simply get on board a lancha, which will take you across the lake in less than an hour. Oaxaca has traffic, taxis, and buses. There are large malls and plazas in which to do your shopping as well as little tiendas. Pana’s shopping is more than adequate for just about anything you might want, but not on this large of a scale.

I think in general, Pana’s weather is a bit better, more reliable and the air is clean (except for volcano dust!)

Sunset at Lake Atitlan

In terms of where we would choose to retire, Oaxaca or Pana… the jury is still out on that one. We tend to prefer large towns over big cities, but we do enjoy visiting Oaxaca for all that it offers. Pana can be a bit small in terms of medical options, but we are not bored there. We enjoy the Mayan locals and the Expats. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to sit in and enjoy the food and company. And the lake is stunning.

You might need to review your preferences in lifestyle to see which place might work for you. Both places are excellent in their own ways.

I hope you find this information to be useful towards making  your decision. You might need to visit both to find out for yourself which places fits better.

Best of luck!

And thanks again for writing.

Akaisha

Monte Alban Mayan Ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico

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Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US? Medicare Part B isn’t free

By the Medicare Gal – reprinted with permission

Sometimes my client is doing extensive traveling.  Other times someone is physically moving to another country. And…sometimes I get asked this question from a person who is already living in another country.

Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US?

The long answer is that you need to consider the potential costs. You typically cannot use Medicare outside of the USA. So if you don’t have a USA address it makes it a little more difficult to decide, but not impossible.

I recommend that my own clients who travel should maintain a local state/US address. There are many services out there that will accept mail then scan it and email it to you. By keeping a service like this while you travel, you are less likely to lose your benefits. We talked about traveling in an RV in a previous article.

There is no age qualification for financial independence.

Now… back to foreign travel or living abroad. Here’s the issue:

You typically cannot use your Medicare benefits overseas, and many times you can get great care in other countries for a fraction of what it would cost in the USA. Most people do not pay for Part A (because they pre-paid for it while they were working) but must pay for Part B.

The standard Part B premium in 2017 is $134 or more if you are a high income earner. That can take a big bite out of your budget.

Not only that, but when you start Part B, your ability to get a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan without having to answer medical questions is limited to six months. After that, you might not be able to get it because of a pre-existing condition.

So to answer the question, “Do I need Medicare if I don’t live in the US”, we must look at the circumstances.

  1. Do you intend to return to the USA to live?

Do you need Medicare if you never return to the US?  If you never return to the USA then you probably won’t need the coverage.

  1. If you do return to the USA, will you be able to get a short term policy that will cover you through the gap?

You will only be able to sign up for Part B during General Open Enrollment, which is January 1- March 31 of every year and is different from the MAPD open enrollment. Additionally, your coverage will not start until July 1st. So there could be a huge period of time where you have NO medical insurance. Of course you will still have hospitalization and Skilled Nursing insurance through Part A, but beware of the deductibles, copays and limitations.

  1. Have you calculated what your Part B penalty might be?

When you do finally sign up for Part B, there will likely be a penalty of 10% for every year that you were eligible and didn’t enroll.  This penalty is lifetime, it doesn’t go away.

  1. Don’t forget the Part D (drug plan) penalty of 1% for every MONTH you were eligible and didn’t enroll.

This is also a lifetime penalty.

  1. Do you intend to return to the USA for extended visits?

Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US but visit for several months at a time?  You might need insurance coverage while you are in the US. Does your foreign insurance cover travel inside the US? If not, then you’ll want to consider Medicare insurance.

  1. Are you eligible for Social Security?

If NOT, then you might not need to enroll in Medicare until you return to the USA. You won’t have to pay a higher premium as long as you enroll in Part B within 3 months of returning and establishing a residence.

So in closing, only YOU can answer the question, Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US.  As long as you understand the penalties and potential pitfalls, you should be able to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing Medicare insurance and then make a decision. Personally, if I were eligible for Social Security and planning to ever return to the US I would go ahead and buy it along with a drug plan because the penalties are so high. If I wasn’t eligible for social security then I would hold off on purchasing it. But that’s just me. Talk with your financial adviser about your specific situation.

This article is not intended to be legal or financial advice.  Please discuss your personal situation with an attorney or financial adviser.

Other Related stories and links

Our Medical Insurance, Private, International and Medicare Page

Our Medical Self-Education Page

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