Retired police officer cuts back at the grocery store to cope with inflation

Does that headline gain your sympathy? Does it reflect the challenges facing average retirees? Now, the rest of the story.

The following is from an article in the Wall Street Journal about the impact on retirees of inflation and the stock market. Here is a police officer who retired at age 58 with a pension of $6,900 a month net of taxes and deductions. In addition, he has retirement saving of $1.3 million plus $350,000 in bank accounts. His wife who is still working has another $400,000 in retirement savings. The couple owns two homes, but has $400,000 in debt.

Are you sympathetic? 😢

They cope with inflation by no longer buying pre-packed salads to save $2.00

When John Fitzgerald retired as a police lieutenant about three years ago after 33 years on the force, his deferred compensation plan was worth about $1.7 million.

These days, due to the stock market pullback, it is worth about $1.3 million. The 61-year-old Brookeville, Md., husband and father of three is concerned as he’s counting on that money to help fund his lifestyle.

“I see my hard-earned money slipping away every day,” he said.

Mr. Fitzgerald considers himself fortunate as he also has a roughly $6,900 monthly pension after taxes and insurance. He has about another $350,000 saved in other accounts including bank accounts and a college savings fund.

So far, he and his wife, Jill Fitzgerald, 58, haven’t made any changes to their portfolios. Mrs. Fitzgerald works as a writer and editor and has about $400,000 saved for retirement.

The couple is feeling the effects of inflation. They help pay the college tuition for their youngest son, a bill that they expect to rise roughly 5% to about $35,000 this fall.  

In total, Mr. Fitzgerald estimates they pay about $12,000 in monthly expenses including mortgage payments for their Maryland home and a Delaware beach house. The couple has about $400,000 in debt including mortgages and car loans. 

They have cut the amount of groceries they buy, but their bill jumped to about $600 a month from about $300 a month, he said. They have eliminated favorites such as bagged salads as the roughly $4.59 per bag price isn’t worth the recent $2 price increase, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Looking ahead, Mr. Fitzgerald would like to sell his Maryland home in about four years and move to Florida to save on taxes.

11 comments

  1. No public servant should make more in pension and benefits combined than those they serve. The corruption of public service unions and those they make contributions to (and decide their salaries) must end, or our society is doomed.

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    1. I agree to the extent that public servant salaries should be capped as those that rise in pay can afford to pay into their own retirement.

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  2. Of course it’s meant to pull at your heartstrings because we’ve been led to believe that cops are poor. A friend of mine calls it the “blue collar spending mentality “.I live in a neighborhood of million dollar homes. There’s a retired cop who drives a Maserati, owns a large boat and a beach house. Living on either side of him are two surgeons, older than he is and still working . And if you think this is just one anecdote, I meet plenty of cops , firefighters and teachets at 5 star resorts (when they are not at their beach house)

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  3. I read that article and while I myself have no interest in putting on the blue, one has to consider the remarkable accumulation of wealth and the significant income in retirement.

    My concerns, however, are everyday Americans who are putting on green uniforms …

    Obviously, public servants vote and, as someone famous once said, all politics are local

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    1. I think the quote posted by FarOutWest says it best. Most retirees and near retirees are living in the best of times. We just don’t realize it.

      The public pension systems are underfunded as is Social Security and the population of older retirees compared to workers is growing. The good life has to be paid for by someone. I suppose those darned bagged salads are the easiest target.

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      1. Agree. For public employees with generous (lucrative?) pensions and employer-paid/subsidized retiree medical coverage, it is everyday taxpayers, who have no pension nor any retiree medical who shoulder those costs.

        Remarkably similar to the recent student loan bailout – who receives, and who pays (perhaps in excess of a Trillion dollars when you consider all features of the Biden executive order.

        And remarkably similar to the recent multiemployer (union) pension plan bailout – who receives and who pays. According to the PBGC’s 2021 Annual Report: “The Multiemployer Program’s positive net position of $481 million at the end of FY 2021 is in sharp contrast to the negative net position of $63.7 billion at the end of FY 2020, a drastic improvement of $64.2 billion.” Thank you taxpayers who don’t, yourselves, typically have access to an employer-sponsored, defined benefit pension plan. See: https://www.pbgc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pbgc-annual-report-2021.pdf

        Have another dollop of redistribution, folks.

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  4. Sympathetic for him no. Highly concerned for others? Yes. My wife and I have given up buying some things at the grocery store and I question her about buying things like “bag salad”. We have gone from buying 6 bags of grocery a week to 4 bags and yet we are paying more each trip. Inflation has cut into our retirement. The down turn in the market has removed a “sense” of financial security forcing us to be careful that we do not spend on “wants” instead of “needs”. We are in no way in financial trouble, nor will we be as long as we don’t get a major illness or cancer.

    But our daughter is feeling the affects of inflation hard with her three teenagers. Everything a teenager does costs more. From eating more to the cost of basic school clothes. Higher food and energy prices is starting to have a major impact on them after more than a year of coping with inflation.

    So do I have sympathetic for this guy? No. But grocery shopping with my wife every week, I feel the pain, and I know that there are people in real trouble. This period of inflation will not go away for another year or two. Retail stores are reporting bad sales so the layoffs will be coming.

    You also must remember the source of the article, WSJ. I don’t think too many middle class and lower class people subscribe to the WSJ or have a beach house.

    One more note. You would think that buying two less bags of groceries a week that I would be losing weight. I’m not. Makes you wonder what we were buying.

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    1. Back in the good old days you’d have articles about retirees having to eat cat food to scrape by (at least in The New York Times when there’s a Republican president).

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  5. It’s really tough to give up the bagged salads…I read the original article in the WSJ the other day, and I had the same reaction.

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