THE RISING COST OF EVERYTHING: Retirees Scale Back Spending Amid Inflation

Rock Springs couple skipping on scuba diving trips due to expense

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

No steaks this year.

Instead, Jeanie and Jack Weimer’s guests had to settle for hot dogs and burgers at their annual Fourth of July cookout. 

The menu change was just one of the ways the retired Rock Springs couple have scaled back their spending in the wake of soaring food prices, record-high inflation and a sliding stock market. 

Jack and Jeanie Weimer, of Rock Springs, enjoy scuba diving in Lake Mead. The couple is skipping their annual trip to central Florida this year due to rising costs.  (Courtesy photo from Susan Lamb) 

“Meat is very expensive,” said Jeanie, estimating they saved $60 with the food swap. “You probably spend at least $15 per steak. Buying burgers, you’re spending maybe $5 or $6 for a package of hamburgers….”

Violent fluctuations in the stock market this year—on Friday alone, the Dow plunged 1,008 points or 3% after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed will continue to raise interest rates—have  impacted the Weimers’ investment portfolio. They have Roth IRA, 401(k) and SEP IRA accounts. As a result, the couple stopped withdrawing money for living expenses from one of their retirement accounts. Instead, they are relying on their Social Security benefits and cash accounts to pay the bills, while awaiting a significant market rebound.

“We are just more cognizant of where we spend our money,” said Jeanie, 68, a retired medical lab technician.

In addition to trimming their entertaining budget, the Weimers aren’t buying new diving gear and furniture. Jack, 70, a former owner of an insulation business, intends to put away his credit cards, as he “just kind of uses [them] willy nilly” on boat trailer tires and other online purchases, according to Jeanie.

She added, “… we have been kind of spend, spend, spend, and we can’t do that so much” anymore. 

The dismal economic climate also prompted the Weimers to forgo their annual trip to central Florida, where they enjoy cave diving in the High Springs area. They’re debating whether to skip a Caribbean vacation next February, too.

Jeanie hopes the economy will turn around with the next presidential election.

“I’m kind of a hardcore Republican, and I keep saying, ‘Well, we only have two more years of this [Biden] administration,’” she said. “So, we can only hope [the economy] will get better.”

Jeanie’s friend, Rick Barker, also hopes the economy rebounds soon. At 61, Barker does not have to start drawing down his Roth IRA and another investment account for several years, so the struggling stock market hasn’t impacted his lifestyle too much.

Barker, a retired elementary school teacher, is living off his school district retirement and salary as a part-time swimming and diving coach at Green River High School. 

Rick Barker, of Green River, is pictured above on a scuba diving trip at Flaming Gorge. (Courtesy photo from Rick Barker)

“I’ve seen the economy go up and down over the years,” said Barker, of Green River. “[In] the ‘70’s, I remember the oil crisis. I was young, but I remember that…I have managed to be pretty decent with saving my money and taking care of it. And I tend to be a little frugal. So, when I come up with something that I want to do, I tend to already have put away enough to be able to go do it.”

For Barker, that meant a two-week scuba diving trip to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras, this summer.

Still, Barker is trying to save money on food and gas. In recent months, he cut back dining out from four to two times a week and stopped taking frequent road trips to visit friends around the state. When Barker does go out, he maximizes his trips by running multiple errands and doesn’t “spend frivolously.”

“Living in southwest Wyoming, it’s always been a boom-or-bust system out here . . . ,” he said. “Things are either really, really up or really, really down…I just kind of prepare and know it’s going to happen, and you see it coming and you try not to overextend yourself during those periods of time. When it swings back the other way, you tend to put a little more away.”

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