Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted on Apr 24, 2013 | 0 comments

Margin of Error

A financial safety net is just as important as a physical one.

A financial safety net is just as important as a physical one.

Whenever we are dealing with finances Dan and I like to plan for a pretty decent margin of error. (Dan would appreciate it if I would practice this a little more in dealing with scheduling as well; I am consistently 5 minutes late.) If you could listen in to some of our mini-planning sessions we frequently have, you would hear the phrase “worst case scenario” at the beginning of most of them. We figure that if we plan for the worst case – within reason of course, we aren’t going doomsday here- then we will be left with a much higher comfort level and safety net in times when we’re living on the other end of the spectrum.

The margin of error is especially important when we are talking about making a budget for a lifestyle that we have never lived before. Sure we think that we will be fine living on $1000-$1500 per month based on our research, but that’s all it is right now, research. It’s crucial for us to know that if that doesn’t end up being true we aren’t left high and dry (pun intended). The whole basis of this adventure is our desire for freedom but you can’t have freedom if you are constantly worried about how you are going to pay for the next time your engine needs a tune-up.

There are a couple of big ways that we are dealing with the margin. The first is in how we are planning out our rental income. Dan has created a spreadsheet that we use to evaluate any potential rental properties that we look at which takes into account all expenses (including property management costs at the highest rate we’ve seen in our area) and also vacancy rates of our tenants. We have separate columns for vacancy rates at 0%, 4%, 7%, and 11%. The current accepted vacancy rate in our area is a very low 2-3% but we use the 7% rate as the amount that we use for budgeting purposes. We hope this will give us a very safe expectation of income from our rentals even if the market worsens a bit before we leave. Hopefully we’ll continue filling vacancies within a week or two as we have done with our first 2 houses and also find a manager we like at a lower price, but if we don’t we are still fairly comfortable.

The second part of the plan is maximizing our income earning potential while cruising. Dan is currently a certified PADI Dive Master and plans to become a PADI Open Water and Specialty Instructor as soon as possible. Because PADI is recognized worldwide we are hoping that this will give us a nice back-up option if our income falls short of expenses. We also intend to log our sailing time once we start cruising to begin the process of getting Coast Guard Captain’s licenses (6-pack at least) which would allow us to complete deliveries and also increase Dan’s marketability as a SCUBA instructor who is licensed to carry divers himself. Finally, investment income on other savings and maybe some future swing trading as described in Live on the Margin in addition to some small income from this blog (yes we have recently added ads to the site) eventually could all add to a few hundred a month for extra flexibility.

Best Case Scenario: our costs will not overextend our rental income, we will have renters who stay for years at a time and financial stress will be a thing of the past in our new life. Worst Case Scenario: we have crappy renters who tear up our houses, our boat breaks down too often and Dan has to take up part-time work doing his favorite hobby. Sounds like a pretty nice life either way.

Read More

Posted on Apr 17, 2013 | 0 comments

Simplicity or Moderation?

 

Everything you need to know about cruising is in here!

Everything you need to know about cruising is in here!

So far in our month of finance posts, we’ve gone over our savings goals and reducing our current spending. But of course all of this is meaningless unless we have a plan for how much we will be spending while we cruise. People have asked this question on every blog and every forum available to cruisers of all levels and with something as individual as personal spending it is a fairly difficult question to answer. The most common response is “it costs whatever you have” or “that’s the same thing as asking how much it costs to live on land…its all up to you.”

While I appreciate the idea behind the answer, I also think that there is a way to generalize expenses for people. I can tell you that it is possible to live on $750/month or less for a couple in my town if you rent or own a one bedroom shack, eat peanut butter sandwiches every day and don’t own a car or have other insurance. You could spend $2000/month living in a small 3 bedroom home, eating good meals at home, driving one car rarely and being otherwise frugal. Or you spend $5000/month on a nice home in a good neighborhood, drive expensive cars that get terrible gas mileage as much as you want, and eat out for every single meal to normal restaurants. I can’t tell you how much it would cost your family, but I can give you the basis to help you figure it out on your own.

That’s exactly what Beth Leonard has done in this fantastic article entitled “How Much Will Cruising Cost You?” and also in her book The Voyager’s Handbook. She details the spending habits of three fictional cruising families: the Simplicity’s in a 33 ft cutter, the Moderation’s in a 40 ft catamaran, and the Highlife’s in a 54 ft ketch. In my opinion, this is the best document on cruising budgets that I have found in any of my research, and is what Dan and I based many of our calculations on when trying to figure out how much we would need monthly and yearly to live at the level we desired. We believe that we can budget somewhere between the Simplicity spending of 8,000/year and the Moderation level of 20,000/year leaving at somewhere in the $1000-$1500 per month range. This budget was also verified by a seminar called Three Cruising Budgets given by George Day of Blue Water Sailing magazine at Strictly Sail Chicago this year.

Obviously, we don’t know for certain yet how much we will spend once we start sailing, but it is important for us to have some sense of direction to work with while planning. No one else will have the same budget as us (and certainly not one man on a forum that told us we would need at least $50,000/year…he and his wife spent $1500/month on food alone!) but we think that using a generalized picture has given us pretty realistic expectations. We’re always open for comments or suggestions, so leave one for us below!

Read More

Posted on Feb 22, 2013 | 0 comments

Blue Water Boats

Not a blue water boat you say? This baby crossed the Atlantic. All 5 feet 4 inches of her.

Not a blue water boat you say? This baby crossed the Atlantic. All 5 feet 4 inches of her.

For anyone who has ever tried to get decent information on sea-worthy boats will know, it’s not exactly an easy task. As I mentioned in my post about Strictly Sail this year, searching in our new price range of below $50,000 and in the size range of 30′-40′ boats, the results are a bit overwhelming…like 3,602 results overwhelming. For some people out there who have been around sailing for a while, winnowing down that many choices to something more manageable would be no problem at all. But for us, we were at a loss. How can we figure out which of these boats would serve our family well over a considerable amount of time?

What we really needed was a good list of boats that fall into the acceptable range for durability and safety on the open ocean, aka Blue Water Boats. “No problem!”, we say, “let’s just search for blue water boats and see what we get.” Yea…right. Search that phrase and I promise you that you will find a million different opinions on every boat on the market, and that’s because the idea of a blue water boat is so subjective. There are boats that have safely crossed oceans that other cruisers wouldn’t think of using farther than 5 miles from a coastline. After doing quite a bit of research, we’ve found that our top requirements are a stable boat preferably with a full keel (though other types are still an option), as much tankage as possible for fresh water and fuel, good storage, good construction, and preferably one having 2 private cabins so that Carter can have his own space (and so can we!)

But which boats fit that description? Well, that’s where the Mahina Expeditions crew comes in. This group has a lot of experience with helping people choose cruising boats, and even does a day long seminar that we will probably attend at next year’s Stictly Sail. One of their best resources (in my opinion) is a listing of every type of boat that they consider to be blue water quality, along with information about how to distinguish different qualities of boat systems. We’ve been able to use this list to help narrow down the choices quite a bit, and have a much smaller grouping now of boats that we think would be really good for our family. It is nice to have some extra reassurance that we aren’t going to have to settle for a lesser quality boat due to our reduced budget.

Now all we have to do is wait until we can make one our new home! Its not as easy as it sounds, trust me.

Read More

Posted on Feb 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Passive Income: The New American Dream

Live on the Margin websiteWhen people, including ourselves, first start looking into cruising there is one big question that everyone wants an answer to and is for some reason difficult to find. How much is this going to cost? aka How much longer do I have to scrounge and save in this boring life before I can gtfo? Most people cruising today count on some form of savings to finance their cruising plans and once that “kitty” (as the community likes to call it) runs out, they have to stop and work either permanently or in temporary jobs until they can keep going. Pat Schulte (of Bumfuzzle fame) and Nick O’Kelly have found another solution: Live on the Margin.

Disclaimer: The book is really good, but remember trading stocks and options isn’t like gambling, it is gambling. If you read the book, follow the advice, and lose your butt, don’t blame us. We just found the book entertaining.

Pat and Nick have been traveling throughout the world for many years while making money in essentially one way: trading stocks and options in short term trades. And lucky us, they’ve written a book about it so we can all do the same thing. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Really? You want me to read a book about trading stocks? I think I’ll just go count the blades of grass in my front yard instead.” Normally, I would agree with you, but this book is easy to understand and actually funny. That’s right, I said funny. I actually laughed out loud a few times while reading it clandestinely in my cubicle. If you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of trading without wanting to blow your brains out afterwards, this is the book for you.

Here are a couple of my personal favorite quotes from the book:

The stock market is brutally sincere when it tells you that it wants to suck every dollar out of you. The guy on the other side of the trade wants your money. He will lead you by the hand and mug you and take your money.

When describing what happens when a “celebrity” stock crashes and takes a long time to go back up:

Nobody wants to dance with the popular kid who just crapped his pants on the dance floor in front of the entire school, and that’s the problem you run into with celebrity stocks.

After reading the book I took their advice and opened an account with an online brokerage that allows you to trade fake money as if you were making real trades to help get accustomed to the ins and outs of trading before you start risking real cash. So far, I’ve learned three things from trying it out myself:

  1. I actually know nothing about stocks. I’ve had to reread parts of the book a couple of times while looking at a trading platform to figure out how to make it work.
  2. If ice in the veins is what is required for making good trades, I think I might have hot chocolate. So far, I’m waaay too reactive to little things that happen and get hyped up waiting for the market to move. This causes me to make stupid decisions and act like a member of the “anxious herd of sheep” that I’m trying to avoid being.
  3. I’m pretty sure that Dan will be the one doing all the trading in this family.

I’ll admit it, I totally suck at trading. I have yet to make any fake money in my lousy trades, but at least I’m learning and not using real cash yet. I just hope I don’t run our fake account into the ground before Dan can finish the book!

Read More

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 | 0 comments

We Interrupt This Winter…

Strictly Sail Chicago 2013Whoever first started scheduling Strictly Sail Chicago in the middle of January was a genius. Winter has never been our favorite part of the year (hello, planning to move to the Tropics for more than just the piña coladas) but this year has been doubly hard with the knowledge that we could have moved to Florida instead of staying here to pad our purse a little more. This past Saturday we were able to leave winter behind for a few hours and spur the excitement we’ve been missing for the last couple months. Just one day of being able to talk openly with people about our dream of cruising does wonders for our attitudes.

Three Cruising Budgets, Snapshots from the Life of Jimmy Cornell, and Perspectives from a Cruising Couple seminars filled our schedule. These seminars weren’t really intended as fact finding for us, in fact we hardly learned any really new information at all. What they lacked in new information, they made up for in validation and motivation. It’s one thing to read a bunch of cruising blogs and forums and compile a $1000-$1500/month budget that we think is realistic; it reaches the next level to hear the founder of Blue Water Sailing confirm that for us in his Three Cruising Budgets seminar. (He actually described four budgets, but the highest was labeled “Silly and Unnecessary” aka why are you even in this seminar, just go hire a 5 man crew for your million dollar yacht.)

The boats were what we really wanted to see. We won’t be buying a new boat when we leave, of course, and we probably won’t even be looking at buying a used version of any of the brands available to tour due to quality and dependability recommendations; what we wanted was to feel the size of the living space. Last year, we hadn’t done a lot of research into boats when we came and toured all of the boats. We left that day saying, “yeah, the smaller ones are okay, but I think we should look at boats in the 40-45′ range.” And look I did…at the price tag. There are hardly any good boats on the used market in the 40-45′ range that are under $50,000, and especially not ones that are close to being ready for ocean voyaging.

This year we needed to go in with the question “what can we do” instead of “what do we want to do”. It’s amazing how much that question changes your perspective, because we quickly realized that 30-35′ boats would probably do just fine for us and one little boy. (Depending on the boat, of course.) We are now looking for boats in that range with one cabin/quarter berth layout or two cabin layout (which is much harder to find in older boats that size). To be honest, I was a bit shocked to see how much that downsize of 5-10 feet slashed the price tremendously. If you search yachtworld.com for boats 38-45′ in the US between $30k-$50k, you get 197 boats boats to choose from. And let me tell you, they aren’t exactly the cream of the crop most of the time. If you search 30-38′ instead, you get 757. That’s a significant difference in selection, making it much more likely for us to be able to find what we are looking for in our budget.

While we had intended to stay for 2 days of the show, winter fought back and forced us to return home early with a nasty ice storm that came through Chicago on Sunday. We didn’t want to brave the ice in my mom’s car that she let us borrow – Thanks Mom! – because my brakes went out just as we were getting to their house Friday night. (Whole story in itself.) It seems that we will have to wait until next year to get a good second day, since last year Dan spent most of the day on his back on the floor outside of the bathroom of Navy Pier or puking his guts out inside of said bathroom. Even just one day though was enough to refuel our systems until the end of the dreariness when we can start sailing and diving again.

 

Read More