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Posted on Nov 27, 2013 | 0 comments

When Did That Happen?

Carter and his number 3 candle

He was definitely more concerned with the cupcake than the candle!

Something about time changes when you have a child. As soon as we started telling people that I was pregnant, other parents began the warnings: “Watch out, he’ll be graduating high school before you know it” and “My baby just had a baby” and “Don’t blink, you might miss it.” While we did believe those people and tried to take their advice to heart, I don’t think that anyone can truly appreciate the speed at which a child changes until you have experienced it for yourself.

Carter turned three years old today and it has taken me somewhat by surprise. Suddenly, I don’t have a baby any more but a little boy with an active imagination, active feet, and a very active opinion. I truly don’t miss the “baby stage” (especially the diapers, yay for potty training!) but I have a much greater appreciation for what a precious commodity his childhood truly is for us. It also gives me a stronger sense of urgency to get out of the daily grind so Dan and I can fully experience this time with Carter. Not many families will have the opportunity to have both parents home full time with their child and it is a privilege we are working very hard toward.

In the next few months we are planning to wrap up our loose ends at home and start the very serious business of finding a boat for our adventure. We are hoping to be ready for full time cruising by the end of next year’s hurricane season and while 11-12 months sounds like a long time to some, we know better. We have a relatively short time to get a lot done, but we are so ready for the challenge. The wait is finally nearing an end and for that we are truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and a Happy Birthday to our little boy!

 

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Posted on Aug 22, 2013 | 0 comments

Please Hold

A lot can change in a year.

A lot can change in a year.

We are stuck in a moment of anticipation. Wound tight like a spring preparing to release and just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. The jetliner full of people sitting on the tarmac while someone changes out the light bulb. The senior class two weeks before graduation. We are so ready to start our new life that we ache with the tension of waiting. And yet here we sit in our holding pattern, day after day after day wondering what are we still doing here?

At our current rate of savings, Dan and I will be preparing to quit our jobs in just about one year from now. One more year of rolling out of bed every morning knowing that this is not where we want to be. One more year of watching Carter change from a toddler into a little boy. While logically we know that one year will move so quickly that we will feel rushed and surprised when it finally comes time to take the plunge, right now every day is an internal struggle between “we have a great plan” and “just do it, we’ll survive”.

In the meantime, we’re trying to keep busy and check items off of our to-do lists. Home repairs, SCUBA certifications, and potty training are all on the docket for the next few months. We’re doing our best to savor the things that we won’t have when we leave, while also slowly untying the lines that hold us here. Each day that passes brings us ever closer to our dream and we want to be ready when the time comes. That being said, if anyone out there has a fully stocked cruising boat for 3 that you’d like to get rid of for $10,000 or less just let us know, I’m sure we could find someone to take it off of your hands.

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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.

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Posted on Mar 27, 2013 | 1 comment

McMansions and Land Yachts

Our first step was selling both of our Saab 9-3s

Our first step was selling both of our Saab 9-3s

When we talk with people about cruising the first question people usually ask us, after getting over their disbelief, is “How are you going to pay for it?” In the spirit of tax season, we’ve decided to do a short mini-series in April devoted to finances, both for cruising and anyone trying to get a little more bang for their buck.

 

Have you ever looked at someone in a luxury motorized throne (ok, imported luxury vehicle) and thought, “Wow, sweet ride! I wish I was wealthy enough to have one.” Okay probably not in those words… but the reality (according to the authors of The Millionaire Next Door, two PhDs with over 20 years of research on the subject) is that most people living in affluent neighborhoods and driving luxury vehicles actually don’t have very much wealth. Sure they can afford the payments on their McMansions and land yachts, but many of them are living paycheck to paycheck. They are constantly teetering on the edge of financial ruin, saving less than a few percent (if at all!). Sadly, retirement is only a pipe dream to many people from all levels of the tax bracket. They think about in abstract terms, hopefully they’ll have enough to retire at some distant point in the future… definitely not something attainable in the near term.

However, with the right approach retirement is not only attainable, it’s attainable in a relatively short amount of time. Michele and I are recently followers of Mr. Money Mustache, who retired a few years ago at age 30. He explains it best:

Mr. Money Mustache’s advice? Almost all of [the life is hard and expensive excuse] is nonsense: Your current middle-class life is an Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness, and by learning to see the truth in this statement, you will easily be able to cut your expenses in half – leaving you saving half of your income. Or two thirds, or more. Sound like a fantasy? Not to readers of this blog.

What happens when you can save more of your income? As it turns out, spending much less than you earn this is the way to get rich. The ONLY way. And the effects are surprising: if you can save 50% of your take-home pay starting at age 20, you’ll be wealthy enough to retire by age 37. If you already save some assets now, you’re even closer than that. If you can save 75%, your working career is only 7 years.

But how can you save so much?

The bottom line is this: by focusing on happiness itself, you can lead a much better life than those who focus on convenience, luxury, and following the lead of the financially illiterate herd that is the TV-ad-absorbing Middle Class of the United States today (and most of the other rich countries). Happiness comes from many sources, but none of these sources involve car or purse upgrades. No matter what the herd or the TV set tells you, this is the truth. Far from being a social outcast, this new perspective will make you a hero among your friends. This is not a fringe activity anymore – millions of people are fixing their lives these days. And the earlier you can accept it, the sooner you will be rich.

It is not an easy journey to begin, but it is a path that leads to what I call time freedom. Time freedom doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on a beach somewhere doing nothing all day, every day. It simply means having the freedom to spend your time the way you wish. Michele and I have been blessed with a great starting point on our journey. We were able to very quickly build and capitalize on equity in our first home. We’ve been able to turn that into a portfolio of rental homes (we close on our third next week!) and traditional investments. These properties and other investments will provide a decent income when we retire. More importantly, we’re learning to live on much less than our current income while maintaining an extremely high quality of life, which is precisely what we are expecting to continue doing when we go cruising.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013 | 1 comment

Midweek Musings: Sacrifice

Is this worth it? We think so.

Is this worth it? We think so.

Between New Years resolutions (those that have survived this long) and the beginning of Lent, this is the time of year that everyone is trying to straighten up their act. Some people are giving things up, i.e. fast food and cigarettes, and some are adding something like a new exercise routine. Whether the change is meant to be permanent or temporary, it is always a struggle to change old habits and the way we think about them.

Most cruising and simple living literature on the market today have the same advice for people who are thinking about drastically changing their lifestyle: start small and work your way up. Can’t give up your fancy car? Start by making your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks every morning. Maybe you’ll find that you didn’t miss Starbucks after all, especially when you see how much extra money is in your pocket by the end of the week. Here are just a few of the items and activities we’ll have to relinquish when we move onto a boat:

  • Cars
  • TV
  • Frequent eating out
  • Easy internet
  • Steady income
  • Family nearby
  • And many more…

Some of these things will be easier to give up for us than others, like watching TV (we don’t). But others will have a major impact on us that will be felt more acutely. I’m sure when we are walking uphill to the grocery store, the eating out and lack of a car will burn a little more (mostly in our thighs!) and it might get frustrating if we can’t find good enough wifi signal to Skype with our parents on Christmas day. So, why would we go through all of this if we have to sacrifice so much? Because we think the reward will be worth it.

If you are thinking about cruising, and even if you’re not, I would encourage you to think long and hard about what you could give up that would produce a greater reward. Spend a whole weekend without your cell phone…yea I said it, give up the cell phone. Checking Facebook every five minutes really isn’t that crucial to your survival. Try turning off the TV for a week and go to the park, read a book, or learn something new about your spouse and kids. Ride your bike or the bus to work for a month, and save the money you would have spent on gas on a weekend away (yea, you probably spend that much on gas.) You might be amazed at how much you didn’t miss the things you thought would be a sacrifice.

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