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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 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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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 Dec 5, 2012 | 0 comments

We sold our house… now what?

Last Thursday Michele and I received the call that we had both hoped would come, but had nearly given up on… a legitimate offer on our house. The offer was over 9% less than our asking price but at least we had some action! Let me back up a bit… We had grown disheartened at the numerous showings, followed by exceptionally minimal second showings, followed by a complete lack of offers. “The street is too busy,” “loved the house,” “buyer showed interest,” “great kitchen!” were all followed by a noted lack of action on the buyers’ parts. With that in mind, you’ll understand why we were excited to get any offer (even one that was almost 10% lower than asking price). We had talked about the price and had settled on 93% as our lowest acceptable price, definitely in range for this buyer. Our goal was 97%, however. After a few tense rounds of negotiation we were able to come through with our exact goal… right on the dollar.

We now are faced with weeks of inspections, tests, and (hopefully not) the possibility of more negotiations over any requested repairs. Our house is in exceptionally good condition so any requested repairs are most likely nit-picky (that doesn’t sound biased, does it?). Thankfully we were able to get the buyer to agree that no repairs would be made as a result of these inspections.

We looked at each other once the last counteroffer was accepted and Michele said what we were both thinking, “Now what?” We had been focused so much on getting our house sold that we hadn’t thought about the actual possibility of it selling. Crazy, I know. Now we are at a cross roads. We can find an acceptable apartment for a couple hundred dollars less than we were spending on our house, providing a decent boost to our future cruising kitty. We can also purchase a “starter/rental” house and spend almost nothing, we’re talking less than a normal car payment here, per month. The second option saves money over time but is also the riskier option. We would have the opportunity of renting the house after we are done with it, or selling it and (hopefully) making a profit. There is, of course, that nagging possibility that it wouldn’t sell or sell for less than we bought it for. Either way the bottom line is we are making progress.

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Posted on Nov 21, 2012 | 0 comments

Thankful

At the risk of going along with the obvious theme for the week, I’m just going to go with the obvious theme for the week and say Happy Thanksgiving!

One year for Thanksgiving when Dan and I were dating, we rode with his parents and brothers to my mother-in-law’s (Shelly) family event at her mom’s house about half an hour from Dan’s parents’. On the way there, Shelly asked everyone to go around and say what they were thankful for. Being the adolescent boys that they were, Kyle and Alex (Dan’s younger brothers)  immediately started complaining about how they were tired of having to do this every year, it was so overdone, and they just were not going to cooperate. And so, she didn’t make them say what they were thankful for, but I could tell that they had really hurt her feelings by not participating in her tradition.

I would guess that the majority of American families have their own little traditions that make the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays unique to themselves, and most families will have to face the day when those traditions are challenged. Sometimes this comes from challenging children, busy schedules, or adding new members to the family, but when it happens it is always a little disappointing for someone.

This year is the first year that we won’t be spending Thanksgiving with any of our grandparents due to family schedules and it is may also be the last Thanksgiving that we live within easy holiday travel. If our plans continue moving forward, Dan and I will be in Florida next year, preparing our new home for traversing ocean passages. Not exactly the tradition we are used to. Because of that, I’m trying to do a little extra savoring of the season this year. Being a little more gracious with our family differences, and a little more thankful for the time we have left.

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