A Time of Middle Age Quiet

It’s been quite some time since I published, and I have missed it. I’ve wanted to put out an update, but there is still so much change happening it’s tough to find a stable spot. We’ve sold the house, moved into our 4th floor condo, achieved debt free, enjoyed the fall and the spectacular 4th floor sunrises, and settled into a routine. Most of the time now I even know where things are in the kitchen before I look for them (I still lose my shoes almost daily).

Rachel and I are still living life leaning forward; still no shortage of adventure, change, the unknown, expectancy, and impatience (that last one is mostly me). The reason for the impatience is that there’s a thing still in the development stage and outside of our direct control (C’mon already!), so I can’t share that quite yet.

I’m not so good (horribly awful) at the waiting-to-see-what-happens thing and tend to be action oriented. Someone told me once I’d burn the house down because the bathroom’s dirty (And?). The whole letting Someone else write your story is not my natural state (gimme’ that freakin’ pen!). When I was six I killed a fly with a croquet mallet because the mallet was handy. And the fly needed to die. The fly was on a plate glass window (seemed like a good idea at the time).
I’ve not changed much in that regard.

So during the wait, I focus on the million things I have to celebrate and be thankful for. Condo living is great. And different. We knew it would be different, and some of it is the kind of different that we were expecting and some of it is a different kind of different.

I thought there might be things I really miss. I thought I might dream about the House of Wales. I thought there might be hints of regret. None of that has happened.

I thought we’d always see lots of people; in the halls, in the elevators, in the hot tub. Not so much (my own private 30-person hot-tub-pool every morning at 6am. Down the elevator and across the dark parking lot in robe, slippers, Patriots beanie, coffee, phone, towel. Might as well act like I own the place, right?).
No wonder I never see anybody.

I thought it would be noisy but it hardly ever is. I hear less barking dogs than I did when I owned. Our fridge makes weird noises all the time, like a steel skyscraper just before it collapses. I thought I’d miss raking leaves and splitting wood this fall but I don’t, except for maybe the exercise aspect. I still try to ride my mountain bike more to compensate. I thought I’d miss fires and my wood floor office. Nope.

I thought I would have an issue with a sense of lack of control; a Man and his castle and eminent domain and all. A little at first, but now no.
Funny how that is.

We’re having family Thanksgiving in the condo clubhouse. We reserved it for just the family and we’re baking salmon. The clubhouse has an 8 foot conference table and huge couches and chairs and pillows and a pool table and shuffle board and three 6-foot TV’s and my private hot tub that I might share.

We’ve settled in here. It’s home. The sunrises are truly glorious. We have two garage door openers. We have a routine. Places where we sit. Places where things go. Routines are good. It still takes me about 40 minutes to do my morning chores. Evenings are nice, and, of course, there’s still the end-of-day martini and talk of the day’s events of import before a healthy dinner. We often watch the spinny-wheel show and try to guess the puzzles (Rachel is faster than I am). Then a Netflix episode. We sleep well and rarely see 10pm.

Sometimes I think you can tell a place is getting inside your heart because you know that someday when you leave there’s going to be things you really miss.

This is a really cool thing we’ve done.
The concept of moving towards mobility is exciting.
Being debt free is awesome.

Also, one of the biggest and greatest coming-soon(!) events is a January addition to the family by way of a grandson. Rachel and I already have plans for pool days, bike rides, wagon rides, sleepovers, falling asleep during Disney movies during sleepovers (me), wrestling before bedtime at sleepovers (me), and doing my best James Earl Jones voice for Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein bed time books during sleepovers.

Normally by this time of year we would have spent time at the Arizona Baby House. Not yet this year. We are missing it intensely and daily. Events have arranged (or perhaps more accurately ceased to arrange) to postpone our life there. In that regard, it has been a time of just-when-you-think-you’ve-got a plan: Grr. Shifting ground, rug pulling, not lining up, and all that. Reevaluating. Neither of us like the inability to make goals and march towards them in very measured strides (read: my head is about to fly off and then explode).

We won’t wait much longer (is that fly buzzing I hear?); we’re still evaluating, praying, testing, arranging, allowing time for responses, trying to figure out the better. Depending on what we decide, life could look very different.

The amount of restraint I’m showing ought to be rewardable (like winning a Life-Oscar for Most Patience Ever Since the Beginning of Recorded Time).

It’s a time of Quiet. Some of it is cyclical. Fall brings a time of reflection as days grow shorter, colder, and life pulls in and gets smaller. It’s a time of assessing and quiet conversation and listening. Maybe some of it is that I lived so much change and adventure for so long that it’s time to be quiet for a bit. I don’t like it and want to take it off like an ill fitting jacket.

Maybe downsizing life is more than just downsizing stuff. Maybe in the same way a football receiver takes off at great speed and then pivots to change direction on his route, so too I’m doing a slow-motion life-pivot.
Inertia.
The forced pause.
It makes me twitch (I’m holding my head on).

I am anxious to be on (and write about) the next adventure, but it’s not time yet. Decisions are outside of our control until we get more pieces in place. What I do know is that it’s a time of Quiet.

But if it lasts much longer I’m buying a frickin’ crochet mallet.

MP

Get Debt Free or Invest?

Sometimes we can’t really know a thing from a distance. Often, it’s impossible to really experience the truth of a thing until we get close, or even all the way inside it.

When we start to really get inside something, we start to see it for what it is, not what we thought it would be. Sometimes that’s really cool and amazing and we love it. Other times it starts to get dark and awful. Sometimes we push through because we’re going to finish what we started. Other times we reevaluate and make new decisions. It can be hard to know which way to go; to know if we should hold ’em or fold ’em.

I had a dream of being an attorney since I was a kid. I like to argue and wrestle with abstracts (Ok I like when people listen to me talk too). But being a lawyer is probably nothing like the lawyers I see on the TV shows. I’ve heard and read enough stories of attorneys walking away from practicing law that I probably would not have been happy. Maybe some things are better left dreamed about.

This blog post will be a little different in some ways. It’s a bit of the same in that I’m putting out there our financial plans and where we are so far. It’s a bit different because I’m hoping to get a bit more personal. I’m going to be a little more open about how we fared on selling the House of Wales; not in an attempt to boast as much to help anyone else that might be following.

So let’s just dive right in. Through years of hard work, consistent upkeep, smart upgrades, and market timing, we did very well selling the House of Wales. It’s been one of the major decisions in our lives; not just because we sold the house but also because we changed lifestyles. When all was signed and done, we sold for about $130K more than we owed.

That’s not counting paying off the Baby House, which took about $40K from that profit (debt free Baby Howwwse!) That’s also not counting fees, some upgrades, and other associated costs from the process of selling (If you ever need a realtor, seriously, please contact me), so we put about $70K in a money market fund account until we could settle on the exact plan.

Our current plan was to be debt free by October 1st 2020. We made this plan before we decided to sell the House of Wales. We were killing it. We had our debt whittled down to just three more loans: the car ($20K), the truck ($20K), and my school loan ($25K) and were throwing gobs of money at them every month.

We had originally planned to invest the entire profit and leave it for 10-15 years while we added to it slowly and continued our October 1st 2020 debt free pursuit.

A few weeks ago, like we always do, we began checking down the action plan and reviewing the timing. In other words, we got a very close-up view of our options. One of us (not sure which one) said, “And we’re sure we’d not be better off finishing the debt free journey and then starting to invest?”

Sidebar: You know how when someone asks a question and it’s more than a question and then the person says something like what? I’m just asking only you know their actually not just asking and everything kind of starts to unravel?
Uh huh.
Like that.
(Insert open can of worms).

We started reviewing our options again, making sure of our choice. It really came down to two options: invest 100% of the profit or get clear of 100% of the debt. Right now.

We talked about it alot.
A-lot.
The cool thing about talking about something alot is that often it serves as a catalyst to review other areas of life: plans, dreams, the future (and to have another martini. Gin, of course). It helped us boil down what we were really chasing.

Paying off debt cuts stress and creates a sense of freedom. It takes away some of the “have to’s” of life. Living expenses don’t go away, but the financial drag of payments and interest does. It also creates a really cool sense of accomplishment.

Someone once told me that it’s not how much money we make; it’s how much debt we have. If we don’t have any debt, we don’t need much money. (Just enough, really, for a 1-week trip on a cat in the Bahamas. Every year. With martinis).
Being debt free makes good sense and is never a bad idea.

We also knew we could use the $70K as a quick-start towards creating passive income through investing that would add to my two pensions; one from the Coast Guard (already drawing that one) and one from the state when I eventually stop full-time work. I plan to add another 5-7 years of state employment before taking that step.

Those pensions will create a bedrock income for retirement for the rest of my life (~$3K per month) before any passive investment income and before social security (no plan yet on when to draw). A cool additional benefit of my Coast Guard service is lifetime healthcare (huge, I know).

Rachel also has a 401K that’s worth about $40K right now that we’re also deciding how best to grow.

The investment idea was intriguing because we’re late to that game. I’ve let the awareness of my pensions make me lazy. I also liked the investment idea because I wanted to ride up and down the condo elevator checking my portfolio and saying cool things like “oh yeah, diversified” and “market share” and “Dude this ROI is toasting my nuggs.”

Yes, we would still have time time to invest but we’re losing the amount of wealth a $70K chunk could jump start (and my elevator trips wouldn’t be nearly as cool). It might take us a few years to build that core amount back into an investment with our income. Although we really don’t see ourselves coming to full-stop retirement until we’re really old (like 116), it might be hard to hold down full time work from a 40′ cat in the Bahamas.

When it came right down to it and we could really see everything up close, we decided to bring home the prize that we started chasing 9 months ago:

We’re Debt Free!
Happy Birthday to me!

When we started our debt free journey in January of 2019 we had NO idea what would become of this adventure. It’s been quite the ride!

It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I keep going to the school loan website and flipping it the bird while laughing and dancing around in little circles (I also have a little song I made up but it’s mostly naughty words). It’s fun to keep seeing zeros. It’s a huge chapter finally closed. I might keep doing my dance for awhile (probably close the shades next time though).

It’s the same with the vehicles. That’s not as fun though because we paid by e-check (and I don’t have a song made up for those). Still, the sense of there, that’s finally over feels really good (I might drive past the dealerships and flip them a bird too).

I think we’re going to live in this for awhile.
Small, quiet, 4th floor balcony celebrations are the best.

I guess I’m going to have to find something else to write about.
I don’t think that’s going to be too hard.

I’m proud of us.

Debt free Middle Age life feels really, really good.


Debt Free Update

At the time of this writing, the For Sale sign in the front yard got a spanking new upgrade: Sale Pending! (Ok, it doesn’t really have an exclamation point, but it should!) We’re very excited! Our latest adventure is proving to be every bit as exciting as we thought it would be.

The graphic above isn’t really the date that either Rachel or I are considering retiring (we are both blessed with jobs that we love), but we couldn’t find a debt free countdown app so we borrowed a retirement app. It’s fun to watch the date get closer and anticipate the feeling of being debt free.

When we originally decided to get out of debt, our intent was to be debt free minus the mortgage, and continue to use the home as an investment. We started last January with monthly financial goals and took aim at the smallest debts first; furniture, credit cards. We held monthly goal meetings and knocked them out in a few months.

Then we focused on the first school loan, which was about 8K at the time, and this coming Saturday night we have a Student Loan Victory Party date planned! (I might get a gladiator costume and drink from a bronze challis). Death to student loan #1! (Exclamation points everywhere – masses cheering) That will be a very good celebration!

Next in the cross hairs will be the second student loan, which will take us out to September 1st of 2020. One added month to finish the car loans off, and if all goes as planned, we’ll have no debt as of October 1st 2020 and begin a cash-only lifestyle.

Zero financial drag.
Lots of possibilities start coming into focus.
Lots of fun possibilities.
I think I might want to catch a swordfish.
On Jimmy Johnson’s boat.

Throughout this process we’ve kept talking, dreaming, reading, sharing, learning. As we continued to talk about our goals and dreams, we started to really drill down into what we wanted our life to look like and who we wanted to be. Our version of being debt free changed to include the House of Wales as well. We decided it was time to make the decision, do the hard thing (pack / move 713,000x boxes, yard sale (gag)), take our earned equity, and begin investing in earnest.

It’s a life rule: You have to do the hard thing before you get the good thing.

We’re behind in investing. Although I have one federal pension that I’m currently receiving (Coast Guard), and at some point I’ll have the state of Idaho pension (two lifetime pensions = dream), we have some really big plans for our future (have a I mentioned a week on a Cat cruising the Bahamas or the fifth wheel and monster truck with the train horn?) so we want to make sure we’re funding our dreams.

And we’re doing just that.

We’re learning all we can about investment options so that we can add more revenue streams for retirement. There are lots of ideas and choices, and we’re learning about liquid assets and index funds. The equity will be a really nice lump sum investment to get us started. If all goes as planned, we should do very well.

I know the planet suffers the occasional naysayer and joy-sucker. To them I say we’re using all the information we have to do the very best we can with what God has given us. The rest is up to Him. In the meantime we’re on the adventure of our lives.

Becoming non-homeowners is not for everyone, but it’s right for us at this point. Although it’s true I may miss getting tangled up in the rose bush (pokey F’er) or attacking the wood pile bees, the fact is we’re becoming more mobile. We have the Baby House in Mesa and we like being there as much as we can, especially during the Idaho winters. I’ve also reacquired my love for Naples Florida and Vermont cabins. It’ll be nice to know that we can turn down the condo heat, close the door, and go get some real maple syrup sans worries.

Our rent, even with all of the amenities, will be similar to what our mortgage was, and since we’re investing all of the profit, we’ll still be leveraging the compounding effect of our money in much the same way (8% annually?) a home might appreciate.

That’s exciting.

At 58 and I-robbed-the-cradle, Rachel and I are looking forward to being a little more unburdened. Without the duties of keeping a beautiful home beautiful, discretionary time will come back. There’s a mountain bike in the garage that’s been missing me, and a drum kit as well (get the band back together?). There are books I’m waiting to read, places I want to volunteer, side hustles that need hustling, and good non-bottom-shelf gin that needs ‘scrutinizing.’

Moving is hard (!) and funny (!), and there’s another blog coming about that with a guest author (!).

Lord the things we get ourselves into. What a ride!

It’s hard to imagine a better and more optimistic life.
Let’s gooooo!

Poolside Finances

One of our three pools

Rachel and I have been at the Baby House for some time now. We came down to deliver the Baby Car and to spend some time relaxing between the life changes we’re undergoing. We also wanted to experience summer life here; we weren’t sure we’d like the heat or the sparse park population. It’s been between 105-110 degrees most every day (Go ahead, say it: Yeah but it’s a dry heat, right?) and on some days the park resembles a scene from the movie I am Legend where we imagine being the last people on the planet.

Actually, we’re both a little surprised at how much we like it. We might even love it. Ok, we love it. Love it.

Mornings start early, sometimes because sunrise is around 5:30 and sometimes because the tree guys are 150 feet in the air trimming the palm trees before it gets too hot. The first hour or two is spent on the porch under the grapefruit tree with quiet coffee (friendly tree guys notwithstanding) and our choice of morning reading; right now for me it’s The Simple Path to Wealth. It’s helping me understand better the market and how index funds operate. It’s a very peaceful time. We whisper. Humming birds visit the grapefruit tree. Doves are on the roof. We try to refrain from anything that might evoke stress or a reactive mood: social media, news, etc.

After a bit I start my chores (bed, dishes). We hand wash the dishes here (Small confession: I love my Scrub Daddy) and then we make our way to whatever form of fitness we’ll do that day. Rachel has become addicted to morning pool laps and today set a new goal of 27. She also likes to get some meditation time in after her swim. Having the pool all to herself makes that a really cool option.

My own personal gym

I usually spend some time in the gorgeous onsite gym and then swing by one of the pools on the way back, We ride our bikes everywhere.

After that we try to each do one significant thing each day. Rachel found a great deal on a Cricut cutting machine and is currently cranking out cards for the November show. I’ve been catching up on reading, writing, and trimming the cactus that almost killed me last year (take that you prickly effer). I also spend time in the afternoons on my part-time summer job. It’s online so it works out great.

We swim two or three times a day, and are finding it a heavenly way to end the hot day and usher in the hot evenings. We take our floats and an adult beverage in a thermos (Thermos Martinis are the best!). Sometimes we meet a new neighbor that has come out to the oasis after the sun has an angle and some of the beat down has come off, and sometimes we have the whole pool to ourselves. We enjoy meeting new people and learning their stories of how they came to be here.

Last night our pool time also served as a perfect place for our mid-month financial meeting. We’re in our 7th month of a debt free pursuit and the September 30th 2020 date still holds, despite some significant changes (blessings) to Rachel’s career. We bring our life dreams (a week in the Bahamas on a Cat…with Thermos Martinis of course), we compare research, talk about alternate approaches to our goal, we celebrate our trophies and reinvest in the challenge. We talk about what we’re each going to gift ourselves with after we make it (Tim McGraw black cowboy hat!!). We play the Ok So What If We game and test the waters for other ideas that we’ve read about or heard about or thought about.

We also talked about a new free video series that I found from FMTV and how it’s changing the way we think and act. The 5 short videos are about food awareness, stress and they way it suppresses our immune system, how our thoughts create who we become (The one we watched last night), making sure our goals are aligned with our being, and the art of fulfillment. Sometimes my head hurts when we’re done watching one but the videos are rich with provocative information and we feel they’re time well spent.

Additionally, part of last night’s meeting was talking about ideas for the money I’ll make in my part time summer job. It won’t be alot; maybe $1K after taxes. It’s fun to put it in imaginary places and mentally run out the opportunity costs. We thought about investing but pulled that back; we really want to keep our eye on the debt free ball. We think now we’re going to add it to one of the closest debts and soon be able to add a very big trophy to the debt free trophy case.

Dreamcasting, visualizing, bettering, and talking about what our dream realized is going to feel like keeps us jazzed. Thermos Martinis and poolside finance meetings are pretty great too.

And here’s the best part: I don’t have to clean the pool.

We Pushed Pause

Rachel and I are learning all sorts of new things on our mid-life debt free journey. Sometimes the learning is fun and sometimes not so much. Like with all new adventures, there are things that are expected and things that aren’t (hence the term “adventure”). Even the best planned adventures are going to create surprises. 

We knew we’d need to be more aware of our finances. That was good; we wanted to be more aware. Although we are not subscribers to the “every single dollar must be accounted for” school of thought, we compared our income to outflow and set a goal that was seriously challenging: be debt free minus the mortgage by September 2020. We then broke that goal down according to the time we had to work with. We are having fun, working hard, conserving, stretching, and feeling the reward getting closer month by month. It’s happening!  

Recently, though, during our Saturday morning front-porch and coffee (FP&C) finance meeting, we had to make some changes. We both felt it coming but our competitive natures made it tough to admit. We didn’t really know if we wanted to make a change or even talk about making a change. The path looked a bit more precarious (and narrow) than was comfortable.

We were doing our best at hashing out our timelines, pay dates, asset arrangement, and monthly goals. I wish I could say we weren’t both getting a bit stressed (but we were). In order to stay on short term track, we were going to be cutting things really close.

Rachel has the opportunity to take a couple of unplanned trips in June. Her Gran in Oregon is turning 94 and she wants to be at the party. Additionally, our daughter works with an amazing company that allows her to bring a +1 to the June corporate retreat (this one is in California) for a very reduced cost, and our son in law can’t make it.

Additionally, although we sold our boat, I still want to do some fishing from the kayak this spring and getting caught without a license is a pretty stiff fine. We’re also missing the Baby House (badly), and want to make a trip down in July to relax and drop off the Baby Car.

During our FP&C talk I went to get the mail that had just been delivered. It was a pretty hefty stack of envelopes.

Lord.

What are the chances that 3 of our 4 vehicles all needed to be registered in June? I mean, c’mon, seriously right now? (You’d think the red “6” sticker on all the license plates might have tipped me off (you’d be wrong). 

Suddenly I felt like I was getting chased around the ring by Butterbean.

We both sighed. 

And sipped quietly. 

For a long time.    

Storm clouds were gathering.

Birds stopped singing. 

It was hard to breathe.    

I mentioned before that we don’t subscribe to eating only beans and rice until we’re debt free. We had decided when we started our debt free adventure that we were still going to do some things that mattered to us, despite the cost, like date night and keeping the house and yard nice. 

We also had some non-negotiables:

We were not going to adjust our giving

Everything is prepaid or we don’t go or do

The minimum checking account balance stays

We don’t touch savings  

Perhaps I had not done a completely comprehensive job of factoring in every possible cost. I own that. Maybe we started without fully estimating the year. That’s me too. Maybe we set the goals a little more aggressively than we should have.

After a little more reflection, I just grabbed the goal remote: Pause.

There (big breath. Silence). Ok. So.

Let’s take a break; a one month temporary pause from the full-speed-ahead goal pursuit. Just like watching a Netflix movie: let’s push pause and get a snack. We can use the cash that we would have applied to our debt-free pursuit towards making sure the trips are prepaid, our non-negotiables hold, and we enjoy a short-term respite and the fruits of our hard work (Baby House!). We can create a plan for the late summer months to redirect additional funds to get back on track (shouldn’t be too hard; we don’t have any more cars or grandmothers).

As soon the words were out, the birds returned to singing, the sun came back out, the air freshened, and the coffee magically reheated itself. We talked about it a bit more from different angles and decided it was a good move. We’ve been running pretty hard for 6 months and have made unbelievable progress, but sometimes in life you just need a little re-leveling; a return to homeostasis.

I’ve been pondering the events for about week. There was a time when I would have pushed to stay on track; damn the torpedoes, take the pain, get plumb mad-dog mean (how have you not seen that movie?), feel the burn, and all that. Perhaps a life of military service helps create that; meet the objective at any cost.

But at what risk?

The risk of breaking something that might be irrefixable (Rachelism). The risk of crashing the epic quest. The risk of losing the jazz, the fun, the pursuit, and the Trust. The risk of becoming the guy who wrecks all the intoxicated fun by using his tape measure during the block party cornhole game.

And that risk for what gain? One month? 30 days? We already have a plan to regain the time. The right to brag about the hard times we endured? Like anyone cares. What about 2 years from now when Gran has passed and Rachel could have gone to the party?

That’s the stuff nightmares (and life-long regrets) are made of.

No (sorry Clint). None of that is why we chose to get debt-free. This adventure into the good shouldn’t feel like penance. It should build a sense of expectancy, anticipation, and optimism, which it has. It should make life more enjoyable, not less. Self-denial needs to happen, but even that is more like trading short term pleasures for long term (life-long) benefits.

Bending the rules is adventure. Breaking something is regret.

I have to be honest though. I am a little afraid that if we let up we won’t get back to it. But after examination, that fear is unfounded and irrational, and must be addressed as such. Fear is one of those “yeah but what if” things that can run you ragged, become larger than it should be, and create stagnation in middle age. Sometimes us middle-agers might need to do some things just to stay comfortable with change. It’s ok to move forward and be afraid at the same time.

I’m glad we pushed pause. The drive down through the desert to Mesa is pretty. We’ll ride along and listen to podcasts and argue over Dr. Laura’s advice. We’ll stay at the Hoover Damn Lodge where Rachel plays blackjack with a virtual dealer. I’ve picked out some secluded spots where I bet the big bass are hiding. It’s not every day that you get to eat birthday cake with your 94 year old Gran, or sneak away to a cool Cali hotel with your daughter.

All of it: memories waiting to be made.

I’m glad I didn’t break anything. Those movie snacks are the best.