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.

Welcome to Middle Age Mark

Our Journey Begins, and boy are we excited!

It’s always nice to welcome someone when you first see them, especially when they come to your place; so, Welcome! Come in! I’m glad you’re here! Kick off the shoes, set down the load, rest the dogs.

Us!

I’m Mark, and that little hot thing I’ve got my arm around is my wife Rachel. Our full time home, or “The Big House,” is in the high-desert northwest. We’re on one-heck-of-a-cool journey, and I thought I’d enjoy writing about it as we go. 

Blogging is new for me, like so many other things these days. I’m at a stage in life where documenting our adventures sounded like fun. The aforementioned adventure-journey is one of self-discovery, self-improvement, the pursuit of financial independence, and just plain figuring out who we want to be and what we want to do for the 3rd act of life.

Teaching an online class

A bit about me: I served 20+ years in the U.S. Coast Guard, and then had several shorter stints like hospice, insurance, and building cell towers. I now enjoy working in online public school education as a Master Teacher. After 13 years, it’s still a fascinating profession and always earns me the “…huh?” look when I tell people what I do. My “classroom” and meetings are virtual, and I get to work from home.

How cool is that? Yeah, I know. 

I divide my time when not working between maintaining The Big House, reading, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, riding my cool vintage Shadow, staying fit, enjoying a good martini (gin of course, and yes those last two can go together), drumming, and summers in our better-homes-and-garden back yard. I have a small side project in fitness coaching, too.

Resort De Plummer. We spend much of our summers here

Rachel is in medical management / consulting and she’s really good at what she does. She’s a consistent reliable source of good ideas, wisdom, healthy cooking, and killer one-liners. She gets jazzed by numbers (?) and loves spreadsheets (??), which comes in very handy when we’re strategizing on finances. 

Rachel started a little side project a year ago, making personalized greeting cards in the renovated basement / art studio. We’re getting ready to do a few small trade shows to test the market.

Check out the creative talent!

We spend most every evening talking. Rachel gets home from her commute and I get out of the home office, we make a drink, and depending on the time of year, we either float in the pool or sit in front of the fire, talking about our day, things we read or heard, things we’re learning, hopes, dreams, plans, appointments – you get the idea. It’s our thing and my favorite part of the day (not just because of the martini, but I can’t say it’s not an aspect).

In January of 2019 we joined the ranks of the Financial Independence (FI) (FIRE) movement. That term can wear many hats depending on who you talk to, but for us it means being debt free with the exception of the mortgage and being able to leverage that freedom. Debt sucks and it’s a drag on life, literally. 

We recently purchased a small vacation home in Mesa, Arizona (read: 640 sq. foot “Baby House” with a nice porch and our very own grapefruit tree). It’s in a cool resort where the people are even more cool and there’s tons of things to do. We’re in the beginning stages of downsizing. We sold the boat, the camper, and the roll-top desk. It was all part of our move towards being debt free, which we are aggressively pursuing.

The Baby House!

Once we achieve zero debt, which is scheduled for September 30, 2020, our plan is to invest more heavily and be able to make some really cool decisions about the next phase of our adventure. (And by cool decisions, I mean a week for two on a chartered catamaran sans shoes, shirt, and worries. Or maybe a big fifth wheel, pulled by a big Ford 350 diesel, with a giant air horn, exploring the country. All prepaid in cash of course).

Retire is not a word that Rachel or I like. We both picture a crumb-filled recliner that tilts to one side and daytime TV. We like better the idea of being free to choose cool new ways to live life. We get jazzed about the thought of doing what we want to do, when and where we want to do it (like chartering a catamaran). It might even mean still working, doing something we’re passionate about. When it comes down to it, we’re happiest feeling useful and engaged.    

Aside from financial achievements and cool dreams, my perspectives on things are changing as I enter mid life. At 57, some might say old age (do we even use that term any more, or did I just illustrate my old-age?), but people are living longer and staying healthier (both of which I plan to do), so I’m choosing to view my 50’s, 60′ and 70’s as middle age. Who’s with me?! 57 is the new 33!

Age brings with it experience, and experience hopefully brings reflection and learning. Learning allows for better choices and more cool new adventures without the “oops,” or as least with fewer and less painful “oops’s.” 

Age also helps sift life down to the essential and important things, and it’s easier to focus on direction. It allows for a better sense of who I am and who I want to continue to be. 

As Rachel said recently during one of our talks, “I like who I am. It’s working pretty well for me right now. I like where it’s taking me.” I could not agree more. 

So, that’s kind of where we are and where we’re going. Thanks for reading; your time is valuable. Writing makes me happy, and maybe I can use this venue to help share some cool ideas and discoveries as we wend our way along this journey. I welcome you in. Lose the shoes. Stay as long as you’d like.