Monthly Archives: April 2015

Early Retirement vs Living for Today

Early Retirement: Coming Out
As we slowly come out of the closet, friends and family express surprise and even disbelief at our plan to have James retire from work at 45. People know we have rental properties, that I wrote a book on saving money, and that we chose not to have kids. They also know I never earned big money in my employment and that we are not big spenders, typically an indication that funds are limited since most people live up to their means (and many beyond it). I suspect that people figured we were doing well enough but the idea that we might retire so early probably never crossed their minds.

Seize Today
Everyone follows different life paths and no one path is right or best. Very good friends of ours have built successful and fulfilling careers in education which has allowed them summers off. With a shared love for international travel, they have used their annual summer breaks to pursue the most amazing trips everywhere from Tibet to Africa, Iran to China, Iceland to Peru. I always follow their incredibly insightful travel blog with great admiration, traveling vicariously with them, knowing full well that I am both too frugal and too fearful to follow their path. Yet they have chosen an amazing, full and happy life, where they both love their careers and seize today, recognizing that you never know what tomorrow may bring.

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Love the Taj Mahal but never been there.

A Full & Happy Life
Many other friends are living the dream: two full-time working parents to afford a starter house, pop out 2 or 3 kids and buy a bigger house to fit them, all while driving two newer cars and enjoying multiple vacations each year. It is a very full and happy life centered around the joys of parenthood, challenging and successful careers and, in the best case scenario, money enough to buy all the toys, trips and dinners out they want. This traditional path still appeals to many and it is not right or wrong. It helps to enjoy the work you do, since you will spend a lot of time doing it. It also helps to be a high energy person since it takes a lot of effort to have it all, as any working parent will tell you. This path wasn’t right for us: we never had the desire to have children of our own and our careers were not satisfying enough to want to stay at them any longer than necessary.

Delaying Gratification & Building our Business
The path we chose has been one of delayed gratification. Not to say that we haven’t enjoyed our lives, but we found ways to enjoy life that didn’t cost a fortune: walks in the forest instead of at the mall; ordering water instead of wine at restaurants (while still enjoying a bottle of wine at home); buying last season’s clothes off the sales rack at the back of the store instead of the latest styles upfront; going camping and canoe tripping instead of annual 5-star package vacations. How much money we chose to spend was not based on how much we had. We have enjoyed life for sure, but splurging has been an occasional treat, not the constant goal. We were making do with what we had.

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Out for a free dog walk with friends at a local park in April 2009.

Most importantly, with our spare time, we were pursuing our rental property business. Buying multi-family homes, making improvements as we had opportunity, dealing with appliance breakdowns and water leaks, and endlessly placing new tenants as the previous ones moved on, took up a good portion of our “leisure time”. So many friends and acquaintances said they wanted to invest in rental properties too but then qualified the statement with, “but I can’t because…” or simply never took the plunge.

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One of our rental properties after I painted the exterior doors and porch, upgraded the glass insert in the front door and had the roof redone.

The Risk We Have Taken
Our path isn’t any better than the paths others have chosen. It was right for us and though it wasn’t always easy, we were able to follow it. It is certainly a risk: not having children could lead to regrets later in life and has meant missing out on many wonderful experiences parents enjoy; working more and spending less while we were younger assumes we will live long enough to reap the benefits: there are no guarantees on this one. Selling our house and most of our things to live and travel in a small RV may prove more difficult than we anticipate. Retiring younger on a lower income from a well-paying job is something we may regret later in life if we find we don’t have enough funds to do all the things we want to do.

Yet, for better or for worse, it is our path and we are doing our best to walk it with our eyes wide open. We’ve earned our way and we are excited to be on the cusp of retirement and ready explore long-term in our RV. We hope it will all be worth it!

The Disconnect between the Now & the Not Yet

“But I’m caught in between the now and the not yet: sometimes it seems like forever and ever that I’ve been reaching to be all that I am but I’m only a few steps nearer… yet I’m nearer!”
Amy Grant, The Now and the Not Yet, Straight Ahead album, 1984

A Strange Disconnect
While this decision to go full-timing may seem to have come up suddenly, the truth is that we have been living a lie. This idea has been formulating in our brains for years but we kept it to ourselves. I am a big believer in not announcing publicly grand plans of what you are “going to do” years in advance, for the simple reason that you never know what life holds. But keeping it quiet created a strange disconnect for us, where we acted like everything was normal when we knew soon everything was going to change.

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Acting normal at a Christmas dinner with friends in Dec 2014 – not time to say anything yet but it is always on our minds.

Our Long Lead Time
Our timeline to escape to FT RV living was long since we are also retiring from employment to do it. Workcampers or “Location Independent Professionals” often make the transition to FT RV life in the time it takes them to become remote employees or start a new mobile business. Our plan included continuing to focus on our savings while setting up the rental properties that would ultimately fund our retirement. Figuring out when James could comfortably leave his job involved complex spreadsheets and detailed budgets that over time showed us this thing we were contemplating was in fact possible.

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Hanging with friends and still acting normal in Dec 2014. We broke the news to this amazing group of friends at the same Christmas potluck one year later.

The past several years have allowed us plenty of time to research our plan by reading the many FT RV blogs online. Yet the process of learning about this incredible community of nomads has only increased the huge disconnect between our lives now and how we envision ourselves. It’s not unlike the disjointed sense I felt in my final years of employment at the insurance office: a bottom tax-bracket position that increasingly did not make sense as my rental business responsibilities and our wealth grew. I saw myself as a semi-retired/self-employed person of means, and yet I slogged away as a customer service representative. Yet my tenure in low-pay insurance sales did finally end and our wealth, rather than stagnating, grew even faster as I invested my new found free-time in improving our rentals for even greater income and capital appreciation.

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Out of the closet (and in our jammies) one year later in December 2015. What a relief to finally share our big plans with our good friends!

Freedom From Work, Freedom to Travel
When life goes on the same way for so long, it can be difficult to believe it will ever change. But when changes finally do start to happen, you realize that maybe your crazy dreams can come true. There isn’t a morning I wake up and don’t remember the blessing it is to not have to go to the office. I never take it for granted: it is the best thing in the world and worth more than any luxury car, McMansion or designer clothes. To me, being rich is being in control of my time. But the next step is to get James out of his job for his mental and physical well-being. Once we are both retired from employment, then we can exchange our sticks and bricks home for the means to travel. Ultimately these are the 2 main reasons for our FTRV plan: to free James from the stress of his job and to explore this beautiful continent!

Finally Changes Are Happening: New Tow Vehicle
So finally something happened: after 3 years with our trailer Nellie parked at a seasonal campground, we bought a tow vehicle!

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Taking delivery of our new to us 2011 Honda Odyssey EX minivan from the Honda dealer in Barrie, Ontario April 2015. We rode 2 up on the motorcycle to pick it up!

We had waited because we were saving up for our FT RV goal: our car wasn’t done yet and the longer we waited, the newer the tow vehicle would be when we make the leap. Plus, seasonal RV life is a great experience in it’s own right, albeit one very different from nomadic adventures. Our seasonal campground location is ideal – just over an hour from home, 20 minutes to the beach with a huge array of destinations and activities within a short drive. But I will admit, the third season was tough. We were definitely ready to hit the road, yet unable to do so. Now that we have our Honda Odyssey van Eddie equipped with a class 3 hitch receiver and top of the line weight distribution hitch, brake controller and transmission cooler, we are actually able to travel.

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Shiny new hitch and receiver installed by Can Am in London, Ontario May 2015.

Telling the Truth
My plan is by taking some longer trips, we can test drive this new RV lifestyle. No longer just dreaming, we can get out there and live it, at least for a few weeks at a time. While these will be short-term trips, we want to approach them not as vacations but as life on the road as retirees on a budget. We can test out our boondock capabilities in terms of solar vs generator use, gain practice in managing our on-board water supplies, and experience accessing different kinds of overnight camping/parking opportunities. In the process, we can stop living a lie and start telling the truth: that we are towing our RV on great adventures on our way to becoming full-time RVers!