Life in Kansas City – Downsizing and Family Time

May and June have been busy months as we occupied our time with family and getting the homestead ready to sell.  For those already on the road I’m sure this will bring back memories. For those thinking about, or in the clutches of preparing for a life on the road, my advise is get started as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this in less than a couple years.  Although the prize of freedom is quit large and certainly is a motivator.

Officially I’ve left our take off date as November 1, 2019. However we got to thinking; does it really make sense to leave as winter is starting? Especially as we want to see family in what would be colder climates before Karen and I crawl off into our winter hibernation in a deep southern state. That date of November 1 will more than likely be adjusted up a little.  Recently Karen and I have began talking at a very conceptual level about what we want to do the first couple months on the road. More on that later for sure.

For two years now, family has gotten together for a three night campout at Pomme de Terre State Park and Lake. Ninety degree weather each day was a bit hard to endure but we found ways to make it work. Such as building a tent city under the best shaded spots. I gave our tent to a nephew once the trip was over. No need for it next year as we will have our fifth wheel by then – and air conditioning!

Start of Tent City

Add on eating area. We also had three other spots full of tents and family.

Setting Jug Lines for Fishing

Ringo Likes the Water

Back at home I’ve been working to over-haul the front yard landscaping. Building curb appeal I’m hoping. Two years ago the front yard grass was re-seeded and this last spring I spent a lot of time controlling weeds to build the yard up.  I cut out all the overgrown bushes and tilled the planting beds. I’ve been driving by my favorite plant store waiting for plants to go on sale and finally scored a 50% off deal for a trunk load of replacement plants. We have 13 planting beds scattered through-out the property and along our wooded walking trail. Those are looking good as well. Most importantly, we have been spending time enjoying the place as much as possible.

I’ve also been painting on various sides of the house over the last couple years and have a contractor coming in to help with the two-story side. Karen has always taken photos around the property, especially when the flowers and trees are in bloom. A couple years ago I started adding to the collection in an attempt to capture the hills behind and in front of the home in photos. Our plan is to print off the best photos for an album which we are going to leave out for potential buyers to view. The scenery changes so much with each season that I’m thinking it would be a good idea to document it.

Hills out back with no leaves on trees.

Zoomed in view from the front yard.

And the purge continues. I gave myself a goal to complete four major tasks before purchasing our truck, preferably by around September. Well the first of four is done as the hot tub was carted off by it’s new owner last Friday.
We have a list of contractors to call, such as our alarm guy to move and repair some connections, carpet guys and such. Contractors should speed things up a bit.  The plan is to finish all the outside work before winter so we only have to spruce the yard up before the house goes on the market. Over this winter we are finishing up the inside stuff. Next month is our first of at least two garage sales and we have been selling off more expensive items on Craigslist.

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Ram Truck Options

Eventually I’ll have a chance to test drive the Ram. Maybe this fall I’ll let you know if we go with the Ford or Ram and which truck trim package. For now, I’d like to discuss the build options available in the Ram. I’ve already written about in the Ford. I’ll not be writing about the Chevy/GMC.

It’s important to pass along from what I’m reading, the next generation Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks will be coming out in 2020.  The next generation 1500 trucks are out in 2019 and there are plenty of photos to find on the internet. As of today, I’ve not found any confirmed photos of the next 2500/3500 generation trucks. And of course, Ford came out with their next generation truck in 2017.

2019 on the left and 2018 on the right. Wonder if the New 2500/3500 design will copy the 1500 series truck?

I intentional skipped a few options the Ram had in common with the Ford which were covered in my Ford options blog post last month.

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Life in Kansas City – Graduations and Last Events

Karen and I are busy enjoying life around our home and with family. I’ll get back to truck discussions soon as I’ve started preparing a post about the Ram truck options, hoping to gather input from others.  We have been mildly busy downsizing, posting more expensive items on Craigslist and considering our first of probably two garage sales. More on that later.

There are life choices that  become our achievements and add to the public welfare or not. We can spend 30 years in a job, doing good for others and improving our community. Unfortunately, most of our role and notoriety goes away, fading into dim memories once we retire from it. I’ve been watching friends leave the workforce and thinking back about those long gone. Attending volunteer meetings, committees and public events that are now becoming part of the past. I think about life’s achievements and what parts are truly long lasting and something to be proud of. I agree with a last piece of advice I received from my Uncle Don – I should have said no to a lot of things and spent time elsewhere. Guess in a way I’m following the advice and moving on. Darn glad Karen is taking the plunge with me. She has a survivor’s personality and is the strength in that category between the two of us. Fearless…

Here is a photo of a group of retired co-workers who were part of my first lessons on the job. I was invited to attend one of their regular luncheons. What a great group of guys. Many retired years ago and now sit around telling war stories. I have no plan to be part of a similar lunch group. It’s the open road for me, never slowing down to leave deep roots in one place. Experiencing the next part of the journey with my wife. This is more important now than going back in time to relish in the accomplishments which meant a lot at the time and little in the future.

Proud Parents – Fantastic Child

Here is a photo of what means the most and perhaps is the only legacy that will give back to our community for years to come. Catherine is her name and graduating with her master’s degree was the game. I have no doubt she is busy right now making a difference in other’s lives and setting a fine example that will be passed along to the next generation. I’m proud she thinks for herself. Together with her husband their future is bright. How wonderful it is to have no fear for your child’s future which someday will be without her mom and me. Even for shorter periods of months and someday when Karen and I make that journey from which no one returns. Smart girl; taking time after she graduated from college with her under-graduate degree (a double major) to find a career path and then moving on to post-graduate study in a field she enjoys. Really like the fact the school loans are paid off as well!  Now try and beat your mom and I by becoming debt free before 55!  Had to throw that lesson in. One never stops being a parent.


Here is a photo of a recent family get together. What jumps out at me the most are those that are not in the photo. Which happens to be the entire generation of family before myself, sisters and brother. Among those in the photo are the faces of nieces, nephews and their friends. It was not that long ago when I and my siblings were part of the children and young adults in a family photo. Those days are no more. What a great group of young family. They are all making a difference in this world for the best. In about 30 years this young group will write their own stories. And those stories will no doubt include thinking back when they were the young ones in the photo and what was the older generation’s part in setting them up to better meet life’s challenges. By the way, they will also oversee how well, or not, we live as old people. Now I wish we had done even more for their future success.

And here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to for perhaps the last time or season. Well, at least while living in this house and perhaps forever. The yard and gardens are looking wonderful this year. This time next year it will all be for sale. It’s odd how when one gets ready to make a major move we think about this being the last time to do something, for good or bad.  For the gardeners out there, who may travel from fantastic place to place in their RV – I hope these photos make you as jealous as I get looking at your photos of mountains and lakes.

 

And above are photos of how life regenerates itself in the form of buildings. Our ancestors stacked the bricks that make up our town. Those buildings they invested so heavily in became in disrepair as if no one ever cared after those fellow citizens moved along on their own next journey. Thank you to the generation who built the national parks, scenic roadways and community we all enjoy today. The building on the left is a revitalized hotel, called the Oaks. Restored to its prior beauty and now houses people 55 years of age and older. And the hotel on the right, which happens to be on the opposite side of the road from the Oaks, is known as the Royal Hotel. If you look closely, a tree is growing from a window. I recall spending time on the top floor, overlooking the city in its café.  A joyful memory from the past which those in the future may now be able to experience. The Royal has been purchased and is to be restored. Well, maybe, in a small way, being on the planning and zoning committee meant something.

If Tom Brokaw really thinks the Great Depression and World War II generation is the “greatest generation” then he is wrong. I don’t mean to be disrespectful and certainly not unthankful. But without much effort I can think of a half-dozen events during the so called greatest generation that were not that great for the next generation. No worries, we have all done it. Fortunately, through experience passed on to our young families there is always a chance to make things better. I have no doubt our daughter, nephew and nieces will make up for our mistakes. When I think hard about it, those millennials are not the creators of problems any more than the baby boomers like myself. Or the “greatest generation” who might have referred to males with long hair as hippies. Need I remind them that judging by the images of Jesus Christ – he also had long hair.

Test Drive – 2018 Ford F350 Lariat

As luck would have it, a friend (Jeff) bought a 2018 Ford F350 Lariat diesel dually a few months ago.   Jeff had been wanting to drop it off at our house for the weekend to give me a chance to play with it – what a nice guy!  The only thing better than owning a truck like this is having one you can borrow.  So today I drove over to Jeff’s home as his wife Ester had a few questions about Microsoft Windows 10. After a couple hours of computer training I asked for the keys to his truck and off I went.

Santa Fe Trail Map
Bonus that Jeff lives next to Fort Osage (Lewis and Clark thing) down scenic roads that were once part of the Santa Fe Trail just 35 miles from our home. Nice place to test drive his truck I’d have to say.

I have owned two F150 4×4 trucks with the 5.7 gas engine and drove an older F250 diesel all of about three miles in the past.  That’s the extent of my pickup truck experience. I had been worried this monster F350 long bed truck would be intimidating. Well, in about five minutes I discovered it drives just about like every other truck I’ve driven.  It was not overwhelming at all.  I had been worried the power of the truck would cause it to lurch from a stop as I pressed on the accelerator pedal which was not the case. Yes, the back of the truck was distant. The monitor for the backup camera was large and crisp to view. I felt 100% comfortable backing the monster truck.

The seats were more comfortable than I had remembered sitting in at the auto show. They would not be a problem for long drives.  The steering wheel, seats and pedals were highly adjustable leading me to believe Karen would have no problem driving this truck as well. I really don’t want to sentence myself to driving her around everywhere for years on end, so adjustability of the driver’s position is important.

Like so many others, I watch all the YouTube video I can find to include test drives. I’ve never counted on the audio portion of the videos to reflect what the actual sound levels are in the truck. I can tell you this Ford truck was quiet as a passenger car inside.  The diesel engine outside was remarkably quiet to me as well. Really was impressed with that.

Yup, the ride was bumpier than our luxury car, my work SUV and such. But, it was not unbearable nor constant. What I did notice was this Ford’s turn radius – sucked.  Turning the wheel to enter his driveway at a 90-degree angle was not as bad as the old days with no power steering. But as I turned I felt the need to crank the wheel hard during the turn, thinking for a moment I was glad to have turned wide to avoid a light pole at the corner of the drive. Jeff said the Ram truck he drove has a tighter turn radius and his 2016 F250 turns on a dime. He came by my office a week ago. A road crew was working on a corner, thereby temporarily narrowing the lane for vehicles to pass. He told me he went around the block rather than trying to make a tight turn into a narrow space. I’d not eliminate the Ford just because of this. I had  never driven an F350/3500 class truck so don’t place much weight on my opinion regarding truck turning abilities.

A few people have posted in various truck forums one reason they eliminated this all new in 2017 Ford truck from their list is all the plastic in the interior. Well – I say BS.  Yes, it has a few hard surfaces, but the rest is soft in all the right places.  I must disagree with their opinion. At least in the Lariat trim package which, judging by the number of Ford trucks for sale online, is the most popular of all trims.

Jeff’s truck has all the electronic options he could get to include a way fancy trailer towing camera setup.  I did not have much of a chance to play with most of it. I did notice when the backup camera came on, a small truck picture showed up in the frame as if I could see if I was going to hit anything at any corner. I was most wanting to see the blind spot warning system.  Way cool. The sensors are on the outside of the rear tail lights. This is one feature I understand the 2020 Ram 3500 may add. The blind spot warning includes sensing other vehicle next to you – 35’ down the side of a trailer. I told Jeff a reader commented his blind spot sensor did not work with his trailer. Jeff tows a wide body toy hauler trailer and said the blind spot warning works perfect with his trailer. This must be an advantage when one is entering the highway on a ramp or needed to switch lanes quickly. As I began to back out of his driveway a vehicle passed behind the truck. Well in advance of the other car passing, the system set off a warning. I could see that being nice when backing out of a parking spot at the grocery store.

I forgot to ask Jeff what gear ratio he got with the truck. No need anyway. Unlike the Ram and Chevy trucks The Ford F350 dually has less of a chance of someone selecting the wrong transmission and gear ratio for a heavier fifth wheel. This turbo diesel has one automatic transmission to select from and conventional fifth wheel tow capacity is 27,500 pounds with a 4.10 gear and 27,300 with a 3.55 gear.

I have to say, I like the idea this is the second year for the all new Ford. Better chance of finding a used one in the next generation configuration. By the way, in my opinion Chevy’s television commercials where they throw a tool box in the back of Ford’s aluminum bed is BS.  Look closely; the metal tool box they are throwing is an antique. I’m sure they had to buy a heavy metal tool box at a garage sale. And anyone that does that to their truck deserves a hole in their truck bed. I’ll bet the factory bed liner helps a bit as well – and excluded from the Chevy commercials. And if you are worried the engine will outlast the body, I’d have to think aluminum will hold up better in the long-term because it does not rust. I’ve wrote it before that if any one manufacturer thinks they are the best then why are the warranties the same for important features like the engine and transmission?

I played with the fully electric tow mirrors on the truck. Ford is said to have the best mirrors. Jeff says the Ram truck mirrors reach out further. I sure like the idea of hitting a button inside the Ford to extend or fold the mirrors in. The view down the side of the truck was exceptional.

Sitting on the floor of his garage was a B&W Companion fifth wheel hitch. What a monster piece of engineering. The thing looked tuff with its huge jaws. Jeff says you can hitch up and unhitch easily even when the trailer is not level in a spot as if the fifth wheel pin was binding up at the hitch. Not a problem with B&W. He also looked at the Curt for all of 10 seconds. He said it just did not seem to be as well built as the B&W. Then again these hitches are rated for certain weights and I’m sure both hitches would be fine, as would many others for the weights we are looking at.  Jeff offered me a chance to lift the two hitch parts, those being the head and base. The head of the hitch has handles and was easy to lift. The base was heavier. I could lift it myself, but two persons would be better. Jeff said no worries moving the hitch from the truck with the F350 because it has old man stairs mounted inside the truck tailgate. Those stairs are another exceptional feature exclusive to the Fords.

These are the features I was most interested in testing out. Online videos do a better job of describing the finer details. I came away with feeling if anyone has driven a pickup truck for any length of time, the F350 diesel dually will not be intimidating to operate. I could not find any single reason not to buy this truck. Lee over on the Campers Chronicles blog may have the best approach for evaluating the details. I recall him writing once that it’s easier to look for the suckier parts.  For me, maybe feeling like the truck would not make real sharp turns or the brakes did not feel as responsive as a passenger car could be called the suckier parts in my humble and somewhat inexperienced opinion.

Here in a few weeks I’m going to call a buddy with a Ram dually. Better than test driving one at a dealership and being pestered to buy it. Oh, forgot to add I hit it lucky. Jeff’s son tows a fifth wheel trailer for a job.  Can’t believe I might be getting some towing lessons from someone I’ve known since he was four feet tall!

Here are a few internet links of interest:

Super Ike Gautlent by Fast Lane Truck for 2018.  Ram barely won over the Ford. They wanted to get as close to maxed out tow ratings as possible. The Chevy cannot pull these weights, so they were left out of the test.

Roads Less Traveled blog is the best for the Ram and general discussion of selecting a truck.

B&W Hitch has a neat page on their website to figure out what the tow ratings are for individual trucks. Of course, you can also surf the web to find the manufacturers charts. Or go to RV Tow Check if you really want to play with the numbers.

All this is most important to me because we are buying the truck before the trailer and I’d hate to make any mistakes. And that includes getting the right options such as fifth wheel prep on the truck which includes the puck systems that are pre-installed for hitches. These systems are a series of holes in the truck bed in which the hitch is mounted, making it easier to remove the hitch when you need to haul stuff flat in the truck bed. I’d be scared to buy the truck before the trailer other than we already know the top five trailers we are selecting from and their weights. Also, a one-ton dually diesel will pull anything in our top 16 trailer choices with plenty of room for moving to a heavier trailer later if configured appropriately. And has the cargo capacity for the pin weights were are considering. One best be nervous if you are looking at buying a single rear wheel truck before the trailer decision because of pin weight.

Ford F350 Truck Options

We all know (and sometimes dread) those emails or blog posts that are laced with questions, some of which warrant a reply or comment. The hard part is reading the entire post while remembering what you might want to write as a reply without taking notes. Well, this is one of those posts.  I’ll apologize up front.  If you’re inclined to comment, feel free to just go after anything that’s way out of line or invokes a strong opinion. I should also add I’ll not be commenting about the F450 truck.

I can’t recall it ever being such a challenge to buy the right vehicle. Perhaps knowing the truck purchase would be a “final” decision in terms of what we live with long-term, caused the decision to take on a new meaning. And of course, adding on the need to tow a huge fifth wheel safely, eventually over thousands of miles in all kinds of weather has a little bit to do with overthinking the purchase. After years of owning two vehicles, we are moving to just one to share as a tow vehicle and daily driver.

I had planned a couple times to post in detail about selecting a gear ratio but decided not to bore you with it. I parked those notes over on this truck page and included a few brief comments below. If you know what a “gear ratio” is then some of what follows in this post might be elementary. For me, it’s been a learning curve for sure.

I’ve had quit the dialog via email with several readers that have been very helpful. Thank you!

As you may recall, I’ve already decided to look at 2017/2018 Ford F350 and Ram 3500 trucks. If I had an unlimited budget, selecting options would be easier. For this post I’ll cover the Ford truck options I’m considering. Should we decide on the Ford, I’ll let our budget dictate if we buy the very popular Lariat model or less popular XLT. If we can’t find a truck equipped with most of what we want, we may have to order it new. With the options I’d want, there is about a $6,000 difference between the XLT (cloth seats) and Lariat (leather seats) trim packages.

2017 Ford Trucks

Before getting into the list of options to consider, here are a few Ford questions for the benefit of us soon to be new – first time diesel truck owners.

  1. Heavy Service Front Suspension Package? Yes or no when pulling trailers under 19,000 pounds? I understand the option is for heavy-service front springs that will degrade ride quality. I’ve read a few forum posts but still don’t understand when one might want this option. Seems like this option is geared towards snow plows and truck campers or when you expect to tow a trailer that is near the capacity the truck is rated to pull.
  2. Individual Trailer TPMS/Trailer Camera Prep Kit? At $750/$1375 this option adds tire pressure monitoring for your trailer tires. This option forces you to also add a high mounted camera option (if not already equipped) that has a view of the truck bed that could be handy for hitching up the fifth wheel. It also upgrades the screen display size on the center of the dash to Sync 3 (if not already equipped). I’m thinking it might be nice to limit the number of gadgets one has attached to the truck dashboard or wherever. This includes a standalone system for monitoring trailer tire pressure which is 100% something one needs to monitor. But, some of the aftermarket devises also monitor tire temperature so you know a problem is coming as the tires heat up. I jumped on Amazon to price out a system for the 10 tires a dually truck and double axle fifth wheel would need and generally found they start at $405 with temperature monitoring. Another confusing option. Just a quick reminder. Get metal valve stems that are more durable!
  3. Skid plates for fuel tank and transfer case protection? It’s only $100 but do you really need it if you are not figuring on any heavy off-road travel?
  4. Engine ideal shut down? Okay, what the heck is this all about. The option comes in three values ranging from five to 20 minutes. Is it okay to idle diesel engines for long periods? Does this option just turn the truck off in case you forget? And if so, when would you want it shut down in 5 minutes, 10, 15 or 20 minutes?
  5. Operator command regeneration? I added this question because it’s yet another diesel engine thingy for those of us who never owned a diesel can find confusing. I understand regeneration burns off soot in the particulate filter. I read this is button you can push if a warning light comes on. It also has a feature to prevent regeneration if you’re sitting on grass and you don’t want to burn your truck. The Ford website says contact the dealership for details. Okay.. I’ve read it’s a bad thing to allow the soot to build up. The filters are expensive and the truck limps along if there is a problem. Thank goodness for owner’s manuals, I for one am going to need to read it!

 

warning sign     (Warning opinions ahead)

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Downsizing – Sold Some Guns

If you want to motivate yourself while getting ready to leave for a future in an RV, sell something!  It works for me. I sit around thinking about what stuff we must get rid of and it seems overwhelming. Then I finally get off the couch and get it done. Each time I sell something it feels like I accomplished something. It’s a little hard to explain the feeling. It’s kind of liberating to sell items off, especially the stuff we have not used for a long time. I got to tell ya, if you have years to wait in your own journey to going full-time, I’d sell something now just for the emotion of it.

I used to be a bird hunter so had the nice shotgun to go with that. I’ve had the need for various handguns I use when not at work (that’s seems like a strange comment when I read it again). They change the policy on weapon types and ammunition caliber we can carry when off-duty, so I had a couple guns laying around.  Sold it all!

I’ve been wanting to purchase a new Glock model 43 which is a single-stack 9mm. It’s on the “approved list” for off-duty carry. I told myself I’d not buy one until I sold off all the other guns. Ya, it’s adding back something to get rid of later, or not.  But waiting to buy the new gun motivated me to sell the others. And law enforcement gets a major discount using the blue label purchase program available from Glock. Thought I should take advantage of that while I can. I’m not wanting to start a thread covering if someone should have a gun when on the road in an RV. That’s a personal decision. I’ve heard some very good arguments that just having bear spray is enough. For you gun enthusiasts, I want to let you know I was leery about going to a 9mm because of the ballistic qualities. Our weapons people at work say the new ammunition is outstanding and I agree 9mm weapons are a easier to shoot because of reduced recoil. Area departments here are making major moves back to the 9mm from the 40 caliber. Enough of that.

In deciding to sell off my other guns, I investigated several paths. Selling them online, to friends or whatever. I’ve decided not to sell any handguns to private individuals and to just go through a gun dealer. Here in Missouri the gun laws, especially for selling them, are liberal. What I did was research the gun values online and went to a local reputable gun store that buys used guns. I figured they would ask what I wanted for them. I’d figured out what they might sell for if I sold to an individual. I gave the dealership a price equal to 2/3 of that price and they excepted the offer.  Off I went with my check and my new 9mm gun thrown into the deal.

On another subject, I’ve been working on a couple blog posts regarding truck options for Rams and Fords. Our purchase will come only after a few other items are first sold (there’s that motivation to get it done again). During my hunt for a truck I’ve made a few decisions on what optional equipment I’d like to get in a truck.  I’m still thinking about an article regarding clothing to have for full-time RV living. And I’d thought about a post on avoiding extreme weather situations. But most of that just got covered by the  Hebard’s Travels Blog. For all you current full-timers, I for one could use a little more advise for dealing with the dangers of extreme weather and certainly how to handle it if your stuck in it!  Perhaps that’s an idea for your own blog post!

Financial Decisions

Updating our financial plan annually has become much easier since the major overhaul in 2014 when Karen and I decided our future was going to be in an RV. It was encouraging to see in print where we had made quit a lot of progress over this past year. And there were a few decided and pending decisions I can highlight for your review and input. If you’re really into the topic, just go to the blogs financial category for past thoughts. I’m happy to report we are still on track for my “retirement” date of November 1, 2019. Actually, it might be the last day of October, so I can setup retirement benefits to begin on the first of the month. Here are a few comments regarding our plan as it stands today:

Be Conservative

Keeping estimates reasonable has been in our plan for not only estimated expenses, but also income and the value of assets we are selling. I know our current effective income tax rate is lower than what I’ve estimated. I’m still planning for federal and state taxes at the same rate as during our “working years”.  I’ve included state income tax among our expenses knowing we will domicile in a state with none.

Other examples of being conservative has been using the lowest Kelly Blue Book price for what our current automobiles can be traded in for at a dealership. Another is after selling property through Craigslist, or wherever, I know the price we get will be lower than we might think. To that end, I’ve estimated household goods very low (I think) to include tools, yard equipment, guns and electronics. And I’m betting most of our furniture, clothing, rugs, artwork and such is relatively worthless.

Make Decisions Earlier That Benefit the Future

We have sold off and banked the money for more expensive property as early as possible. Although their book value was not much, the extra truck and boat went sometime ago. Both were maintenance hogs and it’s nice not to be paying property taxes and insurance on them for what would be our final two years or so before moving on. Next to go, and soon I hope, will be one of our two remaining cars and a motorcycle. Months before any of the proceeds are used in buying our truck for travel.

We all know healthcare expense is the number one concern for us pre-Medicare retirees. Karen and I decided to max out the tax deferred contribution to our Health Savings Plan which is $6,500 annually in 2018. And we took advantage of the $1,000 extra you can put aside for those who are 55 or older. Hopefully we will have a decent balance in the account once we hit the road. Does not sound like a lot of money to some. But on my wages, it is. Because of reduced expenses elsewhere it was made easier. I even called the cable company and told them I’d be on a fixed income (someday) and asked it they had any deals. Saving $40 or $50 dollars a month here or there makes a difference over time. No worries, we are still enjoying life and really don’t have any financial concerns. Not because our income is way out there. We became debt free last January when the house was paid off.

Friends at work are retiring off and passing on what they learned. One figured out that our retirement plan is based, at least in part, on the two highest years of salary. So, he suggested to skip taking the overtime pay and ask for comp. time which we are never expected to use believe it or not. Being paid for all unused sick time and comp. time the final year will significantly increase the final years earning and hence, the amount retirement benefits are figured against.  Seems strange work will be paying for those hours I earned years ago at the much higher current salary rate.

Don’t Procrastinate When Big Decisions Have to be Made

It would be hard to tell that Karen turned 62 but she did.  And we decided it was best for her to start taking her social security benefit. I’d be happy to discuss the reasoning behind this with you in the comments section if you’re interested.

In August I’ll have to look at the pros and cons of receiving an early pension from a past employer. That decision is on my calendar for the day I’m elidable. We planned on taking it in November of 2019 anyway. But when one micromanages finances, even 16 months can make a difference in the decision process.

Not having delayed estimating what it will cost on the road I hope will prove to be beneficial. And perhaps even more importantly, knowing the cost could be higher the first year compared to years after. Karen and I decided to fund a travel/reserve account. In the past we called it our safety net in case we lost our jobs.  We decided to compromise between what she wanted to do and what I wanted to do. So we included in our financial plan to have the equivalent of four months expenses rat holed away on top of the additional $7,656 our first year of travel will cost compared to the second.  I’d suggest not waiting to decide what you need to save. Nor just assuming it should or could come out of the proceeds of something you sell – like your house. For us, it’s been a little easier to save as I have a part-time job that only requires 10 hours a week of my time. Not that the hours, on top of my day job, don’t suck. I’d not have the positive attitude about the extra work if it were not for knowing our traveling lifestyle is not far off.

For now, we also made the decision to purchasing a 10 year life insurance policy rather than taking a reduced pension that has surviving spouse benefits. I say for now because I’ve only shopped for term life insurance policies online. If the actual prices come out different I might change my mind. Again, that’s a big decision we can discuss in the comments section if anyone is interested. Simply put, the life insurance is cheaper per month than what we lose with a reduced pension benefit. And we have other assets should one of us croak earlier than the other.

Truck and Trailer Budget is Huge

I’ve kept our budget for the rig the same as it’s been over several updates to our financial plan. For those of us who are not “wealthy” the cost sure seems to be huge. Perhaps because as we get older it seems like stuff costs a lot more. It’s easy to overspend, thinking this could be the last ride of one’s healthy life. And when we first start researching it’s possible we think we need to spend more.

As our expectations of what we could or should spend have come down, the budget stays the same. I suppose this is another example of being conservative, believe it or not. I’d rather over-estimate and spend less. Just because the bank account will be fat from selling everything and increasing savings because our expenses are now less, does not mean it did not take a lot of effort and time to accomplish saving up that much. Not to mention the truck or trailer will be worth less than half of what you paid for it when you decide to sell it. Can’t get that money back without an honest job. Reading about other’s travel experiences in the RV lifestyle or meeting with them in person really has helped to gain a sense of what is important about it all. I’m planning to come in under budget which will perhaps be an excuse to have spent that much:)

Know-it-all’s Should Listen to Other Opinions

Thanks to Karen, our house is worth more.  At least more than business major/financial savvy me thought it was. No, we have not had a real estate agent appraise it’s worth. And no, we have yet to put it on the market where it could sit for months. The house is in a unique location and agents tell me they are having a hard time even getting enough houses to sell (listings). Karen took a look at what I’d valued the home at for the purpose of planning. She shot a new number at me that know-it-all me thought was at first ridicules. Then I found even more ridiculously prices houses in the general area that don’t have acreage to go along with them.  I know she will prove to be right. But, other than adding in the cost of a new sewer connection to the city system, I barely increased the estimated value in our financial plan just in case.  We will make sure and use something closer to Karen’s number than mine once we meet with our real estate agent. Damn, things just seem so much more expensive today.  Hay, another reason to justify the RV budget!

Do you have other opinions to offer?  Such as when is the best time to put it on the market? Should we allow the agent to expect 6% for the fee to sell when we are not buying another home afterwards? Fortunately, we have already completed a few major upgrades to the 16-year-old home. And Karen will finally be getting the new carpet she has wanted replaced 10 years ago. I’m planning to finish up the outside painting and landscaping this season. While next winter (our last here!) will be spent on inside repairs and heavy cleaning.

Plan Ahead – But Maybe Not Too Far

If you have been following this blog for long you already know our financial plan includes an exit strategy for when we come off the road. I’m still satisfied with the decision to estimate our time on the road to be six years for planning purposes. As well as our plan B for income which is to make use of retirement accounts or rely on being young enough to go back to work.

After crunching all the numbers again this year, I’m a bit more comfortable with the funds we are leaving behind for a new home someday. Maybe that number will be larger as Karen opened my eyes to the potential value of our current home! One thing for sure that has worked out was deciding back in 2014 to dust off an older financial plan and review it every year since. I know other’s have made the move to fulltime RV living with only a few months of planning. We will see how that works out for them. Or maybe without realizing it they amassed the funds to do so over more years or with a better paying profession. A couple blogs I am reading include some scary financial stuff I’d not be able to cope with.  But maybe those folks are younger and yet to move through the years where they can achieve their maximum financial potential. But spending your last X dollars from your 401K plan to continue the journey is, well, not to call names – stupid.

I took a look at the portion of our financial plan that included a timeframe beyond just simply what we had to spend once we come off the road. I actually started to consider how that money could be spent, such as renting a place while we wait for our truck and trailer to sell. Or maybe we could get a small loan to buy a new car, paying it off with my social security check. Well that’s also stupid. There are simply too many variables to consider that far out. I think I’ll just stick with the advice we were given by another RV full-timer. That is make a deal with Karen to give the other at least six months’ notice when they are ready to come off the road. Then we can plan the next journey from there on.