It’s Only Business

I decided to write this post as a way of thinking through the modern system of business and how at times our generation has to adjust to it. Or maybe it’s just venting…

The business/customer relationships has been changing for years and surely is market driven. The consumer is behaving differently which caused the business to do the same. And in some cases, those that run businesses are attempting to show higher profits in the short term and not really caring about the future of the company they are fleecing in order to retain their unearned higher salaries. I could write a well informed opinion about Sprint (United Telecom) for example where it could have been the greatest. No worries, I just received my second early retirement check from them!

I’m of the generation that believes in long-term business relationships. I’ve had the same insurance guy for more than 25 years, been with only two banks in my lifetime and shop locally as much as possible for example. I’ve had the opinion a business deal has to be good for both sides. But know the customer is competing for the highest quality, best value product at the lowest price. While the business interest is moving the negotiation to at times providing the lest costly product or service at the highest sales price.  I get it and eventually that business will find it’s niche.  And I as a consumer I will discover that niche is exactly where I want to be in terms of value and therefore find that business and purchase from them.

But it’s a new world and in some products the tide is turning rapidly. I know it’s only business and I have to change my mindset when negotiating. Here is a recent and common example.

We all have those expenses were we have to review the contract on at least an annual basis.  Karen and I cut the cord with the cable company (Direct TV) and switched off to using the digital antenna I mounted in our home’s attic for free over-the-air channels.

A minor part of that savings was used to upgrading our internet service for increased streaming of movies and shows, netting a monthly savings of about $60. Yes, that savings is small. But if we viewed every expense as just small; compounded with other small expenses that total is large.  I view evaluating every monthly expense as being worth my time to review it.  And know several wealthy people who think the same way.

Well, it only took speaking with nine (9) customer service representatives to cancel the service. The first four customer service employees probably think I’m a jerk. I eventually learned their jargon and was able to explain what I was asking in their words. You see, Direct TV was bought out by AT&T so I was bounced back and forth to operators who handled different aspects of the business. I learned to tell each “I’m a legacy customer who wishes to cancel my service and want to know what my final bill is and where to send the equipment.” I even started off providing my full name and service address which turned out to be the question each of the nine operators asked regardless. This change in service came about as our bill was being raised 22%. The only negotiating they would do was a one time $10 rebate.

I would have preferred to stay with Direct TV and at price we could both live with. Heck, I’ve been with my internet provider for 17 years. But for sure I recognize the new majority of customers will jump ship in a heartbeat. They do it all the time with cell phone providers, insurance agents or whatever. Do you remember those days when we all had a home phone and for years upon years the monthly cost stayed relatively flat (thanks to telecommunications regulators I’m sure.) Kind of like utilities are today for those of us not in an RV.

So for me, I’m learning to be nice when I call a provider and if the negotiations do not go well, and I know there are other options, to just move to another company or cut the service all together. And I know those long-term relationships, if there are any, may go on in the form of I quit you today and hire you back in a year.

Perhaps on a more important note is the notion of making life less complicated. I’ll bet a few readers were thinking about that several paragraphs ago. I hear ya.  Cutting the cord with Direct TV will allow more flexibility once we hit the road in an RV in that I’ll delay the whole satellite TV decision and the equipment necessary to use it, or not, for awhile. And maybe that will cut down on the need to read an email or two for bill payment.

Several years ago, when I was a business owner I had one advertising service provided by again, AT&T. I paid that bill annually to reduce the amount of mail I received. Although the company continued to send a monthly bill showing I owed nothing. I called customer service and said they have two options as a business if they intend to keep me as a loyal customer, or words to that effect. Either stop sending the monthly bill, which I had to open to make sure it was not important, or cancel the advertising service.  Well we ended up canceling and I shifted the money to other forms of advertising.

Maybe this is a little off topic of spending time with family or planning for a future in an RV. I just really wish more businesses would recognize ease of doing business is just as important as price and product. Until I find those businesses, I’m making life simpler by firing them when neccessary.

Advertisements

Who is John Galt?

I’m taking a brief intermission away from discussing what features Karen and I used for our final RV selection. In order to put out a short message for folks who are on the fence regarding if they should make a major change in their lives. This will involve some homework. And is proof I’m able to write short posts.

I’ll give a couple hints for those interesting in pursuing this.  Above is the whiteboard in my office. On the left is the number 487.  That’s the total hours I’m required to spend on the job next year (61 days for those doing the math). Notably, a personal goal that most likely is not something others would be interested in.

More hints of what this post is about are found above.  John is a character in a book.

So if you are interesting in philosophical debates or conversations.  Do the homework (Google) and find out who John Galt is and we can discuss it in the comments.

I’m looking forward to sometime visiting Ouray Colorado. Also sometimes known as Galt’s Gulch.

Safe travels.

You and I

As I begin writing, I’m having trouble coming up with a title for this blog post. So I’ll just wait until it’s written and see what falls out.

We all have so much in common this I know.  I’ve been spending time watching YouTube video and reading blogs in search of content where the author is at the same junction in life – one year from a major change. I’m sure you can relate. It’s fun to have already passed the earlier stages of planning where one learns basic things such as STOP BUYING STUFF you cannot later sell or take in an RV.  Or there is no perfect RV or floor plan or truck or whatever.  Most of our choices are just that – our choices.  Some of us have to over-think it all and prove it to ourselves.

You, Me & the RV is a YouTube channel of some newbies.  I’m thinking it is going to be a good one if you want to check it out. I’m trying to learn from folks like them so I know what to anticipate and try to avoid or duplicate.

Karen and especially me started planning September of 2014 for an anticipated take off date in 2023.  No surprise that date moved up to 2019. Everyone told me it would.  I’ve been using a series of critical dates to help me get past wanting to leave now.  Most of those dates had to do with savings, paying off debt and such. Here is a good one.. I turned 55 years old on August 13th. Another critical date because I decided in my early 30’s that 55 would be the dream age where I’d do whatever I wanted in life. Rather than following a typical trajectory of work till 65, retire, have a few years of health to fix my house and have the best yard in the neighborhood, travel a week or so at a time uncomfortably, move into assisted care and then a six foot by thirty inch condo in the ground. No thank you…  I’ve got a couple more critical dates in mind that will help get me to the finish line. Next spring is going to be a wonderful time around this household.

Not to get off topic, but do any of you other bloggers have a problem with the “I” word or is that just me?  This person (I) am always trying to find a way to replace the letter because it seems self serving, braggadocios and self centered.  After more thought, so what..  It often is the perfect letter for the job so bear with me now and forever when I use it.

A couple emotions have come up in the past few weeks I’d like to share. Not sure why but seems like the right thing to do. You full time RVer’s have been through them and I’m figuring at the same point in the plan I’m in.  First is a little bit of anxiety that I can feel in my chest if I give it much thought. This anxiety is not related to the process but anxiousness to get it all done. I’m so glad we started years ago. Second, I know there are some critical dates that are approaching where this is about to get real. Such as putting the house on the market.

I went to the doctor some time ago for a checkup. I call it my “fit to retire” checkup. Just making sure all systems are a go before I loose paid sick leave and better health insurance.  So far so good. Although I’ve got the final check-up planned for this coming Wednesday which is a cardiac stress test.  Been through it before so no big deal.  Doctor says my symptoms are stress related but just wants to make sure.  I’m sure the discomfort will go away once I’m off the job and on to something real.  Better get the test anyway says the doctor. If I start thinking about all there is to be done and all the crap at work the feelings become uncomfortable so I try to occupy my mind elsewhere. Update on the chest discomfort: Dr. had me get a CT scan called at calcium scan. Cheap at only $60. The scan also checks for masses in the area as well as clogs. 100% zero issues there.  Talked to a guy at work about it and he reminded me I stopped chewing tobacco last April. He had the same issues when he stopped. Go figure he’d know more than the Dr. on this one, but worth the tests anyway. I went to Walmart and bought some 2 mg nicotine gum for the very stressful times. It worked to a large degree and now I focus on recognizing the stress coming on and finding a better way to cope with it rather than focusing on my concern there is something medically wrong.

Okay so I’ll get past the anxiety of the present, this I know. It’s all mental and there are critical dates in the future that will come and go along with the stress of them. But what about the unknown and for the first time shifting to a more carefree and unscripted lifestyle? With the first really big step being placing our home on the market early next year. We have that to look forward to as well as the “what the heck have we done” once it sells.  I know there is and will be a phycological component to all of this. Each of us is able to handle it a little differently but with similar results. I know my ability to cope with it is based on past experience, the current environment and mental health. We just seem to get past it after a few very stressful emotions.

I continue to enjoy the blogs I started reading years ago. Many of you are in your fourth year on the road and have put miles upon miles on their rigs. I even continue to follow blogs where you have come off the road and are living in your exit plan.  Some bloggers have just disappeared. I assume they were having to much fun and are in a Mexican prison.

Human nature really is predictable isn’t it?  Karen and I have met a few of you personally and it takes all of about five minutes to get comfortable enough to talk about anything. Some we have met more than once and consider our new friends for the foreseeable future. Hope you are seeing some similarities in my emotions at this stage in the process as it was for you.  I also hope you are thinking to yourself about what Karen and I have coming in the process in terms of emotion. Because if we are thinking alike then I know this is all part of it and it shall pass.

I was planning to write about more downsizing stuff. We can actually hear echoes in some of the rooms in our house as stuff disappears. But I now have a title for this blog in mind so I’ll just end it.

Downsizing – Garage Sale Preparation

Just finished up a couple 60 hours weeks at work. Karen has been busy working on garage sale preparation back at home. Thankfully I’ve got two vacation days planned for the end of this week. Just in time to finish the setup for our first large garage sale.

Perhaps the best advice I would give to anyone who is in the initial planning stages to move into an RV is to STOP BUYING STUFF NOW!  And the second advice I would give is hold a garage sale now, clean out some corners of the house. It will boost your morale and perhaps solidify the fact “this is really going to happen, we are really going to take the leap to a great journey.”  Karen and I are touching about everything we own, asking ourselves, do we need this in the next year? Do we think we might use it in an RV or give it away to a family member? Are we not sure and have to think about if we need/want it?  And is this something worth putting in a 5×10 storage unit we plan to rent?

Every Room is a Mess from Sorting

Sorry, not sure we can have any guests at the house for the next year. Most every room has a pile of stuff in it. We have been busy sorting and filling the trash receptacle each week. Thank goodness neither of us are particularly clean freaks. This would drive us crazy if that was the case. 

Sent a text to the neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use for the garage sale. His church loans them out for a small deposit. He even volunteered to take his trailer and pick the tables up with me.  Damn glad Steve moved in across the street.  Wonderful guy and hope to be able to return the favor. 

We cleared out some of the bookcases in the house and are moving those to the garage sale area to setup displays. I’ve been shopping around for camping tables we would want to take on the road. Buying at least one early so we can use that in the garage sale as well. Leaning towards a 5′ table that folds in the middle. Should be easy to store in the fifth wheel basement.

As for non-garage sale events there has been a little progress in planning. We are still trying to buy our truck by September. Darn, found the perfect one, used with 4,000 miles, about three hours from home. Just not ready to buy yet. So, I sent the owner an email and told him don’t worry if he does not sell it by September, I’d come over and give him an offer.  It’s a 2017 Ram Laramie Longhorn with a B&W hitch, nice bed cover, 3.73 gears, Aisin transmission and air bags. Well within our budget. Karen says to buy it now. I still have three goals to accomplish before the truck and I’m sticking to it.

Friends I’ve met online, some moving to an RV this year and others in 2019, have been communicating with us regularly. Thank you to all who are sending the emails and text message. Really learning a lot from you!

And finally; I sent in the paperwork for my first retirement check. This is from a corporate job I held years ago. First check should arrive in September:)  Also figured out technically I only have to be at work 71 days next year. Karen and I have not formally moved up the retirement date from November of 2019. However, we sure are looking at what month would be more practical which is not the first part of winter as planned. Maybe we will head north from Missouri, where the RV prices are better, as early as April of 2019 and see what happens if we find our new home on wheels.

I was looking at Craigslist to see how people were posting garage sale adds and found this one.  Funny stuff.

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.

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.

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!