It’s All About the Travel – Cost to Equip a Rig

It would seem to be common sense that one should know there are additional costs beyond just buying a trailer and truck as part of a new full time RV lifestyle. I had not actually written down a specific list of additional equipment costs until now. A long time ago I simply came up with a budget based on how much of our net worth we would be willing to spend on a rig, guessing we might use it for six years. That became the budget.

I had little to no real idea which trailer and truck we wanted and therefore what the true cost would be. Heck, I didn’t learn what the dealerships were referring to as a “price point” until well into my research. Of course, the “budget” should have quickly become more of a limiting and necessary factor as Karen and I began to tour trailers and learned what the anticipated discount off the listed price might be.

I should go ahead and apologize for the sarcasm that you are about to read. It has a point in that it demonstrates how I can become ridiculous in my quest to find a simple trailer and truck.  I’m also not intending to criticize anyone that has the means to purchase whatever rig they want. And hope I don’t loose any readers over this one as I depend upon your comments and suggestions. I am hoping this post helps others in a similar position come closer to selecting their own rig.


Luckily it did not take but a few hours at an RV show to know a big Newmar diesel pusher was not in our future. Internet searches taught me there were specific categories of fifth wheel trailers lumped together within any one manufacturers list of products. In our case this category was the luxury full profile trailers. Simply put, these are the ones that are nearly 13′ tall in the front. Examples being perhaps the Heartland series to include the Big Country, Bighorn and Landmark.  Or the Keystone Montana and Alpine. The choices for a new trailer are overwhelming. Especially if one throws in the idea used trailers from several higher price points might be within a budget. So I kept them on one large list within this blog site thinking I’d eventually know the pros and cons of each trailer.

For some sadistic reason, I also decided to learn about all the nice options one could add to a trailer, pushing the base model into a higher price point.  I had to go out and read a dozen blogs about what others had added to their campers, sometimes a short time after buying the trailer. Such as a MorRyde independent suspension, heavier axles, H rated tires, full body paint jobs and disc brakes. What to do? I guessed just check them all out and see how much the stuff, I mean excellent equipment, costs added at the time of initial purchase. And then dream as if the budget could be increased to a magical level. As if my pension and savings would grow to the necessary level by the time I retired six years early.  Hmm – that seems reasonable…. for about 10 minutes when you think about it.  At least that mindset took less time to flush out of the decision process compared to the “let’s spend more of our savings now on a depreciating asset and buy a shed to live in later.”

Then a voice came out of heaven (actually from a blog follower’s comment). That comment was “it’s all about the travel” and not the trailer. Thanks Ingrid! I have thought about that comment for many months and it truly helped. I should have included the concept from day one when the initial budget was created.  To me “it’s all about the travel” includes a long definition. Among which at the very least might be the trailer and truck get you from point A to point B so you can enjoy the scenery. Intuitively we all know a new car, boat and RV will someday loose its luster and become just another object to get rid of or replace. Just like the homes many of us are now downsizing and selling off.

All this being said, for us we still don’t want to take the fun out of travel by moving into a new home we will not enjoy. Or worst yet, perhaps be the deciding factor why we give up the lifestyle. I’ve owned a popup camper and there is no way that would work for us. Nor do I have any dreams of quickly mastering backing into a spot with a 45’ trailer towed by a Volvo semi truck after avoiding the trees, vehicles and other objects next to the campground roadway.

I was thinking it would someday be nice to go back to a few ideas mentioned in prior blog posts and let the reader know if the idea or plan worked once we had been on the road for a period of time. I think I can attempt that now even without having spent a day in our future fifth wheel. At least when it comes to developing a truck and trailer budget. And I might add I am taking to heart and very much appreciate all the great advice I’ve learned from experienced travelers . There are so many ways to travel in an RV and all methods offer great points of reference.

I think I did it right in September of 2014 when I dusted off the old financial plan for retirement and brought it up to date. Also later when I took an inventory of financial assets at the time and future in the case of investments. I’ve got a fairly good idea of what will be our net worth at the time of retirement. Karen and I have discussed ad nauseam what our expectations will be for purchasing a home once we come off the road and how much cash to hold back for that. It’s not fun for Karen but is amusing to me that some of the conversations include her telling me we already talked about that three times. Someday I’ll be able to tell her “don’t you remember we talked about that three times” should there be a flaw in the plan. I do like it when she suggests we may not need to worry about a new place to live beyond buying a new trailer to continue the journey. I however like plan B’s that allow us to change course 180 degrees if necessary.

I’ll get to the point now.  And that is I should have taken the time to come up with a close list of extra costs to equip a trailer and truck rather than just assuming it would fit in the budget. Because that would have helped narrow the selection of a rig even further. Admittedly, much of these costs would be learned perhaps after finding them on someone’s blog, an article or through my own study. Others appeared to have figured out the real costs rather quickly, having bought their rig in a matter of months.

I’ve been compiling lists on pages in this blog as I learned about equipment others are purchasing for their trucks and trailers over years of travel. I’ll never have those lists complete with every possible item to choose from. In about four hours I wrapped that research up using a large Camping World catalog. And had fun dreaming about all the cool junk, I mean important equipment, one might need that was not already on the list.  I then took 30 minutes to go to my States Department of Motor Vehicles website to get an idea on what the taxes and fees would be to register a new to us rig.

I don’t have this perfectly worked out and don’t intend to even attempt that. But I’m assuming we will spend 5.25% for State and local taxes on the truck and trailer purchase which could be in the neighborhood of $5,400.

For equipping the new truck and the trailer that could start out as low as maybe $2,517 to drive it off the lot and plug it into full hookups at a campsite. This includes a fancy fifth wheel hitch. But more likely we will want to spend about $6,367 on new equipment initially to include more costly items Karen and I have talked about, apparently during at least three individual conversations.

Yup, I did a spreadsheet with all those items listed using the catalog price, my notes or taking an educated guess.  If I’ve linked it correctly you can look at it here: Items to Purchase

I went a step further and ranked each item in order of priority based on what we might purchase at the start and at various increments.  In total that list came out to $25,308 if one was to add all the previous mentioned upgrades, solar, built-in surge protection, a truck bed cover and much less expensive items.  You can look at the list for ideas. I could see us spending up to $9,775 in the first year or two of ownership to equip the trailer and truck on top of the $5,400 to license it. That’s a $15,000 bite out of what we have decided to be our rig budget. That pushes several trailers out of our budget by price point.  To include many if bought used that I’d want to own.

I do want to make one very important point that I learned from those more experienced than myself.  For the most part, we will do our best not to purchase any of these non-essential items until we have lived in our trailer for a period of time. Yes, we did buy an inflatable boat and use it now. Karen has an Instant Pot and uses it now. I guess I must also admit we bought a $15 grill top and a new light on a camping trip. But I did pass on the 50% off Weber Q 1200 grill at Walmart.  Bet I’ll regret that one.

It has been fun researching and dreaming because I had the past three years to do it. Kind of my right now RV fix I suppose. But realistically, deep down it surely must become all about the travel rather than the junk we will someday want to sell off. Especially for most of us who are on a budget. And for those who are not on a budget, it might be safe to assume they already bought their rig and spent the $25,000 for extra stuff. And it’s all been parked in their driveway at home for at least the past six months. For me, I’ve been there, done that and have a motorcycle to sell to prove it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you found this post amusing yet beneficial.

 


R.I.P Officer Gary Michael of the Clinton Missouri Police. Last call August 6, 2017.

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RV Depreciation

As usual, this blog post turns out to be a long one. If you’re just interested in quick RV depreciation opinions then scroll down to the text in red.

Karen and I decided to make a run to Grain Valley Missouri which for us is only a 45-minute drive. The town is home to three RV dealerships.  It was also the first time in a week Karen could get out of the house for an extended time. She had cataract surgery and received a new lens. She has had very bad eyesight her entire life. Those days are over. It was wonderful watching her excitement as we drove through the rolling hills which are in full bloom with green trees she can see at a distance.  Karen took a book to read for the drive as she normally does. She never opened it. The best part of the trip for me, now that I think about it, was watching Karen’s excitement. She gets the next eye fixed in a week.  Glad we have the time and money before taking off in 2019 to see the rest of the country together. Money well spent!

Speaking of money well spent what about depreciation on an RV purchase? I recall a conversation I had with a person when I was 18 years old regarding the need to purchasing a new television. Back then the selection of televisions was not as complicated compared to today’s models in varying sizes, resolutions and technical capabilities. Although I still don’t know what they mean by a “smart TV” because the darn things still require someone smarter than me to figure out how to set them up and use them. When I was 18 I hated spending money on something that might have to be replaced and still do. Because spending it reduces your net worth, a concept I had way back then. Perhaps the attitude came from learning the value of a dollar as a child, especially when you don’t have a lot of those dollars. The value of a dollar was further ingrained in my personality perhaps because I was a business major in college.  I spent some time in the corporate world, earning an income above our monthly needs. I kept the attitude to live below my means. I moved into public service as a law enforcement officer and the hourly pay became once again barely enough to save for a future. So, I found myself once again comparing expenditures as reducing my net worth, like I was 18 again. I compare the costs of large purchases against the hard-earned hourly rate for my time at work.

I’m sure these attitudes about the costs of things are shared with each one of you, regardless of income or life experiences. There is much evidence of this. The cost of living full time in an RV is front and center in much of what I read in your blogs, forums and articles.  It’s evident the ability to finance a retirement through savings and pensions may well be among reasons most of us do not retire a lot earlier. Especially for those of us who are in a hurry to move on to retirement, having already lived two thirds of our life expectancy.

I’ve not found the depreciation costs of an RV listed in other’s posted budgets.  It’s not in my estimated monthly budget either and will never be. It is however listed in my long-term financial plan. I know what our budget is for the RV and the truck purchases. I know my net worth and what it should look like if we stay on the road for six years beginning in October of 2019. I have an educated guess at what the value of the RV and truck might be worth when and if we sell it and move back to a stick built home. All the planning might not work out but I do have a couple plan Bs to cover possible changes. Although I can’t control most of what would affect Karen and me in the event of a financial catastrophe. Short of staying on the job until I’m much older, retiring and dying in what could be a short time later. I’m not willing to do that. Neither is Karen.

As part of long-term planning I researched what others had already figured out for RV depreciation schedules. I hope you would agree the variables for what might affect depreciation are considerable. What someone paid for the RV to start with and what the economy might be at the time of sale are a couple big variables. Especially if they overpaid for the RV or sell it when the rest of the baby-boomers finally sell theirs, saturating the market.

Speaking of the baby-boomer generation who will eventually sell their RV’s, assuming they don’t kept them until they have zero value. It’s a little off topic but should be a concern for anyone who might want to buy a used RV or attempt to sell one in the future. I did a study back in the mid 1990’s as part of preparing for a presentation. I was assigned to work in the crime prevention unit at the time. I have a passion for protecting the elderly which developed after a terrible event involving an elderly person. I wrote a research paper trying to win a federal grant to fund a crime prevention program. Working with a local Rockhurst University professor, part of the grant had to do with estimating the average age of persons in my jurisdiction in various future years. What I discovered was that here in Missouri, the percentage of persons turning 60 years of age, as a percentage of the population, would change significantly in 2010 and peek in 2020.  This was based on census data. If I recall the figures correctly, our state would be moving from an annual rate of .7 percent of our population turning 60 years of age to 1.7% beginning in 2010.  It was a significant shift in our demographics. Birth rates might have changed some of those figures, regardless you can see the point.  It’s effecting RV purchases now with record sales of new RVs and may cause a future record for used units on the market. Hmm, this might even present an opportunity for those that have the time to find the right used unit.

You know I can’t stop from writing a desertion about anything RV related. I started just wanting to write out what I’ve researched regarding a simple RV depreciation schedule. Sorry, can’t do that. I write like I think and to this point I believe the above information must be considered when estimating what our rigs will be worth in the future. And more importantly how do any of us justify spending hard earned money on any large purchase that does nothing but depreciate? You already know the answer to that question but I’ll still give you my opinion in a few moments.

If you scrolled down for quick information on RV depreciation then start reading here.

In my own financial planning, I’m figuring a new  high-profile luxury fifth wheel RV will depreciate 54% in 6 years.  I’m using 50% for the depreciation on a new one-ton diesel truck over a six-year period. Right now, my total budget is $84,655 for the trailer and $66,700 for the truck to include taxes and some of the items needed to equip the RV and truck. Although I suspect we will purchase some of the RV/camping equipment with current income rather than out of savings as we plan to purchase our rig up to a year before retirement. I’ve got just over eight weeks of vacation to use in 2019!  I have already decided it is most likely we will buy a one year old truck with well under 20,000 miles on it and save an estimated 22.24% compared to a new truck.

I found an interesting article written at Camper Reports.com. The writer’s conclusion is on average a new RV loses 21% of its value when it leaves the lot. The best value is found in buying a used five-year-old RV based on his depreciation schedule research. He believes there is “no significant difference from year one since model years are announced a year in advance–helping resale of a two-year-old trailer which seems to be only one year old to a potential buyer.” You can check the trailer label for the date of manufacture. The author’s research goes on to estimate depression off the purchased price on fifth wheels at 25% by year three, 29% by year four, 37% by year five and 38% by year six. Depreciation begins to level off at year five. So, if I’m reading his article correctly, total depreciation by year six off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is 59%. That assumes you lose 21% when you drive it off the lot and another 38% by year six.

I can’t find the link but have it in my notes the writer at RV Research.com estimated the depreciated in general for RV’s at 50% by year five. This guy at Axleaddict.com has done a lot of research on motorhome depreciation where he compared two specific units. His research estimates total average depreciation at 58.9% through year five.

It’s okay to stop reading if you were just after a few opinions on depreciation schedules.

There may be other cost considerations as part of this. Such as inflation rates and what one loses in interest by not keeping the money in the stock market (or whatever) rather than spending it.  The “old me” might have considered that! I’m planning not to think so much about the money details someday which will be the “new me”.

For my planning, the estimated depreciation only tells me what I might be able to sell everything for and then use the money to buy a home or whatever should we ever come off the road. OR elect to buy another RV and continue on.  The old me sees the depreciation in our budget as something costing on average around $7,618 a year or $634 a month. Add the truck and the monthly expense becomes $1,097 given our budgeted purchase prices over a six-year period. I know some of you are going to figure it up on your own – it comes out to $78,984 for six years.  At 7% earnings that money would generate $33,178 if invested rather than spent. Sorry – the old me chimed in at the last moment.

So how does one justify the expense of it all. The old me says; the hotel rooms for a year could cost over $27,000 or maybe $162,000 in six years, the food would be expensive if not cooked at home and you have to own a car anyway.  The new me says; what price does one place on looking out over a view that photos can’t capture, what price do you place on spending time with family and friends, what have you been saving for, is it really that important to work until death and I hope we can do this before the North Koreans figure out how to launch a long-range missile. If you want more opinions on if the depreciation is worth it, go to this 22 page forum thread.

Karen, with her new eyes, and I are going on an adventure. I’m not giving a second look at depreciation because it does not matter short of how much will we have left for our next adventure.

Updated Summary of Trailer and Truck Purchase Decisions.

Karen and I started touring RVs in January 2015 with a visit to the local RV show. In time, I came up with an outline of seven steps we might consider leading to the eventual purchase. As usual my personality provokes me into over-thinking every aspect of the decision. It has been a fun process as I enjoy research and meeting others who have gone through the process of selecting their rig. Karen and I agree with the concept of buying your third trailer first. In other words, whatever we get we are planning to keep for a long time and avoid taking a hit on depreciation should we trade out the trailer within a couple of years. I have read several times where others estimate trailers depreciate quickly in the first five years.

Continue reading

Additional Health Care Planning

This will be the last of three blog posts concerning health care. I just completed truck research and will get that posted soon.  I’ve come up with a short list of trucks I’m interested in as well as an idea of how we intend to purchase one and when. 

Snap 2017-04-10 at 19.18.44
On the home front, Karen now has an
Instant Pot and loves it.  Three people at work also bought one and we all plan to share recipes. Karen made the best spaghetti she has ever made, browning the meat, putting in the sauce and noodles without dirtying any other dishes. And the chicken wings she cooked up were as good as any restaurant. 

 

Now on to health care.  I want to mention a few notes about legislature that’s in the works as well as a seldom known way to fund a Health Savings Account if you have a high deductible health insurance plan.

In an earlier post I mentioned how a co-worker uses a doctor who does not except insurance. His doctor is following this blog. On Dr. Rigg’s website there is a link to the Primary Care Enhancement Act of 2017 as well as a host of information concerning health care reform.

Per congress.gov  “this bill will permit an individual to pay primary care service arrangement costs from a health savings account; and allow an eligible taxpayer enrolled in a high-deductible health plan to take a tax deduction for cash paid into a health savings account, even if the taxpayer is simultaneously enrolled in a primary care service arrangement. Under a primary care service arrangement, an individual is provided coverage restricted to primary care services in exchange for a fixed periodic fee or payment for such services. For the purposes of certain tax-deductible expenses for medical care, the bill expands the definition of “medical care” to include periodic provider fees, including: (1) periodic fees paid to a primary care physician for a defined set of medical services or the right to receive medical services on an as-needed basis; and (2) pre-paid primary care services designed to screen for, diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease and promote wellness.”

If I understand it correctly, this would allow an individual to pay a monthly fee to their doctor who provides primary care services for basic medical needs. And one could make the payments from a tax-exempt Health Savings Account (HSA) which might be a reason it is contested. In other words, this would become a form of health insurance whereby the darn insurance company (and their profits) are taken out of the equation.

Regarding funding a Health Savings Account (HSA): Karen and I are doing this through a plan at work whereby my employer also contributes money. At retirement, I hope to have built the account up. I’ll turn 55 years of age next year and will take advantage of the catch-up rule where I can contribute an additional $1,000 on top of the maximum allowed for a family. I just found out the law allows a once in a lifetime contribution to an HSA from an IRA.  I think this one-time transfer would be rarely used but might be a way to fund an HSA if one does not have the cash during a given year to make a contribution to an HSA. Here are my notes:

One time transfer of IRA money to a HSA account. The once-in-a-lifetime transfer from an IRA to an HSA does not increase the maximum you can transfer is your normal HSA contribution limit. In other words it’s not on top of your normal contribution limit. If you do the transfer, it reduces dollar-for-dollar the amount you can contribute in other ways, either directly or through your employer. The transfer from your IRA to your HSA is not taxable, but you also lose the tax deduction you otherwise would get if you contribute normally. If you do the transfer you must also commit to staying with an HSA-eligible high deductible health plan for 12 months. If you fail the commitment, the transfer becomes taxable and you’d have to pay a 10% penalty. The benefit is that the transferred funds and all earnings thereon could eventually come out tax-free, provided they are used for medical expenses. A qualified transfer from an IRA to HSA once you are on Medicare is not allowed.

  • As a side note, government rules allow an investor to distribute IRA funds to pay for medical expenses. The 10% early distribution penalty may be avoided if proceeds are distribution prior to 59½. So you don’t need to move money from an IRA to an HSA to use it for medical expense. However there are special rules such as if you spend out of the IRA that years medical expenses must be at least 10% of your adjusted gross income.
  • For 2017 the IRS defined “high deductible” as any deductible higher than $1,300 for an individual or $2,600 for a family, so your health insurance plan has to meet that threshold for you to qualfy for an HSA.
  • My HSA has investment options so I would not be losing what the IRA savings would have earned through investment. 

Do your own homework before you decide to transfer money to an HSA from an IRA.

new flash Here is an interesting web site: Travel Tax.com – from Camper Cornicles blog.

Health Care Research – Direct Medical Care

Just a quick follow up to my last post regarding health care planning. I had mentioned a coworker uses his health savings account (HSA) to pay for medical care with his family of four. His doctor charges a set fee which is believed to be about what an insurance company would have paid the doctor or less.  I met with him briefly for more details.

The doctor’s web page is directmedicalcare.net.  There are two levels of payment depending if your family is a “member” or not. An annual fee is $800 for a couple or $1,200 for a family. Basic doctor’s visits, annual physicals and more are free for members. For non-members a doctor’s visit is $70 for example. And the doctor offers on-line medical care they call “virtual care” at $50 during office hours or $60 after hours. Also, the doctor will met him at the office after hours for care such as if he need stiches at a cost generally lower than an urgent care facility.

I asked my co-worker when he might use his insurance coverage and he said only for major medical issues such as for hospitalizations or referral to a specialist. Under the direct medical care service the doctor’s office does not file insurance claims. You must do that on your own, however the doctor’s office will provide you with the appropriate codes to submit to the insurance company.  I also asked how this affects meeting his annual insurance deductible. He has a high deductible plan and does not worry about it because he does not ever meet the deductible unless his family has a major-medical issue. I’d want to check with the insurance company to see if I could maintain records to show how much I had spent out of pocket or how they are handling services from doctors who except cash payment. Luckily, Karen knows how to file accurate insurance claims.

I could see doing more research in finding a doctor who does not take insurance but charges a lower fee such as this. Perhaps we might find a service in whatever state we decide to domicile in or spend our winters. Then have all the records sent to the new doctor. Or another option might be to switch to a doctor who is near our current home where we intend to later visit family for longer periods. I really am interested in the “virtual visit” portion of the plan. Not only would we not have to subscribe to another service while on the road but our established doctor would have a better idea of our issues before we hit the road, such as the need for prescription medications and more.

I wonder if having an established doctor in the state we select as a domicile will make a difference in establishing a “legal” domicile or not?

This is the first I have ever heard of such as service.  Once I started surfing the internet I found it to be more common than expected. Click on the link for direct medical care and have a look.

Health Care Planning

Thought I would post a few notes about our planning for health care costs.  I also want to say thank you to all the new readers who have signed up to follow this blog lately. It’s good to have you and your ideas so feel free to comment even within the older posts.

Like so many others, I follow Nina’s blog over at Wheelingit. Nina does an amazing job of summarizing current health care options so I’ll leave that to her. We all await future attempts by the US Congress at passing new health care laws. I don’t intend to make political statement so I’ll leave that alone other than to say it does seem reasonable the actual costs associated with health care services must be addressed to get at one root of the problem.  For now, I suppose we must take matters into our own hands based on whatever is available at the time.  So, to that end, I’ll post what I’ve been planning.

Karen and my situation factor in a few “what-ifs” although I don’t like using that phrase when problem solving.

  • We plan to move to fulltime RV living when I’m 56 years old. Karen will be a year from Medicare eligibility. She spent most of her career in medical billing which included helping folks out at hospice to figure out insurance options. I’m lucky to have her around to bounce ideas off.  She also has firsthand experience regarding how health care insurance companies handle claims.
  • Without re-entering the workforce later with health care benefits, I’ll be paying for my own for a good nine years. Our budget will have to include a plan with both of us for the first year. After that there could be supplemental Medicare insurance for Karen. Regarding this, Karen says we have to look at her options in terms of do I keep her on my insurance as a secondary insurance rather than having a supplemental Medicare policy. We will look at that in 2020 when the time arrives.
  • She agrees and I’ve experienced in the past that using COBRA after I leave fulltime employment is about the most expensive option out there. I met with our Human Resources person at work and confirmed its way expensive, even if I’m the only one on the plan. I would have 90 days after leaving a job to decide to file for COBRA which is good for 18 months.
  • In related topics, I’ve done very little research regarding long-term care insurance other than knowing neither of us want the other to ever be in a nursing home. I add this only because it’s health care related and a budget consideration.  Life insurance is in the same category.  At the advice of an experienced friend, I’m to look at the cost difference between taking a reduced pension with survivor benefits verses the cost of life insurance should we decide we even need it.
  • Karen added if she ever had to go in a nursing home she would file for Medicaid and make use of spousal protection clauses to separate our income and assets. She said she would not worry much about only being left with $80 a month from her social security check because she would not live long in a nursing home.
  • All this has to fit in an annual income budgeted at $3,375 a month after taxes and including inflation in 2019 when I plan to leave my job. If you’re interested there is a good thread at the Escapees forum regarding fulltime RV budgets beginning November 2015.
  • I’m always on the hunt for new ways to tax defer income as we have very few deductions to take on our annual taxes.

So here is what I’m thinking and doing today for us. Subject to change…

  • I added a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan at work. We use this to pay for our portion of medical expenses. After reaching a certain balance, the extra can be invested. I contribute the maximum amount allowed by the current tax law which is $6,750 annually. I turn 55 during 2018 when I’ll take advantage of the catch-up clause which allows us to add another $1,000 annually. At work, I enrolled in a high deductible health care insurance plan with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. My employer also contributes an amount to our HSA account as part of the annual $6,750 limit and our account is growing quickly. For those that don’t know, an HSA is not the insurance portion, it’s a savings account with a debit card used to pay for certain health care expense. Among other things, an HSA account cannot be used to pay for our current monthly health insurance premium. The money for the HSA account is deducted from my paycheck before taxes. And I’m not taxed on the money when spent! There were several points to consider before we decided to change our health care plan at work.  You must consider your own health situation before doing this.
  • I’m planning to use the established HSA balance to pay for out of pocket health expenses once we hit the road. If Congress votes in an increase on the maximum contribution limit, I’ll take advantage of it at least until I retire. Then after I’ll most likely come up with a minimum amount I want to keep in the HSA account based on our health care insurance plans maximum out of pocket expenses.
  • More than likely, based on today’s health care insurance availability, I’ll be going with a higher deductible plan at retirement. Some refer to this as a catastrophic plan so you don’t go broke if major medical issues arrive. Again, that’s a what if which includes Karen and I not having any huge medical issues when I retire.
  • Months ago, we joined our local community fitness center which costs $50 a month for the two of us. This included three sessions with a fitness trainer. Living a healthy lifestyle is for sure a way to reduce health care costs. Our family genetics for health issues prior to age 65 are not that bad – but then again that’s a “what if.”
  • I figure we will go to Mexico for eye care and dental. I’m still thinking about how to handle prescription drug cost but will certainly follow the law with whatever option we come up with. OR – research how to cut the cost of this and other health care services. Here enters the notion of finding the best care at the least cost. I found a good article here that was written in 2011 as a starting point. I have zero experience shopping around for affordable health care services. Suppose now that payment is coming out of my HSA account that’s about to change. So far, I’ve found two resources of interest which are mdsave.com and healthcarebluebook.com.
  • Karen had a few comments regarding how insurance is billed. You are at the mercy of the doctor’s billing person. Sometimes they code procedures, treatments and facility fees incorrectly. She says to challenge the costs and file an appeal with the insurance company. You might even be able to talk the doctor’s billing person into refiling the claim if they agree the insurance company (or the billing person) made an error. If you don’t believe the insurance was billed correctly you can also go directly to the insurance company to discuss the issue. Of course this is presuming one is able to recognize the error or what appears to be an out of control price from the doctor’s office (see the above online resources). She added an example where the doctor’s office, who are in-network, can only be paid per the contract with the insurance company. It’s typical that Blue Cross will only pay 49% of the total billed to them by the doctor in our region for example. She says the key is if you are paying the cost out of pocket then negotiate a price which is equal to what the insurance company would have paid.
  • A coworker told me his doctor knows he is paying fees out of pocket through his HSA account. He has a family of four. The doctor’s billing is setup to charge him fees that are lower, presumably closer to the rate an insurance company would have paid. He does not have to negotiate the fees at all. Nor does he get a bill later from the doctor’s office because the insurance claim was denied or not paid in full by the insurance company. I’m hoping more doctors will take this approach and I can find a good one out of the group.
  • I’m also very much interested in speaking with doctors through online video services for the more basic needs. Although I’m concerned something like a chronic cough might become something worse, for example, if we don’t meet in person.  I suppose any qualified doctor or nurse online would know enough to refer us to proper medical care?
  • Briefly, regarding what state and county we intend to take up residency (domicile). We all know health care insurance cost, availability and plan coverage will factor in. And of course that will be one of the considerations as to where we officially call our home.

I know enough about the topic to be dangerous. I’m trying not to put out any bad information and really appreciate your ideas, corrections and additions. PS – I don’t qualify for veterans benefits as I did not have enough combined active service when I was in the National Guard.

Mail Service On the Road

mail-box  A while back a reader asked what we are planning to use for mail service. Surf through several blogs written by other full timers and the options quickly become apparent. Karen and I are saving this decision for the year we take off, along with selecting domicile and healthcare options. Part of the beauty of having taken five years to plan is the ability to make small changes now that will help with the eventual transition. For example, going paperless and establishing online delivery and payment of bills.

Residential Mail

Pending the most current information relative to income taxes, healthcare and auto insurance, licensing and more, we are most likely to consider Texas or Florida as our new home state.  Tentatively, we plan to make use of a domicile service that provides a physical address, mail forwarding and assistance with the process of changing our home state of residency. For example, Texas is interesting. The Escapees RV Club out of Polk County Texas offers all the services we might need. Texas is relatively close to our family and we like the idea of being centrally located in the United States. There are other factors to consider such as Texas requires a special driver’s license for a rig the size we would have and once you return to the state you might have to have your vehicle inspected. While currently Florida might offer the best healthcare insurance plan for our needs as I’ll not be on Medicare. Otherwise we might consider another top three places to domicile which others agree is South Dakota.

Some additional thoughts about mail service include how you have it delivered when you’re on the road. For Amazon and other box deliveries I read how others just wait until they are parked for a given length of time and have the package delivered directly to the RV park. Their mail forwarding service has options depending on your needs. For example, they offer scanning so you can view online and select what mail you want delivered. You can have the service send boxes of mail to any local post office as general delivery. Then simply swing by and pick it up.

Before we go full time, and as part of going paperless, we have been opting out of having items such as magazines and catalogs delivered to the house. I’ve also researched a few websites that claim they help take us off the “junk” mail lists.  I’m thinking by the time we hit the road, delivery of residential mail from the mail forwarding service will be minimal.

Business Mail

One concern for me will be getting business related mail required should I keep a part-time office job. I might use an online fax service for incoming documents. Scanning whatever I need to fax and sending it through email or the online fax service. Not a big deal because I don’t get much now in the way of faxes. Email is replacing faxes. We currently use a Magic Jack phone number for our fax line. This can be taken anywhere as long as there is internet service. Magic Jack is an easy way to have a home or business phone without cellular or landline service. I’ve had one for years and it extends phone service to several wireless phones around the house.

There are options for receiving bills online but in our business, this is relatively rare. This may be one area the mail forwarding service will have to scan and send documents. I’m still working through the business mail parts. A few months before we take off, should I keep the office job, I’ll test a new system to make sure it is working. Our accountant already makes use of file servers to send and receive accounting documents. Fortunately, our accountant has more customers out of state than in state so they have it worked out. They will be a valuable resource.

Our current business mail goes mostly to the office address with some going to the owner of the business. We will most likely have to change the business address, which is a big task, to the owner’s address. He is good about taking a picture of what he gets and sending it to me. Cam Scanner is a good phone application for this. A most important item of mail (checks) already go to him.

Many of our business practices have already been streamlined such as how employees submit their time worked via email, voicemail or texting. Everyone is required to have direct deposit and that system has been working well for several years.  I may write a separate post about business mail later. One thing for sure if I do keep the part-time office job I want communicating with me to be as painless as possible for those I work with. We are in the construction contracting business so are accustomed to not having co-workers sitting right next to us.

Until then and as always, when I receive a piece of mail from the post office I ask “how can I do this paperless?”

 

new flash  News Flash: Missouri State Parks reach historic 20 million annual visitors.