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.


2018 Auto Show

I made it to the local car show. Karen decided to stay home with the dogs. Our son-in law gifted us some tickets in advance (thank you John). I found a couple walking towards the door of the show and handed them Karen’s ticket. The only goal I had in mind was to play with the trucks and see what I could learn.  If you are a Chevy/GMC fan, I’ll say sorry in advance because there will not be anything in this post about them. To date, I’ve decided to concentrate my search for a truck within the Ford and Ram models. All three big truck manufacturers can handle the trailers we are looking at. Chevy/GMC cargo capacity is the lightest of the three but still not a reason to consider them if your interested. After studying all three brands, the Ford and Ram were what I am most attracted to.

The show turned out to be smaller than expected. I found no factory representatives or engineers to answer technical questions. And sales people were hard to find. The one I did find was a Kia car salesmen who said most people go to the show and buy a car later. I also found with few exceptions, there were no brochures offered. For sure that might be because many do their research online. I personally like to have a book to study and mark up. Fortunately, months ago I went to individual dealerships and picked up 2016/2017 brochures just to learn all the truck options.

The show proved to be just a good way to sit in most of the models and trim packages I was interested in. The vehicle batteries must have been disconnected (for good reasons) so I was not able to test features.  I’ll catch that when I finally test drive something. A friend just bought a 2018 Ford Lariat dually so I’m betting I’ll knock out a test drive of his in the near future. He says the ride is awesome and the cab is very quiet. He ended up paying 13% less than MSRP for a fully loaded truck. I’m not sure what factory incentives the 13% discount included and were combined with the dealer’s discount. He knew what he wanted to spend, the dealership got close to the price so he bought it the same day. He had nothing to trade-in and paid cash. Otherwise he suggested traveling from here to the Don Vance  dealership in Missouri. I think it would have been worth his time to contact the internet sales department of at least a couple dealerships before heading out to buy a truck. 

I found a side by side comparison of the all new 2019 Ram 1500 parked next to a 2018 version. If you are looking to buy a Ram it may or may not be important to note in 2020 the Ram 3500 will also be redesigned.  From what I can find, Ram had the older body style since 2009. And Fords 2017 update truly changed some series features not offered during the many years the previous version was on the market. 

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2019 on the left and 2018 on the right. The white truck is a Bighorn. The 2018 Laramie trim headlights would be slightly different.

Regarding Fords: I like their tow mirrors compared to both the Ram and Chevy for that matter. Ford does not offer factory air bags, in fact only Ram does that. But I’m thinking it might be better to wait to see if you even need it such as if the trailer does not ride level because the truck is squatting under the load. Figure I’ll just wait and see on that one. The Ford electronics are clearly a step ahead of the rest. I could see using their blind spot warning system. Karen has the feature on her car and it’s beneficial. The system brings up a light on your outside mirrors when someone is alongside your vehicle.  And there is no need to fret over which transmission to get, because the Ford F350 diesel has no options. They designed and build their own transmission to their standards. The 2018 Fords will be the second year for their new designed truck. Some feel it’s important not to buy the first-year version of any new body style because the bugs need to be worked out. A couple other points that might influence the decision is the Ford diesel long-bed comes equipped with a 48-gallon fuel tank. Yup, read that twice, that’s a big feature. And the cargo capacity is considerably higher than the other brands. That’s important for trailer pin weight and all the other stuff we might want to haul at the same time. But maybe not as important for fifth wheels in the 16,000 pound range.

Regarding the Rams: They offer three gear ratios which are the 3.55, 3.73 and 4.10. I’ll have more on gear ratios in a future blog post. I’m sure it will be good reading material to help you fall asleep. We are looking to pull a trailer between 16,000 to 17,500 pounds. I’m leaning towards the Aisin transmission option because Ram offers two version of their Cummins diesel. The high output model only comes with the Aisin transmission. Towing capacity with a safety margin is greatly improved. Complicates the decision for sure. Personally, I thought the Ram interior was more comfortable and usable than the Ford. That view might change after a test drive. I’ll have to remember to get adjustable foot pedals for my shorter wife. They are still using steal for the body while Ford went to high strength aluminum beds. Bet that will cut down on corrosion which was an issue in one of my prior Fords. The Ford’s corrosion warranty is 5 years and unlimited miles. Rams corrosion warranty includes repairs to sheet metal panels that have rust through due to manufacturer defect or workmanship. Try proving that one if you have a warranty issue! All panels are covered for 3 years regardless of mileage, but outer panels are covered for 5 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Confusing stuff.

I’ll add one last point regarding what I learned at the show and as part of my general experience. The cloth seats are nothing like what we had years ago. They seem to be stronger and more durable. My assigned work vehicle (a Ford) has cloth interior as does all the other vehicles in our departments fleet. The cloth is holding up very well. I’ve had several personal vehicles with leather interior. I have always babied them along, making sure to treat and clean the leather often. You can tell when someone gets in and out of a leather interior with great frequency as the corners of the seats will be crushed down or cracked. Really like the air-conditioned seating in my personal vehicle even when its garaged and does not sit out in the heat of an RV park. A feature only available with leather interior. We also use our heated seats in the winter, but only for a few minutes. That feature is available in the cloth interior as well. Although we don’t plan to spend much time in cold climates.

I spent about two hours at the show. It was Sunday and all the car dealerships were closed. Great time to narrow down the list of color options to a few choices! So I stopped along the way home. Later Karen took a drive with me and picked a couple colors she liked as well. Good to see we were in agreement on our selections. Like most of you I’m sure, we have owned one of about everything. The lighter colors tend to show less dirt. But I sure like the metallic shinny red trucks and one of the dark grayish versions.  They all heat up when left out in the sun for a while. The new tan and brown interiors are attractive to me compared to just the standard black leather or grey cloth. Nice to see the lighter interior options are available with both cloth and leather. Being flexible with any of several options for exterior and interior colors, transmissions, electronics and gear ratios will hopefully improve the chances of finding one on a dealership lot, especially should we go with a slightly used model.

I took photos of the window stickers so I could remember the color names later.  I’ve also started to look at the same truck colors as I see them on the road. I’m not particularly concerned about matching the fifth wheel with the truck. Ford and Ram have versions of the same colors.


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Ruby Red Metallic

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Ingot Silver

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Stone Grey – Karen and I like this one

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White Gold

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Standard white on the left, white platinum (I prefer) on the right which is a light cream color

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An all new 2019 Ram 1500 interior – thought I’d throw this one in for the wow factor. Good luck Ford, you might loose that battle to the Ram.

And finally, the tan/brown leather interior. I had it on a Ford with leather once. It was not hard to keep clean. My work vehicle has the standard grey cloth interior and it has not been hard to keep clean either. Wish I had taken a photo of the Ram version as it was remarkable. I clipped a couple photos off the internet.


Buying Used vs 35% Off New MSRP

I’d like to cover a few topics in this post. Buying used vs 35% off new MSRP and cost of depreciation. Also buying a brand of RV that has less chance of going out of business than another.

What got me to thinking about this topic had to do with someday knowing we would have to buy a new home and the money we would have left to do so. After I crunched all the numbers I believe I came up with a relatively accurate figure as to what money we will have left to buy a new home. Hate to already be thinking about an exit strategy but the plan would not be complete without it. Karen and I talked briefly a few months ago about what that left over money would buy in a house today. Not nearly what we live in now for sure; not that we are ever going back to the same lifestyle/house. We took a look at the current houses that are for sale to get an idea of what we could afford later – scary.  I might have to build one..

Let’s assume you get 35% off MSRP on a new $90,000 fifth wheel. The selling price would be about $58,500.  After five years that “$90,000” trailer could depreciate as much as 55% off original MSRP and might be sold for $40,500.  That is about $18,000 less than you paid for it.  So, it cost you $3,600 a year or $300 a month to own it – or worse.  Now consider if you bought a couple year old quality trailer of any brand(add an extended warranty) for maybe $46,800. Then sold it five years later for the same $40,500.  You spent just $6,300 or $105 a month over five years for ownership excluding taxes, insurance and added equipment. And assuming the used RV market is not saturated with used units the baby boomers are moving out of.

It goes without saying the fix for trailer depreciation is finding an exceptional deal to start with.  But I still stand by an earlier view about RV depreciation which is I’m not letting that stop us from buying one.

I’ve been studying the 2015 and newer models for some time now.  One of the problems are new floor plans and our attraction to them.  If we stay more flexible we might be able to save a ton on our upfront costs and leave more for a replacement trailer or a new sticks and bricks once we come off the road.  At least this is how it works for those of humble means.  Some of our favorite floor plans were offered back in 2016 but far fewer than I’d hoped for.  Lack of a certain floor plan could have an effect on what trailer makes it as the one we finally decide to purchase – if we decide to buy gently used.  I’ll be plugging the numbers into my spreadsheet to figure out the value of any specific used trailer. I’ll bet a used one would easily come out ahead of a new one for value if we can find the same floor plan.  And I’d be asking for a lot more than 35% off original MSRP to make the deal.

Redwood Interior

Redwood Interior – Rated with 8,000 pound axle capacity, H rated tires, extra large brakes, all solid wood cabinets with soft closing drawers.   RV gas/electric fridge is an option! The 340RL comes in at just 36’7″ in length and was first built in 2017. With over 4,000 pounds of remaining cargo capacity.

It was only a few years ago when several popular brands for full time RV living went out of business. Some had been around a long time. Some models were reinvented where the brand had been bought out by another company. Lifestyle Luxury RV comes to mind.  As does the original fifth wheel which is the Hitchhiker. The list goes on to include trailers built by Newmar and Peterson.  You and I have been studying fifth wheels for a few years now. Bet you would be less likely to buy one that is no longer in business or built!  And some people may not have even heard of a once great brand they now find eroding on a used trailer lot at a fraction of the price it once sold for. This brings up the risk of buying a model today that is out of business or discontinued tomorrow.  That already happened to my once favorite which was the Augusta Ambition, replaced by the Augusta Luxe Gold and it’s laminated construction.  Oh well, it was out of our price range anyway and yesterday there was only one used model I could find for sale in a floor plan we are not interested in.

And what about getting service advise when something breaks, especially if the company itself is out of business? All those who bought new Lifestyle Luxury fifth wheels were left with a useless warranty and a much stepper depreciation curve as the used price dropped considerably.

The Redwood is our number one favorite when compared to others in our budget range.  Although it’s not at the top in terms of value or when comparing what it costs for the features we want.  The Redwood came out in 2010. Per Redwood, they decided from the start to build a full time trailer for the baby boomer generation. Well, Redwood has gone through some changes. For the best I think. However, at least here in Missouri the baby boomer generation peeks out in 2020 and starts to decline as a percentage of the total population thereafter.  I’m thinking that is why RV companies have begun focusing on the next big generation of buyers which are the millennials. Heck even the Escapees RV Club started the Escapers RV Club to focus on that next younger (and larger) generation.  Wonder if the millennials will have the same disposable income to buy fancy new Redwoods years before retirement?  Maybe or maybe not. And that’s what is worrying me about our most current favorite trailer that’s in a price point higher than say a base priced Montana, Cedar Creek or Bighorn level trailer.

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2018 Montana 3120RL at 35′ in length. With many features of a 40′ rear living room! Pantry, front facing washer/dryer closet, usable kitchen and bathroom. And over 4,000 pounds of cargo capacity. Unfortunately the floor plan is brand new. They made some needed changes in the 2018.5 version by the way.

Anyway, hope that gives you a few more things to think about when it comes time for you to buy an RV. The other day Karen said she thought we had found the trailer we were finally sold on. It’s a Montana 3120RL. Well, need I remind her we are not done until we buy one.  Things change, and deals might be out there that are too good to pass up. Being able to spot a good used one is a benefit of having studied these things for the past few years. Now I’m just hoping there are no new 2019 floor plans we are more interested in😊.  Believe it or not some of the 2019 Heartland models starting showing up and other brands will follow as soon as March of 2018.

Bighorn 3270RS

Bighorn 3270RS at 35’2″ with over 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity.  This brand has and will be around for a long time. The Bighorn is Heartlands top selling luxury fifth wheels and among the top three selling luxury fifth wheel manufacturers.

Congratulations to a reader of this blog David who found a heck of a deal on a gently used 2016 Bighorn 3270RS. A trailer that has routinely been in the top five for us as well. That floor plan was still being offered in 2018. Go to the bottom of this comment section for the dialogue. Or maybe David will post something in this blog post comments about his success?

Next weekend is the local truck/car show. I hope to be back with a post about our tour soon. I’m also considering a post regarding RV friendly clothing and laundry concerns.

One final point you might be interesting in hacking apart. Right or wrong I’m leaning towards starting negotiations for new fifth wheels at 35% off the dealerships MSRP. And even more of a discount for last years models as a new unit.  And for new dually trucks, I’m going to take a swing at 22% off MSRP to include promotional savings. And I’ve started to lean towards shopping on the internet as a way to negotiate upfront before I walk on a sales lot.  More on that later I’m sure. (update 3/3/18 – I am researching the merits of negotiating for a new truck from invoice price rather than MSRP while keeping an eye on factory incentives so I don’t give the dealer any of that money. ) A friend just bought a completely loaded 2018 Ford F350 dually lariat at about 13% off MSRP. And he is a tough negotiator.


new flash From blog reader Peter who mentioned a couple products you might consider for your new RV. Added RV fridge safety shutdown – ARP Controller prevents fridge fires; see, material cost $175. Add soft starter for air-conditioning (ramps amps up slowly) for single A/C when boondocking, called EasyStart; see, material cost $300.

Coffee Anyone?

Let’s take a moment to discuss a most important topic – coffee…

I’ve been looking over our arsenal of products we use to make the “perfect” cup of coffee.  It’s no trivial event here on the Seneker ponderosa. We switched over to the Keurig system years ago and figured out a way to make my own single serve cups. Not just because of the price of the coffee pods, but to allow use of our own selection of coffee. 

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Look at our bottom freezer drawer, full of different coffee brands if you think I’m not serious about the topic.



I believe I’ve found the perfect method to make my own K Cups.  I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, here is a look at the experiments that lead to my current method.

Foil lids

Started out purchasing boxes of full K Cups and recycling them. Dumping out the old coffee grounds and washing out the cup and filter. Then using foil discs that are ironed onto the old plastic cups once filled with whatever coffee brand we were drinking at the time. If I had a stack of recycled cups I could iron on 30 lids in five minutes. And not even ruin Karen’s clothing iron doing it!

Then decided to skip the iron trick and just buy thin plastic lids that snap on recycled cups.  I get about three reuses of each lid. But added another step which was washing the lids along with a second recycling of used cups. Spraying water all over the area around the sink.


And finally, drifting to my current system for making our own K Cups. I purchased these reusable plastic mesh cups. And small filters to go along with them. You can place coffee directly in the cups without filters. However using the filters makes cleanup as easy as pulling the used filter/coffee and replacing it.


Now for the next decision. Knowing space is limited in our future RV home, what do we keep making coffee with? 

Figure we will keep the Keurig and maybe add something to use over an outside burner  when we don’t have electrical service. I assume if you have installed an inverter in your rig you can run a coffee maker off batteries when not on electrical hookup? 

Coffee Pot inside


I’m trying not to purchase anything new and just go on the road with what we have. But I may just scrap it all and purchase an electric pot with a metal carafe that holds heat all day.

And maybe use our existing single burner gas stove and buy a stainless pot for outside usage.








Life in Kansas City – Getting Past Another Winter

It’s Super Bowl Sunday 2018 and yet again the Kansas City Chiefs did not make it out of the first round of playoffs.  We are due for a trip to the big game. Len Dawson quarterbacked the Chiefs in Super Bowl one in 1967. The team took the trophy home  in 1970 during Super Bowl four which is the last time we have been to the Super Bowl as a team.  Lenny is still alive and an approachable guy. Team Owner Lamar Hunt was the driving force behind organization of the American Football League in 1959. He founded the Dallas Texans in 1960 and moved the team to Kansas City in 1963. I did not know that until I looked his biography up. Lamar spearheaded the merger negotiations with the National Football League. Hunt’s son owns the team today. If you have ever been to the Chief’s Stadium you know there is little doubt our title as the loudest outdoor stadium in the world is well earned. Opposing teams have a hard time communicating as the crowd noise is just over 142 decibels at the field level. In comparison, the deck of an aircraft carrier has sound levels at 140 decibels while a jet taking off 25 meters away is at 150. I’ve been to games where fans stood for most of the game, making it easier for the fan behind you to beat on the back of your chair. It was disappointing this year for the city. When the Royals recently had a couple years of success it surely was nice to see the citizens of our town come together. I think their behavior shifted for a time because they were proud to be from our town. Weird how that works.

On the work front, we were able to move into new office space.  We had been living in temporary quarters which was a large training center. Our new space has room for expansion. Although our individual workstations are small, the space is better used.  They have added a break area and larger conference table in an open area, centered between our workstations. We tend to work a lot of weird hours and it’s not uncommon for the group to gather around the table in the middle of the night to take a break.  I think the space helps build a team environment and it’s nice to have a change of view which makes us more productive.

Oh, and truly not to be bragging, but I was surprised to receive my divisions Deputy of the Year Award.  I’ll add that to the other two yearly awards hanging from my wall.  It’s a nice feeling to know there is no damage done after I announced I’d be leaving in 2019.  I got to thinking the other day while on what could have been a difficult assignment. One thing about getting older and more experienced at work is things tend to come easier. Been there, done that a hundred times kind of thing. Wish I could leave that feeling of confidence behind in the minds of the younger folks. I’m trying to do my best to get them up to speed, passing along what I know if their willing to listen. Most do listen as senior employees tend to be respected in our profession.  I dreed saying goodbye. But I’m sure that emotion will quickly dissipate as I say hello to a new way of life.

On the home front we finally got out of a very cold January but at least the snowfall has been very light. January is our coldest month with average lows of 18 degrees. Here in a couple weeks we usually have a few warmer days. Gardeners will be wondering if it’s time to till their gardens.

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Today Karen and I are planning to walk through our property and finds some downed trees to cut up for the fireplace. We might also be tackling cleaning out a couple spaces in the basement storage as part of our ongoing downsizing. Yesterday I scanned all the 2017 documents which went better than the prior years. I’ve stopped using staples and even paper clips when possible.  Makes the scanning process go so much quicker.  Slowly, I’m figuring out how to receive documents online and moving them directly into a folder on the computer to avoid the scanning process all together. We both have been researching places to sell unique items. This spring or summer we intend to do the garage sale thing at least once.  Karen and I have come to the conclusion that we will maintain a small storage locker for at least the first year after we move.  Our hallway bathroom is 5×10 so we can use that as an example of what will fit in the same size storage space.  Lots of reasoning went into that decision and I might post a blog on that later.  I’m sure our reasons are typical of other’s reasons.

We also paid off the house last month. Yea, seven months ahead of schedule. Will be using the money to save up for a new truck! Now I’ve got to remember to call the County Tax Assessor to have next years tax bill sent to me rather than the mortgage company. Also will need to make the same change with the insurance company. And make sure the mortgage company releases the lean.

On the RV front, I’ve been reading a few of your blogs and envy those relatively warmer climates many are spending the winter in. For several years now I’ve been keeping a list of campground spots you all and others are using in the winter. That should come in handy:)  Recently I also noticed what appears to be a big increase in RV manufacturer’s recall notices.  Here are just a few announcements in the past two months. I follow a couple media sources where recalls are frequently seen. As you may recall from a past blog post, in 2105 Forrest River got themselves in a jam with the National Highway Safely folks. They were or maybe still are facing serious fines for failing to recall products in a timely manner. I’m thinking the entire industry may have been placed on notice.  Maybe this is the first step in forcing needed changes in the quality of production. Time will tell.

This Was our Last RV Show?

Karen and I once again made the rounds at our local 2018 Kansas City RV show.  I call it a national holiday!  This year we focused on the small details of living in any specific trailer. Such as does the shower size work for us, kitchen storage and more.

If you’re interested you can read back about our preparation for shows beginning in 2015.  That year we decided between a motorhome or a fifth wheel. The 2016 show was more about selecting a price point and did we want to go with a heavy or “lighter” trailer. We also started the process of selecting a floor plan. A common theme we both share was that we did not want to limit the places we would be staying any more than necessary. The debate between a 35’ and 40’ trailer would begin. At the 2017 show we finally decided on a rear living room floor plan. Go figure, it’s the most popular floor plan. Guess we had to prove it to ourselves.

The 2018 event very well may have been our last RV show – for the purposes of selecting a fifth wheel.  Nope, we did not decide to buy one, that may come closer to the end of the year.  The beauty of this years show is being able to walk past dozens of trailers we knew we were not interested in.  We also knew that even though a specific floor plan for any given manufacturer might not be at the show, lots of spaces are similar between floor plans and still worth a tour. For example, any given manufacturer may use the same bathroom setup in several different floor plans.

Redwood 340rl

Redwood 340RL – 36′ 9″

A local sales manager, unfortunately for him, met me four years ago. As usual he was standing outside the top priced brand his dealership sells. I can always find him there😊.  He is a good guy and very much up to speed on what his dealership sells. I stumped him with a question regarding the Redwood fifth wheel – nice. The Redwood RV company president and an informed factory representative were at the show and provided the answers.  Near the top of our list is the 340RL. It’s also at the top of our budget in it’s price point.  The floor plan came out in 2017 and I can’t find any used ones.  Redwood made a few changes over the past two years and I think they have done well adjusting into a niche price point. Two observations about this trailer which the factory representative helped out with include the bedroom AC unit is not piped into the same duct work as the living room. Because Redwood does not think that is an efficient way to move air.  Secondly, for those interested, Keystone did not purchase Redwood as rumored.  Thor already owned Keystone and Crossroads (builders of the Redwood). All Thor did was start having Keystone handle Redwood warranty and service. Because it made since in that Keystone has a more developed department for service work. Redwood management has also been involved with decisions regarding other Keystone products. Redwood is one of the companies that started with a single idea in mind. To only build trailers intended for fulltime use.  Oh, almost forgot, the Redwood is where I also learned not all drum brakes are built the same.  You can get disc brakes on a Redwood but the standard drum brakes are larger than normal. Then again, the trailer’s gross weight capacity is 18,500. I’ll bet if was lighter they would engineer it with more standard brakes.

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Larger Redwood Drum Brakes on Right

Another trailer jumped out at us during our tour. Keystone is finally building a 35’ trailer again in a rear living room plan.  The Montana 3120RL.  With little doubt, it’s closest competitor is the Grand Design Solitude 310GK. More than likely I’ll never get around to writing any details comparing the two, but if you are in the market for a 35’ rear living room – one of these could be the one for you. (Update – Go to for a comparison)

Montana 3120rl

2018 Keystone Montana 3120RL – 35′



Grand Design Solitude 310GK – 34′ 11″

What comes to mind most about the Montana 3120RL is that it lacks nothing such as a pantry, forward facing washer/dryer closet and extremely narrow theater seating found in other short trailers. We really like that it comes standard with double awnings outside and they did not downsize construction details. They are built like the heaver trailers to include keeping the 12” frame. That increased cargo capacity to over 4,000 pounds after all the options are added.  I noticed the first units that were built have already been improved upon. They added back cabinet doors above the living room TV, are now swinging the pantry door away from the fridge (so the knob does not dent it) and they went with hard sided window trim rather than curtains. Told ya we took time to “live” in the trailers for the details! This Montana floor plan is built at a very competitive price.

I also like how Montana and Redwood are now using a hard-plastic connector to link duct work. See the photo below. This should take care of problems where ducting collapses over time. Bet you will see that in other brands soon because it’s a valid concern.  When I graded the all-new 2018 Montana 3120RL using my system it shot up in the ranks to #1 for value in its price point. This is based on what we think is important using its base pricing with the legacy package. What they need to change is the off-brand day/night shades in their base model. When you retract them, they tend to wind up to tight, making it hard to later pull them down. Unlike the MCD shades which stop automatically at a point making it easier to lower them later. (update: apparently the shades are adjustable – see video) Small detail but something we even took time to look at this year while acting as if we were living in it.


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Keystone Duct Link – Plastic joins two pieces to prevent long-term crushing of air conditioning duct work.


What comes to mind with the Grand Design 310GK is it lacks very little as well. Customer service is perhaps their greatest strength according to many. The local sales manager (who also sells Montanas) and Heartland and Redwood, says no one can match Grand Design’s customer service. They treat the dealership as part of the company. He can get parts for Grand Design repairs in two days. It’s two weeks for the other brands.  He says Grand Design stocks something like 90% of the parts needed for repairs and can ship those parts quickly. While other brands mostly stock what they need to build trailers rather than for service and warranty repairs.  I suppose it might also help with sales that most Grand Design Solitude floor plans are built at a very competitive price.  Karen loves the window in the kitchen as well.  What I can’t get past is the 10” frame, 2900-pound cargo capacity and the bedroom AC appears not to be whisper quiet.  I’ve not yet graded the trailer using my system comparing it to others for its value.

A couple blog readers have contacted me via email regarding the 35’ trailers and I really have appreciated the conversation. Especially as we weigh the benefits of a 35’ trailer vs a 40’ trailer. My point system gives shorter trailers a higher point value in the trailer length category. Because we prefer a shorter trailer.

One last topic regarding the fifth wheel purchase, and truck for that matter. These things are very expensive for those of us with humble means. Karen and I decided long ago to buy our third trailer first. We don’t want to trade it a year or two later. Even if we know there is a chance our anticipated travel style could change over the years.  An RV forum member I trust had traveled 10 years in a 35’ mobile home, with no slides. He suggested only 20% of full-timers will still be on the road after five years. Author and long-time RVer, Sunny Skye in her book The Truth About the RV Life suggests the average time someone will spend on the road is three to four years.  For our own planning purposes I’ve been using a six-year timeframe. It would be hard to justify going all out on an RV or truck purchase for such a short timeframe. Of equal concern is not buying a comfortable rig which then becomes a reason to leave the road.

Karen and I are looking forward to the 2018 car show in February. I keep calling it the truck show because that’s what I’m interesting in. Karen is from Michigan and keeps reminding me it’s a “car show” and anyone from Michigan would think cars are just as important. Okay, I’ll give in and we will look at some cars for the fun of it. I’ll do my best to not stay too long sitting in the trucks.

I’ll leave you with a few more photos from the 2018 RV show.

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New Montana Window Treatments


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Nice Basement for a 35′ Trailer

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Pretty Wife in a Pretty Montana


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Montana and Grand Design Kitchens are Both Livable

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2018 Grand Design Solitude 310GK in Full Paint – WOW




Budgeting Part Three- First Year Draft Expense Budget

Thanks for following along for this last of a three-part blog series regarding budgeting for our future in an RV. I began the series with a few background comments of importance. The second post was regarding our fifth wheel and dually one-ton truck capital budget which includes the vehicle purchases, taxes and basic furnishings. This final edition is our draft copy of what we expect to be our first-year travel expenses.  We plan to move around more the first year than subsequent years which, judging by following other blogs, seems to be the norm. The bottom line number is $48,156 which includes income taxes.

I have a second-year budget outlined in our financial plan but I’m not ready to post that yet.  If you read back far enough you will find a few relevant details. One final note before I share the numbers. Estimating healthcare costs is a highly debatable topic. I’ve tried to cover my research in prior posts. However, we all know when you are providing your own insurance (pre-Medicare) the availability and costs must be looked at on an annual basis. It was interesting to find the 2018 federal subsidized healthcare plans (Affordable Care Act) reduced the premiums for many compared to the prior year. We will see what happens in 2019. And I’ve given up on finding a plan that covers you outside of network. Although I’ve heard you can get nationwide coverage out of Florida.  Let me leave healthcare with that said. Go to the Wheelingit Blog for more of your own research. Last week I read an article regarding RV which is worth looking over at some point.

The numbers for our anticipated first-year expenses.

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Explanations by line item

Taxes and Insurance – Non Medical

  • Includes Life Insurance at $126 a month.
    • To replace an income if one passes away
    • If I take a 50% survivor benefit on retirement accounts that would equal $101. But does not match my income or hers for non-retirement income. Hence, I’d rather secure the income with life insurance for 10 years and rely on retirement savings should one of us pass away after then.
  • RV – $87 based off another’s cost
  • Truck – $137 based off another’s cost
  • Roadside Assistance – $150 annually or $12.50 a month.
  • Maybe an extended warranty on truck and trailer – but would come out of initial RV/truck capital budget and not this expense budget.
  • Federal income tax on earned income only (no state because of domicile)
    • Have to keep combined income under $32,000 to avoid paying tax on at least a portion of social security.

Camping Fees

  • We may save additional because we will be workamping/volunteering at times for a spot but less in the first year. And we will most likely take advantage of weekly rates in great places during the season or monthly spots for winter at the least. We plan to keep overnight stops at the least price as possible and we are equipping our trailer for at least some boondocking.

Medical Expense

  • Medical using high deductible plan per Health Sherpa recommended plan is $312. Livingston TX zip is 77351. So far, this is our first selection for domicle.
  • Karen will have Medicare by August, I’m paying for my own and am basing this off the current Affordable Care Plans
  • Doctor/Dentist/Eye – Using Howards from RV Dreams at $75
  • Maybe a supplemental plan for hospitalization. I can get it at my current job and the price stays the same when we leave (about ½ off the open market price) at $64 a month. Or we may use this portion for telemed plan or local doctor who does not except insurance.
  • Prescription drugs are included in the Affordable Care plan but may change after she gets Medicare D.
  • Doctor’s visits are coming out of our Health Savings Account which I’ve been building up to include the extra $1,000 you can put in the year you turn age 55.


  • Diesel (truck) – For now just using what I’m seeing in budgets with same travel style and using truck for daily driver. At $500 a month that’s maybe 21,600 miles a year.
  • Gas (generator) – guessing with moderate boondocking eight gallons a month


  • For tolls and such based off another’s budget.


  • Using our current costs plus 10% because will be buying in unfamiliar stores and in markets that could cost more than here in Missouri.

Eating Out

  • Just using Howard’s budget at RV Dreams of $150


  • Just using an overall average from a few blogs I follow and your suggested plus another 15% because it year one.

Department Stores

  • We buy most clothing at thrift shops now.

RV/Truck Repair and Maintenance  

  • Will be less the first year. For now, just figure $30 for truck and $100 for RV


  • Electricity and Propane

Phone/Cable/Internet and TV

  • Current part-time job will pick up the cost of my phone and work data plan.
  • We enjoy television, so a portable satellite is in order. Figured our current plan at $50
  • Karen’s phone $60
  • Data Plan (excludes what work provides) $50 for 8 gigs


  • Memberships
    • Good Sam’s – $23
    • Escapees – $40
      • Because of mail service
    • Passport America – $37
  • Haircuts- Based on our current costs
  • Laundry – Averaged based on other’s budgets.

Big Ticket Items

  • I’m not including anything that it takes to get started in new trailer or equipping truck with is part of our startup capital cost to purchase the truck and trailer.
  • This could be a catch-all fund or just used to buy cool stuff we find others traveling with.

Mail Service

  • I’ll provide our own for personal mail. In addition, and not part of this budget, is a part-time employer will pay for business expense as necessary such as scanning, higher annual. $215 to get started or $18 month
  • Plus shipping which I’ll guess twice a month at $12


  • Include storage unit $45. At this time we anticipate keeping a small storage unit for items we don’t want to depart with. Also to store property we are not sure if we will want to take on the road or not.
  • Gifts and all other $50


Final Thoughts

I suspect there will be changes to this draft budget with input from others.  I also included a little inflation as the budget is for the year beginning 2020. The healthcare portion is the scariest part of the budget and we have not yet decided on all our options. This budget exceeds our estimated annual income, so we are saving up for the difference.  Karen and I have agreed to maintain at least four months of expenses in our travel account. I’ve decided to keep most of our income sources private but am happy to discuss them offline.

I’ve definitely not liked this part of the planning process. We are good at not having to keep a budget while living in our sticks and bricks house. And we seem to be good at just living within our means.