I’ve been very concerned about whether I would have interesting things to write about during the next few months, and after talking to Lee he had the suggestion that I could let people ask questions. After mulling it over, I though this was a good idea, and my original plan was to to open things up while we were selling Christmas trees. But I just received an incredibly thoughtful set of questions from one of our readers via email and thought they deserved a long response. So I am going to start this now, with Darryl’s questions. Going forward if you have anything you would like me to talk about, please feel free to email me at camperchronicles – at – gmail.com. I promise to either answer you in email or via a post like this one. (Darryl’s comments are in blue italics and my responses are in black.) Thanks Darryl for taking the time to write this and also for reading!
Sometimes on the reading side of the computer (reading a blog) it is hard to see how you two can make that much money from May to September. This is referring to the money we were paid for working at our gig over the summer in Alaska. That’s a totally fair question and it was somewhat unusual how that all happened, so let me break it down for you. Originally I did the math and knew we would need to make, at minimum, $10 an hour and 40 hours a week for both of us. I looked for jobs that met that criteria, and there are a lot less of them than you would think. Most camp host jobs are designed for folks with some income coming in from other sources, such as retirement, or investment income, and they also usually don’t want to work 40 hours a week. I see that changing as the full timer demographic gets younger, but for right now it’s not the norm. At $10 an hour (and being careful on our costs) we could break even, but we still needed to make money to cover the trip in and out, so my original plan was to work a second job part-time to help defer those costs. When we arrived at the job, I found out that the RV park owners wanted me to work 11-8, but I was very concerned I wouldn’t be able to get a second job with those hours, which I had talked about during the interview process. Simultaneously, Lee had jumped enthusiastically into the job and did some high value activities like wiring their workshop for outlets and the owners realized that he had a very valuable skill set. They came to us in the first week and gave us each a raise (me to $12 and hour and Lee to $15) which enabled me to not have to work the second job. In retrospect it was very smart on their part. There is a shortage of labor in Glennallen during the summer months, and that raise more than assured our focus remained on them. Do I feel lucky it all worked out that way? To some extent, yes, but I also believe that choosing a less exotic location and being careful about who we worked for was a big factor in how things turned out. In general, the more desirable the location and the more flexibility in hours, the less money you will make. It’s a pretty basic supply and demand situation. Most people weight their job choice by choosing flexibility and/or location over money, but we had to choose money first, then location, and flexibility last. It worked out very well, and I really feel like they got their money’s worth. I hope they felt that way as well.
Not that I doubt you because you do a GREAT job explaining, but for those looking forward to that day (full-timing) it is hard to get out of the normal WORK lifestyle of looking at things. I totally understand that and it took over a year for me to change the way I looked at things. Lee is actually the one who finally changed this for me and once it clicked in my head it made things easier. In a “normal” work life where you have money consistently coming in, people tend to look at things monthly. How much will I make a month? How much do I spend a month? That didn’t work so well with this lifestyle for us because the revenue and costs were so variable month-to-month. Instead we started to look at things quarterly, or even semi-annual, as a bucket of money like a bucket of water. We have a bucket of money to start with and every month money goes in and money comes out. We keep an eye on it monthly because we understand that a slow leak would eventually cause a problem, and we have a low end threshold where we know we would have to stay in one place and fill the bucket back up, but it helps to give it more time (quarterly or every six months) to even out. Why this is helpful is it allows us to have a leaky month or even several while putting it in the context of the overall state of the bucket over a longer period of time. And it helps me not sweat the individual purchases nearly as much. I’m not saying everyone should do this, just that it works for us and keep in mind that is our mindset as I answer the questions below.
1. If you could one day write about how much a person should “HAVE” on hand if they were going to choose to live full time and “WORK”. Is there a LOT of work out there so it would be easy to make it if the effort was put in to finding work? That’s a great question and I hate to say this, but this answer totally depends on the people and how much risk they can handle. If you are a person who takes chances easily and lands on your feet no matter what happens, you don’t need much money, but if you are more like me then you really need to think about where your comfort zone is. Another big factor is how easily you could reenter the workforce. If you believe you can always “make more money, it’s easier to take a risk. The more comfortable we got with the RVing lifestyle and proving to myself (Lee believed it all along) that we actually could make money on the road and keep our costs down helped as well.
2. Is $250,000-$300,00 enough while everything is “paid off” and they will be “paying for insurance on two people.” Again it depends. If you plan on supplementing by working/volunteering, I would say it’s more than enough, but only you can decide that. Our first year I grossed over $100K taking my corporate job on the road, and we spent almost all of that. In retrospect it was a ton of money, but there is a learning curve to this lifestyle, and more importantly we could spend the money, because we had it. The old adage “You spend what you make” really applies to this lifestyle. I can’t speak to how much money you can make annually off investments from that kind of cash though, because that simply isn’t our situation. Two things I want to add. Being debt free in year 2 has made a world of difference. We would be in a much different situation if we still had a $1K a monthly truck payment to pay. Second, I refuse to allow insurance to be the only factor that keeps me off the road. In all fairness I can say that because we are healthy, but if health insurance is the only factor and you are in good health, I would take the plunge. I had reasonably priced corporate life insurance for the first 15 months and the rest of this year we have a “catastrophic” plan and money put aside to pay the tax penalty. Next year we plan on going on an Affordable Care Plan (assuming they still exist) and we have $10K in an HSA account to cover normal medical expenses. My personal viewpoint is I refuse to be held hostage by healthcare and I feel pretty strongly about that, but again I can afford to because I am in good health. It’s not that I don’t worry about it, I just don’t let it rule my decision making. Time will tell if this is a good call.
3. I read Linda and Howard and see his numbers but now that you are getting a BETTER FEEL for the full-time lifestyle how do you look at the dollar amounts today verses before you started. Today you may see a person needs more or not as much? Another great question. I absolutely recognize there is a learning curve, but I am also totally convinced people can live on much less than they think they can. The absolute best piece of information I received on this was from our friends Bill and Nancy who have been full timing for over 10 years. Bill said our costs would go down year over year as we learned about the lifestyle and he was totally right. I totally believe we can live on less . I am still not 100% sure we want to live on less. What that life looks like is something we are exploring as we speak. We will see how it turns out, but it absolutely can be done. I will say I don’t think you can decide those things prior to going on the road. You need to experience the trade-offs first hand to truly decide and your views could and probably will change over time.
4.I liked it that you told us at the first of the year I believe it was you guys put $35,000 or $40,000 in a saving and work from that. That is different then what I read on others (who reveal that information) and see that as a good idea. $30K of working capital was my personal minimum when we started. When we broke that threshold it changed to $10K in an emergency fund, with $10K in working capital that goes up and down. It will probably change again. That’s not the whole story, though. I have $150K in a 401K “lock box” to use for an exit if absolutely necessary. I also have very supportive parents and in-laws that I know I could stay with temporarily if it all went to hell and we needed to completely reset our life. I also know I have many earning years ahead of me and if necessary could reenter the workforce in some capacity. Those three things are my emotional “safety net” and allow me to take more risks than I normally would. If you are a risk averse person I would encourage you to think through what you would do if everything went horribly wrong. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but knowing you wouldn’t end up on the street can be comforting, at least for me. I did have to take my pride and ego out of it though and that was pretty tough. But when I realized that that and the fear of failure were the only things standing in my way, it made the choice easier.
5. Do you feel that is the way you two will operate forward or change it up so that everything is on a debit card and work from the debit card? We are pretty fond of our AmEx card for the points, although we may change from Gold to Blue next year. Most people I know charge and then pay off monthly to get the discounts on fuel and grocery purchases. Bill and Kelly have a variety of cards and change which ones they use based on what they are buying, and what benefits they get. The key here is the discipline to pay them off monthly so you don’t incur debt. AmEx requires that so it helps us to stay on the straight and narrow.
6. Anything you can provide helps and one day it would be good to cross paths. The reason I ask all this is because working on the road and living on the road is soooo new to you two that I would like to capture the freshness of it before working and living on the road becomes a everyday routine. Thanks Thank you Darryl! I really enjoyed this and hope it helped. I would love to meet some day! Good luck to you.
Hope everyone else enjoyed this as well, and again, if anyone has a question they would like answered, please feel free to email us at camperchronicles -at- gmail.com. I promise either Lee or I will answer via email or in a blog post as time allows.
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