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We’ve been traveling in a truck and travel trailer now for 3 months. It’s been a fascinating experience, on many levels.

The thing that keeps coming to mind over and over is that us humans have some odd behaviors which enslave us. People who live in poverty in Africa will experience real, life-changing consequences from small adjustments in how they live. Run out of water for the day? Really bad. Build a new mud hut that collapses? Really bad. Choose the wrong market to shop at and end up with rotten food? Really bad.

In America, though, most of us don’t experience such meaningful consequences from slight lifestyle adjustments. Yet, most of us all live as though we do. I think there are a few things at work here. First, the innate desire to keep up with our neighbors. Second, our resistance to change. Third, our failure to think deeply about life.

We have been living in 200 square feet – a family of 5 – for 3 months. Before this, I would have dreaded trying this because it is too different from “normal.” But now I see that even though different, it isn’t bad. It isn’t anywhere near as challenging as life gets if you live in Africa. My kids have about 5% as many toys as they had in our “past life,” and they are just as happy.

Am I saying life in a trailer is better? Am I saying that fewer toys is better? Am I saying you should do this?

Not necessarily. I’m just saying that when we traverse the latitude of lifestyles that modern, first-world life offers us, the negative consequences are often very small. We won’t starve, die of thirst, or be stabbed in the back by thieves.

But on the other hand, the increase in joy can be immense, from changing how we look at lifestyles. Do you see this? The downside is small, the upside is big.

In any investment discussion, it’s good to hear this. Small downside and large upside is what we want. Yet, in the case of lifestyle, Americans don’t ever cash in on this.

What do I mean? At this distance from “normal life,” I’m much more able to see stuff. I can see some of my friends living a pre-written, Americanized script of what life should be like. They slave away and stress about it. They act like any change to the plan would be just as bad as being eaten by lions. But I can tell you, going from living in 2200sf to 200sf, isn’t that big of a deal, compared to what the rest of the world is living with. But as I said, there are huge experiences to be gained and joys to be had.

These joys can play out in a number of ways. The most important way is career-oriented. Since careers can have a huge impact on our happiness, being in bondage to a certain lifestyle while working in a yucky career is a great example of how fear of change can hurt us.

Another example is the incessant fear of running out of money in retirement, and working our tails off long after we have enough to pay for our immediate needs. I definitely believe in saving and investing, but there should be a limit when we’ve done “enough,” and also there should be a throttling back of this to whatever extent you need to if your job is burning you out or if life has other stuff you should be doing. What do I mean? If you love your career, and you are making tons of money, fine, save and invest extra. But I wouldn’t give that same advice to a 20-something who is making $10/hr and wants to travel before they have kids. Would it be worth them working an extra 20 hours per week, to save? No way! The trade off isn’t worth it. Or what if your kids are young and you want to hang out with them – maybe that is a time to turn off the greed machine and not worry about retirement so much.

So these are some examples of failing to think deeply about life and lifestyle.

Am I putting these words to good use, or just in theory? Well, I’m doing the best I can to put them to good use. How? The first example we’ve already talked about – daring to live for the better part of a year in a travel trailer. The challenges of doing this have been tiny compared to challenges other people face in the world, yet the rewards have been immense.

Another example for me, is work. My work tends to ebb and flow, where I have big years followed by small years. American convention would tell me that in the lean years, I should double my efforts, stress, slave away, fear fear fear the future. Rather than just ride the wave and not try to fight it. So, I’m trying to put that advice into practice. I’m planning on being away from Tahoe for several months, and my businesses are just sort of on autopilot. Therefore, instead of being a typical American and fretting, I’m just embracing it.

What does this look like? I’m streamlining my expenses this year, and gobbling up all the yummy tax advantages that come from having a temporarily lower income. The government will FUND your year off if you let them. Having lower taxable income qualifies us for all kinds of perks and subsidies. I’m not necessarily a fan of this structure, but, after fighting it for decades, I’ve finally just come to the conclusion “if you can’t beat em join em.”

The sacrifices most Americans face when tweaking their thinking in these areas are so small, they are almost laughable. Yet the joy and life experiences are exponential. So I would challenge you to examine your life. In what ways could you restructure your expectations to yield more freedom and happiness? In what ways could you harness, rather than fear, career dry spots and changes? I understand that we all need a baseline of income to survive, and that’s a different discussion. I’m not advocating for being irresponsible in not taking care of your obligations. I’m just asking that people really examine what their obligations should be.

All of our situations are different, and there’s no cookie-cutter approach. But the point is to realize that most changes when we go out on a limb will end up having comparably low risk and comparably high reward, given that we exist in a first world industrialized nation. OK, signing off now. Gotta go empty our tanks!


Have you ever experienced a 2 month period where your life changed more than it had in the last 10 years?

Well, that just happened to us.

We found out our house had mold, and though the mold was minor by conventional standards, I believe it was negatively affecting my health.

Now, before I go any further, let me tell you: I’ve long been fantasizing about hitting the road in a more permanant fashion than short vacations. Tahoe life has just been too monotonous for me in many ways. And we’ve always taken these short, few-day vacations that just don’t cut it for me.

So I used the mold issue to turn lemons into lemonade. All in a months time, we LITERALLY:

  1. Completely moved out of our home.
  2. Sold my car.
  3. Found a renter for our home after professionally remediating the mold.
  4. Bought a diesel Dodge Ram 2500.
  5. Bought a 33 foot travel trailer.
  6. Moved my inventory business out of my home office and into the garage of my wonderful employee, without whom this all wouldn’t be possible.
  7. Bought everything we need to travel.
  8. And, HIT THE ROAD!

As I write this, we’ve been on the road for about 2 weeks, with a few nights throughout Nevada, 7 nights in Las Vegas, and now a few weeks in Oceanside, California.

So far, I LOVE it, and I think its also very good for my health. We are adjusting to the lifestyle change, but I can tell you that the challenge it brings is so welcome as I near my 4oth birthday and life was just starting to take on a grinding routine which sucked the soul right out of my body. Don’t get me wrong, there are MANY things I love about living in Tahoe. But this change is welcome, physically, spiritually, emotionally.

This blog is about money, so here’s a tidbit on that aspect: We went round and round about selling vs renting our home, and I decided on renting it, mainly because I think it’s a better investment decision; mainly because there’s no where else I really want to put that equity money. Interest rates are too low. Also, I have what you might call “relational capital” in Tahoe – it’s easy for me to be a landlord there because I know everyone, including many prospective tenants, roofers, plumbers, etc. So I can leverage that advantage. My home loan is also at an incredibly low 3.1%, and my property tax basis / assessment is also very low. Trading in and out of real estate is exorbitantly expensive, unlike trading in and out of stocks, so you had better be sure you want to buy or sell, because doing so takes a big bite out of your capital. I just want to remain invested as much as possible, and selling the home would have been un-investing, with no where to put the capital.

So, now, we are getting $2800/mo rent for our home. And, renter is taking over gas and electric, so let’s call it $3000/mo. So, as long as we don’t spend $3,000/mo on housing on our travels, we will come out AHEAD. Imagine that – traveling the world for less than the cost of being stationary! Most RV parks we will stay at will be in the neighborhood of $800-1500/mo, so that will leave us with $1500/mo we can spend on other stuff before we risk being financially worse off. We do have a truck payment now – I decided not to pay cash for the truck – and of course many new incidental expenses like diesel fuel, gear for the new lifestyle, eating out more because it’s harder to stock and cook in a trailer, etc.

But I don’t want to get too carried away with EXACT numbers. The point is that you CAN travel the country in a truck and trailer for as much or LESS than the cost of living in a house, even with kids! It’s pretty amazing. Of course, the income source for your family has to be flexible and location independent, which is the harder piece of the puzzle.

So, I’m giving myself a pat on the back. For once, instead of just blogging and pontificating about lifestyle design, I’ve actually taken a leap into a new, risky, scary, challenging lifestyle. It’s one big experiment and it feel so good to free myself of the barnacles of material poessession, and shed the weightiness of mid-life routine, to push the reset button.

I’ll blog as I can about how things go, but for now, even the hardships of this trip are refreshing to me. In some ways the trip feels like the fountain of youth. You 20-somethings reading this don’t believe me, but I promise you, when your kids get older, life will take on a mind-numbing routine. The longer you stay in that routine, the harder it is to break out and the more numb you become to it.

Would we have had the guts to do this had our house not had the mold issue? Definitely not. LOL. No way. But, then again, God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

Some people won’t live long enough to make good on that bet. And if you are raising kids like I am, even if you do live long enough and have the money later, you’ll still have missed your kids growing up. #livefortoday

Trading the present for future security, in my opinion, is a behavior we’ve inherited from thousands of years of human history in which daily survival itself was at stake. If you are going to freeze to death or starve to death, it makes sense to put today’s joys on hold for tomorrow’s security.

But our brains haven’t caught up with the new reality in America: our toil and fretting really aren’t making THAT big of a difference in the true measurements of quality of life that matter: clean water, shelter, healthcare, and food. Most of us will have these amenities for the duration of our lives, even if we take a little break here and there to enjoy the “now.”

I’m not writing this to preach, I’m writing it to remind myself of this truth. It takes a daily reminder in order to re-calibrate and fight back against the “monkey brain” that only cares about toil, toil, toil, survive, survive, survive.

Everyone hopes to contribute something original to their chosen writing niche. For me, on this blog, it’s pretty hard to contribute something original. There are many smart financial bloggers out there.

But I’ve done it at least once; and my most original and important post so far has also been pretty life changing for me. It is an idea I came up with after staying up way too late multiple nights in a row trying to figure out how to “have my cake and eat it too” when it comes to using retirement accounts (IRA’s, 401k’s) to fund early retirement. You may have just yawned when you heard me say retirement accounts, and I admit, it isn’t a very fun topic. But if you realize that optimizing your retirement account strategy can help you retire EARLIER, it becomes a lot more fun.

Here’s the post I wrote.

Shortly after I wrote the post, there was a flurry of activity with podcasters and bloggers contacting me and writing articles about my discovery. Here are some things that happened after I wrote the post:

  1. A few weeks after I wrote this post, while I was wondering if anyone else had noticed this math, I got a call from a financial podcaster who had millions of listeners. He was pretty adamant that my math was wrong. Then, a few days later, he called me back with great excitement and informed me that he thought my math was RIGHT, and he wanted to discuss my findings on his show immediately, which led to this podcast episode.
  2. Shortly after that, a very popular blogger wrote a post based mostly on the above podcast episode and my discovery.
  3. Various forum posts broke out debating my findings (here is one of them, I’m too lazy to find the others).
  4. Just a few days ago, this financial independence blogger picked up and shared my idea.
  5. There have been other emails, posts, etc that I’m just too lazy to dig up right now.

Moral of the story: if you haven’t already read my original post, read it. It’s a game changer.

In recent months, my publishing company has slowed down.

I’ve always known this was coming. In fact, my revenue has been dropping over the past 5 years.

In reality, the company still makes plenty of money to pay our bills. But if the trend continues, I’m not sure I’ll be able to count on that in 3, 5, or 10 years. My last kid won’t be out of the house for 16 more years. I can’t retire quite yet.

So, naturally, I’ve decided to dive back into real estate sales. Not because we need the money now, but because I don’t want to wait until I get to that place. Real estate has always been my “backup career” in Tahoe.

Real estate is very hard work. I mean, hard. It is more mentally taxing than physically, but you are basically on call, and your days just get eaten up to the point where you are drained at the end of the day and don’t have anything left for other activities. Many articles I’ve read say real estate is in the top 10 most stressful jobs.

My publishing company was hard work, but much easier than real estate.

So, since I’m also running my publishing company, I now have a double workload.

Jumping back into real estate has caused me to reflect on a few things.

  1. When you have to work more to make more money, it is a very inefficient, unpleasant, non-linear benefit. You may make more money, but you also have less time to shop for deals, to clean your house, to communicate with your spouse about purchases. Pretty soon you are hiring house cleaners and paying for conveniences you never used to pay for because you are just too tired to do stuff yourself. So for every dollar you make, you really only get to keep say 80 cents of that dollar because 20 cents is going toward conveniences and inefficiency. Not to mention taxes.
  2. When you are working more and harder, you really start to see the value in MMM principles and a frugal lifestyle. You start to put a higher premium on freedom, and become more willing to do what it takes to get freedom.
  3. I’ve also started to become much more interested in my passive income portfolio. When you are working your ass off, it’s amazing how much passive income can help. For example, I’ve closed about 5 real estate deals so far this year. They have been pretty gruesome and tiring, and really drained a lot out of me this summer. Yet, amazingly, my passive income portfolio has managed to collect about 50% of the amount of real estate income I’ve taken in. MMM has said that it’s cool to watch your passive income portfolio make more money than you even could if you were working full time, hard. I’m not quite there yet, but still, my passive income does add up and it all comes in with no stress or fuss.

To sum it up, I’m getting a small taste of what most Americans feel like ALL the time. Busy, inefficient, frustrating life. The days just melding together, one day after another. Hoping that something will change, but not seeing any way out.

Of course, thankfully, I don’t have to live here forever. There are lots of escape routes we can take. We can start living off of passive income instead of reinvesting it. I can cut back in real estate and drop into a lower tax bracket. We could even do something extreme, sell our house, and move to a cheaper city.

You have escape routes too, and if you read MMM’s blog, you’ll see many average joes making incredible changes in their lives to get out of the squeeze.

It’s not all bad. Being back to work and busy has felt good in many ways, instead of languishing in boredom at home. My friend Clark always says that men will always wrestle with work. Poor men will wrestle with stress and money pressures. Rich men will wrestle with boredom, emptiness, and lack of purpose.

I think the goal should be as follows. I mean, we all wrestle with work, but I think the goal should be to have the space to wrestle with it and find the right balance, rather than have the wolves at the door and never get the chance to take a step back and really figure out what healthy work looks like.

For the time being, I’m in the lion’s den. I’m in the “typical American” boat. I don’t like this boat much at all. I hope to not stay here long. Maybe deals will slow down over the winter. Maybe I’ll do one of the other escape options mentioned above. The question is, when I’m in the lion’s den, will I have the guts, awareness, intentionality, and plan to escape? After all, strangely, escaping the lion’s den is actually HARDER than sitting around and getting eaten by lions. Getting eaten by the lions is the path of least resistance. Climbing out of the den requires ingenuity, a plan, an awareness, and a willingness to take the road less traveled.

I’m grateful for this time in the lion’s den. It gives me better insight into what most Americans are feeling, and it will allow me to put the MMM principles to the test in a real life scenario.

The jury is still out on how all this will end. I’ll keep you posted.