We've moved to Facebook! Follow us there!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back on the Money Horse

It’s time to get back on the money savings plan. 2 weeks ago, I started two 5 day mini-vacations back to back: one with my step dad and one with my immediate family. During these vacations, I spent a lot of money, on average, each day.

At the end of the 2nd vacation, I found myself feeling some guilt about all the money I spent. Could I afford it? Absolutely. But, the money could have put us 1 month closer to our goal.

The other interesting feeling is “How do I get back into the saving mode?” With the end of vacation number 2, I wondered if I could stop spending. Maybe this is what a dieter feels like after being on a diet for 2 years then gorges on chocolate cake for 10 days.

I’m happy to report, I’ve successfully stopped being a spending glutton. All it took was putting foremost in my mind the end goal: sailing around the world. I imagined the sea spray, the wind, the anchorages, the salt smell, the girls sighting dolphins, and Val’s pride as she sails the boat through blue green emerald clear water.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vacation with a Kitchen

About a week ago, the family went on a “normal” vacation staying on Hilton Head Island (in South Carolina). By normal, I mean a standard hotel room with 2 twin beds and no kitchen. Usually we avoid such vacations because they are costly and inconvenient but it was tied to a work function so we went. For us, we nearly always vacation with a kitchen in our room. Staying in a standard room reconfirmed our preferred mode of having our own place to prepare food.

Each meal we found ourselves looking at each other wondering what we should do. Some times we elected to snack (we brought small stuff), other times we wanted a full on meal. That meant we put on public presentable clothes and either wandered downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant or we hopped in the car and set off looking for food. Not only were each of these propositions expensive, but also inconvenient.

When we vacation, we don’t go for food (we know some folks do). We go on vacation to enjoy surroundings we don’t normally have (like the beach) and to spend time together. The food situation meant less time on the beach and more money out of our pockets. We’ve reconfirmed, we would much rather travel to a location where we had our own kitchen. If you’ve never traveled this way, we can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What matters most to a 77 year old?

About 2 months ago, I offered my step-dad (Lamar) a vacation of a life time ... I asked him were he wanted to go ... anywhere in the world! 7 years ago, I did the same thing with my mother and we ended up in the Arctic circle. So, I was prepared for whatever. Within 10 minutes of hanging up the phone with my step-dad when I made the offer, he called me back. "Hello?" "Hi, Bill ... I bet you didn't expect me to call back so quickly did ya?" "No I didn't ... so what did you decide?"

His response to the go and do anything you want in the world question was really interesting. It wasn't an African safari, or seeing the Great Wall of China, or riding camels in Egypt, or taking a rail across Europe ... nope, none of that.

"Bill", he said, "I want to go see my high school best friend Dave in Phoenix."

Woah. You are offered a trip anywhere to do anything, and you want to go to Phoenix to visit your high school friend?

"Yeah, his health hasn't been so good lately and I want to see him before he dies ... it has been at least 50 years since I've seen him."

Last week we returned from our "step-dad and son adventure any where in the world" from Phoenix, AZ .. Mesa actually. We met with Dave, and his amazing wife Sylvia, 2 times over our 5 days. The reunion and recollection of stories was fantastic. Each one had a different sliver or information and between the three (Sylvia was Dave's high school sweet heart) some super stories emerged, including the "bouncing the brand new, fresh out of college teachers car between two walls" story (they pinned the newbie teachers car in a position requiring 60 some odd 2 inch back and forth maneuvers for the teacher to get the car out). They also share how they would stoke a furnace with "Green Coal" and it would send nasty smelling, heavy smoke into the library causing everyone to race out. Other stories included causing toilets to over flow and get kids bottoms wet. On and on the time went.

What was also a common theme was how many of their classmates have died. Do you remember old so and so? Yeah. Well, he's dead.

After some long nights of regaling past high school boy antics and glory, they agreed to catch up again.

While riding back from dinner with Dave, he leaned over to me and said, "I wish I had kept in better contact with Lamar over the years." The look of sadness and sincerity in his eyes were almost haunting.

As the end of life is obviously closer, for these 77 year old men, what mattered most was their friends... old, good friends.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Toothpaste – Roll up or Squeeze?

Toothpaste is one of those items you just can’t do without. Sure, you could use some baking soda, but that is good only for awhile and can become quite caustic to your teeth. So, let’s go with the premise that toothpaste is one of those things you can’t avoid.

How do you maximize your toothpaste? Simply become a roller. Roll your toothpaste from the bottom upward. In our highly scientific tests, we learned can get an additional 6 brushings out of a toothpaste tube we rolled up.

Don’t be a squeezer .. you will never get every drop of toothpaste out of your tube. There are some toothpaste rollers out there that you can buy. They clip on the end of the toothpaste tube to help you roll upwards, but why bother? You can do it all by yourself.

Can't get away from that amazing feeling of a good squeeze? No worries ... squeeze all that you can and want and then, just when you think you've squeezed as much as you possibly can, defer to the roll up model. You will still maintain the psychological benefits of the squeeze but you will also reap the fiscal benefits of being a roller. Taking this 2 pronged approach will prove to you being a high roller is still better than being a tube squeezer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sabbatical, Not Retirement!

Over the past few years, as our story has gained attention, I’ve become sensitive to one particular word. This word engenders all sorts of emotions and reactions from people. It has the same derailing power as “war”, “death”, and “abortion” in conversation. The word is “retire.”

If we were in our 60s, I doubt the word “retire” would cause such a stir. In fact, not using it may be a sensation. However, we are in our 30s and talking about retiring. As a consequence, we are often inundated with “retirement” questions. The barrage of questions trying to dive into the mechanics of how we can do it typically results a lack of understanding of how it is possible. The person asking the questions has their own context, or frame of reference, that they are trying to fit our answers into and they cannot seem to resolve how it all fits together. Their inability to resolve it isn’t surprising since they are fitting our answers into their world. They are not listening to the whole story, our story, they are force fitting our answers into their world. As a consequence, we’ve begun using a new word.

We’ve learned to curtail the usage of the word retirement when it comes to our trip and instead use the word sabbatical. Taking a sabbatical, even an open ended one, is easier for the listener. They focus more on our journey than they do on the mechanics of the money. When they learn about our transformation and our overall story, they begin to see how money fits into the bigger picture. Once they put the puzzle pieces together they begin to see how the forever sabbatical is not only possible, but achievable by anyone whom desires taking one.

What is the difference between an open-ended sabbatical and retirement? Only the baggage the listener brings to the conversation. In the end, they are no different.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Star Deaths Shine Light

  1. David Carradine
  2. Michael Jackson
  3. Steve McNair
  4. Karl Malden
  5. Billy Mays
  6. Farrah Fawcett
  7. Ed McMahon
  8. Walter Cronkite

Woah. What a crazy 45 days. First, I hear that David Carradine died…. Mr. Kung Fu himself. Then, Ed McMahon, and then and then and then … the list of famous people who died grew like crazy. All age ranges, under all sorts of circumstances. This blog entry has been stewing n the back of my mind, waiting to be written as I wondered if another name would fall.

With each death, I was reminded that wealth and/or fame means nothing when it comes time to die. When it is your time, it is your time.

What does each death do for me? It reminds me to live life to the fullest. None of the above people get to enjoy any part of life any more. No more hot cups of coffee in the cool morning. No more roses to be sniffed. No more sun sets to admire. No more passionate kisses to be had. No more giggling of children in their ears. Nothing. They are done. I am not. I am still alive, doing my thing, enjoying every single moment I have.

Each day you ignore the beauty of life you might as well be dead. There is no difference between someone whom merely exists to get through the day and those on the list above. Take the time to enjoy life, there will be plenty of time later not to, when you no longer have the choice.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Red Bean Ragout Recipe

One of our favorite one-pot-meals is Red Bean Ragout.
This recipe not only taste GREAT, but is really good for you, very versatile, and cooks in less than 30 minutes. What more can you ask for.

2 T - Olive Oil (good quality)
2 C - Tomato(diced) or 1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 Med - White or Yellow Onion (chopped)
2 to 3 - cloves of Garlic (crushed)
1/2 C - Scallions (chopped)
2 C - Chicken Stock
1 t - Kosher Salt
1 t - Black Pepper
1 can - Red Kidney Beans (drained)
8.8oz - Couscous (Israeli)
Parsley or dry parsley flakes

Heat olive oil, add onion and scallions and saute for a minute or two until the onion starts to turn brown. Add garlic and couscous and brown for 30 seconds. Add tomato, beans, chicken stock, salt, and pepper, bring to a low boil and cover. Cook for 10 minutes (covered). Uncover and add fresh parsley and let cook a little longer until liquid is almost gone.

Total Cost: $3.67 (less if use Rice as substitute for Couscous)
Servings: 4 adult

Use a good size frying pan with lid.
If you use dry Parsley flakes, add it when you add the salt and pepper
For heavier meal serve with steamed Asparagus, Broccoli, or grilled Chicken
Other beans that work well: Chickpea, White Northern, and Cannellini
Rice can be substituted for Couscous, just make sure to adjust Chicken Stock (in general, 1 C of Rice to 2 C of liquid)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Horse Farms = cheap entertainment

One of our favorite low cost activities is to visit horse farms. A horse farm is a place that you can rent horses for months at a time, take riding classes, stable your own horse if you have one, and provides riding grounds. We will find one, call them up, and ask if we can visit their farm "to look around." That is indeed what we do, we spend the morning hours (9-11:30 before it is too hot) checking out the horse farm. Our girls are usually invited to feed the horses carrots, apples, and peppermint. They also get to brush them down, talk to the horses, and watch other people taking classes. Sometimes, depending on how cute the girls are behaving, the girls are invited to sit upon a pony and do a slow walk. All of this costs us only the price in gas! Of course the horse farm hopes that we will become customers, and maybe we will but that is highly unlikely.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mental Money Time

Nearly every single day, Val and I talk about money. Our conversations revolve around what to do with it. Both short and long term. Do we buy something new for the boat? Do we put some away? Where do we put it away? Can we cut costs somewhere? What will our financial picture look like in a year if everything continued as it did? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? The conversations are always enjoyable, and never adversarial. Does the story or key points change from one day to the next? Hardly ever. If it does, it is typically a minute change.

This daily dialogue serves us good in many ways. First, it reminds us to be conscious of our plans and spend. Second, it provides a forum to vet all money concerns we may harbor. Third, it allows us to adjust in near real time to the changing conditions of life. Fourth, imagining the long-term mental picture provides us positive reinforcement for sticking to our plans. Fifth, our children hear us talk about money as a tool that can be manipulated and wielded in good ways and in bad. Sixth, it costs nothing to talk about!

The conversations range from 10 minutes to a few hours, all depending on what comes up. In the 10-minute flavor, the discussions are along the lines of “Can you imagine how great it will be in 3 years after we’ve stuck to our plan? We will have X dollars!” The multi hour variety, which doesn’t happen too often, occur when large scale changes are afoot, like with the recent purchase of our boat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are you unique or a clone?

There are millions and millions and millions of clones of people out there. People who watch the same shows, think the same way, do the same things. Each one of these people believes they are distinct and different. Maybe at some genetic level they are, but when that genetic material manifests into a person with thought, the thoughts are all the same. There are rushes of people to buy the same car, buy the same clothes, do the same activities, vote the same way. How does one find, explore, and exploit their individuality? Firstly by not doing what everyone else does. If everyone else is watching the TV show Lost, don’t watch it. If everyone else is buying pendant necklaces, don’t buy it. If everyone else is reading Harry Potter, don’t read it. If everyone else is eating a hamburger, don’t eat it. If everyone else is watching to see what the next pop star does, don’t watch. Simply stop doing what everyone else is and divergences in thought will occur. It is incredibly easy.

On occasion, people have noted that I’m trying to be different or that I’m looking for ways to be different. Yes and no. What I am actively doing is trying to be an individual, and the consequence of being an individual is that many of my thoughts and approaches are different. For me, existing as my own copy of me at more than the genetic level is important. For me, adding my unique voice to the chorus of humanity to help it evolve is important. For me, having my own thoughts are important. Do you want to have your own thoughts? Or do you want to be a copy?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Are you a food cooker or warmer?

I recently ran across an observation that was pretty interesting:

  • Poor people in the world cook their food.
  • Rich people in the world warm their food.

So, people whom can’t afford much actually have to put their foods together and cook them to make a meal. “Rich” people take pre-assembled ingredients and warm them up.

This is another example of Speed costing money in unexpected ways. When you are in the food warming mode, you are just being more expedient in preparing your meal. When you are in cooking your meal mode, you are taking a longer time.

If you are spending more time cooking your food, then you are spending less time spending money on other things. If you then further slow down and enjoy your cooked meal, you are doing even better!

Where does this lead? If your “Rich” and want to be richer, act poor and cook your food. Live like an immigrant strikes again!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thank You Naysayers

Naysayers are fantastic. I love them. They are the people who tell you the reasons your dream, goal, or objective can’t be realized. There are nice naysayers, “I know this doesn’t apply to you but ….” There are mean naysayers, “No one ever accomplishes ….” Then there is a whole slew in between. While the naysayer motivations could serve as material of a blog post on its own, this post is focused on their value.

I wanted to take a moment to say “Thank YOU” to all the Naysayers … you provide a fantastic function for me. You help reduce the pool of people going for the same goals as me!

Naysayers discourage those whom really don’t want to do something; they scare off those who don’t believe with their whole heart. As a consequence, they reduce the number of people vying for the same prize as me!

Thank you naysayers. You provide a real, good public service.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Perspective Shifting Example - Our Home

After our 4-day excursion, we, as a family, agreed that our little apartment is no longer our home. Our boat is our home, and the apartment we rent near my office is our inner city dwelling to be kept only while I’m working. We get to return home on the weekends and on holidays. Mechanically, this changes nothing. Mentally, this changes everything. This is perspective shifting, a very powerful technique for getting what you want out of life. For example, every dollar spent filling the apartment now appears even more stupid. The apartment isn’t our home, the boat is. What perspective shifting could you do that nothing mechanically changes, but mentally everything changes?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Virtual Crew Members

Thank you to all those whom have contributed to our cause. We continue to receive donations about once per week. They’ve come from close to home (a few miles away) and as far away as South Africa! Each person whom does donate becomes a member of our virtual crew and will get some access to the more juicy (e.g. personal) details of the trip. Each donation goes right to the fund that makes the trip possible. Thank you again for helping us make this transformation.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Anchoring Self Sabotage

Now that we’ve been taking our boat out on over night trips, the art and science of anchoring has become of key interest. From an outsiders perspective, dropping an anchor is easy, right? You drop it down in the water and your boat magically stays in position. Further thought and experience prove otherwise.

There are a lot of considerations to make when anchoring your boat overnight. For example, what type of sea floor are you anchoring in? Is it reef? Is it kelp? Is it rocks? Is it sand? Each type of bottom is served best by a particular anchor. Then there is the whole issue of “scoping.” That is, in addition to the depth of water your in, the amount of line you use should be scoped by a factor of 3, 4, 5, or even 7. If you are in 30 feet of water, you should let out 90, 120, 150, or even 210 feet of line! This helps keep your boat from pitching in the water should, say, the tide comes in. Or it will help your boat from being bounced around with each wave if you are tightly held to the bottom (imagine a taunt string versus one with slack). Another consideration is the material of the line to the anchor. Is it rope? Is it chain? Is it a combination? All of this, and so much more, is related to Anchoring. But what does this have to do with Self Sabotage? To answer that question, you need to ask yourself what anchors have you put in place to keep yourself from experiencing life.

I’ve met many people in my life that bemoan their “situation”, yet they continually put themselves in it. Maybe it is buying that new car before they have the cash on hand. Maybe it is committing to some sports activity that restricts their ability to spend time elsewhere. Some of the anchoring systems I’ve been shown by people in their lives is far more elaborate than the one I use on the boat. The anchors are so complex that trying to pick them up to move on is seemingly impossible. For a boat, when you don’t want to move, anchoring systems are great. But they are retractable. Are your self-imposed anchors retractable? If so, pick them up. Oh, and don’t kid yourself, you do have plenty of anchors if you look.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Boys and fast toys

While sailing back across Lake Lanier, our pathway was crossed by some amazingly fast and loud power boats. We, on the other hand, were sailing at a glacial pace of 4.5 knots, with nearly no sound.

While slowly sailing along, my mind began to wonder about why there is such a push for speed. It seemed senseless to me at first: sit at one end of the lake, punch the throttle, race to the other side, stop, turn around, and race back to your starting position. This behavior isn’t unique to boats as it is true with cars, motorcycles, snow skis, roller blades, and so on. Boys like to go fast. But why? I’ve had rice rocket motorcycles, taken out (and wrecked!) a 2009 Z06 Corvette, and done some serious downhill skateboarding. It is fun. As a man, I also cannot deny the thrill of my body being propelled at absurd rates of speed. Physiologically the rush is undeniable, almost of the same scale as kissing, for the first time, a beautiful woman you’ve only dreamed of. But why?

The easy answer is tied to wanting to be the loudest, fastest, and fittest gorilla. After more thought, I believe that there is something a bit more.

When you go fast, you must focus on 1 thing, keeping from killing yourself. It is a forced meditation. If you lapse, you could kill yourself. Could it be that these speed demons racing across the lake are not only getting their jollies from the rush but also the mental break they so sorely crave, but cannot identify? Are they just unaware that their minds need a break to hyper focus and this outlet is giving them what they need? I believe so.

Obtaining mental focus is achievable in low stress conditions, but it takes practice and patience. Neither of these requires any financial commitment. Sit in a quiet place and focus.

Ahhh, but that isn’t as thrilling as propelling 75 MPH across the lake! Very true. For now, though, I’ll take the slow, notice all the details, pace of 6 MPH. Too much of life is lost in the blur of speed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vacation feelings after 1 night

We took our boat out for the inaugural sleep over. The event was incredible, and we are still distilling all the thoughts, emotions, and feelings. One of the most profound results of the 30 hours on the water was the post vacation-elation feelings.

We categorize a vacation as good based not on what we did, but on how we feel upon returning. A good vacation for us happens when we feel mentally clear, stress free, rejuvenated, and none of us want to return to normal life. Our history suggests that this collection of feelings only happens if we are gone a minimum of 3 days. Our boating adventure gave us all of the good vacation feelings in only a 30 hour trip!!

Trying to resolve how this is possible has been a challenge, and we are coming to the conclusion it really isn’t important how it happened, just that it did happen. Our family received the full on effect of a multi-day vacation in a period of 30 hours! Could it be the rocking of the boat? Could it be the beautiful starry night? Could it be the focused family time? Could it be the unhurried pace of just sitting on the water? Could it be the swimming on a whim? Could it be the decoupling from society? Could it be? Could it be? Who cares?! It just is!

On the first night, KJ and Dy went to sleep in their own rooms while Val slept in ours. I elected to sleep on the boat, rocking, looking up at the stars. I stayed up until 1AM, drifted asleep, then around 3AM I moved to the cockpit. After watching the lake reflect light in novel patterns, I slept until around 4:30AM, and moved into the main salon. Around 6AM, it was time to wake up as the Sun nudged me. 20 minutes later, Val woke up and we enjoyed a nice quiet morning together. I swam laps, exercised on the forward deck, and drank coffee. We chatted about very little, just enjoying the incredibly peaceful time. Around 7:30 the girls woke up and we (KJ, Dy, and I) went for a swim while Val cooked pancakes. The aroma drifted off the boat and met us on the water. Each bite of the pancakes tasted better than any other I had ever had. We all moved to the foredeck, and ate fresh fruit, getting nice and sticky. But that was quickly remedied as we all jumped in the water and continued our play time.

Can all of this magic continue? We don’t know, but we will work to find out! The boat has already given us so much joy. The day we really sail away is now more eagerly anticipated than ever before.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Don't swim at a marina - Electrocution Hazard

Now that we are officially boat owners and we have a boat at a marina, we spent a Saturday a few weeks ago at the dock doing an inventory of the items on board AND swimming off the back of the boat like other folks in the marina. We had a great day and learned more about our boat.

The very next morning, while surfing my usual nautical sites, I read a post about the dangers of marinas and electrocutions! At marinas that provide shore supplied power to boats, there is a real risk of electrical current running in and around the marina in the water. The issue is that not all boats do a good job of keeping their current only in/on their boat and many boat owners don't know they are leaking electricity. Meanwhile, the marina power supply posts continue to happily pump out as much current as is being requested.

There are ways to check to see if there is electrical current in the water (basically, attaching one lead of a a voltohm meter to the power supply post and the other in the water looking to see if there is current).

There have been a number of deaths attributed to this risk, including a 9 year old boy of a boating safety instructor.

One would imagine, with the conductive properties of salt water, that the risk is even greater in a salt water marina.

The advice I read about this issue is, if you are in the water at a marina and you feel a tingle, back away slowly (don't turn and bolt, that will disturb the current flow and could potentially make it worse). The best advice, of course, is to simply not swim in a marina. We will no longer do this.

Remember, you may feel good about your boat, but who knows about the other boats? Simply don't swim in a marina.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Boat - First Outting

Ahhh, we have the boat! We've been spending a lot of time on the boat. It is absolutely perfect for our needs. It has plenty of space, and KJ loves her room! We are still learning all the systems. The first time out we learned the hard way about the switch for the fuel tanks.

Taking the boat out the first time, we slowly motored out of the marina. As we entered the main channel (with lots of boat traffic going on both sides of us), the boat engine died! After a few frantic moments, we called the person we bought the boat from and he had no idea. Of course, my thoughts were that we had been had! After ruminating on the situation a few minutes, with lots of colorful words, we figured out that the engine was starved for fuel. Looking at the switch that selects the fuel tank, it became apparant that we misread the double ended fuel leaver ... it was pointed to the "Off" position ... of course, the opposite side of off was "Port". We used the wrong end of the switch as the indicator! Once we figured that out, the engine fired right up and we were on our way. Talk about a stressful 10 minues!! Once on our way, we moved out of the main flow of the channel and pulled up the main sail (once we got the boat facing into the wind), and we were under sail power!!! We spent the next 3 hours sailing around the lake. Our max speed was 3.1 knots, we only sailed under the main (keeping the jib for another day). KJ and I jumped off the boat and were dragged behind the boat on a beautiful day. As the day ended, we doused the sail and motored back in. Under power, the boat comfortably motored at 5 knots. The gas consumption was absolutely absurd. That Honda engine just sips gas.

The first outing was fantastic. We had our first issue, had some tense moments, try some solutions, and eventually figured it all out and had a marvelous first day.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Life Currents - We have a boat!

Deep inside, we all know what to do. The trick is being able to look inside and not have our immediate shallow wants/desires taint what it is we are seeing. One of the most useful tools we have found for looking within ourselves is the recognition of guideposts thrown up by the universe. We call them Life Currents. This is best explained with a recent example.

Last month we were close to having me accept a position at another company and move away to find a boat. The reasons for leaving were many and inconsequential to this story. At the breaking away point, a few different things happened. 1) we found a sailing class for Val at the lake near our house, 2) I was promoted, 3) the exact model of boat we wanted (Gemini 3200) went on the market at our lake (it is the only one on the lake ... very few ever make it to lakes as they are ocean boats), 4) the boat was listed 2 days before my promotion on my now deceased biological father's birthday, 5) the boat owner wanted out in a major way but knew that selling a boat like this on the lake would be hard, 6) the price for the boat was exactly right.

To those who don't know how to read Life Current signposts, all the above would seem like little nothings. But to us, this was all the proof we needed that staying here in Atlanta until our big trip, with my current job, in our current mode of living, is the right thing to do.

So how does this work? All around you, every imaginable sign and symbol is parading through your mind. Your mind will select which events it wants you to notice, if you are willing to look. If your mind wants you to notice something, then you should.

How do you get better at sifting out what your mind really wants? Every day you are bombarded with the messages of others, usually by the way of advertisements. They pound your brain constantly so that the message you often hear is not your own. You have to eliminate the outside barrage if you want to know what you really think and feel inside. If you do this, then you will better be able to see your Life Currents and you will know which way to go.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barcelona, Spain

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Barcelona, Spain for work. The very first evening I was asked what I wanted to do, and I was quick to respond, "have dinner down by the marina." That turned out to be amazing! We had sangria, tapas, San Miguels beer, and pizza ... all the while looking over a beautiful marina in Barcelona. We would watch as boats bobbed up and down gently. We would watch as seamen climbed aboard boats and disembarked them. We would watch as staff of large yachts would wash down the beautiful ships. With every moment, I drew in the salt air, the image of the yachts, and imagined myself returning to Barcelona on our boat as a family ... being the ones watched by another person dreaming of the day they set sail.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Living La Vida OpEx or CapEx

In business, one of the fundamental concerns when it comes to spending money is should the money be spent as an Operating Expense (OpEx) or Capital Expenditure (CapEx). The difference between the 2 is that an OpEx is a pay as you go model while a CapEx is a pay up front model. Looking at these 2 ways of spending money can help you in your personal life make better financial decisions. Consider a common wasteful spend that occurs every January, home exercise equipment.

When you are considering buying home exercise equipment, you are trying to fulfill your goal of staying healthy. Buying home exercise equipment with money you have in the bank is an example of CapEx. You are spending your money up front for the long term capacity to exercise. You laid out cash for the capability to exercise as much as you want. Another approach would be to join a gym and pay as you go. This would be an example of OpEx. As long as you are exercising, you will pay. If you stop exercising, you will stop paying.

Which is better? Let’s say you spend $350 on gym equipment to enable you to fulfill your goal. In gym membership time, that is about 15 months of usage of all their equipment. They maintain it, and the variety of offerings is more than your $350 of equipment. Further, let’s say you decide after 2 months you are not really into exercising then it is a matter of canceling the gym membership (whose cancellation fee may be the equivalent of 1 months usage). Financially, for most people, when considering exercising, the outlay of money is less with the OpEx model.

When would you use CapEx? When you have nearly zero doubt that the upfront investment of your money out weights a pay as you go model. Why? Let’s consider the exercise equipment model again. The first month of gym membership is $25, which you take out of the $350 you set aside. That leaves $325 to earn interest that month! The next month, you take the $325 + interest earned and subtract the next $25. And so on it goes. You make money with all the unspent money, plus if your lifestyle changes, your costs can adapt more easily. Let’s consider our spend on the boat. The cost of renting a boat like the one we bought is around $1,000 per week. Plus, the rental boats are not allowed to venture where we want to nor are we allowed to make the modifications we want to. Within 2 years of our voyage, we will have recouped the cost of the boat, taken it to places not allowed by rental companies, and modified it to suit our needs. In this case, we decided that a CapEx was the better way to go. Cars are similarly in this category.

We’ve tuned our life to be as much OpEx as possible. This not only allows us to spend more nimbly, but we have more in reserves if something unexpected were to happen. Our advice is to always start in the OpEx model and always challenge the need to go CapEx. If, after going OpEx, you find you are better off in CapEx mode for something, then simply switch. For the few times you pick wrong, you will more than have moved ahead with all the other places that going OpEx was the better choice.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Something Extraordinary?

Over the past 2 + years that we've been on our preparation journey, we've probably shared our story with 200 or so people. A number of those same people have told us that our journey has become a point of discussion for them, their family, and their friends. The list of those who know about this grows every single day. Yet, when we tell someone about it for the first time and they are stunned by what we are preparing to do, we are still surprised that folks find this whole thing remarkable. To us, this whole trip doesn't seem remarkable at all. To not do this would be remarkable. Our passion is our family and travel. Why wouldn't we do this? People talk about having small kids on a boat as being risky. That is because they don't live on boats and it seems foreign to them. People talk about giving up a good job just to travel the world. That is because they are unsure of their own capabilities. People talk about sailing ocean passages for 15 days at a time as if that is a prison sentence, with no TV ("you better have a Gameboy for your kids!" one person said authoritatively). That is because they have not taught their children how to experience life without the gizmos. As I hear the barrage of why this is such a bad idea, I smile and ask them how people got along before the advent of , electricity/cars/Internet/video games/washing machines/fire/etc. The easy, dull road of life, is paved by others. You want a life unique to you? You must blaze the path yourself. We will be blazing the path for ourselfs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hola Cheapo!

Mexican Restaurants not only serve my favorite type of food, but they give free chips and for $9 you get enough food to feed 2 or more people. In fact, when we go to Mexican restaurants, we typically order 1 main dish (which includes the main food plus 2 sides) and 1 extra side, and we all eat from that one meal. Never have I had any one at these restaurants say a single word to me about it. As is often the case, the waitresses give us an extra portion anyway because our girls are bonita! :) Ahh, I love eating out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to wash your car for free!

Once someone scrawled in the dust on my car, “Get a car wash!” I wrote in the dust, “I’m waiting for the rain.” They wrote back, “You cheap bastard!” I replied, “Yep!”

Unless the cleanliness of your car is tied to your livelihood, don't wash it! Wait for the rain, then let nature do it for you, for free. Whip out a pair of swim trunks, grab a towel, some soap and play in the rain. If you have kids, all the better, it is a lot of fun! If it is too cold out, then just let the rain pound on your car and run the dirt off. But never, ever, spend money on a car wash just to clean your car.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Busting Your Ass Is Stupid

I read a blog last month that has been haunting me because it gave some bad, commonly accepted, advice to a large number of its readers. It said to make money you have to work hard. The notion of hard work equaling money is exactly what those who know how to make money want you to believe. They need more distracted servants. The author of the blog may be one of those who really knows, or he is simply naïve.

The concept of working hard for your money is so easy to believe because that is what we see and hear. We are taught that the way to make money is to trade your time for monetary compensation. The more needed your particular task is, the higher your pay is per hour. You could simply obtain more money by increasing your personal per hour value (PPHV). Medical doctors, for example, are sorely needed because the number of them is so limited (due to the rigors of becoming a doctor). As a consequence, medical doctors are paid a higher amount per their hour of working time than say a janitor (the pool of potential janitors is much, much, much larger). Most believe increasing their PPHV is the best way to accumulate wealth, but this is WRONG!!!!! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG!! Why? Because this method of making money is constrained by the 168 hour law: You cannot work more than 168 hours per week (7 days per week times 24 hours per day). No matter what, the medical doctor who makes his money only based on his work has a maximum he can earn. Sure the amount is a lot, but it is finite and tied to 168 hours, plus it takes him 7 years to start earning it. Earning via PPHV is hard, and can work, but there are other methods that require much less effort.

My most favorite method of earning money is via earning interest. Any money I put away earns me something regardless of what I do. If I put $100,000 away, every year I earn $5000 and I don’t have to do a damn thing. I don’t have to lift a finger, yet $5000 is handed over to me. (pick your scale, $100 = $5 in interest).

Those arguing that hard work is required will say, “Yeah, but you had to somehow earn that $100,000?” True, but maybe I built up to that using interest. Maybe someone gave me $100,000 in inheritance. Maybe I won the money in a Lotto. Maybe I easily seduced female billionaire and she paid me for my services (okay, that may be a stretch). Maybe I have the easiest job in the universe making minimum wage and I saved like crazy, lived dirt poor, and now I’m living off the interest of my savings.

The point is, if you believe that the only way to make money is the “hard way”, then every way you will try will be the “hard way.” If you believe that you can make money the “easy way” too, then you will find easy ways. I’ve highlighted 1 way, and there are more, but that is left up to you to find them. (oh wait, that's hard work!)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How many lives have you lived?

As we prepare for the big lifestyle change, sailing on a boat for years, the fear of leaving the old comfortable life creeps back in. When surveying my life, I've had a few different "lifes": compulsory schooling, military, college, and professional. With the exception of the compulsory schooling phase, each time I left a phase, I wondered if I was doing the right thing ... leaving something I was extremely good at.

In the military, I went from the lowest possible rank to Sergeant in less than 3 years, and I was awarded multiple ARCOMs in that time. My military future was very bright and people continuously told me I was a lifer. The military was the sure road. When re-enlistment time came around, the gentle nudge of my beautiful wife helped me understand that it was time to try something new.

In college, I was a star student. I graduated with a 4.0 in my major (Physics), was tapped into Phi Kappa Phi (a collegiate national honor society), and pulled in 2 minors (Mathematics and Computer Science). I followed this up with a curve busting graduate student stint obtaining my Master's degree in Computer Science. The follow on Ph.D. and a life in academia was the sure road. The gentle nudge of my beautiful wife helped me understand that it was time to try something new.

In my current phase, professional, I'm doing just fine. I'm a Vice President at a 20 Billion USD company (and it isn't a bank!). My road to a CIO position in 5-10 years is looking sound. I love my current job, and I love the people I work with. What I do doesn't feel like work. The road forward is a sure one. The gentle nudge of my beautiful wife has helped me to understand that it is time to try something new. Not today, but within another few years we need to be in a new phase.

With each phase shift, there is a fear of leaving the known, the comfortable, the sure. Yet, each new phase we try, we seem to do just fine and we grow in new, unexpected ways. In the past, it was just my wife and I. Now, we have kids to consider. It will be all 4 of use making the phase change.

The next phase is the World Explorer phase. The phase of living on a boat, making our way around the world, sampling different cultures at each port. The phase of learning how to live more grounded to the world.

Does this fear paralyze? In many it does, but not us. Part of the excitement we get is from that fear. It is the challenge of learning how to stabilize life in a new environment. It is all about the nuances a life style offers. It is about tacking on experiences that we would not otherwise have.

Was any one phase better than another? The compulsory education phase was atrocious, but the others were special and valuable in their own way. No one phase could be rated better than another. Where one lacked, money for example, it make up for in experiences, like throwing grenades, firing an M-60 machine gun, and working at the National Security Agency.

Many people live 1 or 2 "life"s. Some get 3. We are greedy, we want to life many "lifes"! Not 1 or 2. Is there fear with this next life change? Absolutely! Will it deter us? Not on your life!

Now it is time to get back to learning how to tie knots.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday America!

If you are living in America and/or are an America citizen, take advantage of being free to pursue whatever makes you happy. Life is short. We can all plan for retirement, we can all set the best plans, we can all someday enjoy life ... but we can all have something bad happen along the way. That would suck. What a waste. Go for life now! On the death bed, you never hear anyone say, "Damn, I wish I had worked just one more day!"

I once read something to this effect:
Plan like you will live forever, live today like it is the last day of your life.

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Desires Help Highlight Your Consumerism

Every day we are inundated by our money enemies. It can be surprising how insidious they are and how deep they burrow into our psyche. So, how do you measure their incursion? You do this by asking yourself, "What do I want?"

For example, take a few minutes and describe your ideal home. What did you describe?

Was it made out of brick? Did it have 4, 5, or 6 bedrooms? Did it have a big back yard? Did it have a dinning room? Did it have a large kitchen with an island in it? Was it 2 stories? Did it have a large master suite? Did it have a jacuzzi? Did it have a 2 or 3 car garage? Did it have automatic garage doors? Did it have a family room?

Now that you have your ideal home described, let me ask you why you did not describe a cave? Or a tree house? Or a boat? Or an RV? What has driver who says what your ideal house is?

This exercise can be applied to all sorts of things. What is your ideal mode of transportation? Did you happen to describe a fancy name brand car? Or did you come up with something new or different?

Remember, your money enemies want to make you desire things that they sell. When you want something, be sure to check deep inside to see if it is something you want, or something your money enemies want you to want.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When is your Independence Day?

In a few days, the USA will be celebrating its Independence day. Our family will be right along all the others, eating hot dogs, watching fireworks, lighting a few sparklers, and popping firecrackers. The USA became independent of England. That meant it no long depended upon it, it no longer needed it, it no longer wanted to be controlled by it.

What controls you? When will you be free of it?

In our society, with consumerism the biggest driving force, money is the main shackle that binds. When will you be free of money worries? How much money do you need to have to be free? Consider the following:
  1. If an investment earns 5%, then $100,000 invested would give you $5,000 per year.
  2. If you had no debt, could you live off of $20,000 per year?
  3. If so, then $400,000 would set you free.
Did you know that there are inflation adjusting government bonds that earn around 5%? Nice. There are tax free municipal funds that earn just over 5%.

Imagine, for the rest of your life, being given $20,000 every year, inflation adjusted. You could still work if you so wanted. Or, you could sit around and read all day. Or, you could paint. Or you could play with your kids. Whatever. It becomes your choice. By it becoming your choice, you become independent. You become free from control.

How much do you really need to live? Not what the magazines say you should spend, but what you really need. Compute that, then reverse engineer how much you would have to put away so that the interest off an investment meets your minimum. Run to that point of wealth as as fast as you can so you can have your true independence day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Beans Beans the Magical Fruit, The More You Eat ..

... the more you save! Yeah, I know, my version of the catchy song isn't as rhymey ... but it is so true!

As we studied how people provision their boats for long journeys, we learned that a lot of folks stock up on beans. Not only do beans last a long time. beans are incredibly healthy for you and they are

We bought a book titled The Bean Book by Rose Elliot and we have become true beanophiles! We always liked beans, but now we love them. There are so many ways to enjoy them, and the varieties are so varied. Beans have been a staple for our family for about a year now and other than a few comical gaseous moments, there have been no downsides. Get this book, learn how to really enjoy beans, improve your health, and save money. Beans are a beautiful food.