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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I want, What I need is more money

I'm going to take a break from the politics and such to concentrate on something else for a change.  My girl and I are thinking about buying a motorhome or other such nonsense.

I should explain, we both have family that still live in Northwestern Pennsylvania and it's important for Susan to go home at least once or twice a year for a week or two.  Sadly neither her mother's home or her daughter home is really ideal.  They both live in small places, basically just one bedroom homes and that means Sue is stuck sleeping on the floor or the couch in the living room when she visits.  Not exactly the ideal situation.  As such we have been throwing the idea around of either buying/building a "tiny home" for her to stay in while visiting them...or getting an RV.

The "tiny home" or RV could be rented out during the 6 to 9 months that Sue would not be going home (basically Sept through March) to a college kid.  Sue's family owns the property on which it sits and their are 3 nearby colleges at least.  Tying it into the water and sewer system would not be an issue either.  That also means that she can stay longer than a week or two, an idea that appeals to her.

You can pick up a "Tiny home" or even a good RV for under 20K.  That means charging about a $500 dollar rent.  If you rent the place for 8 to 9 months out of the year, that is more than enough money to pay the expenses and make a small but reasonable profit.  Once the property is paid off in full your golden and a positive cash flow is never a bad thing.

While I'm not sure I could live in a area of 500 or less square feet, which I understand is the definition of a tiny home, I like the concept of simply "simplifying" your life.  My first apartment after college was a 500 square foot place outside of Charlotte, NC.  I didn't own much at the time but I quickly found myself needing to leave the place when the walls started to suffocate me.  "Tiny" living I know is not for everyone.

In nearby Orlando there is a tiny home community that sometimes does open houses, I'm hoping to be able to attend one soon for ideas and an idea on pricing.   Going with a pre built kit home means I don't have to hire someone to do the work or be (hopefully) to concerned it was done wrong.

Option two - and this is the one Sue likes.

An RV.  Pictured above is what's referred to as a Class C RV.

I have to be honest I like the idea to a certain extent.  The idea of being able to take off and go somewhere with her for a weekend or a week appeals to me.  Frankly, if and when I retire, I would love to simply go and see Canada, Mexico and the US at my leisure.  While both of us believe that camping should be done from the confines of a motel room, this is about as close as we're going to get to "roughing it."  Something like a Class C would allow us to dip our toes into the RV waters.

However, unlike the tiny home, I'm not sure how something like that would work for us.   A new motorhome is simply out of the budget.  Plus frankly how would we be able to rent that out?   A better option may be a travel trailer.

Here we see a classic and iconic Airsteam.  The good news is that they can be winterized or some are even designed to be lived in for all four seasons.  A bit of work could be done to block the cold air from getting inside of the trailer and you have a small, but hopefully comfortable, home for a college kid.

The only problem is that we would need to have a different type of vehicle to either move it or tow it from place to place.  Something we can't do right now.  I'm about 3 years away from being financially solvent and am not happy about adding another debt...but like the man said, "you don't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."   I'm trying to build towards my future.

Personally, if we do this I'm thinking a travel trailer is the best way to go.   Sue and I are spitballing ideas right now, looking at options and trying to find something that is going to meet all of our needs.  Frankly I'm not sure which way we will go.

Rentals have there drawbacks of course but in the end they are a solid investment and will make us some additional cash in the future.  I'm going to be 65 before I know it and although I'm not bad off, I'm not where I want to be.   Having that additional cash flow is only a good thing.

Of course I might just say "fudge it" if I could afford a place like this.  I would sell the homes in Florida in a heartbeat and live on the road full time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The various strands of history

I'm a political wonk.  I love reading about politics, seeing how things begin to change over time.  How things have come to be.

While I'll gladly admit that I'm liberal and consider myself a progressive: I was a fan of Democratic Socialism before Bernie Sanders made it cool, I'm also a realist.  Democratic Socialism has always been part of the United States, and it's only going to grow.  The fact that we are actually having a conversation about what that term means is progress.

While Americans have always had a discussion about the role of the unwashed masses in our society, this is probably the first time since the 1760's that role has been so openly discussed.

Basically it's a simple argument about what is best for America.  Do we allow only certain people to control us, and remember in America at one time the only people allowed to vote were white men that owned land (they were seen as being responsible as they had the most to lose or gain in a election).  Or do we trust the general populace to make a choice?   Every battle we have had since has been along those lines.

From allowing blacks the vote, to women's rights, to the current fight over the minimum wage.

What many politicians and media people are missing however is the very subtle shift that is occurring towards a more equitable economy.   It's in fits and starts and like everything in America it seems to be starting  small.  A barely visible moment at the lowest and most basic of places.  The neighborhood.

I'm seeing more community gardens.  I'm seeing progressive cities like my old home town of Pittsburgh, who recently tore down old dilapidated buildings and turned the now vacant lots into community gardens.   Allowing some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city access to fresh, green and healthy foods.   Helping to answer in some small way the growing "food desert" problem that plagues many cities.

I see it in the fight against gerrymandering.  I get that.  It's only natural to want to protect what you see as "your power."  So Ohio's recent decision to outlaw it is a victory for democracy in my opinion.   Let's have races actually run on issues.

When I hear of families of two or three generations living together under one roof in order to save money and cut costs, I see a changing economy.  When I read stories about polyamory, and how again a small community of people is redefining what it means to "be a family", I see a changing world and economy.

Driving home one day after work and listening to Marketplace on NPR I was shocked to hear a conversation about the idea of establishing a Universal Basic Income.  That to me meant that business leaders themselves are beginning to understand that the economy is changing in such a way that the old models are not sustainable.  All of this conversation was brought about by economic anxiety index; which serve as a gauge about the general feeling of the economy.

It's to radical of an idea for politicians to touch, yet if it's being discussed on a award winning show about business and slowly finding it's way into business magazines as a viable option, then you know it's a viable option.   Business is not always short term driven and "evil."  In order for it to survive long term they have to come to grips with a changing world.

Don't believe me?  Look into the history of civil rights.  You will see that business put pressure on states to change racist laws.  Or have supported gay rights - sure, it was to sell more of their product and look "progressive" but that's not the point.   In doing these things they "normalize" what many people protest.  Sure, some crazy religious group might stop buying Doritos because the chips are rainbow colored, and all they do is give the company free publicity.

To get back on track though...think of it this way.   If a company can't sell it's product or if the marketplace shrinks so much that their product becomes a luxury item for most people, then the sales drop.  Simple supply and demand economics.   BUT if everyone had a certain amount of income guaranteed then the market place opens up again and their more people to buy Doritos of any flavor and color.

Does that mean a possible loss of profit in the short term?   Probably.  Greater profits in the long term?  Most likely.

Does this mean I'm hopeful?   Sort of.  Change takes time, ideas like this take time.  Greater Equality takes time.  The wheels on the train are creaky and rusted but once you start them moving down the track they will only pick up speed.

Doing the right thing

My office and work space
I've been ignoring these blogs over the past couple of weeks.  My life has become a flurry of days and nights that flow into each other.  I didn't even realize yesterday was Friday the 13th 2015 till one of my clients reminded me of it.

Which brings me to some choices that I have to make.   I like my job.  I like the people I'm associated with and at times can make good money (as the 2 grand check for 2 weeks work in my bank account shows).  I do feel however that my job is "unstable" and what I mean by that is simple.  In the past 14 months I've worked for 4 different departments and have worked with 16 different clients.

I enjoy a challenge.  I enjoy learning something new...and I'm happy that the company feels that I can handle whatever problem is thrown my way.  At the same time I also feel that if things slip gears for me and I no longer am able to produce at a certain level...that I would be out on the street.  Welcome to sales, welcome to the world of finance and insurance.

Lately I've been toying with the idea of making my life even more complex and busy by looking outside my company and building a small book of business for myself; while continuing to work for the company I do.

From when I first bought the place
There are reasons for this.  We need to get the kitchen redone.  The electric stove (welcome to Florida where everything is electric) has lost one of its burners.  The door keeps coming off it too.  The cabinets are dated and the floor is an ugly off white color.  So let's sink about 10 grand into that, because if we are going to be honest with ourselves, people look at kitchens and baths.  Plus updating it would help with resale value and although I'm noting planning on selling anytime soon, I have to keep that in the back of my mind.

I had to do sink some serious cash into this home for a new roof already, some underpinning work, flooring, paint and added a shed.  I did some grounds keeping work on the outside of it this year, taking down some trees (which to be honest I did not want to do) and trimming up others.

Slowly but surely this has become a home that Susan and I can feel proud of.  This is our home.

Over the last two years however Susan's health has not been good.   She's ended up in the hospital a few times, and as some friends know....the prognosis is sketchy at best.  So there is talk of her wanting to go back up north to Pennsylvania to live with family again, at least for a partial amount of the year.   I can understand that.

Slippery Rock Campground be perfect for her.  It's only a couple miles from were she grew up and with relative low costs for rent she could be there for 3 or 4 months out of the year if needed.   Of course, this takes money.

We always find a way.

So I put feelers out...looking for a independent company that might be willing for me to work weekends and nights at times to slowly, ever so slowly, build a book of business for them.  To make things...better for us.

I know USAA is hiring, that they pay more per hour, but that means putting up with "sweat shop" conditions and frankly at this time I'm not looking for that.  I don't mind putting in the work, but I do mind the stress.  I'm not working to work, I'm working to live.

So...let's see what happens.