How I Invest.

How Do I Invest? What is My Process?

 Recently, a friend asked me to share the process I use to invest my own retirement funds.  If you, too, are curious, or are thinking about becoming a do-it-yourself investor, this post is for you.

Most people who do not have a background in business (I have an MBA) or years of experience investing their own retirement funds (I’ve been investing for almost 40 years) will be better off having their retirements professionally managed.   However, I am a big advocate for taking charge of your own investments, especially for those who are young and have time to recover from their investment mistakes (like I did).

In addition, there are those who are retired, whose income is mainly from a pension, but who have a small portion of their retirement in an IRA and would like to manage that small portion themselves.  That can make a lot of sense.

This post will not be about what to own.  This post is not a recommendation for any particular investment. (Do your own research!)  Rather, this post is about WHERE I go to inform myself, and what tools I use to manage my portfolio.

Fundamental Concepts

First, you must understand that I take a fundamental analysis approach to investing.  Which means I consider the actual business of each company I might invest in; its profit potential, its competitive position vs. its industry, and I formulate a value for that company.  I then buy selected companies when they are “on sale”.

Fundamental analysis is different from technical analysis or momentum analysis.  Technical analysis ignores the business fundamentals and focuses solely upon the historic pricing of the stock.  Technical analysis can be fun, and I use it to a very marginal degree.  Momentum analysis involves seeing “what’s hot” and piling into those securities while they are rising and exiting when they are declining.  Again, this can be fun, but this is not my focus.

Big Picture

I feel it is important to understand where we are in the business cycle. I make my own guesses as to how close we are to the next recession.  This informs my decision as to what types of securities to own in my portfolio.

I also consider where I believe interest rates are likely to go in the future.  Interest rates represent the cost of money.  High interest rates indicate that money is dear and borrowing is costly for businesses.  In a high-rate environment, a business must overcome a much higher hurdle to justify borrowing to grow their business.

I’m a big believer in the concept of ‘reversion to the mean’.   Here is a great example of how I use this principle.

Source: Advisor Perspectives.com

As you can see in the chart above, from a historic perspective, the price investors are willing to pay for companies in the S&P 500 Index are quite inflated, as compared to their historic average.  This graph tells me that stocks are expensive today.  So I must be extremely selective about which stocks I buy in the current environment.  This is also an indicator to me that we are close to a market top and nearing the end of a business cycle.  That’s my opinion.  I look at these and other charts from Advisor Perspective frequently, to keep my perspective on the marketplace.

Source: Advisor Perspectives.com

Here’s another informative snapshot (above).  This single graph gives us volumes of information, but let’s focus on the blue line.  Interest rates, as measured by the 10-year treasury yields, have been in a long-term decline since the early 1980’s.  Currently 10-year treasury yields are just over 2%.  Money is cheap!  How low can yields go?

These two graphs give us the big picture.  But there is an even bigger picture.  What is going on in the rest of the world and how might it affect the U.S. market?

One source I use to stay abreast of world events is Geopolitical Futures.com  (https://geopoliticalfutures.com/welcome-to-geopolitical-futures/).  For a nominal fee I receive daily e-mail briefings on events of the world.  Another source I use is found at SeekingAlpha.com (https://seekingalpha.com), where many gurus of the financial world come together to share their views.  Each guru specializes in their own unique field. Here, for example, is an entertaining and thought provoking author, Mark J. Grant, who purports that we can expect interest rates to continue to decline, even below zero!  (https://seekingalpha.com/author/mark-j-grant#regular_articles)

So these are examples of some of the sources I use to gain a big-picture perspective, which informs my decision-making.  I am constantly looking for additional sources; looking for contrary opinions to my own.  I’m always asking myself, “What if I’m wrong?”  Years of investing experience have taught me to be humble and open-minded to new and contrary ideas.  My methods are constantly changing as a result.  It makes me a safer investor.  And it helps me identify opportunities.

Concepts of Investing

 Portfolio Diversification and Balance.  You have heard the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  Depending on my age, my financial circumstances, where we are in the business cycle, and current interest rates, I change the mix of assets in my portfolio and how many securities I hold.  As an example, here’s what my portfolio looks like today:

I’m invested in over 60 securities, none of which represents more than 4% of my portfolio.   At some times during the business cycle I have fewer securities and weight the portfolio more toward high-dividend stocks.  But right now I’m looking to reduce my exposure to stocks and increase my exposure to fixed-income securities.  My portfolio is an ever-changing creature based on the factors I listed above.

Each of these asset types must be researched in a different way.  I find it helpful to follow the research done by experts in these various asset types.  My list of experts is constantly changing over the years.  Currently, for equity securities I use two main sources:

Equities.

Brian Bollinger produces research on equities, with a focus on measuring the safety each stock’s dividend at https://2.simplysafedividends.com/home.  His service also provides an excellent portfolio management system that allows me to see the big picture of my portfolio, with the ability to drill down to each security for an in-depth analysis.

Here’s a snapshot of a small portion of my portfolio:

The amount of the dividend and the safety of the dividend are extremely important to me, since I live off the dividends.  This brings me to a concept I follow, which is that — I try to live entirely off the fruit of my portfolio and avoid cutting down the trees.  That is, I don’t sell stocks to fund my living expenses.  Rather, I try to live on less than the income from those stocks’ dividends (and interest from my bonds).

Why does dividend safety matter?  Because, if I’m confident in the safety of the dividend, I can sleep well at night when the price of the stock goes down in a recession.  So long as the company can continue to afford to pay its dividend, I can live my current lifestyle.  Whereas if my strategy were to sell stocks each year to fund my living expenses I would end up destroying the trees that grow the fruit each year (dividend).  Eventually I would have sold all the stocks in my portfolio and would become a pauper. Not good.  So Bollinger’s dividend safety score at Simplysafedividend.com is very helpful to me.

Another source of research I use for selecting equities is found at FastGraphs.com (https://www.fastgraphs.com/trial/).   Here, Charles Carnevale has created an amazingly simple way to view the current value of a company, its dividend history, its forecast earnings, etc.  Here’s a snapshot of one of my holdings using FastGraphs:

This graph tells a story to those who learn how to read it.

Finding bargains in equities is how I grow the value of my portfolio. But my portfolio income is generated from high-yield equities (utilities, MLPs, REITs, BDCs) and fixed-income securities.

Fixed-Income Securities

If you believe that interest rates will continue to decline (and that’s a big, big question), then fixed-income securities (preferred shares, baby bonds, bonds, closed end funds) become attractive because they not only produce a good yield, but they can also increase in value as interest rates decline.

Again, it really helps to have specialists in these fields ferret out bargains that pop up on occasion.  With their recommendations I can do my own research to pick what I like for my portfolio.

SeekingAlpha.com is a source of two such gurus that send me ideas to consider every week, sometimes every day.  These are Rida Morwa of High Dividend Opportunities, and Stanford Chemist at CEF/ETF Income Laboratory.  I enjoy sorting through their ideas and appreciate their ability to find potential bargains.

Strategy

In my experience, successful investments are typically found where most people are running away from a security.  For example, currently investors are running away from shopping mall REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts).  Brick and mortar retail sales have suffered from too many malls in the United States. Plus there is the ‘Amazon affect’, a significant growth in on-line sales at the expense of brick and mortar store sales. But not all shopping malls are created equal.

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

The highest-quality mall REIT stock prices have suffered along with the low-traffic malls REIT prices.  Hmmm. Are there bargains to be found here?

Another example of potential bargains can be found in correction facility REITs.  These companies build and manage facilities for state and federal prisons.  Recently, while Democratic candidates have been on the campaign trail, there has been much discussion about prison reform.  As a result, investors have run away from correction facility REITs.

Photo by Larry Farr on Unsplash

Hmm. Are the bonds issued by some of these REITs safe?  How likely is it that congress would come together to make significant prison reform? Would they likely release millions of prisoners?  Or would they make some less-dramatic, cosmetic change that would appease liberal voters?  Is there a bargain here?  These are tough judgments that an investor must make in order to find true bargains.

If you want a decent yield and/or a great potential for an increase in your portfolio value, you must find these bargains.  It sometimes feels like running into a burning building while everyone else is running out screaming.

I hope this post has given you a taste of what it’s like to invest for your own retirement.  My methods are unique to me.  There are as many methods of investing as there are investors.  I love to do my own investing and sleuthing to find bargains, while continually staying alert for alligators.  It’s the great game of life for me.  If you want to chat, I am always, always happy to enjoy a conversation about the fascinating adventure of investing.

— Clay

 

 

 

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Winter Cottage by the Sea

2018 Travels

Our 2018 Travels – From one end to the other.

We’re not done wandering yet.  Not by a long shot.  But, for a number of reasons (which I may get to eventually in another post), it’s time for us to select a winter quarters.   Having spent the past few years wintering in the desert southwest, this year we headed to Florida to see what that was all about.

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I was somewhat familiar with Florida, having spent several months in pilot training near Miami, flew multiple times in the big air show at Lakeland, and visited numerous times for spring break as a kid, not to mention many vacations at the beach as an adult.  One of my favorite areas is Destin, in the panhandle, with it’s amazing white sand beaches.

But much of Florida is overwhelmed by traffic and people in the winter.  Where could we find a quiet haven, near the ocean, that we could afford?  Oh, I know.  Let’s look in one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.  What?

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Is this Florida, or Italy?

Our exploration took us south along the west coast of Florida.  We considered Clearwater, Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers, Estero ……  And when the road ended, we found ourselves in Naples.

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This city of 20,000 is a place you have to aim at to get to.  It’s not on the way to anywhere. This is the end of the road, unless you want to turn east on I-75 and spend a couple hours crossing Alligator Alley to Miami.  If you go any further west or south of Naples you’ll get your feet wet in the Gulf of Mexico.

Naples on map

Naples, because of it’s unique location, is a quiet place.  There is zero road noise at our little cottage.  It is abundant with nature, and we’re close enough to the ocean that we’ll get a sea breeze most days.

So how can two homeless paupers such as us afford to buy property in Naples, one of the wealthiest cities on the planet?  Well, first, let me be clear.  As with most things in our marriage, I come up with the strategic plan, the big picture.  But Wendy does the real work – all the tactical analysis and research.

Wendy is amazing and relentless.  She found this place.  Basically, I told her, “Yea, sure, if you can find a place that costs next to nothing and can decrease our living expenses, that is by the ocean — I’m in.  Just make sure it has palm trees.”

Don’t ever give Wendy an impossible challenge unless you’re ready to commit.  The greater the challenge, the happier she’ll be.  Here’s what she found:

NLYH Sign

NLYH Pic

NLYH Pool View

NLYH Street View

(Here’s the website: Naples Land Yacht Harbor)

So let me skip to the important part, and then we can fill in the other non-essentials.  Here’s the amazing thing.  Because we live in (and are shareholders of) Naples Land Yacht Harbor, for $30/month we can have a boat slip a short walk from our cottage that gives us access to the intercostal waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.  Endless exploration!  $30/month?  Uh oh.  Looks like there’s going to be another boat in our future.

By the Water
You have to understand.  I don’t think like normal people.  I don’t see a home as an investment.  I see it as a necessary expense.  So long as it places me where I want to be, is safe, and doesn’t require much time or money in maintenance, that’s all I require.
Story time!  Thirty years ago, when Wendy and I moved to Indiana so she could attend medical school, I looked for a house near my new employer, USA Group.  I told the realtor to give me a printout of the home listings in the area (Noblesville, IN).  Then I started at the very bottom of the listing from the cheapest houses with the intention of working my way up the list.  And what did I find at the very bottom?  The listing said,
$59,000 Three bedroom one bathroom, blah, blah, blah …. next to a grass runway.  
Bingo!  Perfect.  The cheapest house … ON A GRASS RUNWAY!  I drove by and all I could see was that beautiful runway with airplanes parked here and there.  Shangri-La!  I also noticed that the roof looked okay on the little house.  Good enough.  
14810 Promise Road

Aerial View – 14810 Promise Road at Bottom Left next to green runway!

 

Living in that house was one of the happiest times of our life.  Wendy was able to pursue her goal, I got my pilots license and started building an airplane, and the kids had acres and acres of lawn to play in — just keep an eye out for airplanes landing.
That’s how I look for property.  Find the cheapest thing available that meets the need.  And pay with cash if you can.  Any extra money spent on the house is money that can’t be used to explore the world and have interesting experiences.
Okay, back to the here and now: our little cottage by the sea.  Nothing fancy.  It is a 50 year old mobile home, one of 352 located in Naples Land Yacht Harbor (NLYH).  It’s an antique.  Who buys this stuff?!?! We do!
113 Pier B
This particular unit has an updated kitchen and bathrooms, and new roof, plywood flooring covered in tile, A/C, and windows.
Although it is tiny at 820 square feet, consider that for the past 4 years of full-time travel in our RV we’ve been living happily in 400 square feet.  For us, this summer cottage is spacious with more than twice our usual living space.
113 Pier B Living Room
It comes fully furnished, including dishes, linens,  washer/dryer and a workshop loaded with tools.
So what do we plan to do if a hurricane wipes it out?  Actually, the eye of Hurricane Irma came right through Naples Land Yacht Harbor September 10, 2017.
Hurricane Irma Path
Of the 352 units in NLYH, 13 had to be condemned.  Many others needed one type of repair or another.  But these old mobile homes did amazingly well.  They’re all anchored to the ground with special straps.  Damage typically comes from flying debris.  But if another hurricane comes barreling through and you’re not so lucky, you just scrape off what’s left and put  a new, 1300 square foot Jacobsen manufactured home on the site.  As you drive through NLYH, you see a sprinkling of the 13 new homes that replaced those that did not survive Irma.
But why an old mobile home? Aren’t there better options? After all, Florida is loaded with retirement condos, apartments, houses and newer park model/manufactured home options.
We want a permanent place here in Southern Florida.  We’ve looked at and considered purchasing:
  • RV pads.  Each RV community we looked at had a great social atmosphere with pickle ball and all kinds of gatherings.  However, the cost would be twice as much for a bare cement pad as we paid for our 2 bedroon, 2 bath cottage (plus we would pay $1,000/yr property tax).  We don’t pay property tax on our mobile home because the property is permanently leased to us.
  • Condos.  These cost 3-4 times as much as our home with the same HOA fee/month that we are paying at the cottage, plus $1,500/yr property tax.  And although these have a community pool, they have no social gathering programs.  And you actually have less privacy with shared walls and the possibility of noisy, smoking neighbors.  No ambiance.
  • Other mobile home parks.  The typical park with 30-40 yr old mobile homes has smaller lots and less green space and costs twice what we paid.  If they have water access to the Gulf of Mexico with boat slips, they cost 3-4 times more.
Naples Land Yacht Harbor is a high quality 55+ community that we think we will greatly enjoy for six months each winter.  It feels like a throwback to old Florida, where 1 mile from the cottage, we can bike by the fancy Naples shops and restaurants on our way to a free day at the beach.
Check out the NLYH website to learn more.  We would love to have you as a neighbor!
You just can’t live any cheaper than this.  And did I mention that you can have a boat slip for $30/month?  Yea, I think I did.
NLYH Canal View
We have a whole new world to explore — this time in a boat.  Something to look forward to in the next several winters.
But first a summer mission this year and then 6 months in Europe next year.  But we’ll get to that later.  Isn’t life grand?
– Clay

RESET

Farewell my Lovely

2018-04-25_14-54-22_371In April 2018, we rolled Zane (our motorhome) into an impossibly tight spot between evergreens at a beautiful little RV Park in Show Low, Arizona for what we thought would be a month’s stay.

If you’re in Casa Grande, Arizona in April, it starts to get hot, really hot in the desert.  But at 6,350 feet elevation, Show Low is perfect.  Ahhh.  Time to relax and explore the area.

But after a week of cool relaxation, there was something rattling around in my mind that needed resolution.  The “rattle” had to do with our finances.  When we bought our beautiful 2004 Newell motorhome in 2014 we were making significant income and our plan was to retire with $X in the bank at some future time.

Fast forward to 2018 and our plans had changed.  We were now officially retired, significantly earlier than we had originally planned and with ½ $X in the bank.

Hmm.

When Wendy indicated in June 2017 that she was done, done, DONE with her medical career (but would still finish out her 6 month Eureka California contract),  I quickly began to adjust our investment portfolio so that I could pluck every piece of fruit (dividends) out of it without chopping down the orchard (stocks).  Then I created a budget based on that annual dividend income and we began living on that projected amount while she finished her last 6-month assignment. And we kept to our new, leaner, meaner budget.

Freedom is a wonderful thing.  It feels great!  But financial freedom requires some sacrifices.  If we were going to be done working, we would have to stay within this new budget.

And the one thing that was rattling around in my brain was the fact that Zane had a habit of requiring costly repairs.  She’s an older coach.  She has a massive diesel engine.  No, make that TWO massive diesel engines; one to drive her and another in the PowerTech generator which produces 20 kilowatts of electricity (enough to power a motorcoach and a house at the same time).  Everything in her is high end, including a Sub Zero fridge that keeps requiring $800 repairs, would cost $12,000 to replace, is custom built into the cabinet walls, and no appliance repair guy wants to work on it.

In the four years we have lived in Zane, we’ve budgeted $12,000 per year in maintenance and upgrades. And every year we blow through that $12,000 budget.  Like the Roadrunner zooming past Wile E Coyote.  Beep! Beep!

coyote-and-road-runner-acme-rocket.jpg

[credit:Warner Brothers via twistedsifter.com]

How could we remain financially free (live within our budget) with this budget-busting motorhome?

Hmm.

But we love her so much!

One day, Wendy and I are sitting outside under the pine trees when in rolls a gold Ford F-350 pulling a 5th wheel into the spot next to us.  It looked very —nice! I turned to Wendy and said, “I could do that.”  (Meaning, I could imagine us trading down to a truck and 5th wheel.)  Next thing, Wendy and I are making new friends, taking a test-drive in their pickup (smooth ride, not clunky and mean-spirited like big trucks I had driven before) and walking through their spacious 5th wheel.

Hmm.

With a new pickup truck and 5th wheel we could cut our yearly maintenance budget to $2,000, or maybe even lower.  Especially since a new one would have a 1-2 year all-inclusive warranty! And by selling the motorhome, we could buy the truck and 5th wheel with a significant amount of equity left over to provide more cushion in our bank account.

Just for grins, let’s throw in the decrease in RV insurance:  $733 a year for a 5th wheel instead of $4700 for the Newell.  That’s a big, huge, whopping incentive to re-think this whole motorhome issue.

Hmm.

Do I love my freedom more than I love my motorhome?

The answer is a resounding “YES”!

Time to press the RESET button.

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credit:ThisTimeIMeanIt.com

Once the decision was made, Wendy went into action.  She is amazing!  She loves these types of challenges.  Ergo:

  • Where and how do we sell the motorhome? At what price?
  • Which 5th wheel should we buy?
  • New or used?
  • How do you determine which truck to buy? F250? F350? Single rear or dual rear wheel axle?
  • How do you manage the logistics of moving your stuff from a motorhome to a 5th wheel?
  • Should we wait to buy a truck & 5th wheel until the motorhome sells? Or should we cash out some investments to cover the cost and then reimburse the investment account after the motorhome sells? Or should we (No, don’t say it) borrow for the truck & 5th wheel until the motorhome sells?

At the time, these questions were almost overwhelming.  But we’ve dealt with much bigger challenges, so we could handle this one.  Here’s how we ordered our thinking:

  1. Research 5th wheels.  When we bought the Newell we had researched motorhomes using www.rvreviews.net, which is an independent reviewer for recreational vehicles, similar in nature to Consumer Reports. So we got their guide for 5th wheels and began to pour over the reports.  We were looking for a 4-season, high quality product for full-time living.  Answer: DRV, followed by Redwood and then Grand Design.  We’d have to look at them and see where the price point / quality met our comfort zone.
  2. Where can we find some 5th wheels to look at? We can go anywhere in the United States to look, but let’s start where we intend to sell the motorhome.  So we set off for the Dallas, Texas area and unloaded all of our earthly possessions into a 10’ x 10’ storage unit.
    2018-05-07_Storage Unit

    Our few earthly possessions.  Something of which to be proud.

    Then we put eyes on some 5th wheels and selected a brand new 2017 DRV that had been sitting on the lot for over a year (the 2019s were coming in and they were ready to deal!).  We negotiated a great price with the full 2-year warranty.  We gave them a couple weeks to clean up some issues we found before we would come back to pick up the 5th wheel (by which time we hoped to have a truck with which to pull it).

  3. Where to sell the motorhome? That was pretty easy for us.  Motorhomes of Texas (MOT) sells used high-end motorhomes like our Newell and they draw buyers from all over the continent into their little town of Nacogdoches, Texas. What an amazing experience.  It took less than an hour.  We signed consignment papers with them, they suggested a listing price we liked, and the coach went immediately into their shop for a thorough review.  Their technicians were highly skilled and their service was reasonably priced.  They polished, spiffed it up, took pictures, video and advertised it on their website as well as on RVTrader.  Our experience with Motorhomes of Texas has been excellent!
  4. Next up, lose the Jeep and buy a truck. It’s important to identify the 5th wheel before you pick the truck so you know what pulling capacity you need.  Or be extremely realistic about what your current truck can haul.  The DRV is well built (a.k.a. heavy).  So we did the research and  determined we needed an F-350 Duly.  And thank goodness Wendy’s sister Kerry is married to Jeff who retired from Ford and was kind enough to give us the magic code for family to purchase a Ford for a killer price (Thank you Jeff).  With all these moving parts it just was not practical to try to sell the Jeep on our own so we traded it in as part of the transaction.
  5. So now we’re driving this big Ford beast and it’s surprisingly comfortable and quiet. 2018-06-12 Ford F-350We headed back to Dallas, picked up our DRV, loaded it with our stuff from the storage unit, and off we go.  We also went to the Cat Scale at a truck stop and went through the rigamarole to weigh the truck and fifth wheel using the workbook page in our B&W Hitch instruction booklet to calculate the final weight.  We are not overweight! Those who do chose not to weigh, do so at their own safety and insurance risk should their rig and truck go turtle.  And, you really should know if that bridge tonnage limit will hold before you try to cross it.
  6. We chose to buy the truck and 5th wheel using credit as a temporary stopgap until the sale of the motorhome. We HATE being in debt and it pained us every month to make payments, most of which was interest.  Interest is just — poof — money down the hole.  But it provided us the convenience of staying on the road (and visiting lots of family that summer) while we waited for the right buyer for the motorhome.  And wait we did.  We put our Newell up for sale in May 2018 and she did not sell until January 2019.

So that was our RESET. And it feels like we made an excellent decision.  Yes we loved the Newell.  It was a sweet ride!  There is nothing like rolling down the road sitting way up high and watching the world roll by in a Newell, with the massive semi-tractor engine 45 feet behind you.  You just have to experience it to appreciate it.  We miss her.  But she was demanding.  Her complex systems required constant maintenance and money.

Meet Zane Too.  Our 39 foot, 2017 DRV Mobile Suites 38RSSA.

2018-06-07 Zane Too

Uuuhhh… which way do we tow this thing?? There’s gotta be a manual around here…

We chose to make Zane Too as simple as possible, with no washer/dryer or generator.  Just pull her to the next RV park and plug into the power pole. The truck’s alternator charges the house batteries as we go down the road to keep the residential fridge contents cool.

I find myself with much more free time because I don’t have anything to fix on her.  And our budget is much happier with Zane Too.  And we remain free.

Life is soooo goooood!

~ Clay

 

What’s Your Uniform of the Day?

I just to have to say — I’m completely and totally relaxed. The stress level meter is barely registering.

One indicator of chillness is the UOD (uniform of the day). This is a military term. When I was in the Air Force, each day the base commander would dictate the UOD. Would it be dress blues with jacket and ribbons, or full-on camouflage? Whatever it was, don’t get caught out of uniform (a.k.a. wrong outfit). Make sure your ‘gig-line’ was straight, ribbons aligned, etc.

After the military I moved on to the private sector in the financial industry. There the UOD was full-on suit and tie each day. I had my closet full of Brooks Brothers suits. Then one day the world changed and the CEO said, “We’re going business casual.” No more power suits. No more coat and tie body armor. Somehow we survived the shock of it.

So what’s the UOD in retirement? What tough decisions do I face each morning when I look in the closet? It’s down to this folks: tuck or untuck. Oh, and I have two different hats to choose from. Retirement rocks. Tuck or Untuck

Retirement 3.0

I haven’t personally contributed to the blog lately– Clay has done all the heavy lifting. He does such a good job with painting word pictures.  Yay, Clay!  But I have a great excuse:

I am too busy reading novels.

On my floaty thingy.

In an 80 degree pool.

Being truly and completely retired now (which is supposed to mean there are more hours in the day),  I’m back on the blog road again.  This time, giving my impressions of Retirement 3.0 (as in 3 months since my official last day of work).

On our motorhome bookshelf, sits “The Escape Plan” binder.  Its maroon cover is faded from years of fondling, perusing, journaling and researching.

Not everyone has an escape plan in life. That big red ejector seat button riiigggghhhhttt under their finger (“Don’t pusha da button!!!” as our son Jesse used to say, after he willfully pushed the elevator Emergency Stop button and the ear-splitting klaxon of alarms scared the soup out of him).

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We like pushing da button.

And we were feeling the urge to un-merge from our current lifestyle and change things up dramatically.

Clay and I would look each other in the eyes after a particularly trying day, week or month and desperately say,

“You and Me . . . right?”

Since the answer was always a heartfelt resounding, “Yes!”  then it didn’t really matter what storm or life quake was currently happening.

Our mantra became (because we were thinking of moving to a Spanish speaking country such as Uruguay or Ecuador), “Vayamos, muy muy legos, sin los pantalones.”  Loosely translated: “Let’s go far, far away, without long pants” (nice weather all the time, wearing shorts and flip flops).

The true germination of this wild idea came in March of 2012, on a piece of lined notebook paper, “The Start of It All”.

Our original questions was, “What do we actually want to do when we retire?”

I adore, love, can’t get enough of world travel. Packing for a plane trip makes me grin. Having a passport gives me wings.  Settling into a cruise ship melts my bones. Being somewhere I’ve never seen before makes my pulse quicken (in a good way– not like an anxiety attack). Picking up phrases in another language is a game for me (Please. Thank you. No thank you. Don’t touch me. Left, Right. I don’t speak your language. Do you speak English? Where is the toilet?).  Learning about other cultures and art from a knowledgable native tour guide is like taking a mini-college course and I suck it up like chocolate milk.

Clay also likes to travel, but really loves being in any allergy-free season/zone so he can be completely engaged in what’s going on around him.

I have spent the past 27 years of my life studying to become a physician, going through residency, solo surgical practice and temporary medical assignments on the road. It’s who I am and what I do.  A few years ago, Clay asked me, “I know you are ready to retire, but what are you going to do with yourself to keep fresh, alive, fulfilled and entertained when you’re no longer wrapped up in life as a doctor?”

“You mean, after I sleep for 6 months?”

“Of course.”

“I will be a writer!”  The idea popped into my brain as a full-fledged Aha! moment.  I have children’s book ideas, young adult fiction, medical memoirs and this blog.  Our daughter Caroline introduced us to Scrivener (www.literatureandlatte/scrivener) a word processing program for authors that organizes writing of any sort and gets it ready for publication.  Thanks, Caroline!

And Clay will continue to do what he has been doing:  thoroughly enjoying doing investment research analysis. When he’s not writing his thoughts down or studying astronomy, astrophysics and history.

So we’ve pushed da button.  And virtually every day since, we have a moment when we look at each other and just giggle with delight at our new-found freedom.  We’re flapping our arms and flying away!!!!

-Wendy

Merry Christmas from Tucson

Wendy and I rolled into Tucson Wednesday (Dec. 20, 2017) after spending 6 months in Eureka, California where Wendy completed a work contract for St. Joseph’s Hospital.

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Hmm. Let me just root around in there.

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Surgery co-workers in Eureka

We’re in our pajamas today, but if motivation overcomes us we might change into shorts and bicycle to the store to pick up a few groceries.

Then again, we might just stay in our pajamas because —– (drum roll please) —- we’re officially retired.  Wohoo!  Can you believe it?  On Friday, December 15th, 2017, Wendy saw her last patient.  That’s it and that’s all.

So, on to our next life.  Time to once again reinvent ourselves.  We’ve done this reinvention thing so many times in our lives.  We think up a goal, we research it, we talk about it incessantly, and then if we like what we imagine, we jump in with both feet.IMG_7066

We’ve actually been transitioning into full retirement for several years.  It started decades ago when we became serious about becoming financially independent.  It accelerated 5 years ago when we hired a consultant who asked us lots of questions and helped us envision our future retirement and helped us identify the interim goals needed to get there.

It helps that I have been a lifelong investor.  One core principle I learned at a young age: To become financially independent, you need to be a business owner (i.e., stock holder).  So rather than being the guy who hires/fires employees and invents products and manages services and sweats over the details, you need to be the guy that provides the capital for the business, which in turn manages the people who hire, invent, manage and sweat.  Their work each day produces the income (dividends and interest payments) that we now live on.  And we are very grateful for their daily efforts.

What are we going to do in retirement?  First of all, we’re going to rest.  This first year in particular we’re going to enjoy the simple things that we’ve been too busy to appreciate.  The simple mindfulness that comes from enjoying each day.  I will continue to study history and astrophysics.  Wendy will see if her creative desire to write stories and illustrate her children’s books returns.

Most importantly, we’re going to goof off.  And we’ll continue to improve our health.  Over the past six months, Wendy and I have developed the habit of walking about 3 miles each day.  It takes about an hour.  We listen to books as we walk and enjoy nature.

Northern California had some amazing scenery to walk through from canyons of ferns to  giant redwood forests to spectacular and remote beaches.  We’ve both lost weight this year, so whatever we’re doing seems to be working.

In 2018, our first year of retirement, we’re going to travel, but not too fast.  Here’s our travel plan for 2018:

Be sure to honk and wave as we roll by.  And if you want to hang with us when we’re in your neighborhood just send us an email or text.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of our family and friends!!!

– Clay