We are going to try to not make this a long post – please forgive us if it is. But, we are just so excited with our new Fully Funded Lifestyle Change (FFLC) plan, we can’t keep it from the world anymore!
You may have noticed we’ve been somewhat silent the last month or so… just a budget update and what not. Well, we’ve been busy doing some thinking about some circumstances in our lives and gotten a little distracted:
- As you all know the markets aren’t great… no biggie, it happens and we don’t need that money for a while, but that does change our hope from hitting our FI number from mid 2017 to likely sometime in 2018 or later.
- With the declining price of oil, it is likely one or both of us may get laid off this year. If it’s Mrs. SSC that is actually a good thing, since she would love to spend more time with the kids. If it is me – well, I like my job, and I am not 100% sure I can do the stay-at-home thing.
- When we tallied our 2015 totals we realized that we spend a lot of money maintaining our house – and we began to question the rent vs. buy. This was mainly due to realizing we spent the equivalent of ~$1.3k per month on top of our mortgage for maintenance, and this house is only ~10 years old. That’s a lot of coin and it got us thinking. A lot. And this, is where it gets interesting…
#1 and #2 made us realize that we may have to wait to FI longer than we want, or that we may be forced into a move and a job hunt at any time. We don’t necessarily want to wait possibly years for a market rebound and personally, we need a finish line that isn’t floating. So, we have decided to pick a new date. July 31, 2018, it’s a Friday. There it is, our new FFLC date. Well, unless we get laid off. But, we think that date will get us close enough to our FI number even if one of us gets laid off this year. So, July 31, 2018. We will both still be 40 – just barely for me. We will have spent all of our 30’s working big corporate jobs and the beginning of a new decade for us seems like a great time to make a huge change.
Because of #2 we are also changing our investing strategy for the near term. We have 75% of our FI goal invested, which is awesome. But, with the possibility of impending layoffs, and having two children we need to support, we are going to spend this year being more conservative and increasing our cash reserves in case our income is cut off, we will at least have some easier money to access without having to sell investments at a loss. This could lead to our backup plan referred to as our MFLC (Mostly Funded Lifestyle Change). The main goal being a Lifestyle Change, come hell or high water.
OK, because of #3 now let’s address “rent vs. buy”, because this is where our big “A-ha!” moment came. I’ll try to explain it briefly, but to get a better understanding, feel free to click through to these links. Go Curry Cracker and MMM have written good posts about this choice, and they’ve made great cases for renting and not buying. However, the ones that really resonated with me are these posts by Can I Retire Yet, along with a post about house maintenance by Money Smarts.
Using some of Money Smart’s numbers, along with some of our own, Mrs. SSC made a spreadsheet – which is essentially how we make every decision. What we realized is that owning a house isn’t that financially awesome, no matter if it is “the American Dream”. You can see from our chart that we estimate that the cost of maintaining a house is close to $6000 a year- probably more when you include the yard and random stuff like re-staining a deck or fixing a shower door or replacing a ceiling fan. Looking at a quick estimate of the difference of the cumulative cost of buying a house vs. renting is almost $200,000 for our time frame!!! Whoa! That is nothing to sneeze at, that’s a lot of dough!
Maybe someday when we want to settle somewhere it would be nice to own a house for the stability, and it wouldn’t be in limbo that we may want to move in ~5 -10 years and take a big loss. We also dream of a non-traditional rental house with acreage that Mr. SSC could build a woodshop on, or build a tiny house for guests/renters. Realizing that we don’t have to immediately buy a house when we FI kind of opened our eyes to the possibility that we can go live in a “dream location” for a few years while the kids are still in elementary school, before moving somewhere that’s maybe more practical (for us Virginia or North Carolina) to settle while the kids are in middle and high school.
Mrs. SSC has always wanted to live out West in the mountains with big snows and big sky, surrounded by pine trees without a Walmart in sight. I got to live in Denver for 9 years before the Gulf Coast move, and while it isn’t “in the mountains” I did work for a company that allowed me to spend most workdays in the mountains. It was awesome, because I caught myself a lot of times, looking around thinking, “Ah, this is one hell of an office view.” On weekends I would take advantage of hiking (I climbed 23 – 14’ers), snowboarding, fly-fishing, snowshoeing, backpacking, it goes on and on. However, Mrs. SSC hasn’t had that experience or lived in a place close to the Rockies to get those same types of experiences. Recently she has been even getting kind of down on the NC/VA idea just because she felt like she would be settling and tampering her mountain dreams.
With the realization of the relative lower cost of renting and with the kids still being young’ish, we decided – why not go live in a mountain town? Maybe near the base of some ski slopes where we can drop the kids off at school and do a few runs before lunch. Teach the kids to ski or snowboard all winter long, and camp and hike all summer long! By the time we get to our FFLC or even MFLC we will have put in 10 years on the Gulf Coast and we feel we deserve to be ski bums (and snowboard) for a few years!
Thinking that our new date is only 30 months away – we realized we need to start traveling ASAP so that we can find our dream town! Right now we have 3 contenders on our list – Couer d’Alene, ID; Whitefish, MT; and Durango, CO. I’ve gotten to spend some time in Durango, so it’s on my “Oh yeah, that’s a good front runner” list, but I’m intrigued with trying somewhere new too. We have more on our list, but these are the top ones we want to try to get to this year.
Do you all have any suggestions? Our fairly short wish list is – good elementary schools, close to skiing, hiking and fishing, and house rentals (3 bed w/garage) for around/under $2000/month. Give us your ideas so we can start to book some plane tickets!!!