Rich Examines Moving Expenses, Minimalism vs. Serial Killers, His Cat’s Shopping Habits, Modern Living, and The FIRE Desire

Dear Penny,

I thought it’d be interesting to compare our actual moving expenses with our estimated moving expenses. And I believe this will lead into a rant about modern living, early retirement, and education. We’ll see.

Let’s take a peak out the window of our new situation.

Is this home?

Before we moved, I estimated $30,000 in expenses. The big expense was our car, because now we need 2 cars as modern dual income working professionals. We also needed a bunch of furniture because all we owned was a couch, a bed, and an old dresser.

Well, the numbers are in — gaze upon them and be astounded:

Click on image to enlarge.

I’m not sure what’s astounding about this, I just wanted a dramatic transition.

Mrs. Rich told me my estimates were too low, and she was right. That said, I was expecting it to be worse. Every time we leave the house we spend a few hundred dollars on something. I’m not complaining at all — we knew we’d spend a lot getting a car and getting our apartment set up. $6,000 isn’t nothing, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I decided long ago I don’t want to lose sleep over money. 

Here are some observations about minimalism vs. frugality, modern professional living, and FIRE (financial independence / early retirement).

MINIMALISM VS. FRUGALITY

The personal finance blogosphere has already noted this apparent paradox, that minimalism (desiring fewer possessions) is often at odds with frugality (desiring inexpensive possessions). I think we’re a good example of this.

I was telling someone about the furniture we needed, and they commented, “You could find a lot of that on Craigslist.” I can’t remember what I said, but I was thinking, “Do people still buy second-hand merchandise from would be serial killers?”

But seriously, the Rich family doesn’t use Craigslist. Mrs. Rich and I agree that we don’t really want a cheap find; we want a quality piece of furniture that we enjoy and would like to keep. That’s minimalism vs. frugality. So when you look at the line items like Rug, Dressers, End Tables — that’s what you’re seeing.

Even the cat is getting into the act, showing an interest in Crate And Barrel!

Do not give this animal a credit card.

MODERN PROFESSIONAL LIVING

I would describe us as modern professionals. We’ve got the dual careers, the dual cars, the school activities, and the Vitamix. This is what we want. But in the midst of this tumultuous transition, I need to say something: I understand.

I understand the desire for simplicity — something you, Penny, have expressed over and over in one way or another. My life right now isn’t difficult, but it isn’t simple either. And this is mostly by choice, and the consequence of a life where one moves around.

We’re busy, juggling school related activities and work related activities. On top of it all, I volunteered to coach Kindergarten soccer. What was I thinking? Yet another activity.

Most of our stuff is still on a boat, so we’re eating take out on paper plates. At night we’re exhausted. It won’t last forever, but it’s been quite week. Or two.

I understand your mixed feelings about education in America. We went from a small cozy international preschool to a huge chaotic urban elementary school. Our boys, so far, don’t like it very much. All the rules, regulations, and impersonal interactions … I understand why you can’t stand it. Part of me wanted to pull them out after the second day, drop everything, and move to Finland.

THE FIRE DESIRE

I understand why people strive for FIRE — Financial Independence and Early Retirement.

Continue reading “Rich Examines Moving Expenses, Minimalism vs. Serial Killers, His Cat’s Shopping Habits, Modern Living, and The FIRE Desire”

Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Is Not Crabby, He’s Back In The USA At The Beach. And There’s A Beef Jerky Outlet. — August 2017

This guy is crabby. Unlike me.

Dear Penny,

We just got back to the US a few days ago and it was a loooonngg journey, but I’m not crabby. Happiness levels steady. Elevated, even. And here’s why.

We are currently in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina, one of our favorite places on the East Coast. We rented a house by the beach to make our transition back to the States as easy as possible. It’s a big change for our family. And what better way to recover from jet lag than a couple weeks at the beach?

And jet lag there was. We had an 11 hour flight followed by a 1 hour flight followed by a 3 hour drive followed by 7 hours of waiting for the beach house to be ready. 5 suitcases, 5 carry-ons, 2 car seats, and 2 little jet lagged kids.

Totally worth it. Check out this view.

Worth the journey.

Oh yeah, about that crab in the picture. At OBX, there are ghost crabs that come out of the sand at night, near the water. So we wait until it gets dark, take some flashlights, and search for them. More accurately, we chase them around and taunt them as only a family with twin boys can. Last night there were hundreds of crabs, including the unlucky fella at the top of this post.

EXPAT CULTURE SHOCK AND GRATITUDE

A few observations on setting foot in the US for the first time in 2 years, and then I’ll get to my happiness numbers.

The people are nice. Maybe it’s a matter of being down South, but US Americans have been nice and friendly, lots of smiles and waves.

The food is plentiful … and often unhealthy. Compared to where we were living, the US has billions of food choices, whether at the grocery store or restaurants. I’m all for the ability to make individual choices, but there’s no denying that the ability to choose wisely is impacted by availability. On the way to the salad aisle, there are hundreds of quicker, easier, tastier, unhealthier options. That said, I’m proud of my kids — 5 year old boys, mind you — for actually requesting salad for dinner tonight. (We kinda brainwashed them by telling them about Super Size Me. They’re extremely frightened of fast food.)

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The first store I shopped at. If this isn’t America at its most American, I don’t know what is. Beef Jerky has an outlet store??? Oh yes. C’mon, nobody pays retail for jerky anymore.

Consumerism is omnipresent. Along with food, I’ve noticed the sheer availability of consumer products, services, and activities. Again, not bad from the perspective of free choice, but with consequences. We were living overseas in a place that put a premium on public playgrounds. Here, the ratio of playgrounds to stores is much more sparse. Of course, the beach is a huge playground I guess.

The familiar feels new and exciting. We love to travel, and we will continue to explore new areas even back here in the US. This is our first time staying in the southern OBX, and we visited Ocracoke Island, accessible only via ferry boat or small airplane. We took the ferry. Fun trip, beautiful scenery. Very grateful for these opportunities and experiences.

HAPPINESS, BY THE NUMBERS

As is my custom, it’s time for the happiness numbers and some highlights from each category. For new readers, here’s my methodology, explained in more detail in the following posts:

Continue reading “Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Is Not Crabby, He’s Back In The USA At The Beach. And There’s A Beef Jerky Outlet. — August 2017”

Rich’s Travel Journal: No Spain, No Gain! (Part 1 — Barcelona)

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Pen,

A while back I wrote about my 3 Key Ingredients For A Great Vacation. The ingredients are Exciting Destination, Quality Lodging, and Memorable Activities (all geared in some way to accommodate me, Mrs. R, and our twin 5 year olds). And now it’s time to tell you about how this works in practice. In April, you see, the Rich family took a 2 week vacation to Spain! Exciting Destination? Check.

Our vacation was essentially 2 trips combined into one. We started off with one week in Barcelona and then flew south to Andalucia for the second week. These are completely different areas of Spain, they don’t even feel like the same country. I won’t get into the details but Barcelona is part of Catalonia, which has grumbled off and on for independence for many years, while Andalucia is solidly Spanish, the “real” Spain, as it were.

We started in Barcelona.

BARCELONA

I’d always wanted to visit Barcelona, so I was pumped to spend a week there. Our arrival, however, wasn’t entirely smooth. During the flight over, we noticed one of our boys had a finger that had turned into a giant red balloon. He’s a tough kid, but it was bothering him and kind of freaking us out because we didn’t know what it was. Broken? Sprained? Bee sting? Cat scratch? No idea.

Our hotel called a doctor who kindly came to our room to check him out (another perk of a nice hotel), but Mrs. R had to take the boy to the emergency room anyway, and yadda yadda we got a bunch of medicine and lotions and still don’t know exactly what it was. We lost one day of activities, and eventually the swelling went away, probably on its own. Added a little spice and annoyance to the trip. All part of the fun!

In addition to this medical situation, we had the normal 2-3 days of crazy transition. The boys always test our limits in a new environment. Thankfully, the environment was awesome, the epitome of quality lodging. Our hotel, the Alma Barcelona, is one of the few in the city that has an indoor pool. It was the perfect temperature and depth for kids, while being stylishly located in the hotel spa. It wasn’t the Fargo Holiday Inn, if you know what I mean. We were often the only ones there and it was an oasis of fun.

Lots of swimming

Our suite encompassed 2 separate rooms — one for the kids and one for us.  Each room was huge, with its own bathroom and sitting area and complimentary snack fridge. Yes, pricey, but there is no way we will sleep in the same room as the boys while on vacation because it’s impossible to actually sleep with them jostling around.

Lodging was good, so what about memorable activities?

It took us a while to get rolling in Barcelona. The first day gave us the finger, ahem, and the second day we had scheduled a visit to the Aquarium. The Aquarium was nice, but honestly there are great aquariums everywhere. Probably wouldn’t do that again.

It was much more fun to find lunch in the nearby neighborhood of Barceloneta. We stumbled on a cool fish place that was chaotic and crazy and awesome and happens to be a gastronomic icon: La Cova Fumada. The boys downed octopus like it was candy.

La Cova Fumada. Crazy and crazy good.

Fun. And then we just wandered. I think we stopped at a playground where the boys played with some random kids. Cool part of town.

Continue reading “Rich’s Travel Journal: No Spain, No Gain! (Part 1 — Barcelona)”

Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Figures Out How To Score A 5.5 Out Of 5 (In Certain Categories) in May 2017

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Hey Penny,

I think this is my 4th happiness report, and I was wondering something to myself. Have I learned anything about happiness, or “the good life” as I prefer to call it, by simply thinking and writing about it? My scores, as you will see, are fairly constant. Am I being too generous with myself when it comes to scoring?

Well, I don’t know if I’ve had any major breakthroughs, but I do have 2 realizations.

Realization 1: Thinking about happiness promotes intentional living. In other words, I think I’ve helped myself by thinking and writing about happiness, by setting aside time to ponder the good life. For example, I’ve been more intentional about hobbies and health as a direct result of identifying them as important categories.

Realization 2: The good life is more about maintenance than radical change. I don’t think I was expecting the consistency in my happiness scores, but I also can’t imagine the alternative. The alternative would be extreme happiness one month and depression the next. That doesn’t sound like me. So, I might be a bit generous with myself, but who cares? Would I be happier if I graded myself more strictly and became a manic-depressive?

That last point also tells me something about what to expect from life. I think there’s a human tendency to think that if one could just do something radically different, one would be happier. Maybe that’s true, but I doubt it. Well, I doubt it as a 41 year old with a happiness score of 4.63 out of 5. If I were scoring 1s or 2s, radical change would be called for. But to me, being close to 5 means I’m living the life I want to live and I wouldn’t change much.

Let’s look at the numbers:

I can score more than 5 on a 5 point scale in some categories. Yes I can.

Whoa, 4.88! Well, mid-April to mid-May was pretty unique.  We took a family vacation to Spain for 2 weeks, and my mom and your mom visited for a week, so the Freedom and Family scores were off the charts.

Continue reading “Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Figures Out How To Score A 5.5 Out Of 5 (In Certain Categories) in May 2017”

Rich Will Spend $1 Million On His Kids. Easily.

What are these kids doing? Reaching up to a mythical sun god for money?

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Penny,

Kids are pricey. As I mentioned a while back, I’ve easily spent $30,000 per year since my twins were born, just on child care and/or preschool. I estimate that by age 6, the twins will have cost us a cool quarter of a million, easy.

You and some readers might be thinking that this is ridiculous. But no. It’s quite reasonable. Consider. Mrs. R was pregnant with twins and it was recommended that she take some time off during pregnancy. Reasonable. She took 6 months off before the birth and 6 months off after. That’s one year’s salary: $80,000 at the time.

A few months after the twins were born, when it was time for Mrs. R to get ready to go back to work, our options were nanny or daycare. We went with nanny because our work schedules were unpredictable, it provided more focused attention for the boys, and as a bonus they developed Spanish language brain connections. Was this a move for the ultra-rich? Not really. The cost in our expensive east coast area was roughly the same between any respectable daycare and a full-time nanny. Reasonable. The market rate: $30,000 per year. 3 years = $90,000.

Then, 2 years of preschool and camp for 2 kids = $60,000.

$80,000 + $60,000 + $90,000 = $230,000. Boom.

I haven’t even started adding up diapers and beds and food. So as you can see, it’s very reasonable that we spent $250k before Kindergarten.

So let’s take a look at this USDA calculator that claims to show how much it costs to raise a child. On the calculator, I selected 2 kids, 2 parent household, high income (defined as over $107,400) living in the northeast. Here’s what it spit out.

USDA Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. Click on image to enlarge.

It tells me that it’ll cost $21,610 per year, per kid, or $43,220 total per year. For 18 yrs (Ages 0-17), that’s $388,980 per kid, or $777,960 total.  

I did my own worksheet using the same categories. When in doubt, I estimated higher than the national average. I also just started with the total amount for 2 kids, because with twins it’s easier that way. At the end I divided by 2 to get the per kid amount. I also included the year of no salary for Mrs. R. Here’s what I came up with.

Click on image to enlarge.

$1 Million dollars!

My numbers are higher than the calculator and here’s why.

Continue reading “Rich Will Spend $1 Million On His Kids. Easily.”