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Wanted Opinions on RE Strategy
Old 03-08-2012, 07:47 PM   #1
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Wanted Opinions on RE Strategy

Hi,

I'm wanting to retire (semi-retire) at age 45 (currently 36). I thought I would post my current strategy and ask for opinions, if I have missed or overlooked something, etc.

The idea is to 1. pay off my student loans this year and 2. save as much as possible for the next 8 years. By age 45 I should have $200,000 saved.

I plan to put $150,000 into 30 year US Treasury Bonds (hoping they are at or above 4% by then) which would produce $6000 per year for 30 years.

As a hedge against inflation I would keep $50,000 in an S&P index fund in my Roth IRA (by then the $50,000 would be available to draw from whenever I needed it tax free - of course earnings not available before 59 1/2).

I would then be living in an RV full time (I'm single) and working part-time for $1000 / month 6 month / yr as a fire/equipment watchman for logging companies.

My living expenses are about $500 / month without extras like auto repairs, etc. (which would be covered by the earnings from the job).

I also have medical care covered by the VA so no costs needed for this.

Am I missing anything here? Is there an easier way? My goal is to secure (make safe) as much of my annual income as possible while also hedging potential inflation.

I've thought about buying a house ($20k or less) but this would limit my job opportunities especially as I get older and since I'm currently unemployed (self-employed) it will potentially be harder to get a "regular" job. I wouldn't mind a house because I could shuck the auto purchase/insurance/upkeep and walk everywhere I need to, but the potential to make extra money as a firewatch is hard to pass up. And living in the woods as a hermit sounds like a great retirement lifestyle to me (I've done it before so I know it's to my liking). ;-)

Thanks in advance. Don't pull punches. If you think something's wrong here please let me know.

why1942
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Old 03-08-2012, 07:55 PM   #2
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IMO before cutting it that close be very, very sure you can keep expenses low. Though the VA might cover medical costs, what about if you get laid up for a few months recovering from something? Do you have someone who can bring you food, check in on you, etc. or will you have to pay for such services?
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Old 03-08-2012, 09:45 PM   #3
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I had a similar plan when I had just started my first job out of school. Thank goodness I didn't get together the meager savings I calculated would have been enough to last me forever on my spartan student lifestyle. The idea of saving and having a target is great. Just be open to the idea that over the next decade your goals may change. It will still work to your advantage to be working towards this goal, as it will give you more options (including the possibility of actually doing as you suggest) or being more able to do something else if you change your mind.
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Old 03-09-2012, 10:54 AM   #4
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Scares me but FIRECALC seems to suggest it would work. I entered 150K LT Treasuries, 50K S&P, 6K/yr income, 6K/yr expenses and a 20K house all beginning in 2020 and running for 50 years (age 95). Default inflation and everything else. Presumably you'd have Soc Sec, I didn't include that...
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:21 AM   #5
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Have you thought about the possibility that at some point, you may not want to keep working part time? If you retire at 45, and live until age 90, well, that's a long time. Also, you may not be able to work that long.

My suggestion would be to wait until you think you will never have to work again for financial reasons. Then, if there are unexpected problems, starting a part time job would be a way of dealing with them temporarily.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:15 PM   #6
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Unless you have service-connected disability, relying 100% on VA for health care could be a future problem. VA has changed (lowered) outside income/assets limits over the years. As a vet you may be "eligible" but they may not have resources to extend services to those as "wealthy" as you.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:54 PM   #7
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I think your plan is quite aggressive and assumes a lot of things that you can't assume at such an early age. I don't know much about VA benefits, but do they have a deductible? Deductibles on most plans today are about $3k/year...can you cover that?

What about LTC insurance?

Don't you ever want a pet?

I don't know your family situation, but will a sibling or parent ever need your financial help?

I would feel very uncomfortable planning on only $200k lasting me for a lifetime. You are also assuming bonds pay 4%...all bets are off in that regard...what you really should be concerned about is the real return on the bonds, not the nominal return. If inflation is 5%, a 4% return won't do you much good.

Good luck, it's encouraging that you're even thinking about this. My proposal would be to beef up your goals slightly, but set a clear milestone date about 2 years before you were originally planning to do this...and do a detailed review at that time. This will give you those final 2 years to make any changes needed.
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Old 03-09-2012, 01:57 PM   #8
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I would then be living in an RV full time (I'm single) and working part-time for $1000 / month 6 month / yr as a fire/equipment watchman for logging companies.
At 36 you have plenty of time to stop being single, and then your plan would probably change. IMHO you should save as much as you can, live frugally, and don't concentrate on the ER date too much
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Old 03-09-2012, 02:10 PM   #9
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.... IMHO you should save as much as you can, live frugally, and don't concentrate on the ER date too much
Definitely agree on saving and LBYM but I'd keep the ER goal. My ER planning (started at age 30 with a goal of 50) has giving all my frugality and saving meaning. Every $250 saved (or $250 not spent) was celebrated as "one extra day of early retirement" !
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:25 PM   #10
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Does your medical care need to be from a VA facility? Will you always be close to one? Even when out in the boonies?

What if you get seriously injured and are unable to direct that you be taken to a VA facility? Will the large bill you run up over a couple of days before regaining consciousness be paid by you or the VA?
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Old 03-09-2012, 08:26 PM   #11
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You say you have lived like a hermit in the woods before. How long a period did you do that for? Just considering that when things are new, they can be exciting. But when they go on indefinitely, it can take on a different perspective. Do you own an RV now? You know they don't last a life time and need repairs and eventually need to be replaced. That is a cost you need to factor in.

What about entertainment. Don't expect there would be much in the way of TV or Internet available. (Well, I take that back. A good outdoor antenna could give you some over the air TV - depending on where you are.) But then you need electricity. Is there any out there?

Then there is companionship. Do you function well without it? I'd want at least a dog (another mouth to feed) There is a link on this forum on "Other Topics" to a documentary that explores people who live on the go, so to speak. You should check it out.

Financially, I would like to see you be able to hit a $400,000 mark instead of $200,000 just for the sake of safety and the unexpected, then I say, if that life still appeals to you in another ten years, fly away little bird. (But getting there might require you to wait at least another 5 years)

I don't know. Everyone is built different. *Hence, watch that documentary.
Most people on this forum are big savers who have high incomes or good pensions, and tend to be very conservative in their thinking, and running out money in old age is a big concern. Heck, if you can live on $500 a month, maybe you got it better than most of us on this board. Personally, as others would probably agree, I would chose to be safe rather than sorry.

Here is link to documentary.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/WzSQvamSfa4
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Old 03-10-2012, 03:39 AM   #12
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This plan does not sound realistic to me. In 9 years' time, $500 a month won't buy much. Sorry if my answer comes across too harsh.

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My living expenses are about $500 / month without extras like auto repairs, etc. (which would be covered by the earnings from the job).
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Old 03-10-2012, 01:56 PM   #13
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GrayHare: This is an issue I wrestle with, long-term care and unexpected medical issues. One way I'm trying to hedge this is by eating better, exercising and being proactive to keep illness at bay as long as possible. It's not foolproof but each ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.

growing_older: I wonder what changed your mind when you were younger so that you never put together that meager savings you initially wanted to. I have had this desire to retire since I was a teenager but I have not put together the savings simply because of a lack of education. I did not know how much I needed or what was very realistic. Now I've been on my own for several years, out of college, have had several jobs, been married (thankfully divorced with no children), have had a pet, etc and so I know with a little more certainty what I want out of life and what kind of lifestyle I enjoy. It is quite similar to what I thought I wanted when I was 18, I'm just much more realistic about several aspects. I am trying to keep my options open and I realize that in 10 years my goals may be much different than they are now. I definitely agree with you: if I do the savings now and have the target (for something to look towards), even if my goals completely change at that point I will have cash in the bank and my future will look much, much better than if I just blew it all every Friday night at the Casino.

Midpack: Yep, I keep running numbers and variables through FIRECALC to see what would stand up. It's amazing how little it would "theoretically" take to achieve. It's the practical and unforeseen variables that always bite cha when you least expect it. What do they say, the devil is in the details? I always use 55 years (100 years old) even though genetically I have a life expectancy of 75-85. But who knows what they will come up with in the future to extend our life (as long as the quality comes with, otherwise forget it). I don't know about Social Security. I don't include it in the simulations just to play it safe. I figure if it's there at 67 (or later) then it will be a nice kicker. Just to be honest, though, the proposal scares me a little too. I would bet when I get to 45 (all things being equal) I would be likely to say, "Hey, I have all this money in the bank, instead of retiring, maybe I should work another year for some cushion." It's entirely feasible that I would do this each year after that for 5 or more years. I think instead of actually "retiring" I'm really looking for the freedom from gainful employment. I want the ability to work because I "want" to work not because I "have" to work. I also toy with the idea of retiring just to relocate and get a job somewhere else in a field I really enjoy (not sure what that would be yet). I guess I'm just wanting more options than dragging myself out of bed each morning because I am one paycheck away from insolvency (I'm not in that situation now but I have been too much of my life).

W2R: Work after retirement is an important variable, though I would very much like to hedge my bets and not have to work unless I wanted to. I think (at least to me) the point of FI is the freedom to pass up employment for whatever reason, and also the freedom to take employment for good reasons (like you really enjoy the job or like the people you're working with). It is true, I could work for 5 years in the woods and one day drive off the side of the road or run into a logging truck coming down the mountain and not be able to work anymore. This is why I want to have redundancy in my plans: 1. all expenses covered by US treasuries ($6k/yr) then working income on top ($6k/yr approx) with inflation hedge in stocks ($50k), etc. Work has always been factored into the retirement plan, but on my terms and not on a need for income to cover "this" year's expenses.

ERhoosier: Yes, the VA availability is a concern for me. My income would potentially be very low, but I do not have any SCD so I am at the bottom of the list for services. But, if I'm working in the woods in this area the VA hospital and/or community based clinics are virtually everywhere (every significant town/city anyway). I don't know about the rest of the country, but I'm not much of a traveler and what I've seen of the country not much compares to where I live now. Here the weather is very moderate, there are large expanses of public timber lands to camp on for free, all located within 40 miles or so from services. It's a shoestring budget but pretty realistic for what this area has to offer. But, again, availability at the VA is a concern, as always with anything that is government funded. But, once I retire (especially if I'm not working) I will virtually have no income (if it comes out of my Roth) and if my Bonds are at Treasury Direct I'm still way under the poverty line even for a single person, so it would take a pretty good hit against VA funding to cut me off. But, then again, being proactive with your health goes a long way, albeit not 100% perfect, though.

Finance Dave: A Pet? That rates right up there with having a wife and children. No thanks. Been there. Got the T-Shirt. Not really very interested in repeating that modern day tragedy. LTC insurance is a concern that I am still wrestling with. Sibling and parents all make WAY more than I do and both have opportunity to prepare financially for the future. So, no. My parents both have pensions, social security and a $75k yr business on top of it that they run in retirement. My only sibling works for a fortune 500 company and makes more than all of us combined. I'm the strange one in the family that actually wants to live at poverty levels. I do very much like your idea of saving with a goal in sight, then revisiting the goal 2 years out to readjust. I actually readjust every year. This is how the house option came about, it was not part of the plan last year.

Nun: I will never say never, but I have (at this time and into the foreseeable future) no interest in getting remarried. If I want to gamble I'll go to the casino or buy a lottery ticket (I think both of those have better odds than marriage does). As one of our clients always says, "My picker is broken." I am a 1 time loser in the marriage game and going in it looked like the absolute surest best in the world. Boy was I wrong. Luckily I had nothing but a business (no assets) and the business went to her in the divorce. But, she also got the debts. So I was able to walk away free and clear with the clothes on my back and have been able to start over. I'm starting to get up there and have no interest in children of my own, even less interest in being a stepparent (been there, done that), and socially I'm much more comfortable being alone.

Live and Learn: I'm glad to see someone agrees with the ER concept. 50 is only 5 years off of my 45, but as I said above, it is possible that I would continue to work after 45 if I wanted to (in the business I have now). In reality, it is alot of good money to leave on the table and walk away. Whether I retire at 45 or 55 or somewhere in between, my goal really is to have the assets and income streams in place by 45 so that working is a choice and not a requirement.

Buckeye: Yes, in order for the VA to cover my medical care it has to be done at a VA hospital or clinic. I have no service connected disabilities so I'm at the bottom of the list (as I understand it), but so far so good. I really think it is a wash anyway, when you look at the state of health care in the country now, the extremely high premiums for self-employed people and all the limits, etc and out of pocket costs when you HAVE insurance. I go to the VA and I exercise a great deal of backbone with them. I go in and argue against pills at every turn. I was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago. They wanted to put me on pills. I said no way, I'll lose weight. I went from an AC1 of 12 to 5.8 just by cutting out bad food (without exercise). No need for medications. I went back in for a checkup and they said my blood pressure was high and wanted to put me on pills. Again, I said no way. My blood pressure goes up when I go to the doctor. They sent me home and told me to monitor for a week and bring back the results. I did and got a clean bill of health, the nurse finally admitted, "Ya, there are a lot of people who have spikes in their blood pressure when they come in to see us." Now if I had just walked the line with them, I would right now be on two medications minimum! That is the ridiculousness of western medical care. Maybe medications are very necessary for certain people in certain situations, but for me I will hold out as long as possible and will choose prevention over prescription every time. As for serious injury, it is difficult to say. There is just as good a chance, if I stayed attached to a job for the rest of my life that if I unexpectedly become ill that the insurance company (that I was paying outrageous premiums for) would not cover me or would have limits or some other loophole to get out of it. I watch my mother struggle with her health insurance and it really doesn't seem worth it. I go into the VA and they never mention money to me at all. Yes, proximity to VA facilities is part of my checklist when looking at areas to move to. In my state pretty much anywhere I would want to live has a VA hospital or community clinic. It is a limiting factor but one that I keep in mind and I think is well worth the limitation for free healthcare (at least free now).

Modhatter: I lived for two years in the woods, no roads, pretty isolated for the most part, in a small cabin. I loved it. Also lived another year in an RV in and out of the woods. Did firewatch as a teenager for local logging companies in the summer time. There are job postings every year in the paper and on the state employment site looking for watchmen. There is a lot of logging going on here. Maybe in 10 years there will not be a market like there is now. Who knows. But there is also cmap hosting, house sitting, and also plan B with a small house with no vehicle. There are options depending on variables in the future. Entertainment. Sat tv is very popular here, especially for use in the woods. But, I have about 300 movies on my computer, lots of tv shows and a ton of ebooks + I would be going into town each week whether I was working on a logging site or not, so I can always make use of the local library that has a virtually limitless supply of Dvd's, books, CDs, etc to take with me into the woods for entertainment. Companionship: no thanks. I function much, much better without it. No pets either, simply because they ARE another mouth to feed and they do not do well with my lifestyle. Electricity is primary needed to run my laptop (no internet access required). This can easily be accomplished with a small generator (although I have played a little bit with alternative energy, such as wind and solar). Fridge and cooking would be by propane and usually the logging company provides this as a benefit (at least they used to). For $1000 a month above my $6000 a year I can buy my own propane. I have looked at $400k also and waiting another 5 years is not a killer if I like what I'm doing for work. The job I'm working right now is very good compared to others, so it is very possible. I think the $500 is pretty realistic. I've been living on that or less for most of my life. Most think my lifestyle is absolutely crazy or a waste of life, but mostly I spend my time on my computer - though I consider myself very, very busy. I love to read (or have my computer read to me, I'm spoiled). I listen to podcasts, watch movies, tv shows (on the computer), read alot of nonfiction (science, history, etc) work through about 30 math problems a day (I read that working your brain throughout your life can prolong dementia in old age, and i love working math problems). One thing that I really enjoy doing is putting on my mp4 player with an audio book and going for long walks (which would work both as a watchmen and if i had a house where I walked everywhere). I think I'm pretty fortunate not to have a personal need for all the other stuff in life. Oh, thank you for the link to the docu. I watched it awhile back. Pretty good.

obgyn65: I don't think you're being harsh, but I also don't think inflation is all it's cracked up to be. There are things one can do to stave off or reduce inflation besides make more money. Yes there comes a point if there is prolonged inflation that is real (not some arbitrary index) then definitely there would be an impact. But as inflation in one thing goes up, it also goes down in other areas. Technology is a great example. 10 years ago I would need a sat system, television just to get tv in the woods with a very large requirement of electricity to run it all (this used to be my set up and I ran it off of a deep cycle battery and inverter). Now all I need is a $200 netbook that holds 500+ movies and tv shows, a virtual endless supply of ebooks, audio podcasts, research materials and there is free wifi in nearly every town over a population of 1000. In one part of my state there is a town of less than 100 people out in the middle of the woods. It is about 30 miles away from any other place. Yet, even they have a public library that offers free wifi. So cost went from several hundreds of dollars and a subscription to sat tv down to an outlay of $200 for a computer that can last several years for all entertainment. This can offset increases in other areas like food or gas. These two, of course, are big, big concerns. I remove gas altogether if I buy a house by choosing to walk or ride a bike everywhere or taking public transport. I did this the last time gas went up to $4 a gallon. Instead of driving the half hour to work, I would get up two hours early and would take the bus. My gas bill went from $400 a month down to $45/mnth and the ride there and back was fine as I had my podcasts to listen to. Yes, inflation is a bear but it can be managed to a certain degree without increasing your income or remaining tied to employment.

All in all, thanks to everyone who responded here. You have brought up some really good points for me to consider. I love forums. ;-)

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Old 03-10-2012, 06:30 PM   #14
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I think Joe Dominguez, Amy Dacyczyn, and Jacob Lund Fisker would be green with envy.
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Old 03-11-2012, 11:48 AM   #15
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My brother retired at 42. He lived a hermit's life until age 70. It can be done. In the end, I was glad that he had 28 years of retirement.
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:34 PM   #16
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Being a Veteran myself? And Not that Good at Complicated Investing?
-Vanguard
- I Hired the Poor Mans FM ( Financial Mgr) by using a Balanced Fund..
-I started out with 70/30 in VWINX/VWIAX and a Combo Treas/Corp Bond Fund> VBIIX/VBILX. ( 2 yrs B4 Retirement, went to 50/50 )
-I wouldn't ( and didn't) buy that Own those Equity Indexes on my own business. I would have Sold them too many times over the yrs., Like after the crash of 87', thru out 00-02' and surely during 08' and 1st qtr of 09'.
--Only want and expect 6-7% is all I need and it's more than done the job..
-And Wall Street and Those FA/FM's all HATE Balanced funds..and I like that part too!
-If you can find a Better ( & Safer) port of using just 2 Funds? Buy it!
-And Like my Dad and Uncles Did in early 80's? When LT Treasuries start Paying out 8%+? Sell everything you have in anything else and Buy them..My Dad even Took out a Loan On the Paid For House and bought more.. Carter and Volker sure helped out The Rich and Seniors during those Yrs.! Hope Obama and Berneke do that again ..!
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Old 03-11-2012, 01:42 PM   #17
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I think Joe Dominguez, Amy Dacyczyn, and Jacob Lund Fisker would be green with envy.
+1 - I think that Henry David Thoreau would be pretty proud too

When you first posted, I thought that you were being unrealistic with such low projected living expenses but from what you've said, it's apparent that not only can you live on very little, you are genuinely content doing so. The fact that you don't have much need for company must help with the budget too.

If you ever decide to start blogging about your lifestyle, let us know. I'll be happy to sign up.
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Old 03-13-2012, 04:41 PM   #18
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+1 - I think that Henry David Thoreau would be pretty proud too

When you first posted, I thought that you were being unrealistic with such low projected living expenses but from what you've said, it's apparent that not only can you live on very little, you are genuinely content doing so. The fact that you don't have much need for company must help with the budget too.

If you ever decide to start blogging about your lifestyle, let us know. I'll be happy to sign up.
Hey Major Tom,

I actually get that initial conclusion quite a lot. Most people can't fathom living on very little, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. As far as blogging about my lifestyle - I can't imagine it would be too awfully interesting. Read a book, watched a tv show, went for a walk - oh, here comes a customer - go to bed, get up: repeat. But, maybe it would be more interesting to others than I think.

Not having a need for company (platonic or otherwise) has really liberated me (financially and emotionally). I absolutely love spending the day by myself. But I do like my comforts, too, which is why a house purchase would require the place be within 2 miles of a Wal-Mart/Grocery Store/Library/Pizza Store, etc. I doubt I would live cut off from amenities again like I did, but I also know how easy it is in our day and age to live in the heart of a city and still be as isolated as any desert hermitage. No reason why we can't have our cake and eat it too, right? ;-)

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Old 03-14-2012, 01:52 PM   #19
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why, you are obviously taking in all opinions, even if you don't follow them. That's admirable, and I wish you luckskill in your plan.
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:25 PM   #20
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
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Quote:
Originally Posted by why1942 View Post
Hey Major Tom,
As far as blogging about my lifestyle - I can't imagine it would be too awfully interesting. Read a book, watched a tv show, went for a walk - oh, here comes a customer - go to bed, get up: repeat. But, maybe it would be more interesting to others than I think.
why1942
You may have a point. Perhaps I was overdoing it with the comment about the blog, but I was thinking that, at least in this forum, we're a bit under-represented at the low income level of the scale.

I'm interested because I'd like to know how you'll be doing in a year, 5 and 10 years down the road. Jacob blogged about living on a low budget but because of his style of presentation, I felt that he treated his lifestyle as an academic exercise rather than something he was really comfortable doing over the long term. It wasn't a great surprise when he announced he was going back to work at a well-paid job.

In other words, I'm rooting for you to achieve your goals as stated in your original post and am interested to follow your progress.
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