All I Want, and Nothing More

Why is it that some people can live happy, frugal lives and others can't? I think it's because marketing has convinced us that we need to be consumers. "The iPhone 7 is sooooo much better than the iPhone 6 and I just have to have it right now! That's what will make me happy!" 

Here's the thing though...if you keep wanting more and more stuff, you will never be happy because you will NEVER have everything you want. Even if you spend $90,000 a year, or $2 million a year, it doesn't matter because you will be chasing the consumer high of getting that next big thing. 

If you can learn to be frugal you can break that cycle. To me, frugal means eliminating useless spending if it doesn't make you happy and help you reach your ultimate goals. Learning to love and appreciate what you have, and asking yourself "Will buying this thing make me happier than I already am?" and then listening to that answer will set you on the right path. A frugal person can be happy with less, because they actually do have everything they want. Let that sit for a minute. A person who lives on less by their own choice has EVERYTHING they want. Isn't that be amazing? Ah to be the person who has everything.  

My Thoughts on How To....Start a Business

I think all businesses probably start with a great idea. If it's a great idea that involves skills you already have, then it might be easier! But odds are, you probably only have some of the skills right now and you will learn more on the journey. Sounds like fun, sign me up!

Since I am a speech therapist, I am planning on starting a speech therapy business this year to take advantage of my specialized training. Funnily enough, I'm not actually planning on providing therapy in my business. I'm planning on using my knowledge to develop materials that other SLPs can buy and use. This will benefit me personally even if no one else likes anything I do, because I will be able to use them with my own clients as soon as I make them! 

Some loose ideas for the products that my business will produce include apps, worksheets, workbooks, online video courses (ideally given for ASHA CEUs), and maybe some personal coaching or public speaking.  Do I know how to do all of those things? Well...not yet! Luckily I've got 9 years to figure it out. I know that one way to create an app is to outsource the coding and the artwork to people who already know how to do that stuff. But if I outsource for the first one, then I'll have to keep outsourcing for other apps (I would like at least 10 to my name in the next 5 years). So that seems like a lot of money I'll be losing by paying other people to do the work, plus the loss of a valuable skill I could have learned. Therefore, I am going to learn to code apps! (heck...maybe once I learn I can start getting paid for coding other people's apps too)

My goals for my business by the end of 2018 are:

1) Establish a business plan. (Working on it now) 

1) Establish the business legally (undecided at the moment whether to go for sole proprietorship or LLC, and I will probably will need to seek tax and legal advice)

2) Related to number 1...Find out HOW to get tax and legal advice. Do I just dial up a lawyer and an accountant in the yellow pages? (see??? this learning thing is already fun! That way if i'm ever arrested I can say "Call my lawyer" and I won't even be bluffing about having one!)

3) Code one fully functioning app and have it ready for sale on the iTunes Store by Dec 2018 

My overall monetary goal is to produce at least $15,000 annual revenue from my business by 2025 (just one year shy of my early retirement date!) The way I plan to design the flow is that the major time intensive part will mostly be creating the products, but then they will sell pretty passively with just a few hours of marketing work per week. If I work longer hours, I will make more money and if I work shorter hours, I will make less money. Since I will be financially independent by 2026, I predict this will be just the kind of flexible work that will fit my lifestyle. 

Is anyone else working on starting a business, or has already started one and it's going great? I would love to hear some inspiring stories! 

 

 

10 Reasons I Love Travel Speech Therapy

1) I can work in any state I want.

East coast, west coast, hot, cold, Non-contiguous. It's all there for me to choose! I can figure out where I want to eventually settle down by sampling a little bit of everything. 

2) Experiencing different management styles.

 I know what type of boss will make me want to cry every day and what type will make me feel valued and good about the work I'm doing. I always search out the latter. 

3)I can leave any job I don't want after 13 weeks

Nobody will ever ding me for being "non-committal". If I love the job I can stay up to a year and still be considered a traveler, but if I hate it then I can just bounce on to the next one. Many travelers even gain permanent employment once their contract is finished (or bought out), but the first 13 weeks can be great to see if you actually like working there. 

4) I have tons of references!

When applying to jobs in the past I used to hate giving 3 references because I had to hope that my boss from 5 years ago remembered me (side note: I suck at keeping in touch). Now I have a growing list of around 15 people who will give me a glowing recommendation anytime I ask. 

5) Meeting some of the best people! 

This one is self explanatory. If you don't ever leave your geographical bubble you will miss out on meeting some amazing folks. 

6) Learning new skills. 

When you're in the same job for several years you might start to feel like you've done it all, seen it all. With travel there is always something new to learn and new people to learn from! 

7) Flexibility!

If I don't want to take a new job right after my old one, I don't have to. I can take a one day break, a month-long break, or a year-long break! It's 100% up to me and there will always be a job waiting for me.

8) Contract Control.

Management and I negotiate a contract at the start of a new job. If I want to work four 10 hour days, I can have it written into my contract. If I don't want to work weekends, I can have it written into my contract. If I need a random Friday off 2 months from now...you guessed it! If the job can't give me those things, then I just don't sign the contract. Before I started traveling I was working erratic hours and couldn't get a day off to save my life. Travel Therapy is like a breath of fresh air. 

9) The money. 

There are some hoops you have to jump through (like duplicating your living expenses) to get all the monetary benefits of travel therapy but once you do the reward is sweet. In addition to my salary, I get an additional tax free stipend every week for meals and living expenses.  

10) The range of settings.

I can work one contract in a hospital, then in outpatient, then home health, then a nursing home, then a school....If you get easily bored in one place then travel therapy could be right for you!

 

What do you guys think? Did I miss any of the amazing benefits? Let me know what else you can think of in the comments below!

Making $100,000 and retiring in 41 years or more.

Here's a poll the audience question! Who will be able to retire first, someone who makes $100,000 a year or someone who makes $50,000 a year? 

If you said "there is not enough information to decide" then you are correct!  Financial gurus routinely tell people to try and save 10% of their income. Let's say the 6 figure Lady manages to save a "respectable" 10% of her income, which means that she spends $90,000 every year. If she wants to maintain her flashy lifestyle when she's retired, she needs $90,000 x 25 = $2,250,000 in order to retire. Since she saves $10,000 a year, that means she can retire in just a speedy 41 years! right on track with the rest of her peers...neat-o! 

Let's take a look at her counterpart. This thrifty lady makes $50,000 but she only spends $20,000 a year. That's a much more impressive savings rate of 60%!  If she can keep that low spendy-ness during her retirement, then she will need only $20,000 x 25 = $500,000, and by saving $30,000 a year she will be able to get there in just 11 years!!!!  Once she has reached her target, she can continue to work if she wants, although she won't be dependent on the job and the paycheck (and she will save a total of $6.8 million in the same 41 year period that the Spendy Lady saved just $2.25 mil.). 

Of course, the ultimate retirement building tool is to combine those two examples of a high income with low spending. If Thrifty Lady gets a few raises, promotions, takes a second part time job, etc and winds up with a final income of $100,000 but maintains an annual expenditure of $20,000, she will be saving 80% and could retire in just about 5 years, or have 18 million in 41 years if she just totally loved her job and didn't want to stop working. 

Really to get the best bang for your buck, saving at least 60% of your salary is the way to go because it's WAY more powerful than increasing your salary by 60%.  You will keep yourself from buying all sorts of stuff you don't need and can't afford, while bringing freedom and the option to choose how long you will work! People usually start working at a low salary and get raises and bonuses and such as they go. If you can manage to increase your income while keeping spending constant, you could be no more than 10 years away from retirement. 

How To Invest in the Stock Market

image from pixabay.com

image from pixabay.com

*Disclaimer. I am not professionally licensed in the financial industry in any capacity. I am not licensed to do anything except drive a car and be a speech therapist. You invest at your own risk, and past stock performance is not a guarantee of future stock performance. *

OK, now for the fun part...how to get your money making money for you so you can retire early! It is so simple that it's almost brainless. This is the minimum that I do.  Find 2 low cost index funds, mutual funds, or exchange traded funds, that have shown performance returns over the past 10 years (or longer) of at least 7% or greater. 7% is the historical performance of the entire market. If you are not getting a fund with least an average of 7% return then you need to choose a new fund.  One of the two should be set up as a Roth IRA (a retirement account), and the other should be set up as a normal non-retirement account. Put as much extra money as you can into them every month. That's it. That is how ridiculously simple it is. You can stop reading if you want. But if you want to keep reading, there is some more information below. 

For the Roth IRA: Tax law says that you can put as much of your earned income that you want into this account up to $5500. I max it out to $5500 a year EVERY year, ideally spreading it out into equal monthly payments. Don't take anything out of here until you are 59 1/2 years old or else you might face a penalty. This money grows totally tax free. If I withdraw this money after age 59.5 I will pay NO taxes! How great is that? 

The other account is a normal, non retirement account. This is what I will use for my early retirement. If I want to live solely off dividends, I wouldn't take any money out until the principle has reached 25x my annual spending. Once it has reached that number, congratulations to me! I am retired!  I can withdrawal 4% a year. Through the incredible but non-magical power of mathematics (read about it over at MMM), my withdrawals will be exactly the same as my level of annual spending. At this point my money will be making more money than I am at my 9-5 job. The benefit of a 4% rate of withdrawal is that this money will theoretically last forever while keeping up with inflation. *During early retirement I personally plan to earn at least an additional $5500 a year in income in addition to these retirement dividends, for the purpose of plugging that money back into the Roth IRA to keep it growing.*

In case something goes wrong and my early retirement money doesn't last forever...well that's actually ok! It really just needs to last until age 59.5. Then tapping into the aforementioned Roth IRA account is an option. This account will be the one quietly growing in the background of my life and should be quite a hefty sum. I calculate that mine will be around $2 million by that point (and I would only have put in $5500 x $41 years = $225,500 of principle money of my own). I'm not saying that to brag, or be big headed. I'm just showing you how flippin easy it is! 

Now, I can open other accounts if I want to play around and want to save money for any other reason (a Roth 401k with an employer match is a FANTASTIC option, for example) , but the above two accounts are my bread and butter.  

But...isn't the stock market risky? What if it crashes??? 

Yes. Individual stocks can by very risky. That's why most good investment advisers don't recommend them. Diversification is your friend because it means that if one stock in the fund tanks, another one will pick up the slack. Some years your total return might be -10% and some years might be +20%. You never know what it will do, in fact, no one knows! That's why I set it, and then forget it and wait for the long term historical average gains of 7%. 

If the stock market crashes, I do NOT sell my shares! If I sell my shares, that means that I bought high and sold low. NO NO NO. I always want to buy low and then sell high! When the stock market crashes, guess what? It's on sale! That is when I buy more. That is why instead of increasing 7% over the past 8 years my investments have increased an average of 15%! I started investing while the stock market was on sale in 2009/2010 during the housing crash. You certainly don't have to wait for a crash to buy shares. That would be silly because you don't know when it will crash! Start today if you can. But will there be another crash? I'm 100% sure there will be because there always is! The great depression in the 30s. The tech bubble in the 90s. The housing bubble in the 2000s. Another awesome sale will definitely happen again. Successful investing usually happens over the long term, not from the day to day fluctuations, or the current political climate, or the current fad of the decade. No one can predict what will go up, what will go down, what will make you broke, or what will make you rich. That's why a little piece of everything in a diversified fund should balance itself out while protecting against inflation. 

So what funds will do this? I personally invest with Vanguard because they are widely known for having some of the lowest fees in the industry. I've got an S&P 500 fund and a Total Stock Market Index Fund as my two main funds, as well as some other smaller funds just for fun (some additional goals of mine beside retirement include a down-payment for a house, and money for travel). I also have a Roth 401 k through my employer, who gives a 6% match. For further learning, as I am not an investment professional, I would suggest that you seek professional guidance! I like the Ric Edelman podcast and the Dave Ramsey Podcast. Both of those awesome dudes have lists of investment professionals they endorse in your area, and their podcasts are free sources of awesome information!

Do you have a similar strategy to mine or do you do something totally different? Happy Investing!

I Don't Need to Retire Early...Do I?

Maybe you love your 9-5 job. Maybe it is your absolute dream job and you would feel content continuing exactly as you are 40 hours a week for the next 50 years. Or you dream of the promotion in your future because *then* you will be happy doing a slightly different thing for more money every day for the next 50 years.  I have yet to meet many people who say that (business owners and CEOs tend to be the exception because *they* are the boss!) but maybe you fit into this camp. 

So here are some questions for you...what if your amazing boss gets replaced with a new boss who makes your life hell? What if your company pushes you to do something unethical? What if you get laid off? What if you haven't gotten a raise or a bonus in the last 5 years and now you feel unappreciated? What if they start chopping away your benefits...*poof* their goes your pension plan, *poof* there goes the 6% match in the company 401k...

It happens. And that's why I think that even if you love your job and you can't see anything changing for the worse, you should STILL push yourself to retire within 10 years (or 15, or 20, or something less than the crazy-but-now-standard 40-50 year mark). Because once that early retirement day hits, guess what? You DON'T have to retire! You can keep working at that job you love, and keep socking away bucket loads of cash until your proper retirement age of 70, or 80, or whatever. You would be a millionaire x 10 easily and what you have done instead of "early retirement" is called "Financial Independence" (FI). If you wanted to, at this point, you could cut back to part time after you have a kid. You could ask your boss for every Friday off because you just don't need all that extra money and you would rather always have a 3 day weekend. If you love some parts of your job but not others, you can ask your boss for more of what you like and less of what you don't. If you get laid off, you will be OK because you were planning to retire anyway! You could quit your job and start your own business. You could choose a new job that gives you a better quality of life and you have the bargaining power to do it!! 

There are so many options open to you once you gain FI. All it takes is the ability to live below your means (well below, if possible), only spend the money that you have (i'm a big fan of a budget), and consistently investing the difference. 

 

 

What Does Early Retirement Mean?

Here's a question that I posed to myself: "If I still work after I retire...does that mean I'm actually not retired?" What a great question, RVegan. In my opinion, early retirement does not necessarily mean lying on a beach sipping a drink and never having to consider working ever again (unless that's exactly what you want!). For me it just means reaching a stage of financial independence where I only work at my discretion doing things I love. 

That means if I want to travel for 9 months out of the year and work 3 months, or if I want to work seasonally in a national park, or if I want to work just a couple of days a week making crafts, or walking dogs, or welding, or developing apps, or writing blog posts, or teaching, then I'll do it! And if I don't want to, then I won't. Simple, yet effective. Welcome to my retirement dream. 

 "Life is not so much about money or possessions,  it’s about freedom of time and mobility to go wherever you like. And it’s not about not working, it’s more about not being tied down to any particular job" - MMM

Retire In 10 years or LESS

Sourced from Pixabay

I am 25 and my goal is to retire in 9 years by age 34. "Impossible!" you say. But au contraier, it's already been done by none other than Mr. Money Mustache! This financial hero and his financial heroine wife retired by the age of 30, before they had their first kid, each with an average working salary across 9 years of $67,255. Over the past 6 years since his retirement he's been guiding the masses on a mission of frugality and sensibility.

My mission is to recreate the success of Mr Money Mustache with my own finances. I have already made financial mistakes in my short working career, including spending  MORE THAN ALL of my money on my truck (aka...financing it..ugh it just makes me cringe) . But I have also had financial successes! I've been maxing out contributions to a Roth IRA since I started working at age 18. If I continue that pattern until age 69.5 (which is $458 a month for 44.5 years), assuming a 7% interest rate, that account will grow to over 2 million dollars. You can perform the calculations on your own accounts with any online retirement calculator. I like this calculator.*

So logically what I have to do to retire at age 34 is build up enough savings to create a stream of income for the remaining years from age 34 to age 69.5.  How much will I need? I know that I want to own my home and car free and clear, plus have $30,000 annual income for continued IRA contributions, travel, hobbies, and taxes/fees/insurance. Honestly for one person with no debt and no mortgage, that's downright luxurious when you consider many entire families in the US live on less than that and the average global household income is only $10,000 annually. Mr Money Mustache himself and his family live on $25,000 per year, even though they are millionaires who could afford much more than that. So $30,000 for just one person? Easy :) After all, being rich doesn't make you happy, doing things you love with the people you love makes you happy! 

There are two basic parts to my plan of producing $30,000 annual income for use during early retirement. One way is through dividends on investments and the other is what I call "normal-people income", such as full time or part time work, freelancing, rental properties, etc. Those two streams of money are complementary; if you have more of one you need less of the other. The general rule if you are going to withdrawal investment dividends is you should plan to take out no more than 4% annually in order to preserve your principle. See explanation HERE. This withdrawal rate should allow your savings to theoretically last forever if you are gaining 7% ROI, as the remaining 3% gain just keeps up with inflation. A quick way to calculate your target amount using the 4% rule is to multiply your spending by 25, and that's how much you should have in investments if you keep your spending rate constant.

So. If I plan on spending 30 grand per year, I would need 30,000 x 25 = $750,000 in the stock market. That breaks down to investment contributions over the next 9 years of $5,000 per month.  Honestly since I'm doing this all by myself it will be nearly impossible for me to have a mortgage-free house AND that much in savings by year 9. But lets say I actually only needed $10,000 a year from my investments, and I'm going to get my remaining $20,000 from the supplemental, normal-people income. (Doesn't this mean I actually won't be retired?) Well then I would only need 10,000 x 25 = $250,000 in my investment account, which breaks down to investing $1650 a month for 9 years.

Now the picture looks more manageable! I've a full 9 years to come up with a way to bring in just $20k a year by pursing only things that interest me. Once my rental property is paid off (part of the debt free process I'm working on now), it will cash flow somewhere around $5,000-$10,000 annually. Ideas off the top of my head to produce any remaining income needs include making and selling crafts, dog walking, app development, becoming a scuba diving instructor, workamping in my RV around the national park system, public speaking.... the list goes on. My backup if I found myself making ZERO money on passion projects would be to either reduce my spending, or add in some speech therapy sessions. Just one 13 week travel assignment would pretty much cover me for the whole year, which is why I plan to remain certified as an SLP as a safety net.  

Of course you can keep playing with numbers until you find a balance that works for you. 9 years might not be your target and you might want more savings or you might spend less...but I'm pretty sure that when you put on your frugal goggles you will find that a retirement in 40-50 years is likely WAY overkill for what you will need. The key is to spend much less than you make and invest the difference. How novel. 

As a final note, in case I never settle down with anyone this post assumes a single relationship status. If I have a family, my future husband will be contributing an additional salary and skills to the equation and should make the process even faster/easier. I know this is true because if he has no skills and makes the early retirement process harder/slower, we will not be a good match and I will not be marrying him ;) 

I'm not exactly sure of the nuts and bolts of how I will get there, but the gauntlet has been thrown down! Retire at age 34 with a paid off house. Does anyone out there have a similar goal? 

*Disclaimer: I am not an investment professional. I'm not professionally licensed to do anything except Speech Therapy. I am just sharing with you what I have done and what I will continue to do. Past stock market performance is not a guarantee of future performance * 

Transitioning from Full Time RVer to Part Time RVer

Image taken from Pixabay.com

Image taken from Pixabay.com

If I am planning on buying a house before the age of 34, then what is the future of my RV life?? Well I can safely say that I'm addicted to RVing. My current fifth wheel and truck set up works perfectly for now, being parked 13 weeks at a time and having some type of "home base". But for serious road-tripping abilities, I am very envious of a smaller rig. Something like a 24 foot Class C equipped with a generator and solar power to take advantage of boondocking. Used options are not too cost prohibitive- a good rig like that can go for around $30,000 used. Of course I have learned my lesson and don't plan on borrowing a dime. In fact, I don't plan on buying this future RV until I have no mortgage. 

 I don't know what part of the country I want to live in yet, but I do know that even when I get a house I always want to have an RV! Especially after age 34 when I'll be retired, that will be the perfect time to go on road trips for months at a time. While I'm gone I can even rent out my home to produce some extra income.

Knowing that I want to own an RV does dictate a certain type of house: one with enough land to park it, with no HOAs with negative rules about RVs. That pretty much eliminates my hometown in the DC metro area. My parents seem to have hit that certain age where their generation has started making the great migration to Florida, so to stay close to them I'm highly considering that state as an option for myself. Florida is known to be a great state to live in as a full time RVer in due to abundant RV services and their lack of state income tax.

I'm also considering Tennessee, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, and my current state,Virginia, for various reasons. If I go to Florida I want to live within a 20 bike ride of the beach. If I live in my home state of VA i'm 100% sure the central part of the state near the blue ridge parkway and the Appalachian mountains is the area for me. Something like Harrisonburg, Staunton, or Charlottesville. After living in a few cities throughout my life, I think my personal sweet spot is a small-mid size college town and those three Virginia cities fit the bill. As far as the other states...the sky is the limit! I want to start traveling there and explore to find some cities that fit into my criteria. I would like a small-mid size college town that is fairly walkable/bikeable, with nice green space and city amenities. Anyone have suggestions?

Personal Finance Obsession

This blog was not intended in the beginning to be a personal finance blog in any way, however I am finding myself eager to work less, travel more, and develop passion projects while paying for the hobbies I enjoy. It seems like financial independence is really the key to reaching my goals and living a secure and interesting life. My definition of financial independence and early retirement is being my own boss, working as much or as little as I want with enough income to grow my investments and maintain a reasonable standard of living until age 69.5. After that I can withdraw from my IRAs (Roth and Traditional) and Roth 401k for the remainder of my life. My upcoming financial goals include:

1)Become Debt Free, 2) fully fund my IRAs and 401k 3)Put an additional 60-70% of salary into savings and investments 3) Buy a house and pay it off as quickly as possible, and 4) During the previous 3 steps, work on developing $30,000 annual residual income from personal business ventures and rental income. 4) quit my speech therapy job, but maintain national licensure as a financial back up in case I need some emergency cash.  By my estimates, I should be approaching "retirement" in about 8-10 years.  

The previous blog entry discussed debt and how I was working to get myself out of the red by paying it off and saving and investing as much as possible. So naturally I took 4 weeks off from work to go on an RV trip around the gulf coast of AL and FL. I had a fabulous time but I will admit it was a stupid choice in terms of building wealth, and I wanted to break down the cost here. My costs for the month of travel are as follows:

Gas: $260, Food: $210, Lodging: $50, Clothing: $88, Other (parking, souvenirs, etc) : $20

Total: $628

Note: The lodging was so cheap because I received a free year of Thousand Trails camping from my dealership when I bought my RV, which I supplemented along with a few nights of camping using a Passport America discount.

I was working for the first 2 weeks of May and will be working again for the last 3 weeks of June. During these 2 months I was still able to pay all bills and budget $2336 toward debt repayment, and increase my IRA investment principal by $1000 due to my expenses being so low this month (if I could live on $628 a month for the rest of my life I could retire tomorrow haha). However, if I had chosen to work the entire months of May and June with no vacation my net worth would have increased by approximately $4000 above that, with all of it being socked away towards debt repayment. Therefore the total cost of this month long vacation including opportunity cost is $4628. Turned out to be quite an expensive vacation after all. Was it worth it to me? Yes, I had a lot of fun and am very tan. Am I going to do it again? Not planning on it until I reach financial independence.

As of next monday I am rejoining the work force and I'm actually pretty excited to get back to it! I'm heading to a Home Health 13 week assignment back in the familiar state of North Carolina.

Getting on a Budget

The first step in saving for whatever goal you have, becoming debt free or otherwise, is creating a budget!  I use the Every Dollar App and I absolutely love it. The basic app and accompanying website everydollar.com are free. They instantly update each other if any changes are made, which makes it a great tool if you're sharing finances with someone to make sure you guys are on the same page. Plus the graphics are super easy to understand, and the whole thing is basically dummy-proof. Also, I can't even believe I have to say this (who do I think I am with this blog... G. Paltrow? RVegan is certainly no Goop.) but Every Dollar is absolutely not sponsoring me, or giving me any money or perks to mention it.  I just have fallen in love with this tool.

As Dave Ramsey says, if you want to become a millionaire you should follow the advice of a millionaire. If you want to become a broke person, follow the advice of a broke person. Since I fall under the category of "broke person", you maybe would be wise to disregard all the modifications I have made to the Ramsey plan and just take everything as an entertaining blog post from a flawed 25 year old's perspective while following the true Ramsey baby steps to a tee and laughing in my face. 

For me the biggest goal this month has just been to finally get myself on a tight budget. It's just a great way to get permission for spending and saving money so I don't have to worry if I'm putting too much or too little in any category. I don't feel restricted by my budget at all because I know where the wiggle room is if I ever need it. A budget is not what I used to do: Pay all my bills and use the money left over for whatever I wanted. In a good budget, every dollar has a purpose and you should be honest with yourself when creating your budget. For me, personal shopping is not a priority but food is, and my budget reflects that. I would recommend taking a look at your budget before the month begins and tweak as needed. For example I will need to buy a formal dress for an event in September, so I already know I need to add a line item for about $100-$200 the month before. A budget shouldn't be so restrictive that you give up on it because you can't stick with an impossible goal of never having fun again. Any good budget will have money for giving AND saving AND spending. And the biggest piece of knowledge I will forever take with me is to save up money BEFORE I buy something, and never get a loan for ANYTHING. Ever again. Especially not a truck. Learned that lesson the hard way on that one :)

So here is how my budget is broken down. 15% of income to savings, 15% to housing (paying rent or a mortgage for a home base is a requirement of being a traveler, plus I have RV park fees at the locations I go to), 6% to transportation, 7% toward food, 5% toward lifestyle (shopping, personal money, etc) 5% towards taxes/fees, 2% towards giving (I hope to grow this number) and 45% towards debt repayment. Once you open the app you will see you're not expected to designate percentages because that would be a really bass ackwards way to budget. You plug in your real dollar numbers and the percentages will automatically populate. I have just chosen to redact my numbers for privacy reasons. If you want to know how much a travel therapist makes on average, check out THIS article that I found with fairly accurate information.

I did just write my entire last blog entry about getting out of debt with gazelle intensity. However...I consider myself a gazelle with 3 legs. I will 100% admit to not following the Dave Ramsey baby steps. If I was following those steps, my budget would look a lot different. I would not have more than $1000 cash on hand, I would not be spending any on savings/investment/retirement, and I would probably cut my food and lifestyle bills in half. That would bring my dept repayment up to around 65% of my income. I also would not be taking vacations (like the 3 week road trip I'm about to take with my mom) so my income would rise by about 8%. I did some rough calculations and found I probably would be debt free and pay off my remaining $165,000 within 2-3 years, instead of my currently planned 5 years. Also I still use credit cards (a bad word in the Ramsey house) because I have never had credit card debt, never plan to acquire credit card debt, and I pay my balance in full every month while receiving points for flights and gas, and so on. 

There are 2 ways to pay off debt faster: 1) increase your debt repayment percentage or 2) increase your income.  Last year I was putting 25% of my income towards debt repayment. Now that I have a true budget I am putting 45%. I could be putting in as much as 65% but i'm not because I'm only a 3 legged gazelle. As far as increasing income, my income changes every 13 weeks as I renegotiate a contract, or move to a new contract. I also probably make less than other travel therapists because I choose to take time off between my assignments. I have an RV and I like to go RVing. Imagine that! So one way I could increase income is by not taking these vacations (duh). I also plan on releasing an app (woot woot!), as well as bundled therapy materials for SLPs so I can make some extra passive income. I'm not planning on being the best selling entrepreneur ever, but I want to throw my hat into the ring. The income property I have will start cash flowing for me as soon as I pay off my loan, so there's that as well. 

I'm so excited about my budget that I want to tell everyone about it! I want to know: Do you budget? Do you use credit cards? Are you the kind of person who wants to be a 4-legged intense gazelle, or are you ok with being 3-legged like me? Is there such a thing as a "comfortable" amount of debt? Do use EveryDollar or something else? Comment Below!

 

Getting Out of Debt with Gazelle Intensity

I have recently been super inspired to get out of debt because I came to the realization that I don't want to have to work until I drop dead. I want to have savings, investments, a paid off house one day (says the girl who lives in an RV). So here is a super honest blog about my finances! 

First off, what are my debts?  Luckily I have no credit card or student loan debt.  But...I was dumb and funded the purchase of my beautiful truck with a loan. I bought him brand spanking new, which means instant depreciation. I kind of rationalized it to myself saying "I've been driving my old 1996 Camry for 7 years. I need something reliable since I'll be traveling all over. I want something under warranty. I don't want a used 2500 commercial truck that's been beaten to death. The interest rate is only 1.7%. I'll make some of the money back when I sell it once I'm done traveling. This will help me build by credit score".  and other really dumb things that you say when you convince yourself you need to buy something, and that you need to buy it NOW! Additionally, I don't own my RV outright. My mom loaned me the money and am paying her back in monthly installments. My mom and I also just bought an income property together last year and I have a loan for that as well. So I'm right out of the gate on my RV journey I am in debt for a grand total of....get ready for it.... $183,500. 

When I first laid the number out like that....it really took my breath away,  especially since my annual income is less than half of that amount! It's now been about a year since I took out the car loan and I've managed to pay off $18,500 up to this point just by kind of being lackadaisical, not really making a budget, just paying off the minimums plus a little extra whenever I felt like I had some money to spare at the end of the month. 

Since my car loan is only 1.7% interest my others are also small rates of interest (and the income property should pay all of its bills by itself), some people might question why I'm paying it off at all. The "traditional" wisdom states that if you take the money you would be making towards extra payments and put it in a good growth mutual fund paying 6-10% interest, you will be much more wealthy with more cash flow if you actually hold onto those debts as long as possible.  Well, to that I say that there is this general knot in the pit of my stomach thinking about this looming debt, this dark cloud. Income is the most powerful wealth building tool, and right now I'm not able to have a say in where a large chunk of mine goes. I want that control back. If I didn't have to pay that $183,500 in debt, I could instead put it toward building wealth! 

I just recently started listening to Dave Ramsey, debt guru extraordinaire, and my eyes have been opened.  His passion swept me away and I wanted to join all the people calling into his radio show screaming "WE'RE DEBT FREE!". I thought I had been moving steadily along because I could pay my bills easily and I had extra left over each month for spending and saving. But really I was poking along like a turtle when instead I could have attacked the debt with the kind of intensity and focus a gazelle uses to escape his hunter...known as "Gazelle Intensity" in the lingo of those who drink the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid. Dave Ramsey has his own baby steps that I'm only loosely following. My main steps are as follows:

Step 1: Create a budget! I had been tracking my expenses as they occurred through an excel spreadsheet for about 6 months, but had not actually taken the step of being proactive and budgeting for an upcoming month. This month I downloaded the EveryDollar App, and it already has changed my whole perspective on budgeting and fiance. Seeing every single dollar laid out with a mission and a purpose and seeing how much I have left over that can go toward debt repayment really has me fired up! Not only that, but it kind of gives me permission to spend and give money. Before I did this budget, I had a vague idea that I could use some (undetermined) amount of money each month for new shoes, or a guitar lesson, or give a dollar to the grocery store cashiers who ask for it for their causes. But now, I have a PLAN. I know exactly how much to spend on each item, and the thing I am most excited about is my new budget category for giving to worthy causes (I found an extra $100 a month that I can be giving!). I am thinking about doing some blog posts about the organizations I will give to, so stay tuned for that!

Step 2: Attack that debt!!!  Net worth is defined as total assets minus debt. Ladies and gentlemen...that puts me firmly into the red. Because I have developed a kick ass budget, I calculate that I should be able to pay off about $34,000 per year (double what I paid off this year!), which means my dumb car loan will be toast by early 2018, a full 3 years ahead of schedule! If I stick to my budget I should be 100% debt free in about 5 years. During this time I will still be funding my IRAs and 401k, my emergency fund, etc. Dave Ramsey does not recommend funding these things while in debt , but I am going to continue doing it anyway because I want that compound interest in investments working for me. 

Step 3: Once you are debt free, move that free money each month to additional savings and investments and build wealth. I'll let you know how this step goes once I get to it :) 

 

The Clinical Fellowship year

Out of my graduating SLP class of 25-ish people, I would estimate that about half wanted to work in a medical setting. Going to school in "The Triangle" in NC meant that there were some amazing universities and teaching hospitals (UNC, Duke, REX, Wake Med) that we were able to luckily have internships and fellowships with. However, with all of those opportunities comes a LOT of competition! I applied for as many local hospitals as I could for my clinical fellowship year and I must have sent out around 50 applications to hospitals all across the country. I  think I received one phone interview and I didn't wind up getting the job. One of the frustrating things about the nationwide shortage of SLPs is that there is an even smaller pool of SLPs that are able to become a mentor to a new grad. And let's be honest, most buildings don't want to pay two SLPs if they can get by with one. So I turned to skilled nursing facilities (SNF). I found an SNF only about 2 hours away from my hometown in VA, in an awesome college town that was willing to provide me with a mentor. I sent out that one application, and was hired after a phone interview and a tour of the facility. The pay was very good, the location couldn't be beat. Yes, I felt a little let down that none of the hospitals seemed to want me, and I had heard the rumors that SNFs could be challenging. But I figured that I could handle it. 

Let's just say it was pretty much a vertical learning curve. One positive of my first placement were that I was covering short term rehab, long term care, outpatient, and home health so I really learned a lot and gained independence very quickly. I had a good mentor, even though she wasn't onsite with me. I had some amazing coworkers, and the facility itself was awesome with a swimming pool, a huge gym, beautiful gardens and screened in porches to work with the patients. But the same problems plaguing almost all SNF rehab departments plagued mine. I was NEVER able to meet my productivity due to all the paperwork requirements, I felt pressure to pick up every 98 year old with dementia for cognitive therapy, I was the only full time SLP on staff, I was specifically told NOT to work off the clock but if I didn't then my boss would take me aside and talk to me about watching my productivity, and the ultra annoying practice of having to work 12 hour days M, T, and W to get everything done,  only to be told to just come in for just 2 hours each on Th and F...just enough to ruin both days but right under the 40 hour mark so they didn't have to dip into their pockets and pay me overtime. 

The amount of turnover in the department was crazy- right before i arrived, the previous SLP and the OT resigned, and in my 6 months (yes I was only there 6 months), the PT, COTA, and DoR all resigned, there were three traveling OTs within 6 months and one traveling PT.  And the new DoR as well as a regional manager were let go. I ended up leaving the position for a different SNF about 30 minutes away which had a much better productivity standard (75%) and all the therapists had been working there for years- one had been there since the building opened I think around 20 years prior. However, literally the ink was not dry on my new contract when I found out that the awesome company I had just signed onto was being sold (because the smaller companies who don't commit ethics violations can't seem to hang on anymore), and when the change took place 3 months later, it seemed to become worse than my first one, maybe because I had briefly tasted the sweet life of not being treated like a robot undeserving of even a bathroom break. I finished my clinical fellowship year and stayed at the new place for about 9 months before buying my RV and hitting the road, working in acute care hospitals.

My recommendation to anyone considering an SNF is that if you see a productivity number higher than 80% you run far away. Even ask about the assistants productivity level, and if you are hearing 90% or 95%, it is probably not a company you want to work for. I found 75% as a therapist to be ideal. In an interview I would ask about the rate of staff turnover, and build a raise into your contract at the completion of your CF. If there is any travel between buildings, make sure to ask about how you will be reimbursed. And I would specify a written schedule to meet with your mentor, on company time. Maybe every other Friday for example, or at least once a month.  Also, try hard to find smaller in-house rehab facilities. They are quickly disappearing and being gobbled up by national chains, but in my opinion they are the ones you are most likely to be happiest with. 

 

Happy New Year! This year's recap and a look forward.

New in 2016: Bought a truck, bought an RV, became a traveling therapist, learned how to drive and back up a trailer, hitch and unhitch, dump sewage, level an RV, started guitar classes, started aerial yoga classes, celebrated New Years by party bus in 2 time zones, and bought a house!!!

New in 2017: Saw an armadillo cross the road (as of 1/2/17, this is all I've got but I hope to expand!)

There's a fear of branching out from a certain path, a safe path, and making your own way. My mom keeps saying things to me like "When you buy your real house in a few years...". What if I don't want to settle down and live in a house? I don't want to be a part of the typical pattern of being a busy worker bee for 50 years, only to retire sick and old and have to live the rest of my "free" life in a nursing home. But the idea of living in an RV forever sounds kind of laughable. What if people think that I am a bum? Like i had so much potential and never amounted to anything. There is something to be said for being the professional woman that people look up to, that is in charge of businesses and is a community leader, and has the husband, 2 kids-and-a-dog household with a fenced yard, a washing machine, and a dishwasher. Part of me really wants that, and i'm not counting it out. But I am finding that being a speech therapist is not wholly fulfilling to me, and the idea of working 5 days a week for the next 50 years kind of makes me nauseous. There are some parts I like- the routine, the feeling of being useful, the professional environment, being around other smart and talented people, the sweet patients I meet, the good money. But I have to admit to that I am constantly thinking of ways to explore other paths. How can I make a living that supports me and my passions? 

The reason travel therapy appeals to me is twofold: One, it allows me to try out the RV life. Two, it gives me the option of trying out speech therapy settings to see if there's one that really clicks with me and that I actually would want to settle down with. in 2016, nothing in the SLP world really grabbed me but I'm hopeful that 2017 might deliver. My supplemental plan for right now is buying properties and making money with rental income. So, at the end of 2016, I bought a house with my mom!  This is obviously risky (Hello housing crash of 2009!) but honestly there is no safe bet anymore, no pension with health insurance waiting for me when I retire. You can't get a reward without taking a risk. Right now I am between travel jobs, and am just working PRN while my mom and I are fixing it up to rent. It's pretty scary to do this, because we might not make our money back for a few years and I am taking on some debt for this project. I hate being in debt. It makes me feel trapped and decidedly un-free. I have a vision and a plan for my life but honestly it constantly changes. It is so easy for me to dream of the future and think "oh if I had this I would be happy", and I struggle with that every day. And I am happy right now by some measures and not happy by others.

As far as "settling down" goes, I do want to find a romantic partner/best friend. But I feel like in order to find someone with the same interests as me, I actually have to start DOING those things, instead of dreaming about them. In December my new challenge was aerial yoga and I liked it. In 2017 I want to do silks, lyra, any dance class I can find, continue playing guitar, and also try jiu jitsu which sounds really random buy I want to learn how to fight and be strong. And of course I want to continue pole dancing...I am really missing it since I've been living in these small towns. I feel like for the past year I've been in a planning and learning phase in my life...the growth curve has seemed like a vertical line that is just now starting to tip back to the horizontal plane. But 2017 is young, and the possibilities are endless :) I hope for more good things to come!!!! 

I Miss Mayberry

I wanted to talk today about the VERY interesting history of my most recent campsite in Mt. Airy, VA. I stayed in a private park called Mayberry Campground for about a month. Mt Airy is an incredible small town that was the inspiration for Mayberry in the Andy Griffith show. The town shops have all sorts of souvenirs related to the Andy Griffith show, including a town tour you can take in the old fashioned sheriff car. The campground itself has a totally separate, but just as interesting history behind it. It is built on the former plantation of Eng and Chang Bunker, the original Siamese twins who were joined at the pelvis. Basically, they were of Malay/Chinese/Thai descent and a sideshow person thought that they could make a lot of money off of them on tour. Once their contract ended, they settled in Mt Airy, NC and bought a plantation with slaves. They were both married, to sisters, and apparently Chang had 12 children and Eng had 10. They became bitter after the south lost the civil war, and Chang suffered a stroke and began drinking heavily. Chang died in 1874 and Eng died 3 hours later. 

And now in 2016 that plantation land is an absolutely gorgeous campground :) While I was there, there was a NC RV group gathering with some bluegrass music and raffles. Everyone was so friendly, and even though it was a 45 min drive to my work it was such beautiful scenery that I didn't even mind!  

Environmental Concern and What to do About It.

Are you concerned about the announcement that Myron Ebell will possibly head the EPA during the Trump presidency? You might be concerned that he denies that global warming is caused by humans, and states that that alternative fuel sources are far too costly, at this time to implement.  I do actually agree with him on some part of that. For example nuclear power is an alternative. This is mostly safe, and some countries such as France get a majority of their power from it. There have been nuclear disasters in the past (think Chernobyl) and there is a problem of where exactly to put the radioactive waste.  Wind turbines can only be used effectively in certain parts of the country and they are a threat to wildlife, namely birds and bats. Solar is nice but it is quite expensive, takes up a large footprint, and the technology is not advanced enough to power everything. Electric cars are ok…but they are charged by your home power system which likely runs on natural gas and oil. Despite these limitations I personally believe they should continued to be developed and invested in, especially because fracking and pipelines come with their own major environmental hazards. Pipeline leaks and breaks spill millions of gallons of oil into oceans and rivers. To those people who say that pipelines are 100% safe, I say that “unsinkable ships” sink.  But if you want to heat your home and drive your car, we will have to continue drilling and fracking while the other technologies improve in cost and functionality.

You might be concerned about water quality. For example, California seems like it’s always in a drought, and our amazing underground aquifers going to run dry eventually because we are taking water out faster than it is collecting. Maybe the upcoming Trump presidency will not be supporting clean water, air, and alternative energy laws. I have no idea.

Let me give you some facts and some ideas about what YOU can do right now, today, to help the environment in spite of whatever policies are enacted in the next four years.  You could drive less. You could use a low flow shower head. You could stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs.

WHAT????? Stop eating meat and cheese!!!??? That is too extreme. I am probably a psycho.  Only psychos hate cheese!!! 

Or….maybe I’m just logical. Let’s take a look.

GREENHOUSE GASES: 

9% of all greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture according to the EPA (with some non-EPA estimates as high as 18% or even 51%). As with all biased reports, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The large variables come from how these numbers are calculated. Some include the transportation of grain and animals in the "transportation"category and some include it in the "livestock" category, with the idea that if we weren't trying to feed and move these animals, the greenhouse gases wouldn't be produced.

While CO2 emissions are concentrated in the energy sector, agriculture accounts for the largest share of non-CO2 emissions (54 % of emissions in 2005).

Agriculture is responsible for 79% of all emissions of nitrous oxide that is 296x more destructive than CO2 and lasts for at least 100 years in the atmosphere. 4% comes from breakdown of manure and urine. The remaining 75% comes from the fertilizer used to grow the crops that us and animals eat. 

Methane from cow farts sounds funny but is a serious issue. Methane is 25x more destructive than CO2. The good news is that Methane leaves the atmosphere in 20 years. The bad news is that the livestock industry is not giving it a chance to leave. 

26% of the earth's land is used for grazing livestock and growing corn, soy, and wheat to feed the livestock (don't get me started on deforestation and loss of biodiversity). Humans would need far less land to feed ourselves if we just ate the plants directly instead of having another body filter our nutrients for us. We could also replace all of these plants with a more diverse range of crops that would allow for increased local food production. 

Converting to wind and solar will take over 20 years and a conservative estimate of 43 trillion dollars. (which is the point that Myron Ebell is making that it is too expensive). To be clear, I think we should continue to pursue these alternative energy pathways. But going vegan (no meat, dairy, or eggs) takes seconds and can be cheaper for you than what you are eating right now. 

WATER USE:

One pound of beef= 1847 gallons of water

One pound of almonds= 1085 gallons of water

1 pound of eggs= 391 gallons of water

1 gallon of milk= 122 gallons of water

10% of California water goes to almond production. That is a lot! but....30% of California water goes to raising livestock (10% of that goes to hay production alone) Also people don't usually eat a pound of almonds in one sitting..or even 1/4 of a pound. But people eat quarter pounder hamburgers like they are going out of style. 

Yes, all plants need water. Even in a vegan world we would be using water to grow plants. But right now we are raising plants, to feed to animals, to eat the animals, which is ludicrous when we could grow plants that we could eat directly! 

If you take 15 minute showers with a low flow shower head you will save 2500 gallons of water per person. Being vegan for 1 year can save up to 724,925 gallons of water per person per year (355,000 gallons from dairy, 161,000 gallons from beef, 196,200 gallons from other meats; 11,925 gallons from eggs) if you are currently following typical American consumption habits of animals. Eliminating fracking will save a minimum of 70 billion gallons of water annually. Eliminating animal agriculture will save a minimum of 34 trillion gallons annually. Logistically neither of these practices will be eliminated (probably not for 100 years at least...just a guess), but YOU can vote with your dollar to not support animal ag, which would go a long way on helping protect our water and air. You don't have to wait for congress, the EPA, and the president to protect our environment, and indeed if you wait on them we are all doomed. 

Check out Cowspiracy on netflix for more information on how animal agriculture affects this planet! 

 

(Aside: There will be an additional cost to meat and dairy farms because they will have to switch their product line from animals to plants, and if the world went vegan overnight, our economy would collapse. Realistically the world is not going vegan overnight and instead it will be a LONG road. However, I don't believe in supporting a business just so the economy doesn't collapse. Industries rise, industries fall...nothing is "too big to fail". It happened with the slave trade, the gold rush, the coal industry, the auto industry, and soon the oil industry and the animal agriculture industry...collapsing industry is a huge source of poverty and despair in America. I understand why Congressmen and women fight any attack on animal ag tooth and nail- they want to get re-elected and they won't if their constituents sense an attack on their jobs. I don't believe dying companies should be bailed out by government. I do believe that the old industries need to get their money and power out of the damn way so new, brighter industries can emerge. Companies hold their money and power over towns until the life is squeezed out and people hang on until they have no job opportunities and no new skill sets.  But luckily companies in 2016 are seeing the value in vegan-izing their products. Hellmans just started offering vegan Mayo. Burger joints are offering vegan and veggie options. I can get anything vegan-ized from Taco Bell! I am from Virginia and pass a lot of dairy and beef farms on my way to work. If those places all converted to apples, stone fruits, berries, beans, and potatoes, and all types of veggies we would be swimming in local produce!!!  Everyone loves apple, strawberry, and blueberry picking around here whereas no one loves slaughtering cows.)

Why a Fifth Wheel Was Right for Me

My first RV experience happened at 12 years old when my mom, her boyfriend, and I flew to Arizona and rented an RV for a two week vacation in the southwest.  When I first thought about living in an RV as a 25 year old one of my first thoughts was to rent an RV and see how I like it. I soon found out the cost of renting for even one week is in the thousands of dollars. It actually can be cheaper to buy a used one to learn on than to rent one.  I do think renting is an excellent choice to find out if you like the full time RV lifestyle but for my budget it just wasn’t feasible.

I did research for about a year before taking the plunge and found an overwhelming amount of options. The perfect RV doesn't exist, and most people go through a few before finding the perfect choice for them. All RV owners have to make compromises in either space, amenities, price, age, maneuverability, or stealthiness. This blog will hopefully serve to introduce you to the types of RVs and the basic pros and cons of each type, however there is no better experience than checking them out in person at dealerships or RV shows, so get out there and start looking!

CLASS A

Most RVs are broken down into classes. When people hear the word “RV” generally a class A is what comes to mind. Class As basically look like charter buses, and often people tow cars behind them. Class As can cost as little as a few thousand (used) all the way up to the $1-2 million + range. Most are somewhere in between.  When you step inside some of these bad boys you will be blown away at the amenities. 

Pros: usually good for families and pets because you can use the RV while you are driving (up to a point…it is shaky in there, and passengers should wear seatbelts). Great for using the bathroom on the road and so you don’t have to stop every couple of hours on a long trip. Many people find Class As to be safer because if you need to leave a space quickly you potentially don’t even have to step outside. If you are just stopping somewhere for the night you can just hop right from your bed to the driver’s seat and go. (These are also the pros of class C and B). Great basement storage, and a pretty large living area. Generator built in.

Cons:  Fuel cost (a few hundred to fill up the tank), low gas mileage (around 6-10 mpg in a gas class A) RV tires (thousands of dollars to replace all tires), typically have to tow a small car behind the RV, which means cost of extra maintenance and registration on two engines. I did not choose this option because at the time I owned a 1996 Toyota Camry which would not have made a good toad. The cost of a class A plus a new car was too much for me. . The easiest kind of car to tow is something manual (Jeeps and Subarus are popular choices) but some automatic cars can be towed easily as well (A 2014 or earlier Honda CRV is a popular option). The best toads lightweight with good fuel efficiency. 

CLASS B

These basically looks like vans from the outside (some have pop tops, some have high tops, some have low tops). Some popular brands are Chinook, Sprinter, and Sportsmobile, and Winnebago. For myself, I like the mid 2000s Chinook Glacier LE. I also like the idea of customizing a van from scratch if I chose this option, with solar power, insulation, a raised platform bed, a full kitchen, shower, toilet, and a desk. Options are endless if you are a DIY person.

Pros: more mobile due to small size, can fit in regular parking space, don’t necessarily need a toad, the stealthiest option, great for living and commuting in a city. 

Cons: limited storage space, limited space in the waste tanks which leads to dumping more often, overall very small size for living in full time. Good for one person, maybe two people and a dog but not much more than that for full time living. These are VERY expensive per square foot (if buying new, can be over $100k easily). Converted DIY vans are much more cost effective and you can personalize them. I am not handy at all, and don’t know squat about electricity and plumbing so this option was off the table for me.

CLASS C:

This is what I RV’d in when I was 12. Its like a really big van (can be up to around 35 feet) with a cab over the drivers seat for sleeping.  For myself, my ideal Class C would probably choose a Lazy Dayz Class C 27.5 mid bath model, or a 2006 Forest River Sunseeker 2200 (it has an awesome rear kitchen and would be great for one person. This model is no longer made). 

Pros: Pretty much in the middle of a class A and B, a class C is versatile in size and layout, can tow a car behind, good storage, nice living space for a single person, a couple, or a small family. Lots of interior options.

Cons: Can feel cramped, towing a car behind means 2 engines, 2 sets of tires, 2 registrations, etc, have a tendency to develop leaks over the cab. 

FIFTH WHEEL (what I have)

A fifth wheel requires a truck to pull it. There are different sized options ranging from very specialized 19 feet options all the way to 45 feet and maybe even more than that. Part of your RV sits in your truck bed as you go down the road.  I’ve got a 2006 Coachmen Chaparral, towed by a Ford F-250 diesel.  I chose this set up because of my lifestyle; I set up camp and then don’t move for 3 months. This is perfect for me because I use the truck for driving to work, the grocery store, etc and then come back to my trailer for my home base at the end of the day. Don’t have to worry about 2 engines or managing a toad.

Pros: You unhitch and you have a vehicle for daily driving, LOTS of living space, tends to have the biggest and most versatile floorplans (Travel Trailers are similar), good basement storage, only one motor/engine to deal with, lower cost then As, Bs, and Cs on average due to no motor (although it can run anywhere from a few thousand to over 100k), large black/grey tanks

Cons: Not very agile(compared to class B and C), tall (watch low clearances), Cost of truck to pull it (my truck costs substantially more than my RV),

TRAVEL TRAILER

Bumper pull trailers can be similar to fifth wheels, sometimes you can get the same make/model/floor plan just in a travel trailer version. They can be very small (7 feet) or very large (40 + feet) and price varies just like all the other options from a few hundred- a few thousand. Typically the most budget friendly. Some tops pop up, some have slides for extra room.

Pros: Can be pulled with SUV, Truck, or sometimes minivan depending on the weight of your trailer, You can use your truck bed for extra storage, you have your tow vehicle ready for daily driving, only one vehicle motor to maintain

Cons: extra length due to hitch when pulling, harder to hitch up by yourself,  tendency to sway/jackknife if you don’t have the proper towing set up

TOY HAULERS:

Can be either fifth wheels, travel trailers or occasionally Class As, but these have garages/patios to haul your ATV, golf cart, smart car, snow mobiles, etc.

Pros: unique layout for large families and pets, a lot of sleeping room, 1 or 2 party decks. 

Cons: usually heavier, larger models.

TRUCK CAMPERS:

Camper sits completely in the truck bed and extends over the cab. These can be incredibly basic (weekend camper) or have all the bells and whistles (full time camper with 3 slides outs). There are pop up campers and hard side campers, each with pros and cons. 

Pros: Can drive anywhere (incredibly agile) with 4wd truck, can park the camper and have a daily driver.

Cons: Typically need at least a 1 ton truck, or a ¾ ton truck with additions for the suspension, limited living space, cant use truck bed for extra storage while camper is on. Tend to be more expensive per square foot. 

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Currently a fifth wheel works great for me! Perfect for my lifestyle with plenty of space and it feels like my own apartment. However, if there comes a time when I am working less and traveling more frequently, I definitely will take a look at Class Cs and Bs (likely used Chinooks and Lazy Daze) and Truck Campers (The XP camper V1 is my favorite and also costs a LOT. how typical) as possible options for downsizing. These are much more versatile that what I have currently for boondocking (not hooked up to power, city water, or sewer). Boondocking sounds like a great camping option that I have yet to explore, but hope to in the future. It typically works best if you have large tanks (i have), solar power (nope), or generator (nope). 

Good luck finding your perfect RV! There are great youtube traveling families and solo RVers, in every type of rig imaginable. From solo women living in their car (check out Bob Well's Youtube, Cheap RV living), to a family of 5 living in a pop up truck camper (Mali Mish), to a family of 9 living in a fifth wheel (Knorpp and South), to a working couple living in a bus conversion (Technomadia), to a couple living in a class A and now living on a sailboat (Gone with the Wynns), to a single guy living in his Honda Element (Element Van Life), to a couple living in their renovated fifth wheel (The Freedom Theory) to a couple and their toddler living in their Class A (Less Junk More Journey)...The list goes on and on!!! Be careful watching these channels if you live in an apt or a house...You'll start to have itchy feet and want to hit the road!!!! 

 

 

Moving day

Every time in the past few months when I have moved my camper, my mom has been there to help. Even though neither one of us really had a clue what to do, it is somehow comforting to have an extra pair of eyes. This move was my first solo journey and I was extra nervous and paranoid about messing something up and being homeless. I strapped down my belongings, slid in my slides, hooked up to my hitch, and I headed out.

The trip was 3 hours and was largely uneventful. I took a stroll around my new campground when I got there, picked a site that was far enough away from most of the others for some privacy (which happened to be a pull though! Score!!!) and pulled my camper right on through. Stuck my blocks down, leveled everything, unhooked from my truck, went to slide out my slides and……realized I had parked myself too close to the electrical box. Oopsie #1.  I’m not sure if I would have cleared it or not, but figured I better pull forward the extra 3 inches to make sure. So after reversing the whole process, pulling forward 3 inches and re-staking my claim on the land (a 40 minute endeavor), I hooked up to power with no problem.

Hooking up to water didn’t go as smoothly.  A water filter at the end of its life and refused to let anything through. Turning on faucets inside resulted in Drip. Drip. Drip. Not good news for a smelly, sweaty, tired woman who just wants a shower. So what is a girl to do? Consult the internet for solutions, of course. Reaching for my phone, I realized that my phone was…not in reach. I searched high and low, and I found it low. Low, under my truck tire, smashed to bits. Oopsie #2. I vaguely recalled setting it on the tailgate when I was re-positioning my home, but the memory of safely putting it in my purse was suspiciously absent. So a quick trip to the Verizon store and $500 later with new (insured) iphone in my pocket,  I had a spring in my step because I really really needed to use the bathroom.  Went to hook up my sewer, and the campground sewer plug wouldn’t budge. Oh well, I’ll just work on filling my tanks and hook up when I need to dump in about 14 days.

Fast forward tp 14 days later…Hook up the sewer hose, pull the lever, and nasty nasty stuff flies everywhere. Hadn’t tightened my hose enough. Oopsie #3. One quick shower later (with great water pressure!), and I was finally all settled! Only took about 2 weeks for the whole process. I'll consider all my mistakes as learning opportunities, and just keep rolling on.

The Feeding Dilemma

Something that people do not know about speech therapy is that us speechies help people with their swallows. As people age, or develop diseases and disorders, the muscles and sensations required for a safe swallow decline. Part of my job is to assess people's dietary textures to see if they are chewing and swallowing safely, to prevent choking and aspiration (basically food, liquid, and saliva passing the vocal folds and potentially entering the lungs and leading to pneumonia). Everyone has had that feeling of food "going down the wrong pipe". Yeah...that's the pipe to your lungs and it's scary as hell. Us strong, healthy people can usually cough it up and self regulate our swallow coordination so it doesn't happen again. The people I work with who have generalized weakness, degenerative diseases, and dementia sometimes can't. I have to help a lot with education, modifying diets, providing strengthening exercises and compensatory strategies.

The part that is especially unique for me is that I am a vegan (you're shocked, i know! it's not like i gave it away in my blog name or anything). I know that meat and animal products are TERRIBLE for stroke patients, cardiac patients, diabetics, and even for people with dementia. I will follow with separate posts detailing research behind all of these. (To learn more on your own you can check out a website called Nutritionfacts.org and enter those key words in the search bar.) But I work in the south. Southern cooking revolves around dead animals and their secretions. The beans aren't considered tasty without bacon fat and butter. The meal isn't considered complete without some sort of meat and cheese. The nutritional supplements ALL contain whey. On a daily basis, I help spoon this garbage into peoples mouths (sometimes literally), and I know it is contributing to their illnesses. I know I am making their arteries a little more clogged. Their bodies a little more toxic. I have to cut up dead flesh on peoples' plates every day, and the smell of the death wafts down the halls from the kitchen. So why do I do it? Because these are sick people who are not in my care to be preached at (I do occasionally slip in some nutrition education that vegetables, fruits, and breads DO in fact have protein, which is a misguided concern even among centenarians) I am not shy when someone asks me if I want a bite of food to tell them that I only eat plants. If a patient of mine wants help organizing a meal plan I try to encourage more veggies and less animals. But at the end of the day, it is their choice. Honestly some of my patients don't have many choices left to make for themselves, and even though I totally disagree with it, I do help them eat what they want. It's their right to choke on the food and get pneumonia if they are cognitively aware of it and want to ignore my recommendations, and it's their right to continue eating corpses too. Hopefully I can work with people in my generation and my parents generation and we can make big changes. Not only will adopting a vegan lifestyle help you stay out of a nursing home (vegans have lowest risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer, etc) but it will save animals lives too!! More plants and less animals every day keeps the nursing home at bay.

The Scary Part of Fig Farming

Planning for the future starts when we are little kids with our parents asking us what we want to be when we grow up and it never really stops. It changes a little through the decades, turning from excitement about all the possibilities to a kind of dread when you realize that you are not quite sure if you've made the right decisions. What if I had done something different. Should I have pursued dermatology when I realized that I have a mild addiction to clearing my pores? Should I have tried to be a tattoo artist like Kat Von D? Should I have pursued that math degree? Stockbroker? Veternarian? Now that I'm getting more into health and fitness, should I set some kind of body building goal? Or be an animal rights activist? I always liked making and editing videos for school projects....and secretly I think I could be a good actress.  Meryl Streep didn't have a breakout role until her 20s so I've still got time to be a famous actor/director. And I want to learn guitar. And invest in real estate. And learn to surf and paddle board and scuba dive. And keep dancing my little heart out and become super bendy and strong. 

Everyone has the fear of failure and a fear of the unknown potential future and I think that it's 100% normal to feel like you want to do so much more than you're doing. There's great imagery in The Bell Jar about this. All the potential you have is in front of you in a huge fig tree. And before you make a decision, you can look at all your little figs and be so excited and kind of nervous about choosing the wrong one. What if it's rotten? Should you choose the really sweet juicy fig at the top that's really hard to get to or should you just pick the easy green one in arms reach. When you pick one some others might fall off the tree and get eaten by ants and you'll never taste those figs. Some people know exactly what they want and they pick the perfect fig with no difficulty. Some people taste a few figs on their way up before finding the one they're looking for. Some people just stare at the fig tree and can't bear to pick anything at all. 

I think I'm a taster. I collect my figs in a big basket and just nibble as I go. I can't see all the way to the top of my tree but I suspect my perfect fig isn't there yet..maybe it will start to grow in a few seasons from now. While I'm climbing in my tree I'm just enjoying the view, and thinking about how good the fig right in front of me tastes.  (Side note: figs are really freaking delicious). 

Most people in this world have limitations and obligations and find themselves settling into a life they didn't really get to choose. That's why I think it is so awesome to see my friends and colleagues think about starting their own businesses, and then starting them and watching it grow and grow and grow! Right now my plan is to travel, meet interesting people, do interesting things, find out what SLP setting and geographic locations calls to me. But I don't necessarily need to be an SLP for the rest of my life. If I am, then that's great, and certainly my tree is leaning that way at the moment. But I'm very open to possibilities that have nothing to do with speech therapy. It does feel awesome that I can pretty much have a guaranteed secure and well paying job if my super well thought out plan to be an award winning actress based on one semester of seventh grade drama class falls through. To all my friends and family: I hope you open your studios, sell your business plans, invest in yourself and your happiness and make delicious fig newtons.  

Part of the reason I want to go on this adventure is because I'm an only child and my parents aren't getting younger. I plan on taking care of my mom and dad and stepmom when they are older and having difficulty living on their own, and that will involve me staying in one place, tied to a certain geographic area at least. Working in a skilled nursing facility has been great for me to gain insight into the aging process and start to see really good examples and some pretty rotten examples of family dynamics during the aging process. My parents are so so so supportive of me, even when they think I'm being crazy. I really want to be a good daughter and return all the love and support right back on them when they need it.  

In the comments below, let me know what's growing on your fig tree!

(Edit: I recently learned that figs are pollinated by wasps. The female wasps crawls into a fig, lays her eggs, and dies inside the fig. A male comes in a pollinates, and sometimes also dies inside the fig. Their body gets absorbed by the fig. In a little while the eggs hatch and become larvae, and then become little wasps that fly out of the fig. And we are left with the delicious fruit (the hard little balls are just seeds, don't worry). Maybe THIS is the scary part of fig farming. I'm not sure how this adds to my metaphor but I like the weirdness. )