Friday, August 17, 2012

Initial Retirement Planning

August 17, 2012

In case you just started following my blog, I'm at the point where I was a few years from retirement and I was looking at the possibilities.  Was retirement even possible?  How long could I keep working?  Could I keep a good paying job, even as my age started approaching 70?

So, looking at my probable income and expenses after I retire, I knew my largest outlay would be rent and utilities. Since I no longer owned a house (after my divorce), I started looking for alternative housing.  While the housing market was definitely a buyers market, with housing prices and mortgage rates at the lowest in decades, the cost of a home was still a substantial investment.  The mortgage payment (PITI, with principle, interest, property taxes and insurance) would still be greater than most monthly apartment rents in the area.  Besides, it would take 30 years to pay off my house (if I made standard payments), and property tax, in one form or another, was always on the rise.  And I had to face the reality that I probably wouldn't have 30 years to pay off that mortgage.

Rentals on the other hand, tend to increase each year, too.  So, even though I could find a small one-bedroom for about $500 a month, in 20 years, that could be $1000 a month...or more.  And I doubted Social Security was going to double the amount it paid out.  Now, while I have some money in two 401K's and an IRA, I didn't want to pay it all towards housing costs.

Like most Americans approaching retirement, I was looking at an uncertain financial income, even though I supposedly have saved more towards my retirement than most of my fellow boomers.  And, there was one other aspect of retirement that I wanted to avoid.  I watched my parents sitting at home after their retirement.  They didn't socialize very often, never traveled, and lost touch with their friends and family.  Without a job, my father didn't have much left in his life; and my mother lost interest in most outside activities.  And they had something I didn't...each other.  Facing retirement as a single person, I knew I would have to have goals, things to look forward to, and some sort of social activity.  Bars are okay, but I had already learned that as you age, that night of fun at the bar costs more and more the morning after.

With all these problems swirling around in my head, I began to look for solutions.  I spent most of my life in the computer field and if I learned nothing else, I learned how to solve problems.  I also learned that time is money and money is time.  If you wait until the last minute to start working on a problem, chances are it will cost you a lot more money than if you start working on it early.  You have time to look at various alternatives, time to reflect on these alternatives, and time to occasionally walk away from the problem and think about something else.  This last one keeps your sanity.

So, five years before the time I intended to retire, I started looking for alternative housing for my retirement.  I considered small condos, apartments, those little box homes, even rooms available for rent in private homes.  One weekend, when I was looking for something to do, the radio mentioned that there was an RV Show in our area.  And besides travel trailers, motorhomes, and tons of accessories, it was also supposed to have food vendors like a county fair.  Some crispy fries and a funnel cake started sounding good, so I headed out to the show.  After all, it was only 5 dollars entrance fee and was right next to Hersheypark.

Yep, I stumbled into the largest RV Show in the nation...and it was in my own backyard.  I drove up to Hershey, paid my 5 bucks, and walked into a world I didn't even know existed.  As I walked through, perhaps, my 30th RV, I casually mentioned to one of the sales reps (she was cute and I wanted to talk to that, "Gee, I could live in one of these".  And she told me about something called fulltiming and a national RV club called Escapees.  I left that show munching on more than my funnel cake.

I got home, slept on this new information, and Sunday became a day of Googling.  I read about the types of RV's, the various RV clubs, the cost of spaces in RV parks...and I started forming a new plan for retirement.  A plan that addressed (but didn't necessarily solve) all of my concerns about retirement.  I had a new plan for retirement.  It was just an outline...a germ of an idea...but I began to see some real possibilities.  And I liked what I saw.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Beginning...

August 12, 2012

Hi Everyone,

This is my first attempt at a blog.  So, forgive me if I screw things up as I learn.  Hopefully, I'll learn quickly...for all our sakes!

First, the name of this blog.  Well, I hope no one is offended, because it is meant to be humorous.  In a few years, I plan to retire, and my retirement plans, as I've told my family and friends, is to "retire to a big ass RV and live in it the rest of my life."  Thus, the blog name, "MyBigAssRv".

Well, I've started my blog, but I'm not yet retired and I don't yet own an RV.  However, things are progressing.

This past July, I turned 65 and signed up for Medicare and a Medicare Advantage health plan.  Earlier this month, I joined the Escapees RV club.  So, I'm closing in on retirement and doing my "due diligence" researching RV's.  Hopefully, in 3 years, or less, I'll be out there on the road.

I decided to start this blog a little early.  My purpose is to document some of my research into RV's and to lay out my slow transformation from working everyday to the life of retirement.  I've got 3 years to get there.

Now, a little about me.  My name is Wayne Shearer.  I'm 65, male, divorced (twice), and working as a high school math teacher.  Prior to becoming a teacher (about 8 years ago), I worked in the computer field; first, as a technician repairing computer hardware, and then as a programmer and system designer.

I spent 4 years in the Air Force in what seems to be eons ago (okay, it was nearly half a century ago) and reentered civilian life with training in electronics and computers.  I wasn't particular interested in going back to college to get my degree, until one day during an annual performance review at work, my manager asked me one of those standard review questions:  "Where do you want to be in 3 years?"

Well, no dummy here, I knew the proper answer. "I want to have your job," I said, smiling.  My manager was a good guy and started commenting on how my work was really good and I'd probably have his job by then.

Suddenly, he looked up from the personnel folder on his desk and said, "Don't you have a college degree?"

"No," I answered, "I started college out of high school, ran out of money, and went into the Air Force."

"Well," he said, "I have good news and bad news for you.  The bad news is, this company requires all managers to have a 4 year degree in either computers or business.  The good news is, we'll pay for it."

So, that's when I started four years of night school, winter and summer, and finally received my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration at age 42.  Best investment of time I ever made.  The company paid 80% of my tuition and all my books in every class in which I got at least a "B".  I graduated with a 3.89 GPA and, good to their word, they made me a manager.

I worked for several computer companies and even started a couple of small computer businesses on my own.  But, eventually I became burned out on corporate life and when my second business got into some financial difficulties, I started looking for a part-time job to help pay the bills.  I was coaching a girl's soccer team in West Virginia at the time and one of the soccer moms, a teacher herself, suggested I become a substitute teacher.  I did the weekend class and all the paperwork and started working several days a week a the local schools.

I found out I liked working with teenagers and I had something to offer them.  After my second marriage failed, I moved back to my home state of Pennsylvania and started working on getting certification to become a full-time teacher.  That's where I am now.  But in about 3 more years I hope to be on the road in my RV.

I hope you will follow my life adventures.  I look forward to the challenges and excitement I hope to experience in this next phase of my life.  I hope I have the writing ability to convey those challenges, excitement, and adventures to you.

With that in mind, I'm posting the first article on my new blog.  I have a digital camera and promise to include pictures of the places I visit and the people I meet.

So, ride shotgun with me as I search for and buy an RV, outfit it, and hit the road for that first campground visit.

And if you have any questions, just ask.  As I tell my students, the only dumb question is the one you don't ask!!!!

See ya...