Downsizing, 5 Years Later: Any Regrets?

This week’s Distillery offers a firsthand account of a couple in Tennessee who made the decision to sell their current home, place their possessions in storage, and hit the road in an RV for 6 months before ultimately settling in a smaller home for less money. One of the quickest ways to beef up your retirement portfolio and increase the probability of your money outlasting financial plan. The guest writer does an excellent job of walking us through both the logistics and emotional impact of their decision.   Enjoy!     Five years ago this month we downsized for early retirement. With a series of yard sales, charity pickups, and gifts to friends, we reduced the volume of our possessions by about one-half. We then carefully staged our 4-bedroom family home where we’d lived for 17 years and put it on the market with a trusted realtor. The house sold within 24 hours. Before we knew it, and long before expected, we had placed our remaining possessions in storage and launched on a 6-month road trip in our small RV. That trip concluded with settling in our ideal retirement location, a medium-sized mountain town in the American southwest, where we still find ourselves today. So how is it going for us now, five years later? ... Read More >

The Revolutionary War

This week’s The Distillery takes a moment to reflect on why we celebrate July 4th in America. Yes, it’s a great excuse to eat watermelon and grill meat with friends, but America stands for so much more than that, and George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures does a great job succinctly stating why.   Have a wonderful Independence Day!   July 4th is about geopolitics. Many of us don’t remember why we celebrate it, others focus on it as the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted, a critical moment to be sure. But that event initiated a war that lasted for years. It was a war in which 5 percent of able-bodied, white American males died. The deaths of women and African American slaves were not counted. But even without them, this was the costliest war in American history. The United States did not capitulate because it couldn’t. All Americans were immigrants, and... Read More >

California Dreamin’ or Houston Living?

This last weekend I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to attend a Financial Planning conference. Prior to the start of the conference I had about 3 hours to kill, so I decided to make a loop of the area that included a jog on the beach, and a stroll through an oceanside neighborhood where I found a tasty bagel shop. It was a pleasant experience, but I was surprised by a few things I observed.   First, I completely forgot about California’s recent trouble with fires and mudslides until I noticed multiple homes with their patios hanging visibly over the edge of the cliff and parts of their foundation exposed! I couldn’t tell if the owners still lived there or if they needed to solve the issue at hand before moving back in, or selling what was left of the property. Second, I noticed that the homes (at least in this neighborhood) weren’t that well-kept, and were in need of some improvements due to the 30-40 years of salty breeze and normal wear and tear. Based purely on the size of the homes along the shore and their current condition, I figured, maybe California real estate outside the major cities isn’t that expensive after all. Maybe in another life I’d be able to move out here and settle for a small 3 bedroom home right on the beach in a small town like Santa Barbara. Even if I had to fix up the place, it couldn’t be more than $900K to purchase, right? That’s doable.   Wow, was I off. When I returned to Houston I did a quick Zillow search of the area I was exploring in. One of the very houses I had seen partially hanging off the cliff was estimated at $2.1MM! Of course that number might need updated based on recent events, but I still couldn’t believe that someone would actually want to pay that much money for a run-down house, even if it was on the beach in California! Yet, market values tell me otherwise.   These kind of experiences always make me appreciate where I live currently. Although muggy and mosquito-ridden, Houston offers my family a very comfortable place to live our lives while limiting the amount of household income we spend on real estate, which increases our ability to save for our future, support our children, and allocate the rest of our discretionary income to experiences such as visiting California.   So what do you think, would you trade your current Houston lifestyle for a California one? Read More >

Renting vs. Buying: The True Cost of Home Ownership

This week’s The Distillery address the classic rent vs. buy conundrum. Short of developing your own detailed, and more importantly, accurate spreadsheet, this is by far the best piece I’ve seen on the true costs of owning a home.   If you know anyone currently considering their first home purchase, this piece would make for a great forward.   Enjoy!   Rent or buy? We’re about to choose a new home in a new location. So the question of renting vs. buying has come to the foreground for us again. Whether you’re newlyweds starting out, a middle-age couple downsizing, or seniors contemplating retirement communities, you too will likely need to evaluate the economics of renting vs. buying at some point. For decades, conventional wisdom ruled that... Read More >

Should You Buy A Home Before Amazon Makes A Decision

While Amazon has not yet announced the location of its’ 2nd headquarters, Ted Jenkin of Your Smart Money Moves, poses an interesting questions: Should you buy a home in a favored city prior to the announcement? Of course not, but if you did, he provides us his commentary on which home to purchase and why.   Enjoy!   Amazon will soon announce the winner of its HQ2 parade, with one city emerging victorious to get on the back of Jeff Bezos and ride him like Secretariat for the Triple Crown.  There are all sorts of interesting statistics on what an Amazon HQ will do the economy of the city it picks and even recently there were odds thrown out with Boston as the 5/1 to favorite.  If sports betting becomes legal in time in all states, would you take this bet? One financial decision to consider... Read More >

My 5 Favorite Budget Summer Destinations for 2018

This week’s The Distillery focuses not just on destinations that are cheap, but that deliver the best bang for your buck when considering your overall travel experience. Nick Wharton of Wise Bread sums it up nicely below before providing his top 5 for 2018:   “Budget travel isn't about always seeking the cheapest option. For me, it's more about getting the most for my money, whether that be accommodation, activities, or an evening out. Some destinations are downright cheap, while others provide unbeatable value for the kind of unique experience you can have there.”   Happy Travels! Read More >

Get Airline refunds AFTER you buy

This week’s The Distillery highlights another money saving online resource for those who travel. Summer is definitely upon us, and with that, the thought of Escaping Houston to exchange money for weather and scenery is becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Ok, let’s be honest, it’s impossible to ignore for some of us. So let’s assume you’ve already booked your flight to your favorite Summer destination, planning extra carefully to book on a Tuesday, the most agreed upon “best day” to buy airline tickets. Did you still wonder if you bought at the right time, or at the best price? I always do! That’s where Yapta comes in.   Yapta is an online flight analytics website that… Read More >

Travel and Money: Carrying Decoy Wallets

This week’s The Distillery offers a surprisingly useful tip on how to carry money while traveling. I use the word surprising, as I feel as if I should have already known to do this after reading the article! Personally, I’ve never been pick-pocketed or confronted while abroad, but have watched others navigate a few tight jams in which a decoy wallet would have proved helpful. Here’s to walking comfortably through your next travel destination.   Enjoy!   Traveling safely and managing your money along the way is an exercise in balancing multiple risks: theft, loss, high surcharges, and confusing discrepancies. This Travel and Money series discusses various ways to address money and security issues while you are abroad Read More >

Escape Houston. Yes, please!

Ah, vacation planning season. That time of year in which we all pause and consider which destination we’ll escape to this Summer as our calendars collectively relax. If you’re anything like us, you’re already coordinating dates, buying travel guides and booking tickets with your family, extended family, or friends. However, if you’ve been given the gift of flexibility in your travel plans (think single, no kids, retired, or lots of vacation days), we think you’ll find the following resource especially useful.   Escape Houston is a blog about airfare flash sales and budget travel. Flash sales are.… Read More >

Big Bucks, and Then…Part 3

This week’s The Distillery marks the end of our 3 part exercise in discovering what freedom means to you. In Part 1 we asked you to imagine a life in which money was not a concern. In Part 2 you needed to think about how you’d spend your time if your remaining years were limited in number. Lastly, Part 3 asks you to consider what you wish you would have done, with the ultimate intention of bringing those same thoughts into your present life, enacting change today.   We hope you’ve enjoyed this 3 part exercise and have discovered something new about yourself. We applaud your commitment for making it to the end. We also understand how hard it can be to answer these questions, but often times the hardest things to do are the most rewarding.   Kinder quote: “Knowledge begins in the understanding that it is our birthright to be free, that a path to freedom can be found and followed. Otherwise, what is the purpose of mastering money?   ….think deeper here. Read More >