We’ve had a nice first half of 2021 in early retirement. We spent five weeks in Hawaii this winter, made trips to visit friends, and spent time with a number of family members, either on the hosting or visiting side. We’ve also seen a nice recovery in our portfolio, with the returns over the past three quarters sending us into all-time highs. These portfolio all-time highs are pleasant vs. the alternative, but with the rapidly rising prices of a house we’re hopefully keeping up.
Buying a Car During a Shortage:
I bought my first vehicle in fourteen years, choosing to buy a new Honda Ridgeline to replace my 2007. Buying a vehicle in a shortage was a strange experience.
The biggest takeaway / change I noticed from 14 years ago is the dealerships with the best and most responsive internet sales people were not the ones most interested in doing a deal. Somewhere along the way dealers have figured out having the most responsive internet person just drives volume to the store and increases the chance to charge a high margin. I went to see the most responsive internet salesperson and ended up being quoted $3,000 over sticker price.
Meanwhile, a not so well run dealership 300 miles away and close to my town had the exact model I wanted and I was able to get it for $300 over invoice. (Disclaimer, this was in the afternoon on the last day of the month in February and not everyone realized just how bad the shortage would be). The pickup process was a bit of a disaster; they had the vehicle for five days but had not yet run their dealer checks, inspected the vehicle, or changed the maintenance settings which caused a two day delay in actually driving it.
On the selling side it was similar, one dealership was relentless in wanting to appraise my old truck and make an offer so I eventually gave them a chance: $1,700. In the end, I sold it for $4,200 to CarMax. Fortunately enough this was $400 better than the first offer I received and loaning the truck to a relative for six weeks netted me some additional money.
The last month of 2020 and the first six months of 2021 were a bit of a disaster working through a messy estate issue. My dad unexpectedly passed away without a will or final directives, and a limited number of assets. To complicate matters further, he was deep into divorce proceedings with his third wife and there are three adult children. It was a challenging situation and in hindsight I took on more than I needed to out of an internal sense of obligation. That is time I didn’t get to spend with people who are alive and in my life now.
There were a number of lessons in this that I took away: What should you have in place in case something happened? It’s more than just about having a will. The will is the easy part; we all have one even if we don’t, it’s called the laws or probate in your state. It’s more about covering everything else: Who can make medical decisions? How does your family access some money to cover final expenses? How do you get access to certain records? I spent days and weeks sorting through documents and constantly missing pieces of a puzzle without critical access to information (computer passwords anyone?) I sat there thinking that I have a decade and a half experience in finance and blog about personal finance. How difficult must this be for someone else?
For me, I went and wrote instructions to a friend outlining what I’d want him to help with and sent that letter. He’s not the executor, but could help the executor find an attorney and accountant to take on our estate. We also have a number of things we’ll update at our next opportunity. I can’t recommend enough everyone taking the time and going through the painful exercise of “what if” and doing this for yourself.
Best Book: Die With Zero
There are a few things to be cautious of, but do not let it distract from the message: Bill Perkins likely achieved more wealth than the average FIREy type. (Not everyone will be able to celebrate their 45th birthday party in the way Bill describes in the book.) In my opinion, the message of when to take risks should be taken with a bit of caution.
There were some critical thoughts that apply to those of us fortunate enough to pursue and/or achieve financial independence: Think about the experiences you want and when they can be achieved. What can you physically do now that you may not be able to do later? Retirement is described in the book in three stages: The go-go years, the slow-go years, and the no-go years. Early retirement is no different. For example, I enjoy both surfing and fishing. In this locale, the ideal days tend to overlap (light wind, spring and fall). I’ve opted to surf more often than fish over the past eighteen months. Maybe it’s the thrill of being new, but it’s also my thought of how long will I be able to do this?
I’m also beginning to think through what other experiences I want to enjoy over the next decade or two before it’s too late? Sitting on a beach is awesome and we enjoy our simple life, but it’s also something we can do late into life. I feel that way about visiting large urban areas to “see history”. It’s nice to do, but I can also do that on a tour 25 years from now vs hiking at 10,000ft which has a shorter window. I need to knock out many of these National Parks. I keep finding reasons to delay (crowds, high prices of one of the parts of the trip) and need to just go.
Late summer and fall are a great time of the year on the Southeast Coast. We’re going to enjoy the most of the time locally and try to visit a few National Parks once the travel pressure eases as families stop traveling for the summer. Tropical storms should pick up soon and should generate some nice stretches of surf to try. College Football season is only five weeks away and we’ll be scheduled to take a trip to see the opening game. Between all of that, we’ll enjoy going to the beach and our neighborhood pool and enjoy the declining crowds. Each day we’re enjoying the peace and tranquility financial independence affords us.