That is a very good and very loaded question. As you know, I’m back in Florida because the cold in the northeast was too much for me to handle after being away from it for a few years. Apologies in advance if this post seems a bit disjointed but I hope you like the pictures. I’m trying to work through some things that keep bouncing around in my mind. Writing helps to clarify them sometimes. So here goes….
I have been working hard at the legal transcription, working for a few different companies as a 1099. They pay better than the one I have been working with the past year or so. When you type as much as I do, 25 cents/page more can really add up in terms of how much you make every week. So I work hard and I make my deadlines and in so doing, create a good reputation for myself with those folks.
To put it bluntly, they haven’t been great since I left my job at Harvard. Toward the end of my time in Boston, I didn’t have credit cards. When I decided to move to Utah, I got myself one, “just in case.” Dumb move on my part. I now have two cards that are almost maxed out (one only got to that point a month or two ago when my Sophie cost me $3K at the vet when she had to get an MRI.) I owe my roommate about $1K from when we moved in (we owed first, last and security deposit plus an un-refundable pet deposit which really added up.) The credit cards are at 20% and 15%. They are just killing me with the interest.
So I know that some may disagree with this decision, but I have decided to take money out of my retirement to pay it all off. Yes, I know it has long-term consequences. I hate myself for taking from my future self. But with the rate of interest I am paying now, I see this as the best thing to do. My retirement funds aren’t earning 20% per month.
We are also withholding money to handle the tax bill when it comes — borrowing from myself before I’m 59 1/2 means the amount distributed gets imputed to me as income for the year and I also pay a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn. I have about $212K in retirement right now and am taking a distribution of about $19,900 in total. Living in Florida, I only pay federal income tax, thankfully. So that will help for sure, come tax time. My plan is to then close out the credit cards, one by one. (They’ve been in the freezer for about 6 weeks now.) I will probably keep my Care Credit card just for pet emergencies and even then, I’d rather stab a fork in my eye than have to use it.
Once the cards are paid off, I am going to focus on building up my savings for a few months and then start paying extra on either my car or my private student loan. The car loan is below $2K at this point, and I have a very good interest rate of about 3.9%. My payment is roughly $142/month. The private loan is down to about $8900 and because the rate is variable, it is up to about 5.25% right now. My payment is about $97/month.
My federal loan payments are based on my income, so I pay about $10/month for each one (two total). Yes, the payments are strung out for years and years, but I’m fine with that trade-off because it allows me to live my life. And when I look at how much I have paid back over the years, trust me, the federal government has gotten a lot of money paid back from me — the principal amount borrowed and then A LOT in addition.
I am also starting up a Roth IRA because all of my other retirement savings are what we call tax-deferred, so when I do start taking money out on a regular basis, I’ll get hit with the taxes at that point. With a Roth, I’ve already paid the taxes so distributions later on will be tax free. (If you’re reading this from outside the US, I realize this may not make sense at all. My country is screwed up, what can I say?)
I really don’t spend much money at all, other than on food for myself, my animals, and to put gas in my car. The other day I did buy a yearly parking sticker for Lee County which cost $60, but now I can park at many nature preserves and some beaches and not have to worry about feeding meters. Knowing how much I plan to use these spaces in the upcoming year, I know it’s a good choice for me. I really do love my time spent outside in nature, hearing the birds sing or listening to the wind ruffle through the trees around me, hearing the waves crash onto the shore.
I go to the library a lot to work (when I want to be around people), and to check out books (yes, I still like the hard copy feel in my hands.) So that’s free and doesn’t cost me anything other than the cost of gas to get there. And I don’t go every day because I have my own home office at this duplex and the animals all tend to congregate with me anyway, and that is a super calming feeling.
Living plans for next year:
I do have a roommate and for reasons I won’t go into on here, I know we will be going our separate ways next year when the lease is up. So I’m planning ahead and considering my options. Do I move someplace cheaper and smaller with my animals? Perhaps. Do I somehow buy a trailer and finally pull the cord and do the nomadic thing? Working remotely as a transcriptionist will allow me to do that. But I would likely need to get another vehicle if I do that — one that can tow even a small trailer or a Class B type vehicle.
If it were just me and I didn’t have my furballs to feed and care for, I would be happy with just a small teardrop trailer, honestly. But it’s not just me. There are three, albeit senior, cats to worry about as well as my two small pups. I want them to be comfortable. The cats are approximately 14, 13 and somewhere between 12-15 in age. (With Honey Bun, we’re not totally sure of her age.) Snuggles is roughly 10-12ish and I was told Sophie was 7 last year, but I have my doubts as to the accuracy of that. I think she’s younger.
Being able to work from home, I see what they do all day. They sleep, eat, drink water and poop. Sophie plays with Steel (my roommate’s German Shepherd, on whom I think she has developed a crush; it’s so cute), but even then there’s a whole lot of sleeping going on. Even so, I want them to have enough space to feel comfortable.
However, I don’t want something that is built like crap and gets terrible gas mileage. And let’s be honest, most RVs are built like crap. And I am not a handy person, to say the least. So whatever I go with, I want it to be pretty simple, because let’s face it, I’m a simple person when it comes down to it. I’m considering the Wee Roll campers which are made in Florida, among others. They are lightweight, would allow me to stand up, can have an AC built in (necessary with animals), aluminum, and over-constructed from what I have read about them. I like the sound of all of that.
I have been considering trying to see a lot of national parks. Living in the southwest, although I was far from the ocean, I was able to see some amazing ones, and lived super close to Zion National Park. (It blows my mind to this day how close by I was, and yes, I did take advantage of it.) I have been reading different books about them, and want to really see more of this beautiful country. I’ve never seen the Grand Tetons, or Olympic National Park and the forests near there. I’ve never seen the Badlands. So many different mountain ranges in this country that I’ve never seen, or only seen from the window of a plane.
I want to live simply. I want to see things before I die. I am happy being with myself as my own company. Yes, I sometimes feel lonely, but that happens with everyone. I like my freedom, not having to respond to an invitation to hang out (when it rarely does happen, lol) by saying I have to check with my partner’s schedule first. (Maybe this just means I haven’t met that perfect person for me yet. Who knows?)
And honestly, I feel like I was put on this earth to make an impact, in some way, shape or form. I want to improve at my writing and taking photographs of the landscapes I see around me. I want to share that with others. After having read the book, Before They’re Gone, I want to see different parts of this beautiful country I call home and share it with others, be it through my writing or photography. (The book is about an outdoor writer who takes his family to several national parks over the course of a year and interweaves his thoughts and research about global climate change and its effects on the parks throughout. I highly recommend it.) Mandy Lea Photo has been very inspiring to me in that vein as well. I’ve followed her on YouTube for a long time now.
But I also want to be environmentally conscious, and is my traipsing around everywhere pulling a trailer or driving a Class B or van responsible in that vein? That’s also led me to thinking about living in an intentional community type situation. It’s something I have thought about a lot over the years. Dancing Rabbit is an example of one. However, then I would have to stay in one place, and I need to do some soul searching to see if that’s really the right thing for me to do at this point in my life. Many of them allow visitors (Dancing Rabbit even has a visitor program or internship program set up), to allow people to see if it really is a good fit for them or not.
So I hope that will happen next year, but if I need a bit more time to do it in a financially stable way, I will take that time if needed. I’ve made some rash decisions these past few years and they have cost me financially.
I’m still trying to find my way, folks. I wish I had all the answers. But then, I wouldn’t have challenges or self-discovery to work through and life would be boring, right?
It’s all about the journey, right? Thanks for reading, and especially for sticking with me if you are a longtime reader. I’m working back to writing more regularly.
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