Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Preparing to retire into an RV part 3: Money and Social Security




How much money are we gonna need each month to live in our RV? Where is the money going to come from? Well, the main source of income is going to come from our social security. Even though we are retiring early you can start to collect your social security benefits at age 62. You can apply for your benefits at age 61 and 9 months old. Both my wife and I will be collecting our social security benefits each month which gives us a nice steady income. Will it be enough to cover the expenses of what we want to do? You are allowed to supplement your income with work and earn up to $16920 a year each without penalty.
Only actual wages earned are counted. Unearned income does not count against your social security retirement benefits. So we could do some odd work here and there as we travel. Perhaps run a small eBay business from our RV. Other sources of income will be coming from affiliate links.
We won't have the expense of a mortgage anymore along with associated bills for it.Still do have a truck payment and a trailer payment though. It still ends up being less than a mortgage payment and no utilities. In 2017 income earned prior to your 62nd birthday is not counted against your benefits.
Beginning in 2018 any income you receive that year prior to your 62nd birthday is counted against your annual allowable earned income. Any earned income over $16920 reduces your benefit by $1 for every $2 earned.Earned income is income derived from a job or self-employment. Unearned income is things like investments, withdrawals from 401k’s, and interest income.So if you earned 26920 from a job for the year it would reduce your benefits  $5000.Even if that happens you really don't lose that money. Because it may increase your monthly payments later when you reach full retirement age.Even though you're getting reduced benefits because you retired early I feel that it's still worth it over the long haul because you're not giving up that much.I calculated the difference in income from early retirement and full retirement age over a 20 year period, And it only amounted to a $12000 difference for me.So I might as well take the early retirement and if we choose to work here and there and end up making more money than we are supposed to you still don't lose any benefits overall.
You can make as much unearned income as you want it will not affect your benefits.  But of course, you may increase your tax obligations.
My plan is to keep our income in the 15% Federal tax bracket. There is a huge jump when you go over. The next bracket is 25%. We, unfortunately, don’t know what the 2018 tax brackets will look like. When the tax laws change I will adjust our income targets.
We are banking on selling our house and paying off debt. If we do that, our cost of living will be rather small. The freedom of being debt free will certainly reduce a lot of stress. Who knows, maybe we will live longer as well. Our quality of life will definitely improve. To be able to travel as we wish will be a wonderful feeling, I'm sure.
The downsizing has begun. Next item to research is Health insurance. That’s for another article, till then, Happy Camping!

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Monday, October 2, 2017

You can install solar on your RV




Solar is a great way to keep your RV batteries in Tip top condition. The controller has a program that conditions the batteries. About once a month it intentionally overcharges the batteries for about 2 hours. This blows off any sulfate deposits of the plates in the cells. Is it worth installing solar on your RV?.
If you go camping a lot then the answer is yes. It's not that difficult to install.  you can do-it-yourself and save a lot of money. My biggest fear was putting holes in the roof of our travel trailer and having it leak. One of my other fears is that the panels on the roof are not secure enough and having them rip off the roof as I'm driving down the highway. Well, I've traveled coast to coast with these and that hasn't happened. I had gotten the basic 100-watt Renogy kit to start off.  I went with monocrystalline because it is slightly more efficient than the polycrystalline and the cost difference is negligible. The kit came with a PWM controller. The Mppt Controller is more efficient, but on small setups, the cost difference isn’t justified. The PWM is simpler, and so less to go wrong. The MPPT works better at a higher Panel voltage. When the voltage output of the panels drops below a certain point it reverts to PWM style of charging anyway.
We took a short camping trip after I installed the panels period of solar panel stayed on the trailer in high winds sigh of relief. I found that the 100 W panel made the battery last longer but the battery eventually still depleted. So I bought another 100 W panel and connected it in parallel.i also installed a Renogy 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter. It will run sensitive electronic equipment with no problem. I also love the wireless remote to turn it on and off. Shortly after we went on a 2-week vacation we found that when we boondocked the batteries lasted much longer. But still eventually would deplete. We added a 3rd 100 W solar panel on the roof and put that in parallel with the other 2. We took A weekend trip and we were able to watch TV for 4 hours, our furnace all night without a problem, never ran out of power. We have a mini fridge in the outside kitchen and it was able to run that too.

300 W of solar seems to be sufficient for our needs. The battery bank consists of 2 12 volt batteries in parallel and they are 94 amp/ hours each. The batteries should be of same age and type. This way they will charge and discharge at the same rate.
You should never run your batteries below 50% of their capacity. So total capacity of our system is 94 amp hours. Max charge rate of our system in full sun is 15 amp hours. So the panels should be able to fully recharge the batteries in a little over 6 hours.
Of course, there are many environmental factors that would affect the charge rate such as elevation, clouds, and time of year. For example, in winter the sun is less intense giving you less power output. Also the further North you are in the country the less solar output as well. So to compensate for this one more solar panel may do the trick.
One would ask “why didn’t I install the system all at once?”. Two reasons, 1) it spread the cost out over time 2) if I created a leak when installing I would know which panel was the culprit.

I will write a second article detailing the installation.

Until next time, Happy Camping!
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Preparing to retire early and Travel in the RV full time




This is the first article in a series of preparing for full-time RV life.
Well, retiring at 62 is that really early? Who the heck wants to wait until 70 to retire, I want to have fun and enjoyment now while I can.
I'm sure Thomas, our miniature dachshund, will enjoy having us full-time.
To live full-time in the RV means we would need to sell the house and get rid of almost everything that we own so we can scale down to live in the trailer.  We are scaling back from a 2600 sq. ft home to a 30 ft travel trailer. Do we keep some of our furniture and put it in storage in case we decide to come off the road? Is it worth it paying for storage? Then we need to apply for social security retirement money. What do we do about health care for me because I would only be 62?  Should I chance not having health insurance and hope I don't get sick? Maybe I should establish residency in a state that has lower health care costs. What about voting? Where do I get mail? What about income tax and sales tax, drivers licenses, auto registration, auto insurance? What state has the best deal overall?
Do we use the money from the sale of the house to pay off bills or do we try and conserve the cash and pay down the bills as we go? Both my wife and I will be collecting Social Security benefits early, but she's closer to the full retirement age than I am. So we will have income from Social Security and perhaps we can make some extra money while on the road to help supplement it.
So the plan is, after taking care of all these miscellaneous items, to travel in our current travel trailer for one year. If we decide that we like it then we will upgrade to a 5th wheel. The trailer is set up with 300 Watts of solar panels on the roof so we should have plenty of power while boondocking. We also have a 1000 Watt pure sine wave inverter to run all the electronics. The plan is to boondock for five or six days at a time and then one day at an RV park. That should help reduce our living expenses quite a bit. Certainly not having a mortgage payment and utility bills anymore will save a lot of money each month. It's certainly a lot of things to consider and to prepare for.



So the smaller items, we will try and sell on eBay and then the rest of stuff try and sell in yard sales. We will have to do a couple yard sales until it is all gone.
So in preparation for all this, we purchased a new truck that has better towing capabilities than our previous one.  We had a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 truck and now we have a Chevy Silverado one-ton truck.  I decided to go with the gas 3500 because I can't justify the cost increase for the diesel.  Also, only 50% of the gas stations across the country carry diesel so it's a lot more convenient using a gas truck.
We switched our cell phone carriers from Sprint to Verizon because Verizon has much better coverage which will be important when we start traveling. Having unlimited internet access will be important because we watch a lot of YouTube, Hulu, and Vudu.
I'm sure this is going to be a lot of fun but it's also kind of scary.
Our preparations begin now. They say you need to have a date set to commit to, or it may never happen, so we need to have all tasks completed by June 2018. The clock is running! I will write updates as we plan and discover new ideas on how to do this.
If you have any thoughts or ideas that will help as we move forward, please feel free to comment.
Watch for my next article on why I decided on the truck that we bought.
Until next time, happy camping!

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Camping at Turquoise Lake


My Wife and I took a long weekend camping trip to Turquoise Lake that is located just outside Leadville, Colorado. About a 1 and a 1/2 hour drive west of  Colorado Springs.  The views are breathtaking, and the campsites are very nice and not  too close together.




As you can see from the photos, the lake really is turquoise. 

You can walk on the beach for miles, and there are numerous trails for hiking. The good thing, they are all dog-friendly.  Also, I suggest you bring your bicycles.





Thomas relaxing by the campfire at the end of the day!
We had a bit of a mosquito problem when we were there, which is not usually a problem in Colorado because of the high altitude, but it happened to be an unusually rainy summer, so we just popped up our pop-up screen room, and the mosquitoes didn’t bother us.


All in all, we had a wonderful weekend.  A very nice place to go camping to get out of the city.  They also had some campsites right on the beach, so if you’re interested, you should probably make reservations for the beach campsites.
Happy camping.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Should Children Be Raised on the Road? Is Living Full Time in an RV a Healthy Choice For Kids?


I believe there is a place for full-time RV living, but I have some serious misgivings about parents who decide to raise their school-aged children full time in an RV. 
My Wife and I are in our early 60’s.  We’ve worked hard our whole life, paid into retirement and social security, and are now considering early retirement and full-time RV living.  We plan to sell our home, travel in our RV and see the whole country before we are too old to continue to do it.  We have the resources from the equity in our home, our retirement money, and of course, social security.  For us, the choice to live full time in an RV is a sound decision. 
But what about the children who are raised full time in an RV?  Don’t you think they are giving up a whole lifetime of experiences that they will never get back?  In my humble opinion, they might grow up with little or no social skills.  They will never experience going to school with children their own ages and never make lifelong friends.  And what about school dances, their first prom, going to football games, joining sports, joining the band, trying out for cheerleading, the list goes on and on.  None of these activities are available to them on the road. 
I’m NOT a big proponent of homeschooling to begin with.  Where will these children get the ambition to go to college, or to leave home to get a job?  Where will they get the skills and/or the knowledge to even go about being on their own in a traditional environment?  Most kids in a traditional home have chores.  Most kids grow up getting a job delivering newspapers, or cutting grass, it's how they learn the value of a dollar.  Where will these kids learn this lesson? Kids learn by example. Aren’t the parents teaching these children a way of life that may not be appropriate for them?
If I’m wrong, I’d love to hear from the adults who have chosen this life for their children.  I’d like to know why they chose this life for them, and if there are any children who have actually grown up on the road with their parents, kids who have been doing this for a very long time.  What effect has this had on them?  Do they feel deprived? Please send me your comments.  I would really like to know.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Choosing the Right RV/Camper


Which RV is right for you?  Million dollar question, right? Speaking as someone who is on camper number 3, and my wife really wanting camper number 4, this is a really tough decision.
Our first camper was a 20 foot Cabin A.  It had a very TINY bathroom, a full-size bed, and a very small sink with no counter space, and a refrigerator with a freezer that could hold maybe one pound of meat.  If you’re upgrading from a tent or pop up trailer, then this type of RV would probably be perfect for you.  If you’re only going to use it for the occasional weekend camping trip or once a year vacation, then this type of RV will work for you.  Even though it was small, it had a big closet, lots of storage, and it slept 6.  We were in our early 50’s when we purchased it and it was a little difficult climbing over people to get into the bed.  A young family would’ve really enjoyed this camper.

When we decided to trade in the Cabin A, my wife's main concern was a bigger bed.  She walked into what would be our second camper, a 25 foot Aspen Trail, saw a huge queen sized bed, and decided it was the camper for her.  She didn't notice that the bed sat very high, and it was a challenge to get in and out of the bed.  Also, we were now in our mid 50’s, and all the jacks and the awning were manual cranks, and it eventually became burdensome to set up, and take down the campsite.  It had a much larger bathroom, no slide-outs, and a “U” shaped dining table.  It had a nice sized refrigerator, and a separate freezer, which was pretty awesome.  As time went on, she felt the height of the bed was a pain, and she really did not care for the “U” shaped dining table.

That brings us to camper number three.  Again, she walked into a 30 foot Sprinter Campfire Edition camper, saw the queen sized bed, this one closer to the floor, a slide out which made the living area much bigger, a really nice couch, a huge bathroom, electric jacks and awning, and to top it all off, an outdoor kitchen.  So you’re probably thinking this one should be perfect right, so why is she looking for camper number 4?  Well, now we’re not just using it for the occasional weekend or yearly vacation. We are now thinking about living in the camper full time, so now she wants a little more space.  The couch is very comfortable, but not for sitting and watching TV for a couple of hours.  It's barely big enough for me, my wife, and the dog.  And I need a lot more storage space.  So, looking for number 4.

So, when you walk into that camper that looks just perfect, first decide what you’ll be using it for and what your needs are.  Do you want a camper, a fifth wheel, or a coach?  What’s important to you, a big bed, lots of storage, a big bathroom?  Walk into the camper, lay on the bed, sit at the table, stand in the shower, sit on the toilet, open the cabinets, take your time to imagine what you will take with you and whether there is enough room.  Go to a place that sells hundreds of campers and RV, not a small lot that doesn’t have a lot of choices.  Go to an RV show and look at all the options.  Then pick your camper or RV.  Don’t do like we did.  In the long run, it will just cost you a lot of money because you will be upside down on every decision.
Happy camping!!!

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Thinking About Full Time RV Life



As we get closer to retirement age, all sorts of ideas start running through my head, to include the freedom of traveling whenever we want, and living in the RV full time. All that stuff starts to hurt my brain. It can become so overwhelming. What shall we do? What first? It is certainly something I have never done before.

When I was younger I thought about living that lifestyle when I retired. It sounded great to me at the time. I thought to myself, what a great life that would be. Well, the time to do that is now fast approaching. Instead of retirement being years away, I'm down to just months away.

There are so many things to consider. For one thing, how the heck do we downsize? I have a lot of years worth of stuff. Then of course you need to sell the house. Get rid of all your bills. What about health insurance? If we retire early at 62 you can collect social security but don’t qualify for medicare yet. Where do we want our residency be? Where do we get our mail? What about friends and family? What do we do about doctors, dentists. How much does this lifestyle cost? What happens if we don’t like this lifestyle after a year then what?

As all this starts running through my mind, my head feels like it will burst. So, we need a plan.
Come join me as we start our journey into this lifestyle.

Our preparation begins now. I will write updates as we plan and discover new ideas on how to do this. I know a lot of you are already living the life, and some of you may just be considering it. If any of you have any thoughts as we move forward please feel free to comment. Your thoughts and ideas will help us tremendously as we try to figure this out.


Until next time, happy Camping!


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Places To Camp: FAREWELL BEND CAMPGROUND, OREGON




Farewell Bend Campground is a Beautiful campground in the  Siskiyou National Forest and adjacent to the Rogue River and near by Crater Lake National Park. The campsites are located right next to the river.







We Stayed here because the campgrounds at Crater lake had like 10 feet of snow. They did plow them out but no room for the slide out. I saw some tenters pitch a tent on the 10’ snow pack, that was a sight to see. This campground was a great alternative because it was below the snow line and only  about 3/4 hour away.





This large campground contains a variety of campsites to accommodate groups, families and individuals. Drinking water and toilets are provided, as well as picnic tables and grills. There are no hookups 






It was a very nice find. It is close to the highway, but not much traffic on it at night. So that was not a problem. The roar of the swift river would drown out any other noise anyway, so not a problem. It would have been a nice place to stay for a few days, but we did not have the time.

If you are passing through the area you might want to stop here to relax and enjoy the river. It is definitely worth the stop. I hear the fishing here is fantastic. I highly recommend it.

Until next time, Happy Camping

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Places to Camp: Review of Oasis RV Park Las Vegas, Nv

Pet Friendly

The resort has 6 individually fenced in areas for your best friend to relieve themselves. There is also a large fenced in area for friendly pets to romp. It is located at the outermost part of the resort.

  Nice and Clean

I found the entire park to be very well kept. Sites are well groomed. All the facilities were spic and span. Plenty of trash receptacles all around the park and at each site. 

  Conveniently located

Right off of I25 toward the south end of town. We got one of the more premium sites so we were close to the club house. You didn’t hear any traffic from our site. The more basic sites are located around the perimeter. Some of those sites back up to the interstate. 

  Nice twin pools

There are two pools adjacent to each other, sorry didn't get a picture. They are separated from each other by a fence and landscape. The family pool is like a sandy beach at the one end. The other pool is for adults with a hot tub just a few feet away. The pools are open till 11pm which is wonderful after a full day of excitement. This was a pleasant surprise since I have found that most places around town close their pools at 7 or 8 pm.

  Sites close Together 

They do pack them in pretty good. The more premium the site the bigger the space. This didn’t pose a problem however. Relatively Expensive We stayed two nights over a holiday weekend and it ran us $115 total after our 10% discount for booking online. You can’t combine any other discounts with it though.

 Security

 Security was very good. There is no way onto the premises without going through a security gate. The entire property is under constant surveillance. Facilities The restrooms were very clean, and the resort did have laundry facilities. 

Other Amenities

They also had a convenience store with all the necessary sundries. They also had a very nice play area for kids and adults alike. 
Overall Assessment

 All in all, I would give the resort 4.5 stars out of 5. I would definitely stay there again.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Road Trip Anyone?




I know, the first thing that probably pops into your head when you hear “road trip” is the disastrous trip of the Griswald family in “Vacation”. That was pretty funny, but thank heavens I’ve never had a road trip like that.

The only way to see this beautiful country is by driving through it. This country is magnificent. The dictionary defines magnificent as impressively beautiful, splendid, spectacular, impressive, glorious, inspiring, breathtaking, awesome, majestic…well you get the meaning. The sights I’ve seen can be described by every one of those words, and then some.

First, determine the amount of time you have. With today’s technology, planning a road trip, and mapping out a route is the easiest thing to do. You need to plan how long you are willing to drive in a day, where you want to stop for the night, and what you want to see while you’re there. Then let your computer plan your route. MapQuest is a good tool for planning the trip.

So now the tough decisions are what to see and do. I’ll tell you about some of the places I’ve been. Let’s start with Colorado because that’s where I live. You have the majestic mountains all throughout the state, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Great Sand Dunes National Park, you can drive to the top of Pikes Peak where the views are breathtaking, or you ride the incline if you don’t want to drive, there are hot springs to rest your body and soul, and plenty of National Forest to just camp. Most National Parks offer camping also. If you’ve never driven up the California coastline, you are missing out on the most spectacular views you’ll ever see, and who doesn’t love the ocean? You’ve got to see the Redwood Forest in northern California. The giant trees can be found nowhere else in the U.S. To just say giant trees does not do them justice. To see a picture of them is not enough. You must see them in person. They are awe-inspiring. There are absolutely no words to describe Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. I can only say, GO SEE IT. I’ve climbed up the side of a volcano in Oregon at Volcano National Monument. My absolute favorite, Yellowstone National Park which borders Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Gives you an idea of just how big it is. There is nowhere on this earth as dramatic as Yellowstone. You take a walk though all the geysers and each one is made up of all different colors. And let’s not forget Old Faithful. It is truly amazing to watch Old Faithful go off at exactly the same time, each time. Nowhere else can you see buffalo and other animals roaming down the streets. It is nature at its most stunning and again, pictures won’t do, you need to see it to experience the majesty. I have climbed a snow-covered glacier in the middle of the summer wearing shorts at Glacier National Park in Montana. I’ve toured the civil war battlefields in the south and the sponge diving in Florida. Not to mention Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studies, etc. Take a ride on a whaling boat in Mystic, Connecticut and take the ferry across to Long Island. (Yes you take your car or RV right on the ferry). Take in the beauty and majesty of Niagara Falls in upper state New York. Washington, DC, our nations capital has so many things to offer, but the most impressive is the Smithsonian Museums, and they are free to get in, as are most of the attractions and monuments in Washington, DC. There are so many other places to see.

So pack your bags, pack a tent, rent an RV, but don’t make plane reservations. You’ll miss too much by flying, and there is so much more in between all the places I mentioned that you don’t get to see when you fly. I hope I’ve inspired you to take a road trip. America truly is beautiful, from sea to shining sea.

I would love to hear from you about places you’ve been because I would still like to see it all. Comment below so I’ll know where to plan my next vacation.


Hope to see you on the road.