Anyone who has more than a passing acquaintance with me knows I love words. I was roasted once at an event with everyone trying to guess the definitions of words I had used in meetings. I can’t help it! Language is fascinating and fun! What is less fun is getting older and losing your memory for simple words, so I rely on a thesaurus more frequently now.
For this post, I was seeking a synonym for “income.” Pete and I wanted to tell the story of how we are playing offense with economic conditions. “Proceeds” was on the list the thesaurus spit out. I realized that “proceeds,” while a noun, looks like the plural of “proceed.” So, the not so subtle inference is we accumulate revenue by doing, right? How cool – a pun-like tie-in!
Here and here, in what turned out to be somewhat of a series on the economy, I mentioned that those who have been hurt the most in this crisis are those who aren’t self-reliant, as well as those whose income sources aren’t diversified. Pensioners, employees, single income households, all take serious hits with declining markets, lay-offs, and adjustments. While Pete and I are fortunate in that we don’t have a lot to lose, we empathize with those who are still in shock from the combination of precipitous drops in the investments and housing sectors. We all want to feel less at the mercy of conditions we cannot control.
When we got married two years ago, we knew we would have to work long after the traditional age of retirement. We didn’t think Social Security estimates were reliable, and we knew the benefit amounts would be insufficient to support us. It seems like no one is able to tell whether the program is going to be solvent, or whether the age when benefits can be drawn is going to be modified. There are any number of additional reductive modifications that might be made at any time. It made sense to look around and see what options are out there to supplement our income. Then, we thought, it might be possible to turn one or more of those into a vehicle that would support our dreams of travel and freedom. We also wanted to see whether there was anything that we enjoyed doing that would allow us to work together.
Divorce wreaks havoc on most financial situations, and our experiences had been no exception. Self-employed and single, I had refinanced my house on a no-doc loan, unwittingly putting myself in the running for poster child of predatory lending. Just before our wedding, we put my house up for sale at the moment the real estate market died, and it languished. Right after we listed, my mortgage rate re-set and the payments escalated to double, and then triple, what they had been. The monthly mortgage obligation on our two homes vastly exceeded our gross income for a year, depleting our savings and any hope of traditional retirement. We wound up selling the house for less than what was owed in a “short sale.” Since then, we’ve been playing catch-up with our finances, attempting to move on from these serious hits. It’s not an understatement to characterize things as pretty tough.
During that time, I took a second temporary job grading elementary school examinations at night. The work paid fairly well, but 18 hour workdays away from home aren’t fun in your 50’s. Pete moonlighted from his day job, too, picking up a series of free-lance photography gigs after work and on weekends. One of those jobs found him within blocks of the famous bridge collapse in Minneapolis, and he took some dramatic photos of first responders and the devastation from inside the yellow tape. He also set up his photography websites, (Nature and Travel Photography and Wild Places), resurrecting and updating decades of images in order to build a portfolio.
Still, we knew all this wasn’t enough. We wanted to eventually be free to travel and work at our own ventures. We didn’t want to be dependent upon single-source income, especially in recessionary times. We decided to begin this blog to document our journeys – posting about ourselves, our travels, our plans and experiences. And we looked around to see what else there might be. We knew we’d be embarking together, but what we didn’t know was how frequently we’d encounter others who had reached similar conclusions and had begun working on like-minded goals.
Fortunately, I have a communications gig with a monthly retainer. I am able to work from anywhere that has phone line and an internet connection. I am still tethered to our franchise’s physical operation, but the business is cyclical. Pete has been with the same company for over ten years, and his vacation schedule is generous. We are both lucky to have flexibility.
Looking around, we spotted more opportunities. Pete had a trunk full of comic books from the 70’s that I dismissed as clutter. I was shocked when, after he put them on E-bay, they brought in the equivalent of two mortgage payments. They are selling like hotcakes! So, he has decided to seek out additional inventory and re-sell it. With my blessing!
Pete also has started two online stores – one at Zazzle and one at CafePress. At first they were just tongue-in-cheek to poke political fun. They’ve been so successful that we have decided to continue with them after the election to showcase his photography and other ideas. He is adding more stores with specific merchandise, and is driving traffic with ad words placements, learning as he goes.
We have been evaluating ways to coordinate our goals with this blog, but we don’t want to demean it with irrelevant advertising. So, we are researching and treading very carefully. Cheapening our voice is the last thing we want to do. We decided to affiliate with Chris Guillebeaus’s Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare. The Guide fits in with our travel ideals and we knew the information had great value.
So, while we are happy with the progress we’ve made in the few short months we’ve been at these projects, we’ve realized there is a lot farther to go. Some of the things we are looking at are
- setting up additional websites on a formulaic basis for optimization,
- writing e-books that would share Pete’s expertise in direct mail and agency marketing and mine in small business, b2b sales and marketing,
- establishing more consulting services via referrals,
and others. The good part about being older is you have “vast” resources of experience from which to draw!
We totally get that we are entering this landscape with a lot to learn. We’ll plan on sharing what we’ve discovered here in these pages from time to time. We believe that our vision of the future is quite similar to that of others. Lots of boomers are getting close to retirement age, and younger people want to control their own destiny.
Re-thinking what work/life integration entails and how to finance their plans are subjects in which almost everyone is interested. For those of you who are exploring in a similar way, you’re not alone! There are literally thousands of good resources available online. Unfortunately, there appear to be an equal number of scams. Perhaps an intermittent series could unfold as we become more proficient in rooting out the promising from the truly awful, and all that in between.
Whatever happens, it is clear that the future looks unlike our parents’ retirement. No longer will most be able to plan or continue with leisure as their primary activity. Recent losses have caused all of us to re-think and re-adjust. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In adverse times, the silver lining has always been the sense of community and sharing of time, talents, resources and communication. We view the so-called economic crisis as an opportunity!
Taking meaningful charge of our future will probably have more impact on our life together than any other decision. Your feedback and ideas, no matter where you are in your journey, would be valued additions to everyone’s travel along this path. With that in mind, we enthusiastically welcome your thoughts and invite you to share your plans in the comments.