On A Mission To Move

By on November 16, 2016

We like to talk dreams around here. On the too-rare occasions Mr. COD and I find more than ten seconds of peace and quiet, our conversations generally turn to the potential of our future. When we’re enjoying a frugal drink on our deck after the boys are asleep, that’s a time for vision casting.  Road trips are chances to talk at length about our hopes and dreams. What our next steps may be. 

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Dandelion wishing

Dreams are fun, there’s no doubt about it. It’s exciting to imagine a life outside of what has been normal in the past. We’re pretty darn happy right now, and with good reason. But no matter how great things are in the present, there are plenty of goals we want to accomplish in the future. 

Last March, when I gave my notice at work, conversations between Mr. COD and I often turned to possibilities. Perhaps taking a leap in one area of our lives opened up our minds to other potential leaps. I had never really considered changing the status quo: teaching high school was all I would do for practically forever. Now, almost without warning, I was soon to be unemployed. Staying home full-time with my kids would be a reality. Suddenly, our minds opened up to other possibilities! Different careers I might be able to pursue one day. Ways I planned to teach my kids while I’m at home. Potential locations where we might live. Side hustles that could enable us to travel more. It was exhilarating.

At work, my colleague and I would chat over lunch duty about our latest ideas. It was fun bouncing ideas off each other, sharing our “someday” dreams, even though many were far-fetched. It provided some entertainment, as we stared at lunching students staring at their phones, to dream of future plans. (Incidentally, this is the same friend who, during the course of several conversations about her time as a stay-at-home mom, helped to convince me to take the leap and quit my job! Thanks, Brenda!) 

Moving Away

Mr. COD has been itching to move back to his home state of Wisconsin…well, pretty much as long as he’s been in Illinois. Fortunately for him, living in this strange land led him to meeting and marrying me, so it’s worked out well! But when we married, we agreed we’d likely head north eventually. It’s become a long-running joke with us, the “in 2-3 years” plan to relocate. Will this finally be THE year? 

One of our early ideas was to move to Dubai and teach. The pay for American teachers is supposed to be rather lucrative there, including extras to cover your housing, potentially saving us a huge chunk of change in just a couple of years. It could boost our retirement savings in a BIG way if we did that once I was done with the stay-at-home mom gig.

Dubai came…and went…pretty fast from our conversations. For the reasons you’d expect: too far from home, too hot, too “extreme” a change. (Relax, Mom, at least we’re staying in the U.S. for the foreseeable future!)

Next up: we toyed with moving to someplace foreign, yet not quite so far away as the Middle East, such as Panama or Ecuador. Teaching would also be an option there, and cost of living would likely be low, again allowing us to save like crazy. Plus, what an awesome experience for us and the kids… learning a different language, participating in a new culture. Good stuff. It’s a dream we have harbored for years: making another country our home. (It may seem ironic to say that in light of recent political events and the crash of Canada’s immigration website, but our expat dream wasn’t brought on by the election.)

Every time we visit our families, we’re again torn about the idea of moving farther away from them. Proximity to them is important to us, especially so our kids will have strong relationships with them. Despite our long-held dreams of living in another country for a few years, we’ve decided to remain stateside for the time being. Yes, moving overseas has a certain exotic appeal, but not at the expense of family and friends. We value our relationships with parents and siblings and nieces and nephews, and moving so far away would obviously hinder those from growing. 

Here’s where we are now…

  • Mr. COD is teaching a course as an adjunct professor at the university where he earned his doctorate. This is confirming for him that he really does want to teach at the college level, and those are the positions for which he’ll apply throughout this school year.
  • He’s enjoying the teaching gig so much that he’s willing to move to a state other than Wisconsin. We hope to “end up” on his home turf eventually, but we’re okay with a temporary move elsewhere if it opens up a teaching opportunity for him. Two years in North Carolina… Montana…Georgia…???… may be a fun adventure as well!
  • As I said, our relationships with family mean a lot to us, so we hope they’ll come visit us, wherever we go next year! Our kids are cute, so we assume that’ll help outweigh the added hassle of traveling farther. Skype and FaceTime might be handy tools to help us remain close no matter how far apart we may be.

Where do you want to go? Any big moves on your horizons?


Faith, Finance, and the Future

By on August 27, 2016

Something we haven’t addressed much on this blog is our faith. It does influence our lives daily, but we’ve chosen to write about our journey with money, leaving our faith somewhat in the background. At times, guilty thoughts creep in. Is it wrong to write about something so trivial as money?

However, I am learning to be okay with the fact that I’m writing and blogging primarily about our financial journey. It’s not trivial; it’s a huge part of our lives. Every aspect of our lives can be focused on faith in God, but that doesn’t mean ignoring the day-to-day realities of existence. If we chose to dwell solely on spiritual matters, we might make some ridiculous choices based on faulty Biblical interpretation.

We might reason that God will take care of us, so work is unnecessary. Wrong interpretation of Bible verses about contentment could convince us that pursuit of any accomplishments is vanity. Faith might become an excuse for not seeking to be the best we can be.

Tons of verses in the Bible refer to money: earning it, managing it, giving it away. Not gonna bore you with an exhaustive list, but I want to bring up just one reference. I Timothy 6:10 is well-known to many of us, as even those not raised in a church environment have undoubtedly heard some misquoted version of it.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

I have been struggling to get a firm grasp on exactly what I wanted to say here about the role our faith in God plays in our lives. Perhaps the most important way our faith directs our money philosophy is that we never want to cultivate a love of money. Some of our goals at times may seem selfish, and that’s absolutely not what we hope to be. This verse captures a big part of our mission.

Although it might not appear this way, the terms “financial independence” and “early retirement” do not equal a Love of Money. In a way, that’s what I worry people will think when they read this. That we are out to make lots and lots of money ad infinitum. Get rich and spend all our days lounging on a yacht on the French Riviera.

Of course, you who know us recognize that this is a ridiculous assumption. Our goal right now is not so much to make more money, but to save more money. Obviously, if amassing more cash were our ultimate goal, I wouldn’t have chosen to be a stay-at-home mom this year. We’d be saving my entire salary.

Instead, we weighed the options and deemed having one parent at home with the kids more valuable for us at this time. Even when we eventually return to being a dual-income household in a couple of years, we won’t be inflating our lifestyle to match our income. We’ll take advantage of greater earning by saving and investing more.

Why are we doing this? Is it to become millionaires and do nothing for the rest of our lives? Of course not. To us, early retirement is a term that more accurately jives with what the couple at Slowly Sipping Coffee dubbed a “Fully Funded Lifestyle Change”. We imagine a life that includes greater freedom to travel throughout the year because we’ll be able to delegate work to others for a week or month at a time. The freedom to take lower-paying jobs that more truly fulfill our passions would be amazing. Enjoying the chance to be more fully present in our boys’ childhoods because we won’t be perpetually stressing about money sounds incredible.

All of these ambitions, to me, don’t shout “love of money”. Our plans tell us that we recognize money for what it is: a tool. Tools can be used for good or for harm. An oven can cook you a delicious lasagna, but it can also burn your hands. It’s not the oven’s fault if the user makes a mistake. So it is with money. Neither good nor evil, it is merely a tool we use in our daily lives.

Mr. COD and I (and most of you reading this) don’t dream of having money just for its own sake. We envision being frugal and smart with our money in order to one day be able to leave an inheritance to our children. Teach them to live debt-free.

Being wise with money also means being able to be wildly generous with money. (As Dave Ramsey would say, “live like no one else, so that later, you can live and give like no one else.”) Few things excite me more than the thought that someday, we might be able to start a scholarship fund for needy students. Or fund missionary trips around the world. Or feed the hungry right here in our hometown. We want to be extravagant givers.

Love of money, not money itself, is the root of evil. We have to acknowledge the ways we have it easier than most of the world. Our sincere hope is to steward our money well because our faith teaches us that it’s not even really ours to begin with. We don’t want to hoard it, but rather make wise decisions about how and when we spend it. Honoring God with every decision we make is paramount, and that includes monetary decisions.

We have known a lot of people going through extremely tough times lately. It’s always like that, but there are periods of life when the hard times seem to come more frequently and relentlessly. Our friends lost their twin babies the night of their birth. Another has a six month old baby facing major cancer surgery in a matter of weeks. My former student was severely injured in a motorcycle accident that took her fiancé’s life. Finally, a close friend and neighbor from my hometown received the shattering diagnosis of stage-four cancer. She is a wife and mother to four beautiful young children.

The heartbreaking news for our friends and loved ones make us fearful at times. Somehow, they also solidify our desire to make the most of the time we have left here on the planet. None of us knows what the future may hold, and there are ultimately very few things we can truly control. Accidents happen. Illnesses develop. Relationships deteriorate. Faith gives us peace in the midst of it all.

It is the unflinchingly unpredictable nature of life that makes us want to embrace the time we receive. God has blessed us here and now with the gift of life, and we need to savor it. Drink it all in. Be present with our loved ones while we have the chance. Money? No, that’s not the goal. We love God, each other, and the lives we build together.

 

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By on May 7, 2016

photo empty kayak

I wish I could pull a Doctor Who time travel and go back in time to save myself from some costly mistakes. I would give myself some sage advice regarding investing or at least tell myself to listen and FOLLOW the advice given by my friend Ryan circa the year 2000. Love those college years and all that debt, but that’s for a later post. (more…)