Sunday, September 30, 2007

Santa Cruz County Fair

We went to the fair Saturday night. Santa Cruz is our neighboring county and the fairgrounds are located in Sonoita. We have friends who purchased property there several years ago and are now planning their "Escape from New York". They were in Sonoita this week planning and wanted us to meet them at the fair and then have dinner later at the Steak Out. Other friends who live just north of Bisbee were also going to be there. Sonoita, bale-head friends, steak-who could resist?

This is a REAL county fair-livestock, 4-H and food. No midway rides. We wandered around the exhibits and watched the team-roping for awhile. Then it was across the road to the Steak Out for great food and conversation.

It's a beautiful drive to Sonoita, all rolling grassland. If shown a picture of the area most people would never believe it's Arizona. The movie version of "Oklahoma!" was filmed in the area. Of course, I forgot my camera! There was a beautiful moon on the way home.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit from that grantor's gift.
- Maya Angelou

As I work at getting my financial house in order I read as much as I can. As I noted in the previous post I follow many personal finance blogs and have found that charity is often an item in the spending plan or budget of many authors. The general feeling being that giving can help you prosper in all areas of your life.

Now this ties in with another blog I've followed for quite some time: Hell's Half Acre, a roving, unschooling family, who have spent quite some time in Mexico and even put down some roots there. Due to the recent hurricane season, they've needed to move around a bit, and in so doing have seen, up close and personal, the devastation left in the path of these storms. Now, they could have seen the plight of these people and, as many tend to do, thought "Too bad for them but I have my own problems." Instead MamaHops and the clan decided to do something to help. Through donations they have been able to provide necessities directly to the people. I like this giving at the grassroots level. No administrative costs, no middlemen, no building overhead, just HELP. As she explains, they pay for their own gas and lodging while delivering the staples and provide a full accounting of donations and expenses on the blog.

About now you're probably thinking INTERNET SCAM! Could be but I really don't think so. As I said I've followed this blog for probably 2 years and I found it through MamaHops' parent's blog, Life on the Road. (My other blog addiction is fulltime RVers.) And I'm not advocating that you give, just have a look and see what it means when regular people help regular people just because we all inhabit the same planet.
Photo by permission Mamahops

And some say the blogosphere is just a bunch of self-centered narcissists.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Quest for FIRE

It's been a busy month, looking for a new job. Nothing really wrong with the old one except I decided it wasn't a "good fit", I thought we were supposed to actually show up for work and, well, work. Apparently I was wrong. I had been contemplating taking a per diem position to increase income but when looking at things like my PTO accrual with going to FT at my current place of employment it was a no brainer. So I've changed departments and will be working full time, something I haven't done since Sam was born. It will be a transition.

This is all part of my continuing quest for FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). My original goal had been 45-whoops, missed that one! Now it's 55; I think I can make that one. But I'm adding a fudge factor of 2 years. My early retirement dreams started about 15 years ago when I first read a tattered copy of
Cashing in on the American Dream found in a thrift store. We were already quite frugal in those days as a way to finance my working only per diem in order to stay home with the boys. Little did I know that this book would change my life and was something of a bible for a whole subculture of people moving toward early retirement. Back then it was difficult to find resources, now a Google search reveals over 3 million! Now with this opportunity of working FT, doing something which will be an interesting challenge, and making more money than we've ever before made in our married lives our goals seem closer than ever. While building the house we veered a bit from our spending plan, so now is the time to tighten things up a bit and restate goals.
  1. Retire in 7 years
  2. Pay off house in 7 years.
  3. Revamp spending plan based on new job.
  4. Incur no new debt (right now we have none, other than the house).
  5. Continue to fund 403(b) at 15% pre-tax income.
  6. Fully fund IRAs.
  7. Maintain and increase my Couch Potato Portfolio.
  8. Add future wage increases directly to savings through automatic deposit.
All very doable but we would never have gotten to this point without the help of several books and websites on the subject of frugality, personal finance, and early retirement. My favorites, in no particular order: It seems that many of the books on early retirement are authored by men making 6 figures. The following 2 books took away my "but I don't make enough money" excuse:

And then there are those people who share their successes, failures, mistakes and spreadsheets through their blogs. Below are 2 I like to read regularly: And what you might ask, will we do with all that free time once retired? Travel!! But that's a story for another day.