[Welcome to another Financial Confessional! This time Amnesty stops by from Primal-Prosperity.com to share how drastically different her old life of buying toys compares to her recently found freedom. While I doubt all of us have bought planes or home music studios, I’m pretty sure we can all relate at some level ;) A good thing to think about as we head into the weekend!]
To the outside world it appeared we had everything. My ex-husband and I were were bringing home a combined $200k (mostly that he made) and boy did we have our toys…
- his and hers motorcycles (plus a third for off-roading)
- airplanes (yes, real ones and yes, plural!)
- a room full of musical equipment (so that I could have my “garage” band)
- and more cars than drivers – including buying and selling a car almost every single year
We were having a lot of fun, but spending almost everything we made. We had no extra savings or an “oh $hit” fund, and it was starting to take a toll on our relationship.
It hadn’t always been that way though.
I was raised to be very financially responsible and started maxing out my IRA and employer matched 401(k) since my first corporate paycheck out of engineering school. I always had a couple of thousand dollars in my checking account. My now ex-husband on the other hand, who was 31 when we met (I was 25), had never participated in a retirement fund. He told me once that he didn’t want to save too much of his money, “because he wanted to enjoy it.” It took awhile, but I finally got him signed up for his employer 401(k).
Even though we continued to put money away for retirement, we barely saved anything else. Work was inconsistent for me in the area where we lived, so I no longer had the option of a 401(k). I even switched from contributing to a Roth IRA to a traditional IRA just so that I could get some of the tax money back to have on hand. One year I didn’t even have any funds to put into an IRA at all.
At first I tried to be the reasonable one and suggest that we don’t buy every last toy. But, well, you know how that goes over in a marriage when you’re not financially compatible. And since I wasn’t the main bread winner and couldn’t control how anyone wants to spend their money, I decided to get in on the action and surrender and just have fun.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? :)
Here’s where all our money went…
Let’s start with the airplanes.
Our first plane was actually pretty reasonable. It was a Cessna 150 that was selling for only $10,000. We went half in with another couple that ran an airplane maintenance shop which was an added benefit. It was the perfect little trainer for me to take lessons and solo around in. However, it seemed to always have maintenance needs so we never really took it too far and especially overnight. And being a 2-seater, we couldn’t take up other people with us either.
I know… first world problems.
So we got out of our half of the C150 and then bought a Stinson with another partner. It was a 4-seater, we affectionately called “the station wagon”. This was more in the $30,000 range, but still not too bad as we had a partner.
As an aside, I want to mention that many people are surprised to find out that a small, older airplane can be bought for the price of a car. But I remind them that it is the maintenance and upkeep that will always be the worst part from both a time and financial perspective. Hanger/tie-down fees, insurance and maintenance can easily add up to $500 or more per month, for just a small airplane. And that doesn’t even include gas!
As the saying goes… “If it flies, floats or f*cks, it’s cheaper to rent!” Although, you can ignore the last ‘F’ with the right partner and financial compatibility :)
After awhile, we just really didn’t want partners anymore, so we sold this airplane and then went back to a two seater and got a Cessna 140, by ourselves. This plane was in great condition, and with no partners, we were actually able to use it to fly on multi-day trips.
This cost us in the upper $30,000 range, so we did what any good little consumer would do – we took the money from our HELOC! We had bought our house during the boom years where housing prices doubled in a very short amount of time so we had some good equity. And, really, what good is the money just sitting there if we can’t access it?
(As all you readers know, that is not the way to use HELOC money.)
Onto the motorcycles
While my husband had always rode motorcycles, I got tired of being on the back of one. So, I bought my neighbor’s Enduro bike for cheap, at less than $2,000. It was a blast to ride, but it really didn’t go much over 45 mph, so I couldn’t use it to commute to work because I took roads that were 55 mph posted.
So, we kept that for off-roading, and then I bought a used Kawasaki Ninja 250 for a little less than $3,000. Still fairly affordable, and I LOVED that bike. I’m 5’2”, so it felt very comfortable. Even my bigger guy friends loved taking it out because it was so much fun to ride.
But then, my ego got to me and I wanted to move up into the big boy bikes. My husband had just made a recent upgrade, so I felt it was only fair for me to upgrade too. I started looking around and fell in love with a Honda 599 that was a flat black finish. While it was technically a sport bike, it sat more upright and was a ‘naked’ bike, so the Harley crowd didn’t turn their nose up at me… too much.
Out the door, it was $8,000. We were making good money though, so why not treat myself? I had been able to sell the 250 for almost the same price I bought it at, so that was something! And of course, since I went from a red bike to a black bike, I had to get all new gear to match. That was easily an extra $1,000 spent without batting an eye.
But as cute as I must have looked on that bike, with my matching gear and all, the thing was a monster for me. I knew it didn’t quite fit before I bought it, but I was told that I could have the seat cushion shaved down and re-upholstered and have the bike lowered – just to get to the point where I could barely put both toes on the ground at the same time. Sure, just about another extra grand… why not, sold!
Even after the modifications my body size to bike size still made me feel like I didn’t have quite enough control. I missed my little 250 terribly, and I didn’t ride the new 599 nearly as much as my old 250. When I finally did sell the 599, only several months later, I was able to get about $5,000 or so for it, and I was stuck with the $1k in gear since there aren’t many 5’2” female riders where I lived.
That was an expensive lesson. Did I mention that I never actually test rode the bike before I bought it either? I didn’t want to until it got lowered – another dumb lesson learned.
The music room
I love all kinds of music and have played multiple instruments throughout my life. So while we were buying airplanes and motorcycles, why not go for music equipment too? That was just a drop in the bucket as far as costs go.
So I went all in and bought drums (both an electric set and an acoustic set), then a weighted full size keyboard, guitar, amplifiers, bass, you see where this is going…
I wanted my music room so that I could play with my “band,”and the costs certainly added up. Probably to the tune (pun intended) of more than a couple thousand dollars. We never did make it as a real band, but a friend did let me play with his onstage occasionally. and at least my neighbors loved listening to us… Until one of them had a baby, haha.
In addition to all the toys we bought, we also went on a few spending sprees… Top of the line appliances, even though most of the current ones worked just fine, $2,000 for a dining room table, even though we hardly even entertained that much, it was crazy. Though I’ll take the sole blame for these decisions.
We also each had a car, but we still bought extra ones that cost a few grand, just for fun, even though they spent a lot of time in the mechanic’s shop. And, I insisted on expensive vacations. Let’s not forget the thousands of dollars I spent on flight training for both powered airplanes and gliders over the years too!
At one point, I even got an extra apartment to rent so that I didn’t have to commute to a new job I took. I hated long commutes, so I got a tiny studio so that I can live closer while my ex was traveling a lot for work. Only it never really felt like home, so I rarely spent any time there and would just drive back to my real home every day instead.
More money wasted thinking it would bring me happiness.
My husband still wanted and dreamed of more
All the purchases above were things we actually bought. But my husband still wanted more and more, while I was starting to want less and less as time went on.
He wanted a boat.
When I asked why he wanted one so much, he said because all his friends had one. In fact, that is the BEST reason to NOT get a boat! Why? Because people with boats love to have guests go out with them!! We always brought food and drinks for everyone, paid for gas, etc….
But, my husband still felt like a free-loader and insisted that we should have our own. We both loved to sail and we rented boats often, but that was still not enough. He wanted to ‘own’ one. Boats are a blast, but the thought of cleaning, maintaining, trailering, etc was just too much. Remember the rule of the three ‘F’s?
Luckily we never did get the boat.
I left the relationship and started fresh
When I finally ended the relationship, at 32, I needed to purge. I wanted to start fresh, so I packed up my paid off car with only what would fit in it and left everything to him.
We had an easy split of finances. We both kept our own retirement funds, I took my car and he took all the loan payments including the HELOC and all the toys. All I asked for was half the equity in the house, which he paid me over time.
I walked away from this situation fairly unscathed financially, but it was the luck of the real estate market that saved me in the end; not my own choices.
I was still far behind the curve ball when it came to saving and investing too. Even when I was on my own and making a great salary, I still had the habit of buying more than I really needed, and saving less than I was capable of accomplishing.
Sometimes habits take a while to break.
But I did gain some pretty valuable lessons, and over the next few years, in my 30’s, I started to become much more financially savvy. Through simple living, a high savings rate and real estate investing, I was able to achieve “financial flexibility” in just a few short years.
Now I live in a 320SF condotel with my current husband and I don’t even own a car. We have several rental properties with 4 owned outright, including the unit we live in. Life is good. I still continue to have first world problems, but like most people, we just need to change our mindset and realize how very fortunate many of us really are.
I’ve since learned that non-essential stuff actually makes me less happy. I don’t want to own things anymore that weigh me down and keep me trapped and location dependent, and I really don’t want to be stuck in the corporate world seeking a steady paycheck. I no longer want emotional attachment to “stuff.”
As the commercial says “if you’re going to own something, own the experience.” No maintenance costs on that!
Do I regret any of this?
Not. One. Bit.
Would I have been financially independent by now had I just saved more money and focused on a steady income? Absolutely. But while I’d never recommend that people spend with reckless abandon, I believe in living a life with no regrets. And I can’t deny that I had a blast!
I learned to be assertive, take risks, face my fears and get out of my comfort zone. These are things that money can’t buy.
One thing I will never forget is that my second glider solo flight was on September 10th, 2001. I was on a high that day, and then at a very low the next morning. It is an important lesson to remember how quickly things can change in life.
Now at 43, these are the things that I really don’t have a desire to spend a lot of time and money on. So I’m glad I got it out of my system when I did.
I also met some really amazing people, and surprisingly, I got a lot of “free” experiences out of this lifestyle too. When you hang around a small airport, you get to know people. So I got to get free rides in all sorts of cool airplanes including private jets, open cock-pit bi-planes, experimental aircraft, trikes, and on…
I got some free flight instruction, and I got to experience maneuvering (and crashing!) a hang glider that was winch-towed. I even posed as a ‘runway model’ – quite literally – for an informational poster!
[I had my bathing suit on underneath!]
All said, however, I’ve also learned that a life with minimal stuff and low spending can also be very adventurous. While I still enjoy adventures, I find that getting outside of my intellectual and emotional comfort zones can be just as fulfilling and exhilarating as physical ones.
Now I strive to seek a life of freedom, and not just financial freedom. I want freedom from location dependence; freedom from defining myself by “what I do”; freedom to give back generously; freedom to think slow; freedom to experience vulnerability; freedom to love unconditionally; and most importantly of all, freedom to know I have enough.
Thanks for letting me share!
Amnesty blogs at Primal-Prosperity.com, where she describes herself as “FIRE’d up, wild and free”. She has developed a workshop program called The Real World M.B.A.: Creating a Life of Meaning, Balance and Abundance which focuses on a multitude of topics like sustainable real estate investing, decluttering, location independence, and the art of setting D.U.M.B. goals. Say Hi!
Like these confessionals? Check out the previous ones we’ve shared: