You Never Know How Volunteerism Will Touch People


First up, Marketwatch had a writeup about a couple who moved to Alaska. The backdrop is that the couple needed to make serious lifestyle changes after realizing they needed to reduce the chronic stress in their lives. The article lists seven reasons to move to Alaska including one tidbit we've discussed here previously which is that the state pays out an annual royalty to all residents out of the oil-based Permanent Fund.

Four of the seven related to the outdoor lifestyle that is available in Alaska. There is all kinds of research and articles that show the crucial benefits of spending time in the outdoors, here's one and here's another. The short version is it reduces stress and you get sick less often. It is so important to us that my wife and I moved to the forest full time in 2002, we wanted more than just weekend access. To the extent this resonates with you, the internet makes it much easier to work from anywhere. Figuring how to work remotely might take some doing but plenty of people do.

This doesn't have to just be about moving to the woods. There are obviously countless ways to incorporate time in nature into just about any location, it just requires making it a priority. There's no doctor or research who's ever said spend less time outdoors.

Another Marketwatch article profiled a couple in their mid-60's who went the FIRE route in the early 90's before FIRE was a thing. They lived all over the world and are now in Mexico for a second time. They rent an apartment for $300 and have other similarly cheap expenses that they say adds up to a monthly nut of $1750. They've been doing this for decades now and they plan to stick with it.

I've personally never thought about leaving the country with the intention of making it permanent. But in a time when so many people are undersaved for their retirement it makes sense to explore but as with any retirement outcome there is work involved; preplanning and then implementation. The way I have laid this out is keeping a mortgage free home in the US and renting it out which makes it easy to come back if something goes wrong and would generate a decent income. Add in Social Security and the income could be fairly high making for a fine lifestyle even if there's no meaningful retirement nest egg.

The other implementation I see with this is going on more of an international adventure for a years as opposed to leaving permanently. A 65 year old couple who is undersaved, not without savings, could rent their house out and live on that income for five years in some very inexpensive locale while their Social Security benefit grows and their portfolio gets the potential for five years more growth, coming back home at 70.

One element of consistency to the above is the need for flexibility in retirement living. Michael Kitces put up a long read on this topic with a FIRE spin on it. He cites several drawbacks to FIRE, the two that resonated most with me were the need to be active one way or another and increased exposure, by virtue of more time relying on the portfolio, to sequence of return risk.

I have no negative judgment on people wanting the traditional retirement but I know it is not something I want for myself. It seems fairly obvious that if many Americans don't have enough money for a traditional retirement they will have to be flexible enough to figure out how to redefine how they retire. A personal hot button is not wanting to have circumstances dictated to me for things where I could have been the one setting terms. I realize life comes at us in ways we cannot control, I am talking about the behaviors that we can control like looking down the road at personal finance probabilities.

You may not be in a realistic position to wind up with a $1.5 million nest egg but you absolutely have the ability to know you are unlikely to have that much. You might also be in a position to figure out how much you might end up with doing some spreadsheet work and maybe assuming you will endure one full bull/bear cycle for every decade you have until you plan to retire. You can know when you're likely to be mortgage free and if that doesn't sync up with your retirement date you are further capable of figuring out how much extra you'd need to pay in every month to pay it off quicker. Maybe you can pay that extra amount or maybe not but you can figure it out and be more informed. There are all sorts of things that are potentially within our control and being proactive means figuring out for ourselves what they are and then mitigating those risks.

Over weekend some guy stopped by with his daughter. He grew up in Walker for part of his childhood. One of his parents lived up here by themselves for quite a few years before passing away five or six years ago. He is trying to figure out different options for the property and so just went looking for a neighbor's place that looked friendly to try to get some questions answered. In that context it is surprising he found us at the end of a road at the top of a hill. He described the property and I said oh, yeah so and so's place (trying to maintain confidentiality), "yes, did you know my parent?" I said that I did, that I was at the medical call (we responded to a call at the house shortly before they passed). The look of shock on his face when I said that was profound. It was clear something clicked for him. I don't know if it was some form of closure or something else but I was able to give him some information that he didn't know previously or incorrect info that someone had told him. My wife made some sort of comment about the randomness of his finding our place (it's not easy) and he said that he thought God led him to our place.

I don't know about that but I underappreciated the moment in real time. I write all the time about the never ending benefits of volunteerism. It is pretty terrific that this medical call from quite a while ago was able to help someone now.