Full Disclosure – Financing My Liveaboard Life
A lot of people dream of cruising full time. Inevitably, those people look at stories of other cruisers and liveaboards and ask themselves “How do they afford to do it?”. I have often asked that same questions and what I’ve found is that every liveaboard and cruiser has a very different story to tell. This is my story. This is how I plan to finance my cruising lifestyle this summer and why I am doing it in my own unique manner.
Wealth and Poverty Today
Stormy wrote a blog post a few days ago that really spoke to me. Many of the thoughts he gave expression to are the very same conundrums I’ve been wrestling with over the last three years. With poverty on the rise, it is increasingly difficult to live a decent life. I have always feared poverty and I worry about my friends and loved ones who are in danger of becoming impoverished.
In college I was always broke and I hated being poor. Many of my generation (30 and younger) have a hard time finding employment or making a decent living. I have worried about succumbing to this statistic. Over the last few years though, my attitude about it has changed drastically. I have come to believe physical poverty is largely an engineering problem. A problem that can be solved by the careful application of the appropriate technologies and a strong connection with your community. I have crafted my liveaboard lifestyle with these concepts in mind.
But I also feel that we face more than just a poverty of wealth. We are suffering from a poverty of culture. I took a trip the other day to a big box store. Throughout the trip I tried to look at people – people driving, people shopping, people working. When I looked around me, all I saw was unsatisfied people living unsatisfying lives, and giving those lives over to unsatisfying jobs. …Just like I’ve been doing for the last three years.
Perspectives on Life
What I have come to realized is that I have been chained to my cubical lifestyle by fear. Fear of not being able to pay my debts, fear of bad credit, fear of lack of health care. I know there are millions of other people in the same boat: they hate their current lifestyle but they are too afraid to change it. It is for these people – people like me – that I write this blog.
My breaking point occurred when I realized that the pain of losing another summer of my life to a cubical job was greater than the pain of a future of not being able to pay my debts, the bank repossessing my home, or getting cancer while not covered with health care.
Once I could see through my fear, I was able to contemplate what life would be like in these worst case scenarios. I have embraced these scenarios. Visualized them. Mentally walked through what a day in that life would look like.
A life of safety and security, but unhappiness, is not a life worth living. I am less afraid of death than I am of sacrificing my youth for an uncertain future. My cousin died a month ago. He was three years older than me. He was working on a cell tower and fell off.
A technician I worked with died last winter. He had lymphoma, caught a cold, and died two weeks later. I saw him two weeks before he died. He appeared to be the picture of health. I had no idea he was sick.
It could have been me that gave him the cold. I can only assume he stayed at work so that he could have health and life insurance at the end of his life. He risked his life every day, knowing that with a dysfunctional immune system the slightest illness could kill him.
How do you think they envisioned their retirement? A big part of the lifestyle I am adopting has to do with recognizing and embracing my mortality.
It was drilled into my head at school that I needed to think 30 years out. I needed to maximize my 401(k), dollar-cost-average my stock portfolio, invest in real estate, pay down my debts (from going to school), and get a secure job with a steady paycheck. The likelihood of dying before realizing the gains of this long term planning was never discussed. Lessons on self actualization, work-life balance, or achieving happiness in life were not taught to me or my class mates. Apparently, those concepts are not important.
When we left Orcas Island three years ago, I made a serious effort to ‘grow up’. I accepted the cushy corporate job, I bought a house, I maximized my 401(k), we were even talking about trying to have kids. But I wasn’t living my values. Every day the daily grind ground down a piece of my soul; to the point that the thought of another summer living this lifestyle is abhorrent to me.
Planning for FailureBut what about the real physical threats of poverty? Food, water, shelter? I wrote in Paycheck Dependence and other articles about my plans to cut my costs of living and provide the basic necessities of food, shelter, and electricity with my boat. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Here is how I plan to finance my liveaboard lifestyle:
Over the last nine months, through a lot of self discipline and hard work, I’ve saved about $15,000. I’m setting $10,500 of it aside as cash in a safety deposit box. That way no debtors can access the money. Each month I will charge a pre-paid debit card with a portion of that money. Regardless of my ability to meet my debts, I’ll have $1,500 each month for 7 months to pay for groceries, utility bills, moorage, laundry, and other basic necessities.
I worry about my debts because I have a lot of them. I’ve still got about $30K in student loan debt, a fat mortgage, and credit cards that I wracked up installing a rental unit on the property. Our house has been up for sale for almost 6 months. If the house sells in a timely manner, I’ll be able to wipe out all the debt (except the student loans). If it doesn’t sell, then it will not stop me. I accept the potential for financial fall-out and I am prepared for it.
In the fall, if I haven’t found a steady source of income that is in line with my values and allows me to work from the boat, then I will seek contract work, as I discussed in Fighting Fear of Failure. I’ll look for a 6 month engineering contract within the Puget Sound. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll find any work I can. I’ll work at Taco Bell if I have to. We’ll continue to live frugally, save money (our ‘cruising kitty’), and try again next summer. And I will continue to try until I succeed.
Planning to Succeed
I’ve talked at length about my plan to fail, because I think planning for a worst case scenario is more important than planning for a good one. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” has been a motto I have followed my entire life. With my bases covered, here is how I plan to succeed:
I’ve been playing with websites, blogs, social media, and open source hardware for the last three years. I feel that I’ve reached a certain level of mastery to aspects of it; skills that could be very useful for small business owners to make use of. Over the last few months, I’ve been creating a website for my latest business venture, Pacific Online Promotion Strategies.
I’ve had one client for the last six months. I’ve brought her several thousands of dollars in extra business. I just signed up a second client and my preliminary research suggest I’ll be able to increase their sales significantly. When I quit my job in a few weeks, I’ll begin going after new clients in earnest. I only need four to five clients to cover my costs of living.
I’ve already written one small field guide to boating in the San Juan Islands. This summer I plan to write one or two more. This won’t make me rich, but I’m hoping I can grow this insignificant revenue stream into something more significant over the next few years.
In addition to those *serious* endeavors, my wife and I plan to explore the funner side of entrepreneurship. I have been making fishing lures for the last couple years and giving them out to friends. The overwhelming consensus is that they are superior for catching fish than any store-bought lure anyone else has tried. I plan to make and sell them on Etsy this summer.
My wife makes a mean crab cake. It tastes even better when you add her spicy ranch sauce that she has perfected over the last few years. We plan to set up a booth at local farmer markets this summer to sell them, to see if it’s worth our time. We are also looking forward to doing more cooking with seaweed. I plan to introduce seaweed, like ulva sea lettuce, into our diet this summer in a big way. I may also package and sell some of it for the adventurous foodies who want to try out our recipes.
The main point of this summer is to have fun. To change my lifestyle. To live in line with my values. To contemplate and integrate happiness into my life. I don’t know if I will succeed, but I am mentally prepared to fail. I don’t know if I’m right, but I know I’ve been living wrong.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”