Planning the Journey

Sometimes we plan our journey and discover that it is a smooth ride on a straight road. Other times the road we’re on is full of twists and turns.

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Sometimes it’s full of pot holes.

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Sometimes there will be a Y in the road or hit a dead end.

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There are times we may need to pull over to the side of the road to study the map we’ve created. Do we continue forward? Do we turn around and take another road? Do we carefully navigate the twist and turns? Can we make our way around the pot holes without damage? Do we go left or right?

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Planning the journey allow us to make choices along the way. All those choices we have made lead us to exactly where we are now.

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From time to time I reflect on how all the choices I have made in my life have lead me to some wonderful places. They also lead me to some painful places, but those pains have also brought me to the here and now.

Now we have come to another fork in the road and there are choices to be made.

Do we go around it, squeeze thru the tines, climb over it, turn around?

Sometimes planning the journey has a clear route. Sometimes we might need to take the road less traveled.

So we’ll continue planning the journey, but most of all, we’ll enjoy the view along the way

Things that Make You Go WHAT?!

Those sudden realizations that cause your mouth to drop open as you say WHAT?! have been happening quite a bit lately.

Like today for example . . .

We went to the passport office at the post office today to apply for Arryn’s first passport and to renew Naomi’s passport. We were asked if we wanted regular or expedited service. Expedited service costs more and with not trips planned until the end of the year, there was no reason to pay extra so we went with regular. Then we heard, “The passports should arrive in 10-12 weeks”. WHAT?!!!!

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We’ve applied for and renewed several passports over the years and it’s never taken that long. So we were a bit shocked and can’t plan any out of country trips for the next three months. (Not that we were going to.)

The passport timeline was not nearly as shocking though as other discoveries as of late.

If you’ve been reading my blog over the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing a little about retirement.

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We have friends and family who have been very focused on making sure they are on top of how much money they are setting aside, where that money is invested, what their plans are in retirement and are simply prepared for their retirement years.

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Hubby and I had money taken out of paychecks and put into 401K accounts, put some money in savings and called it a day. Probably not the best approach, but in our 20’s and 30’s, retirement just seemed so very far away.

Hubby utilized a free consultation with a financial planner which is a benefit thru his company. He was given some great information and a tool he could use to help us determine how much more we need to save, how much we can live on in retirement, etc. It’s been an extremely helpful tool and we’ve made some definite changes in how we invest our money and how we look at retirement now.

The moments that have made us go, WHAT?! have been looking at the cost of living in different places around the world.

Let’s start with the U.S.

Retirement Living just released their list of the top 10 most tax friendly states for retirees.

Top 10 Most Tax-Friendly States For Retirement | 2021 (retirementliving.com)

  1. Wyoming
  2. Alaska
  3. South Dakota
  4. Mississippi
  5. Florida
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Nevada
  8. New Hampshire
  9. Kentucky
  10. Georgia

WHAT?! We live in Texas and it’s not on the list.

Money Rate released their list of the best states to retire in 2021.

To determine which states made the list, they looked at economic factors, crime and safety, lifestyle and healthcare. Best States For Retirement 2021 | MoneyRates.com

The following 10 states made the list.

  1. (tied) Iowa and West Virginia
  2. (tied) Arkansas and Mississippi
  3. (tied) Florida and Kentucky
  4. Connecticut
  5. Missouri
  6. (tied) Alabama and Rhode Island

WHAT?! We live in Texas and it’s not on the list.

Right now it doesn’t appear that Texas is the place we ought to be. So we need to load up the truck and move to . . . . .

Now, let’s expand this a bit and look at this globally. What countries are best for retirees.

MSN Money put together a list based on cost of living, climate, healthcare, ease of obtaining residency, etc. and came up with 25 countries. Best countries to retire to in 2021 (msn.com)

In ascending order:

25. Nicaragua

24. Bolivia

23. Croatia

22. Honduras (Roatan)

21. Dominican Republic

20. Belize

19. Italy

18. Thailand

17. Sri Lanka

16. Indonesia (Bali)

15. Peru

14. Ireland

13. Uruguay

12. Cambodia

11. Spain

10. Vietnam

9. Malta

8. France

7. Malaysia

6. Ecuador

5. Portugal

4. Colombia

3. Mexico

2. Panama

And the #1 country for retirees is (drum roll inserted here)

Costa Rica

WHAT?!! We live in the U.S. and it’s not on this list!

Having this information intrigued us so we began watching made by people living in some of these countries.

WHAT?!!!!

It’s not just retirees leaving the U.S. it’s single people and younger families too. And it’s not just people leaving the U.S. They are leaving Canada, Australia, some European countries, etc.

WHAT?!!!!

Why leave a country you were raised in for another country?

Here are some of the possible reasons.

  1. A chance to explore a different part of the world
  2. The opportunity to experience a different culture.
  3. A chance to retire earlier and enjoy family life.
  4. A chance to live near the ocean and actually be able to afford it.
  5. Affordable and good healthcare.
  6. Slower and less stress-free lifestyle.
  7. A lower overall cost of living.

This list could also go on, but suffice it to say, it is something we are taking a serious look at doing. Even if only for a little while.

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Learning Something New

Hubby and I have been trying to learn Spanish. We have been using Duolingo for just over a month now and it’s slow going.

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Today it was suggested to me that we start watching some old television series in Spanish to help us learn a bit faster.

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Now we get to try and find some of our old favorites in Spanish.

Have any of you been learning something new?

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Happy Story

The news is full of stories that don’t do anything more than point out how horrible things are in the world. How much better would we be as people and a society if more effort were put into sharing stories that bring joy and happiness into people’s lives.

Let’s take for example the recent story of a retired substitute teacher in California who was living out of his car. Retired substitute teacher living in car given $27,000 by former student (wsbtv.com)

After giving his former teacher some money, this man went on to set up a Go Fund Me page and raised over $27,000 for the teacher.

What a gift to a man who was obviously struggling and just needed someone to give him a little boost in life.

Life Decisions Don’t Come Easy

I can remember how, as a child, I was anxious to grow up and live my own life. No more living under my parent’s rules. Doing anything I wanted to do. Going anywhere I wanted to go. Life would be good!

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Oh how those childhood dreams come crashing down when reality sits in.

Adulting is hard and all those decisions my child brain thought would be simple, aren’t always simple. Because life decisions don’t come easy.

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Our next big life event is a few years away – Retirement!

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I left the work force to become a full time housewife 15+ years ago. Sometimes, the financial struggle made us question whether or not I should go back to work, but we stuck it out knowing that our lives were just better with me home than with me working full-time. Of course this meant we also gave up putting more money into our retirement account. It’s was easy to convince ourselves that having another 20+ years to save for retirement gave us plenty of time and that thought process wasn’t necessarily wrong, but we had a false sense of security.

So here we are 15+ years later looking at our retirement account, with three kids still at home and realizing that we are on track to have enough in retirement, but not enough for many years of living in retirement.

I don’t believe we are in a much different situation from millions of others. Granted, in many cases it’s just one person or a couple trying to determine what steps need to be taken to make sure they have enough money to last them years in retirement. However, there has been an every growing population of grandparents and older parents who are still raising children in their retirement years. Retirement looks very different in those situations and in those situations, there isn’t always enough time to build a retirement account that allows for the extra expenses of raising children.

So here we are with the next big decision and this life decision don’t come easy.

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The biggest hurdle we have hanging over our head for retirement is health insurance. Even if we qualify for Medicare, our girls won’t. As such, we’ll still need to have insurance for them. We are fortunate to have really good health coverage thru hubby’s employer, once retirement hits, that insurance ends. Health insurance premiums are not inexpensive. Healthcare in the U.S. is not inexpensive. I suppose it’s possible that by the time hubby is able to retire, the U.S. may have a universal health care plan in place. However, it’s not in place now and we aren’t going to assume it will be in place in a few years.

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This leads us to now and we have to consider all possible options in retirement.

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Does hubby work until 65 when we would qualify for Medicare?

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Can he retire at 62 to hopefully have a few extra years living the retirement dream?

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Will we be able to afford insurance here in the U.S.?

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How much will we need to downsize to afford retirement?

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Would the expat lifestyle in another country make more sense?

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Did I mention that life decisions don’t come easy?

Honestly, we really do feel fortunate to have options available to us and some time to see what happens here in the U.S. over the next few years. But in the meantime, we need to have Plans A, B and C in place. Maybe even a Plan D and E so hubby can finally move from a work life to his full-time job as husband and father.

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Learning a New Language

Hubby and I had a discussion about regrets recently. Sometimes we have regrets about things we can’t do anything about now. Other times we have regrets about things that we didn’t do, but have the ability to change. And part of life is taking chances.

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One of the regrets I have is not learning a second language.

There are many advantages to knowing multiples languages.

  • More job opportunities
  • Boosting your brain power
  • More likely to travel to different parts of the world
  • Improvement in your first language
  • Increase in the understanding of the world
  • Memory improvement
  • Sharpens your mind
  • Experience of new cultures
  • Enhanced decision making skills

Fortunately, that is something I have the ability to change, so hubby and I have now taken on the challenge of learning Spanish. It is the second most spoken language here in the U.S. and having friends and family who speak Spanish, it’s a good language for us to know.

For us, there are some problems in learning Spanish.

  1. We’re not as young as we used to me so our brains don’t have as much learning flexibility as they used to.
  2. Not being around regular Spanish speakers doesn’t allow it to stick quite as easily.

Since science hasn’t come up with a way for us to reverse the aging process, there isn’t anything we can do about #1. Although learning a new language will certainly be helpful (see the bulleted list above). However, spending time with Spanish speaking friends and family or taking a trip to a Spanish speaking country would be very helpful in giving us a boost. I do believe immersion is the best way to learn a new language, so maybe a trip in the future isn’t a bad idea.

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The Last 13 Years

13 years ago this month we brought Lili home from Guatemala.

11 years ago this month we brought Naomi home from Ethiopia.

We thought we would add another child to our family, but our attempts seemed to keep hitting dead ends. Until January, 2018 when Arryn entered our lives and we were eventually able to make her a permanent member of our family.

In these past 13 years, we’ve experienced love, laughter, sorrow, grief, fear, happiness and joy. We’ve relocated, traveled, made new friends and reconnected with lost friends.

It’s an exciting time in our lives and we look forward to the next 13 years in the World of Weeks.

Fun Little Games

Many evenings after dinner and before we’ve left the table to begin the clean-up, we’ll play some fun little game. Hubby will begin a song and we have to see who can name the title and artist of the song first. Sometimes he’ll start the game of “most likely” where he asks a question and we have to point to the person who is most likely to do that particular things. Other times the game may be asking what if questions.

Of all the games, I absolutely SUCK at the song game. I can remember lyrics to songs with very little problem, but to tell you the name and artist escapes me. Naomi and Lili, however, are great at the song game. Because we regularly listen to music in our home, they are able to name songs and artists from the 70’s and on. And to give you a better idea of how bad I am at the game, Arryn is starting to get better at it than I am.

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We don’t spend a great deal of time on the games, maybe 5-10 minutes, but it’s a great way for our family to stay more connected and learn more about each other.

So let’s play a fun little game.

  1. Where in the world have you never been, but would really like to visit?
  2. Is there anywhere in the world you would like to one day live?

Since I asked, I’ll start.

The place I’ve never been, but would like to visit is Europe. I can’t name just one country because there are so many I would like to see.

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The place in the world I would like to one day live is a little harder, but I think I would enjoy living in the Lesser Antilles. Considering the fact that when we went to Kauai many years ago (about 13 years ago), I loved it for about 2 days and was then ready to leave. It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, but the bigger problem for me was not being able to see any land other than the land I was standing on. Granted, it’s the only Hawaiian island I’ve ever visited, so maybe one of the islands would have been better. Kauai was a little claustrophobic though. However, from the places like St. Thomas or St. John, you can see the other islands and take a ferry to several different islands in the Lesser Antilles.

Virgin Islands ferry routes map

I think I could deal with that, at least for awhile.

Unless I win a big lottery or someone gives me $100,000’s, the cost of living in Hawaii or the Virgin Islands is out of reach for us. But one can still dream because that’s free.

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Living Outside the Box

Hubby and I have been having some deep conversations about the importance of not conforming to other’s expectations.

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If we want to live our most authentic life, we should never allow our life to be dictated by fear of judgement or fear of not fitting into that little box. Over the years, we have somehow allowed ourselves to be sucked into making decisions based on the expectations of others. And you know what we’ve discovered?

I can be cramped and uncomfortable inside that little box.

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World of Weeks is about living life in our world our way. While we have strived to do just that, we haven’t necessarily done a great job. We have moved in and out of that little box pretty much our entire lives. Now it’s time to live outside the box permanently.

Hubby and I are in a very different place in life and it’s a good place right now. We are spending time contemplating options and making decisions for our future while appreciating the opportunities we have had and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

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The journey we are on is exciting and a little bit scary at times. We don’t know exactly where life will lead us, but in this great big world, the possibilities are endless as long as we continue living outside the box.

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