July 31, 2016
It’s been a very quiet week. Cici and I decided it was time to “live like a local” so we spent time in the house, reading and doing a few chores like grocery shopping and eating lunch out. Cici has loved moules frites (mussels with fries), and decided the moules avec cream was the best. We also had one last nice dinner out at the Auberge which is a quarter of a mile from the house. Cici left for home this morning, so now it just me and the start of the next chapter of my great adventure.
People have been asking me for months how did I decide to do this, and how was I able to pull it off? Well, 10 years ago, I decided I needed another BHAG (big hoary audacious goal – a term I learned in grad school). I was a year into growing my third company, and knew that it would ultimately be a success as the others had been. I also knew that I had a legal and moral obligation to prepare my company for the time when I was no longer able to work. Beyond that, I also love to travel, and while I had been able to take several multi-week vacations, I thought wouldn’t it be great to be able to take six months to a year off and live as a local in another country – to really experience the differences between our culture and another culture. Thus began my dream of “testing my succession plan” by actually living in another country for an extended period of time.
Now since I am a financial planner by trade, for years I’d been helping my clients save money for the trips they wanted to take. Each year I would ask some clients where they wanted to go that year. Way too often, they would hesitate to actually spend the money they had so carefully saved for travel, and say “maybe next year”. Then, I watched sadly as their health would fail, and they would have waited too long for those big trips they had dreamed of! I definitely didn’t want that to happen to me. So the next step was to decide where I wanted to go and give myself a deadline.
I gave myself until 2016 to have my succession team in place and then began to plan for my great adventure. I decided on France as my country of choice because I loved the language, and I’d traveled there 4 times. I also wanted to be able to become more competent in the language (I’d taken it in college, but that was a long time ago!)
In 2004, I had rented a house in Provence, France for 2 weeks (that was my fourth trip to France). I knew that I had paid around 1000 euros per week for that house (at that time, that was about $1500/week). So my starting point was to say if I wanted to stay for 6 months, I’d need about $30,000 saved by 2016. I figured I might be able to negotiate a better deal on a house if I was willing to sign a long term lase, but that $30,000 was my starting goal. Since I use a concept called a “savings to spend” account with my clients, I immediately began saving in my own “savings to spend” account for this new goal. $30,000 divided by 10 years divided by 12 months told me I needed to be saving about $250/month to be able to achieve this goal. While I wasn’t able to put that much away every month (especially during the Great Recession!), when I could I would make up for the amount so that each month, and year I was able to see that I was making progress toward that $30,000 goal.
In 2014, I turned 66, and rather than staring my own social security benefits, since I had been married for more than 10 years to my former husband, I was eligible to receive his spousal benefit, which was about $1,100 per month. Too often when people get a windfall like that, it becomes part of their regular spending patterns. Instead, I immediately increased my deposits into my “savings to spend” account by that amount. That kept the money out of my regular spending pattern, and increased greatly my available funds for this adventure.
TO BE CONTINUED!