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On experiencing the new when you are old

Posted by John Reed on

I know a guy who is getting married in June. They just bought a brand new home. They fell in love in their early twenties but other stuff came up. He was my roommate in college. Our first marriages are dead. Long live our new marriage.

One of my wife’s cats died unexpectedly last Friday. She just put down a deposit on a replacement kitten. Our cat is dead. Long live our kitten.

My middle son just bought his first home, a condo. My youngest son is going to get back to his first home search when his Realtor® gets back from vacation next week. Our tenants are gone. Long live our homeowners.

My wife and I just ordered our first RV, an E-Trek XL now being built at the factory. Movable home: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the E-Trek Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore America and Canada, to seek out new life and new experiences, to boldly go where no Reed has gone before.

My wife and daughter-in-law are planning a family Disney Cruise. I am looking forward to going to my Harvard Business reunion this year and a West Point reunion next year. I may use the RV for the latter.

This is all in the context of my wife’s brother and sister dying in the last six months and my getting 34 “salvage radiation” treatments (mopping up hopefully) for prostate cancer.

I am struck by the tonic effect of these shiny new purchases, projects, adventures. You can’t change the fact that you are your current age and all the things that go with that. But you can still enjoy acquiring new things and taking on new projects and seeing new places. Anticipation is one of life’s greatest joys and it is available to almost all ages. You don’t have to be new to experience new car smell.

Don't throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again

Below are Facebook comments and my responses:

Jason Bourgeois I'm eager to hear your tales of your RV adventures when the time comes. It seems that it's more of a "retirement" thing, perhaps because of the higher cost of entry. But with four young children and in-laws a state away, the idea of traveling in an RV versus a minivan certainly sounds enticing. My wife and I were exploring the idea on the way home from our last trip and we would love to road trip around the country with the whole family in an RV.
John T. Reed I am a writer. A great many writers live full-time in RVs. It is an easy, comfortable way to travel, and a lot of seniors have far-flung children and grandchildren to visit as well as other relatives and friends and classmates and former colleagues. The young think of the old people as unemployed. The old think of the young as people who have no grandchildren. For us writers, an RV does not indicate retirement, it is merely a change of venue in our profession.

I dreaded ever becoming 40. But when it happened, my wife organized a surprise party for me and because she organized it for a year, and we live in a prime destination area, San Francisco, there was great attendance. It occurred to me on that day that I then had stuff I did not have when I was young, a pregnant wife, two sons, an accumulation of friends, classmates, former colleagues, a list of books and newsletters written and speeches made and TV and radio shows appeared on, buildings renovated, a semi-pro baseball team on which I was a player manager, and 37 years of memories of people, places, a war, successes and failures.
I felt sorry for the 25-year-old me. He had an empty CV/resume, no wife or kids, limited memories. The young “have their whole lives in front of them.” But they also do not know if they are going to screw it up. Many do. At 40, I had maybe half of it left and I generally did not screw up the first 40. I had that satisfaction which the young do not have and maybe never will. 25-year olds do not know who they are. 40-year olds generally do. That’s a pretty big and important difference.

There is already a tale of my RV adventure at http://www.johntreed.net/live-cheap-in-a-pickup-truck...
Justin Chow There are loads of advice columns about self made millionaires who lived in half a duplex in their 20s and rent the other half out. They take pride in driving beat up cars because they did the maths and saw the millions they would accumulate when they retired.

I said hell with it. I'm never going to be 25 again.
John T. Reed Correct. I lived in one of my duplexes and drove cars into the ground because that was the economic smart thing. But I did write to my readers many times to watch out for the life characterized by extreme frugality leading to wealth but becoming such a strong habit that the wealth became pointless “richest man in the cemetery” pathos. I like the bumper sticker “Being of sound mind, I spent all when I was alive.” Below is me next to my 2006 Lexus 430 SC hard-top convertible.
Jeff Woods John, would you say your thoughts around these matters has evolved with time? This seems counter to what you may have said a few decades ago. I don't think you've totally abandoned any core principles, but maybe now have a more nuanced viewpoint? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
John T. Reed Not so much. Please give me a specific. As I just said in the comment above. I have often warned readers against endless, mindless frugality. The recent insight for me was that new purchases and new projects can be a tonic. I would have previously dismissed that as some batty woman buying stuff she did not need to cheer herself up. Also, I have said in recent years since I researched my hyperinflation book that the rich should first spend money on risk-mitigation things. I regard an RV as a back-up house, escape pod, and a bunch of other things. Luxuries should come after making your house and life safer.

One thing I have noticed recently is we have the preoccupation of our occupation throughout our adult life. Gotta get the income up. Gotta get the income up.

Recently, it occurred to me, no, I DON’T need to get the income up. My wife and I make six figures if we don’t get out of bed in the morning. Income goes largely to the tax man.
And as I often tell my financial readers, increasing your net worth implies you have a shopping list that you can’t afford. What pray tell is on that list? Most of the rich and getting richer have no such list. They long ago bought everything that was on it. In fact, increasing your net worth when you have no such shopping list is a mindless squandering of a resource you cannot increase: time.
Jeff Woods No examples to offer. You explained the RV perfectly, and answered all my questions. It seemed upon first read to be a softening on "luxuries", but it's totally consistent with what you've always said. I now recall your warning against endless frugality, and also the unnecessary pursuit of excess wealth. Excellent post. Thank you.
Brad Glazer I took a 7 week RV trip 10 years ago. Best trip I ever had. Get the book Cruising on Land by George Buehler. Different kind of RV book. I am biased, though, as George is a friend and I am mentioned in the acknowledgements.
John T. Reed I noted some advantages of RV travel last night: No luggage. No going to the airport or train station. No TSA. No being strapped into a seat when the seat belt sign is lit. Sleeping in your own bed. No cost to park overnight (the RV we bought is reportedly the most self-sufficient—AC runs off its batteries or extra alternator—no need for hookups—and there are Indian casinos, wineries and farms all over that allow free overnight camping). No sitting next to strangers, overly wide people, or screaming kids. No sharing an arm rest. Can carry far more personal belongings including clothing. No airline, train, or cruise ship food. No turbulence. No delays other than traffic jams. Free wifi unless you go into the deep wilderness. Take home entertainment center with you. Nap whenever you want. Eat whenever you want.

When we first rented RVs decades ago, it had sort of a blue-collar, trailer trash image. Now, all demographics do it. I think John Madden helped by traveling and living in his famous bus during the football season. There ale also TV shows that glamorize it. Our RV is advertised as stylish compared to the usual. Indeed, I commented standing next to none that it looked more appropriate to be the presidential limo than the Cadillac they use.

We stayed at an RV park in Manteca, CA once and were kept up until late at night by a group watching Spanish language TV eight feet away. I stopped staying at Motel 6s which I once thought were perfectly adequate for between-destinations, long-distance travel, because of maybe the same people on the outdoor walkway partying in Spanish until the wee hours.

But there are RV parks and there are RV parks. The ones in Burnaby, BC, Canada and Lynden, WA KOA were delightful. And they typically have some no-hookups camp sites along with the ones that charge extra for hookups.
Craig Wetter Did the motor home thing in my 30's, Last year moved to Florida, saw China and took a cruise to Europe. Next month PR, June cruise to Cuba. First Reed book I read must have been 30 years ago not sure what the words were but I got the impression, Make enough and know when to stop enjoy life. Thanks Jack



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