Some Unintended Consequences — and How We Dealt with Them

05 October 2015 · 21 comments

Everything in life is a trade-off. If you choose to do one thing, you’re implicitly choosing not to do other things. If you choose to have children, for instance, you’ve made a tacit choice to forego many of the things you valued before. Or, if you choose not to have children, you’re making an indirect choice to never experience all that parenthood has to offer.

Sometimes these trade-offs are obvious. We all know that when we choose to buy a new car, that’s money that can no longer be used for, say, buying a boat. Or a house.

Most of the time, though, trade-offs aren’t so obvious. It’s tough to take into account all repercussions of every decision because usually we don’t even know what all of the consequences will be.

What do I mean?

Trying to See the Future

Let’s take our year-long RV trip, for example. When Kim and I set out on our quest to drive across the United States, we did our best to plan for what lie ahead. We talked with other trailerites. We read books and websites. We considered our own personalities and preferences. For the most part, we did a fine job prepping and packing for life on the road.

We knew that our trip would require certain trade-offs, and we were ready for these. We trimmed our wardrobes to just the essentials. We filtered through all of the Stuff in our apartment to choose only the things we truly valued. (Or, if you prefer, those items that spark joy.) We negotiated living space. We planned an itinerary. We talked about how we were going to eat right and exercise while constantly on the move.

For the most part, our planning paid off. For those trade-offs we could foresee, we did a great job of coping with compromise. Obviously, however, I wouldn’t be writing this post if we’d planned everything perfectly.

There’s No Write Time

There were certain trade-offs we failed to foresee before setting out on this trip. We didn’t anticipate just how exhausted we’d get (mentally and physically) from the constant migration. We should have known — but didn’t — that by drinking beer and wine every night, we’d not only consume way too many calories but also thwart our motivation to work out in the morning. (And we didn’t count on just how frustrating road workouts could be.)

But for me, the primary problem has been a lack of time to write. “I’ll just squeeze my writing time between the cracks,” I thought before we left. But when you fail to make time for your big rocks, they don’t fit between the cracks!

Once on the road, I realized that regular writing would be almost impossible. Kim and I were constantly on the move, either traveling across the country or exploring the places where we parked. Even when I did have time to write — usually early in the morning — it was tough to do so without disturbing Kim in our tiny motorhome.

So, I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d wanted, neither here nor anywhere else. (Only our travel blog has received regular updates, and those haven’t been frequent.)

This lack of writing time was fine at first. It was like a break. I’ve spent the past decade of my life writing constantly, so it was relaxing to not have to think about putting pen to paper.

In time, though, the break became a burden. I’m a writer. It’s not only my vocation but also my avocation. I do it for work and play. Writing is a release for me, a way for me to unburden my mind. When I take a week or two off from writing, it’s a vacation. But when I take a month or two off from writing? I get cranky. And five months — or six? Prolonged torture!

Money Boss

Things came to a head at the end of July. While we were stranded in South Dakota, I wrote an article here about the cost of living. That one article lit a spark inside me that has grown into a raging fire.

“I want to write about personal finance again,” I told Kim on the day I published that piece. “I want to start a new money blog.” I shared my vision with her: A site that built upon the work I did developing the “Be Your Own CFO” guide I wrote a couple of years ago.

“That message seems to resonate with people,” I said. “They get it. When I say you should manage your personal finances as if you were managing a business, it seems to make sense.”

That conversation gave birth to Money Boss, my new blog about money. I’ve spent the past two months talking with friends and colleagues about the site, planning its future, trying to find time to write for it. Things may have been quiet here, but they’ve been busy behind the scenes.

And here’s another unexpected consequence: For the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to focus on our trip. All I want to do is work on Money Boss. I haven’t appreciated anything we’ve seen or done since northern Indiana (except for Niagara Falls, which was awesome). Kim too has been struggling to enjoy our adventures.

Solving the Problem

Instead of slogging through six more months on the road, we decided to take action. We need to rest. We need to eat right and exercise. We need to work. To that end:

  • We’ve rented a condo in Savannah, Georgia for six months. We’ll be here until the end of March.
  • Our number-one goal while we’re here is to get back in shape. We’ve already begun eating right and exercising. We both know what we need to do, and we’re doing it.
  • While we’re here, I’m going to write. (Hallelujah!) My primary goal is to launch Money Boss. But be warned that I also plan to post lots around here.
  • Kim too is going to work. She hopes to find a temporary position as a dental hygienist in town (she’s getting certified in Georgia). Plus she wants to launch an online store.

We moved into our new place last Thursday. Boy, does it feel good. We love our motorhome, but living in 250 square feet is confining. This condo is four times as large, so we have space to spread out. We’re close to a Whole Foods, so it’s easy to find and stock healthier food. There are also lots of ways for us to exercise here. (There’s an HOA fitness center thirty seconds outside our front door, so no excuses!)

Best of all? You guessed it: Time and space to write. This morning, I was able to do the same routine I do at home in Portland. I woke up, grabbed some coffee, and sat down in front of my computer. I wrote an article for Far Away Places. I wrote this article. In a moment, I’ll write an article for Money Boss.

It feels amazing to have time to write once more.

I’m happy happy happy.

1 Bella October 5, 2015 at 09:07

Sometimes the most important result of pushing out of your comfort zone – is finding out what you really miss from it.

2 jdroth October 5, 2015 at 10:08

Oooh. That’s a piece of insight that I really like. This RV trip has made it apparent to us the things that are important in our lives in lots of ways. This is yet another.

3 Heather R October 5, 2015 at 17:56

Hi JD, I remember reading some of your writing my senior of high school when you first started Get Rich Slowly. Good stuff. Super excited to watch what you explore in Money Boss. I am eager for more advance personal finance. I love the CFO approach. Helps straighten out priorities. Crush it!

4 Chris October 5, 2015 at 20:46

Sounds great, I’m excited to see you writing about finance again and hope you can stick with it! I know I am just a random person on the internet, but from a readers perspective, your writing has been highly inconsistent in the last few years, really since you got divorced. I believe you’ve had multiple moments of “I’m going to get serious again” over the past few years but ultimately they all don’t last long. I also think having multiple sites over this reduced writing period has even further diluted your voice and divided your readership.

I know you’ve had a lot of change in your life over the past few years and with it, career and life interest changes. I say this not in a negative way, but merely as a reminder to ask yourself “what makes this time different?” You rightly talk about intentional living a lot (I fully agree), but when it comes with your writing, it seems like you have two minds on the matter, at times. Either you really want to write but other things distract you, or you really don’t want to write but feel obligated to since it is what you are known for… obviously only you can answer which one is correct.

Maybe another side of the coin to consider with intentional living and doing what you want in life, is that at times you have to put in the hard work and do what you DON’T want to do in the short-term to get the end results you want in the end. For writing, that may mean consistency and relearning the discipline of writing on a more regular basis.

Anyways, take it with a grain of salt, but just some random internet guy’s observations after having followed you from your early GRS days. I’m a fan of you and hope you can truly come back to the financial writing world full-time, should you so desire.

Cheers!

5 olga October 6, 2015 at 06:14

I agree that having multiple site to write dilutes readership (and attention of a writer). Back at GRS you wrote plenty of personal pieces inside the financial blog – why not combine all three of your outlets again? That’s what many of us value – the humanity of it, the “not only advice” part, to see what other life events are happening besides financial independence and similar stuff.

Glad you found a place to stop for a while and take a breather. Here is to re-evaluation of priorities and ideas.

6 jdroth October 6, 2015 at 00:40

You’re absolutely correct about the inconsistency, Chris. It’s my number-one concern going forward, and my track record was almost enough to convince me not to launch Money Boss. Almost.

In the end, though, my passion for the subject proved too much. I feel like I have a message I want to spread that can actually help people manage their money more purposefully. Plus, this time I’m recruiting help from friends and colleagues. My long-term plan is for this to not be a one-man show.

Bottom line: Money Boss is a Hell Yeah project, and I’m eager to share it with the world.

7 JoDi October 6, 2015 at 10:08

OK, so this is kind of a combined comment on your post in Faraway Places about your extended stop in Savannah and your news here about the new blog. I was so excited to hear that you are staying in Savannah for a while! It’s one of my favorite places. We considered moving to the area a few years ago, but my husband does not like living in a city so we were looking at the surrounding area, but we would have had to move too far out to get what we were looking for. I would love to live IN the city right near one of those gorgeous squares, but anywhere in the city would make me happy. You should check out Augusta while you’re in Georgia. It’s where we decided we would move if we ever do go south. Lots of beautiful outdoor places to explore, some cool restaurants, and the nicest people I’ve met anywhere. The Boll Weevil Café and Farmhaus Burger are my two favorite places to eat when we’re in Augusta. The city itself has clearly seen better times, but there is a lot of economic development in the surrounding area, and it feels like a place that is going to undergo a major revitalization over the next decade or so. Augusta feels like home to me even though I’ve never lived there. Unfortunately, I have a location specific job that I really love and pays well and too many years in at my current employer to start over so moving anywhere in GA is a retirement dream for us. I’ll live vicariously through you and Kim for the next few months! LOL

As for the new blog, I am VERY excited to read your writings on personal finance again. I’ve been reading your work for a long time in multiple places, and I have your book. When I read this post, I thought about many of the same things Chris mentioned in his comment, but I wondered if some of the inconsistency has more to do with selling GRS. When someone builds something that big and sells it, I wonder if there is just this feeling that you’re “supposed” to do something “different,” and taking a break to try other things makes you realize that nothing else fuels that passion in the same way. So maybe something similar to GRS but “next level” is exactly what you need. What is it they say about mutual funds – “Past performance does not necessarily guarantee future results”? Don’t let past inconsistency ever stop you from launching a new venture. You don’t know how it will turn out until you do it!

8 jdroth October 8, 2015 at 06:57

Thanks, JoDi! And I think you’re right: My inconsistency has little to do with the divorce (they’re not related at all, in my mind) and more to do with selling GRS. Plus, it’s a character trait. Not a good one.

I was hesitant to start another PF blog before now because, well, what was the point? Now, though, I realize that I have a clear vision in mind, a clear philosophy to share. Plus, I want to focus on more advanced concepts. A lot of the advice out there is sort of wishy-washy. It’s fine as far as it goes — it just doesn’t go far enough. I want to help people be successful with money, not just get by…

9 Lisa October 6, 2015 at 04:58

You are in Savannah at the best time of the year! Looking forward to seeing your new project.

10 HJ October 6, 2015 at 06:16

I can truly understand how you miss being in one place with your own space. We have been on vacations of up to 30 days and I miss “my stuff”. We have also tried living in Florida in the same place for several months at a time, but it wasn’t the same as being “home”. I agree with Lisa about your being in Savannah at the best time of year where being able to exercise outside will be a plus. Good luck with your new blog and your new mojo. I look forward to your inspiration.

11 Brian October 6, 2015 at 06:56

Sounds like the RV trip helped put things in perspective for you and Kim. Looking forward to the new site.

12 dh October 6, 2015 at 10:25

Hell, I think I’m looking forward to Money Boss even more than Episode VII. I just hope JD has moved somewhat beyond emergency funds, debt-reduction, frugality, index funds, etc. I mean, I think it’s certainly good to be reminded about the basics, but I hope the core focus of the site is more on things like individual stocks, entrepreneurship, real estate, i.e., more advanced topics for people who have mastered the basics and now find themselves with plenty of disposable income. At any rate, launch this damn thing already, JD! When you said the site will go live in October, I assumed wrongly that would mean October 1. I hope you don’t make us wait until Halloween or some insanity! :)

13 jdroth October 8, 2015 at 06:59

Haha.

I had hoped for October 1st too, but Kim and I were too busy finding a place to live. Now, though, we’re settled. And yesterday we got our high-speed internet connection. All is right in the world! I even stayed up most of last night working on the new site. Launch should be soon. Very soon.

For the record, it looks like the email list will launch before the blog. I mean, the blog is there now for those determined enough to find it, but it’s in a very raw form. Working to get the design finished and to put up some early articles. But the first email should go out by Monday the 12th at the latest, I think.

14 Cindy October 6, 2015 at 10:42

I’m so ridiculously excited about this news! Can’t wait to see what comes from Money Boss!

15 dh October 6, 2015 at 11:24

P.S. I was glad to hear you are eating healthier, JD. I recently discovered this video, which for me was really the final word on diet and nutrition. In fact, the content of the video reminded me of something you would create: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW8C1W1Iefk&app=desktop

16 Kate E October 6, 2015 at 18:07

Hi JD – On the surface it looks like you and Kim easily move through the change(s) that were necessary to find some satisfaction/happiness. It seems like you are each able to acknowledge what’s true for each of you and discuss it etc. Recently, on our BRP tour, we had to make some adjustments on the fly (send camping gear home and change the route since the gear was unnecessary weight on the bikes) but this short term change was met with some sparks and anxiety as we had to let go of our plan and idea of how this trip was going ‘to look’. ..anyway, i’ve enjoyed your sharing on this and hope to ease into change more smoothly next time :) Everyday I learn more….

17 Diane C October 6, 2015 at 18:57

No pithy insights, just this: I have missed your voice, and I’m soooo glad you’ll be putting it to good use again. Er, good as in greater good, I mean. Also relieved that there were no big emotional or relationship breakdowns. I was literally holding my breath as I read this post. May I be one of many to say “Thanks, JD and welcome back!”?

18 chacha1 October 7, 2015 at 14:28

Welcome back, J.D. Enjoy Savannah.

I was kind of wondering how that whole “writing on the road” thing would work out, because my experience is that after (never mind DURING) a day of travel, I can never muster the concentration/energy to hit the keyboard. I’ve only been successful writing on the road when we stayed in the same place for at least four days at a stretch.

At least I don’t have to worry about disturbing my husband. He is apt to fall asleep anytime he is more than 50% supine.

19 jdroth October 8, 2015 at 07:01

That last bit is hilarious. I too am apt to fall asleep anytime I am more than 50% supine. Kim is always elbowing me to sit up because she knows I’ll drift off if I don’t.

20 Kerry October 10, 2015 at 07:36

Yay! I’m also so excited for this news. It’s funny, I have been checking in and your blogroll in the sidebar keeps me coming back even when you weren’t posting as much from the road. Maybe you could add your travel site and the new money boss site into that as well and cross pollinate your readers? You have a great voice, a thoughtful curiosity, and a great sense of discovery – that’s what I enjoy about your writing, no matter subject you choose.

21 Michelle October 11, 2015 at 18:35

Enjoyed reading this! We are debating whether to take RV living full-time. We have been in it since July but we have gone home for a few times (mainly just to entertain guests that flew in to see us – they planned the trips before we bought the RV). I’m interested to see what it will be like if we decide to do this!

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