Is The Advice That People Give You Worth Listening To?

 

Playa del Postiguet in Alicante Spain.
Playa del Postiguet in Alicante, Spain. Is it as bad as some reviews would have you believe?

I am in Alicante, Spain for the month of August as a vacation as well as to see if it is someplace I might want to live or at least spend a few months a year.  Being on the Costa Blanca, which is about 120 miles of towns and cities on the beach, I was planning on exploring some of the beaches.  In my first few days here, I went to downtown Alicante to get an idea of the city and where everything is. There is a beach right in the city center called Playa del Postiguet. I walked by it and took some pictures although I didn’t come there to swim that day. From what I saw, it looked like a nice beach although admittedly, it wasn’t very long or wide so it was pretty crowded.

When I got back to my hotel and did some research on the beaches in the area, I read some really bad reviews of Playa del Postiguet along with some good reviews.  Some of the bad reviews did not pull any punches saying things like the sand is completely filled with broken glass and cigarette butts, the water is dirty and there are particles floating in it, and that the beach is plagued by an army of thieves that will steal all your belongings as soon as you sit down.  Well, I didn’t see any of that when I was there but I listened to the advice of some of the people who posted that a better beach is in Playa de San Juan which is just north east of Alicante and can be reached by the tram system. The tram to get there took me about an extra 30 minutes longer than it took me to get to Playa del Postiguet, but it was a very nice, clean, wide beach with plenty of space and very nice clear water.  So I figured this beach would be the one I went to whenever I wanted to go to the beach.

Walking around downtown Alicante a few times and seeing all the people going to and coming from Playa del Postiguet got me thinking. If this beach is so bad, why are people still going there by the hundreds? How come they are not covered in dirt from the dirty water? How come their feet are not bloody from all the broken glass in the sand? How come they still have their cell phones in their hands and do not have the angry look of someone who had all their belongings stolen? I figured that I had to see just how bad this beach is for myself. So I went one day to have a swim and see how accurate the reviews were.  The water looked fine and I could not tell the difference between the water here and in Playa de San Juan. I did not cut my bare feet on any glass. In fact, I did not see any broken glass or cigarettes in the sand. I did see an odd water bottle cap or two lying around. I did keep an eye on my stuff when I was in the water, but I did not see anyone lurking around my stuff or anyone else’s for that matter. The beach was crowded but I was able to find a spot. The worst thing about the beach in my opinion was that it cost 9 Euros to rent a lounge chair and 9 Euros to rent an umbrella. If you did that every day for a month that would be 540 Euros which is more than it costs to rent many 3 bedroom apartments in Alicante.

So why were the reviews of the beach and my experience very different? Were people just lying about the beach? Did I just go there on a day where the water was clean, the sand was clean and the army of thieves took the day off? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Like I said, there were many good reviews about the beach, but maybe I focused more on the bad reviews.  What I have come to realize is that there is no accounting for what types of people are making these reviews. Everyone knows people that will act like it’s the end of the world if the slightest thing is not to their liking. You know people like this. They complain if their beer is not absolutely freezing, or the train is 2 minutes late, or the shower in their hotel room doesn’t have the pressure they are used to. In real life you know to take their complaints with a grain of salt. Online, it is hard to know if the person giving the review has a real gripe or is just really particular with how they like things. Also more people write reviews when something goes wrong than when everything goes as it should. Or maybe some of these reviews were old and things have changed at the beach.  Now getting a cut from a piece of glass or getting your things stolen is a real gripe and I don’t doubt that it has happened, but I doubt that the beach is “full of broken glass everywhere” and that there are an “army of thieves” operating there every day.

This is a small example of the more common bad advice I get from people who warn me not to go to the country I am traveling to. The funny thing is that almost all the time, the people who warn me about where not to travel to have never actually been there. They have no firsthand knowledge of the place, but somehow saw a bit about it on the news and now know that it is not safe to go to.  I know they mean well, and there are some real dangerous places that I don’t have a desire to go to, but if you listened to everyone’s second hand advice, you would never go anywhere or do anything.

Here are some examples of advice I have been given on why I should not go someplace:

2006 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

The man at the check in counter at JFK Airport in NYC told me and my friend that when we get to Brazil we have a good chance of being kidnapped from the airport and taken to various ATMs around the area to withdraw money from our bank cards. I was also told not to wear my watch (a $60 Casio watch). We were a little concerned being told this by the guy who worked for the airline, so we took some precautions like taking off our watches and being very aware of our surroundings. What we noticed after a while is that we were the only ones not wearing a watch.

2009 Medellin, Colombia:

Just about anyone I told about this trip had the same comments about getting kidnapped by FARC or questioning jokingly if I am in the drug trade.

2010 Bangkok,Thailand:

People were warning me not to go because of the government protests and unrest in some parts of Thailand that they saw on the news.

2015 Athens, Greece:

People warned me not to go because the Austerity Vote was going to take place while I was there and there could be problems, protests, strikes etc. They did have a bank holiday and put limits on ATM withdrawals for Greeks while I was there, but I came prepared with extra cash just in case.

2016 Kiev, Ukraine:

Many people warned me about going there because of the fighting and the plane that was shot down about 2 years ago. I’m not sure if they realized that Kiev is about 500 miles away from Crimea where the problems are.

Taking advice about where to go or what to do from someone who has never been there or never done that is not a good idea. Sometimes, you just have to take a look for yourself to make up your own mind or see if it really is how they say it is in the media. Most times you will find it is not how they portray it to be. Hell, even if I just stayed in Florida and vacationed at Walt Disney World in Orlando I would still have people in New York telling me it is too dangerous to go there because of the recent shooting.  I guess the only safe vacation place is my couch.

You Have About 20 Good Years Left

“You have about 20 good years left”

This is what a good friend of mine said to me about 3 or 4 years ago when I was about 41 or 42. This statement sticks with me because it is so true, and often, the truth hurts.

Many people, like me, put up with a situation they are not happy with just because it is difficult to make major changes and also the fear of what those changes might bring. They figure it is better to just suck it up and continue on their path in the hopes that things will get better.  People that are 40 or so think they have another 40 or 50 years to make those changes or follow those passions.  They think they will take care of all the pent up desires or projects after they retire and have the time to do it. The sad reality is that those things you want to do now either will not be possible when you are 60 or older. Even if you can still do them to a certain extent, it won’t give you nearly the satisfaction that you will get if you do them now.  So if you are around 40, you really only have 20 years to change, accomplish, or experience what you want. Don’t wake up when you are 60 and still be in an unhappy situation or have a long bucket list of things you wanted to do that now you don’t have the desire or energy to do.

Hey, I’m 60, are you saying my life is over?

I don’t want to offend anybody close to or over 60, and I’m sure some of those people will take exception to what I’m saying. They might argue that they can still do the things they did when they were 40 or even 30. Also, the commercials on TV tell you that all you need to do is drink their chocolate flavored supplement drink and you will be playing basketball with your grandkids, hiking that mountain trail, riding through the desert in a 1950’s convertible top down with your buddy of the same vintage, or just throwing a football through a tire hanging from a rope on a tree (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). Yes, you can probably still do some of those things above 60, but the effort it takes may be more than the enjoyment you get from it. I don’t plan on giving up on life when I’m 60, but I expect that I will slow down and do things that are less taxing on my body and my energy.

 

Here are some things you can’t put off until after you retire:

Spending more time with your kids and family instead of spending more time at work. Your kids will never be the same age again, but there will always be more hours to work.

Traveling to see the world as it is today. Also, experiencing travel through younger eyes will be totally different than doing it when you are older.

Moving or changing jobs. If you don’t like where you are or where you work, 20 years from now it will be that much worse and you will regret not doing something about it.

Doing anything physically demanding like hiking, swimming, running, cycling or even competing in races. If you don’t do it now, it is even harder and less likely you will do it later.

Start a project, renovate a house, start a business. These all get harder to do, the older you get.

Getting into a new relationship or getting out of one where you are not happy. You only get one life, don’t wake up at 60 and realize you are not happy in your relationship. If you are not happy, your partner is probably not happy either.

This sounds like one of those “quit your job and sail into the sunset” kinds of articles. What about accomplishing something or leaving my mark on society?

Technology will advance and progress will be made in society with or without you. The desire to make the world a better place or have the world remember your name is really a rich person problem. Most people in the world are worried about keeping a roof over their head, feeding their families and not getting killed in a war.  People in some of the richer countries have the opportunity or luxury of even being able to consider retiring, let alone retiring early. The truth is most people’s jobs aren’t that important. Increasing your company’s toothpaste sales by 5% or getting an award for “Best New Stapler Design” is not really important in the grand scheme of things. Even if you think you might be the next Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, last time I checked, they are still dead.

I have about 15 good years left, how many do you have and what are you going to do with them?

Tiny House or McMansion, Which One Is Three Times More Expensive Than The Other?

Does your tiny house cost more than a McMansion?
How much are you really paying for your tiny house?

For most people, the biggest expense in their life is housing. It is also one of the reasons that people can’t build up significant savings to invest and retire early. Some people have come to realize that they don’t need all the space in a modern large house and they choose to downsize to something smaller either because of financial necessity or because they want to have a smaller footprint and the lower associated costs that come with it. This realization has caused many people to look into and buy tiny houses. Of course all of the TV shows about tiny houses has helped fuel this fascination with them.

I’m all for minimalism, and not having more space than you need and generally living below your means, but to me there is a pretty big flaw in the idea of some of these tiny houses. The problem I have is with the ones built on a trailer. These are basically large sheds with no plumbing and of course no land under it that you own. I’m not trying to tell people how to live so if they want to use a composting toilet, go for it, but to me that would get old very quickly. The composting toilet is not my real problem with these, it’s the price.

Yeah, but on the tiny house TV shows they say it’s a good deal, and it is hand crafted with all kinds of neat little hideaway storage spaces. How can you go wrong with a tiny house?

Here’s how:

Tiny House on a trailer:  192 Square Feet, priced at $52,000. This is $270 Per Square Foot.

This tiny house is 192 square feet and is listed for $52,000.
This tiny house is 192 square feet and is listed for $52,000.

Large House in NC on about 1 acre: 5478 Square Feet, priced at $500,000. This is $91 Per Square Foot.

This Mcmansion in North Carolina is 5478 square feet, is on close to an acre of land and is listed at $500,000
This house in North Carolina is 5478 square feet, is on close to an acre of land and is listed at $500,000

 

Obviously, the house costs ten times more in dollars and someone shopping tiny homes is not cross shopping $500,000 homes. But the point I’m trying to make is that people who are buying these one off tiny houses on trailers are overpaying and there are better options out there that won’t leave you with a depreciating shed that you probably took out a loan to buy. Remember, it is the land under the house that appreciates, the house itself always depreciates.

Here are some better priced options:

    Trailer

If you want a tiny house on a trailer because you like the idea of living anyplace and being able to move your house when you feel like it or when you change jobs, then just buy a manufactured trailer. A quick glance on EBay shows that this 28 foot, 2008 trailer sold for $5000. It is a ready made home, made in a factory using economies of scale to keep the price down. Just like if you need to drive to work, you’re not going to hire craftsmen and engineers to design and build you a car. You just buy a Toyota because they make millions of them much cheaper than you could ever make for yourself and they are easily resalable.  Also, buying a trailer like this is a cheap way to really find out if you like living in the woods or your friend’s backyard with no plumbing. You might find that you don’t really like doing it or having to move every few months. If you change your mind, then you can easily sell it without losing too much, compared to selling a custom tiny house.

Whatever you do, please, please, don’t do what I saw a young guy do on one of those tiny house shows. He convinced his mom to foot the bill to spend about $24,000 to renovate an old yellow school bus into his new tiny house on his mom’s property. He also had to recruit a bunch of family members to help with free labor. A school bus goes for about $1500 on EBay. Do you know how much you can sell a school bus that has $24,000 of “updates”? I don’t know either, but it is probably less than $5000. He could have just bought this trailer and saved $19,000.

So he put $24,000 and many hours of labor into this:

This 1996 school bus sold on EBay for $1500.
This 1996 school bus sold on EBay for $1500.

When he could have bought this for $5000:

This 2008 28 foot trailer sold on EBay for $5000.
This 2008 28 foot trailer sold on EBay for $5000.

     RV

Similar to this is the option of a self driven RV. It gives you the same ready made tiny house with the added bonus of a truck to move it wherever you want. You will be surprised how cheap these are. I found this one on EBay also. It is a 2003, 30 feet long and sold for $14,000.

This 2000 30 foot RV sold on EBay for $14,000.
This 2000 30 foot RV sold on EBay for $14,000.

 

     Manufactured Home

If you want something a little more permanent, you can buy a manufactured home starting for around $20,000 brand new and much cheaper if you buy it used. Of course, you will still have to buy the land to put it on because the rental rates in trailer parks are really outrageous.

This used 1998 manufactured home is 16 by 80 feet and listed for $18,750.
This used 1998 manufactured home is 16 by 80 feet and listed for $18,750.

 

     Small House or Condo

Lastly, your best option is to buy an actual small house or condo. Easier said than done right? Where are you going to find a house or condo priced similarly to a $50,000 tiny house? The answer is that there are literally thousands of them for sale in the US.  If you buy an 800 square foot house for $50,000, that is only about $62 a square foot. Not all of them are in the greatest location or in the greatest condition, but if you do your research you can find something in the general area where you want to live. Obviously they will not be close to the expensive cities where high paying jobs are, but the whole point of having an inexpensive house is so that you don’t have to work if you choose not to right?

Here are two examples I got on Realtor.com from a 20 mile radius search of Fort Worth, TX and Raleigh, NC:

Texas condo 616 square feet, $94 monthly maintenance, $473 yearly taxes, listed for $34,000 on Realtor.com

This condo in Texas is 616 square feet and is listed for $34,000 on Realtor.com.
This condo in Texas is 616 square feet and is listed for $34,000 on Realtor.com.

   This house in North Carolina is 1050 square feet, $598 yearly taxes, and listed for $38,700 on Realtor.com

This house in North Carolina is 1050 square feet and listed for $38,700 on Realtor.com
This house in North Carolina is 1050 square feet and listed for $38,700 on Realtor.com

So if you want to better your financial position, skip the cutesy tiny house trailer and buy a small house or condo with actual plumbing and electric. It will hopefully appreciate and is easily sellable or rentable if need be and you will be that much closer to financial independence.

Americans Average Only 1.5 Years of Vacation Per Lifetime

How much time do Americans take off in their lifetime?
Americans take only 1.5 years of vacation in a lifetime?

Wait, what?

Yes, when you add up all the vacation time that an American gets throughout their working life, it only comes out to 1.5 years of vacation.

Here is the math:

Assume you start working at 22 and stop working at 65 for a total of 43 working years.

The average vacation time given in the U.S. is 2 weeks.

14 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 602 days = 1.65 Years Off

But, out of your 14 days vacation, 4 of those days are weekends that you have off already so:

10 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 430 days = 1.18 Years Off

It gets worse. If you consider two days lost in traveling back and forth on your vacation you get:

8 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 344 days = .94 Years Off

And one last thing, 658 million vacation days went unused last year.  If there are about 160 million people in the workforce, then they each lost about 4 days each. So now:

4 Days of Vacation x 43 Working Years = 172 days = .47 Years Off

Some might argue that my assumptions are a little extreme, but even if you take the best case scenario of getting 1.65 years off, is that really much better?  Think about that, you work for 43 years only to get 1.5 years off to yourself.  Are you okay with that?

Okay, that sucks so what can I do about it?

     At a minimum, you should make sure you use every vacation day given to you even if you are just going to stay home and do laundry.  This is the low hanging fruit if you just want more free time without changing your lifestyle.  Unfortunately, many Americans do not take all the time off they are allowed because they are afraid for their job or think their work is too important to leave to someone else while on vacation.

You can try to get a job in Europe where they get double or more the amount of vacation time. This is a little better, but you will have to disrupt your whole life and move out of the country just to get twice as much time off. This is not for everyone.

Another idea is to save up a year or two living expenses while you are still young and take a year or more off from work to do what you want to do. You might find out that when the year is up, you want to do something completely different from the work you were doing before.

Or, you can do what my blog and many other blogs advocate and work, live below your means, save, invest and retire early. This is not easy, but if you can do it, then you can really see what you want to do with your time. I know people say that work is a purpose in your life that you need, but if the work you were doing was so purposeful to you, they wouldn’t need to pay you because you would do it for free.