June Update//We Spent 6-Figures On Our Vacation!

Well it was a crazy month for us. We’re going to skip the usual introduction to the update with graphs because nothing much changed. We spent a little bit more than usual which was balanced out by continued investment contributions and gains taking our investment values as a multiple of annual spending from 19.67 down to 19.66. There was some major news elsewhere as alluded to in the title.

We started the month on vacation. The plan was to spend some time checking out a few neighborhoods, looking at a few houses, and visiting some schools while fitting in plenty of R&R as we continued vetting our future retirement locations. By the end of the trip, we had decided we found what we were looking for and put in an offer on a house, which has since been accepted. We are now in the process of figuring out financing, finding a property manager to rent it out for the next year, recalculating our short-term cash-flow and implementing long-term plans with a bit more certainty.

Early-Retirement Mountain Town Checklist

Last September, we wrote about our search for a mountain town. We shared our three finalists: Driggs, ID, Granby, CO, and Ogden, UT. We also shared the 5 characteristics we were looking for. As spelled out in the prior post:

  1. We want to live in an outdoorsy mountain town that matches our interests and personalities, which our current small town lacks.
  2. We want to have access to skiing, hiking and climbing all less than 30 minutes from our home, ideally living directly in a mountain town to give us optimal access.
  3. We want convenient access to travel. Traveling occasionally is a stipulation for Mrs. EE’s job which she plans to continue indefinitely. Also, we want to be able to visit our family back east and have them visit us.
  4. We are looking for a neighborhood/small town setting in which to raise our daughter.
  5. The final want is the biggest challenge given the first 4 items on our wish list. We would like to find a small, but nice home for the same price or less than we will sell our current home (<$300,000).

Re-prioritizing/Narrowing the Search

Since that time, we have been discussing things further. We realized that our qualifications were overly focused on what Mrs. EE and I had always dreamed of in a quaint mountain ski IMG_3983town when originally developing our Dirtbag Millionaire visions. Now that we have a little one, we needed to re-prioritize what was most important for her as well, while staying true to ourselves.

This meant that housing costs were more important. We originally planned on downsizing to a considerably smaller house. However, we realized we really want a home large enough to be able to host family and friends, especially my parents who are retired and have an incredibly close bond to little EE, for extended periods of time. This also makes access to travel a higher priority.

Also, while little EE loves the outdoors, particularly skiing, water activities, hiking, and riding her bike, we want her to have a more diverse experience than those offered by small mountain towns. We want to be careful to give her the opportunities to make her own choices about what she loves and the person that she wants to become. We want to live in a place with diversity, including varied educational opportunities and cultural experiences.

With our original wish list still intact, but expanded and re-prioritized, one location jumped to the top of the list.

Ogden, UT

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Ogden is a weird eclectic city that matches our weird quirky personalities. Like most of Utah, Ogden was originally settled by Mormons in the mid 1800’s, giving it a very conservative political atmosphere and a lot of emphasis on traditional family values. Much of this has persisted for nearly two centuries.

However, when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in the late 1800’s, Ogden became a major hub and developed a bit of a shady reputation, to say the least. In fact, it is reported that when Al Capone passed through in the 1920’s, he wouldn’t get off the train in Ogden because it was “too wild” for him.

Ogden has maintained this tainted reputation for a long time. This, combined with a perception as an industrial city, rather than a tourist town kept it off most people’s radars of great places to live until recently.

Outdoor Credentials

The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics helped to change Ogden’s reputation when the downhill and Super G competitions were held at nearby Snowbasin Ski Resort. Since that time, the exposure offered by the games combined with a concerted marketing effort by the city to change its reputation has helped transform Ogden into an up and coming city for outdoor enthusiasts.

Ogden is rated as one of the 50 Best Places to Live and Play and one of the Top 10 Emerging Ski Towns by National Geographic. Ogden is also the home of some of the biggest brands in the outdoor industry, including Rossignol, Salomon, Atomic, and Scott USA.

Ogden did not crack Ski Magazine’s Top 10 Ski Towns alongside places like better known Aspen or Vail, CO, Jackson, WY, or Park City, UT. However, it also doesn’t carry the median home prices ranging from $500k-$4m that they do. Ogden was named in the same article as one of the “Coolest Towns to Move To”, calling it an “adventure hot spot”. In addition to affordability and easy mountain access, it also has a revitalized downtown including historic 25th Street, a whitewater park, and the Salomon Center, with indoor skydiving, rock climbing, and surfing.

Meeting the Criteria

Here is how Ogden stacked up given our criteria of what we were looking for in a future home.

  1. Personality: As outlined above, Ogden seems to be a perfect match for our interests and needs. We already have begun to develop friendships in the area as well, which will make our transition easier.
  2. Outdoor Access: We will have trail access that leads to diverse and beautiful hiking within 3 city blocks from our front door. This includes flat wide trails overlooking the city skyline to trails climbing to the summit of Mount Ogden. There is easy walk-able access to severalIMG_4011 bouldering areas and sport climbing crags via these trails, as well as more climbing a very short drive up Ogden Canyon. There are flat biking trails along the Ogden River that run through the city, which will be perfect for family rides. The trail system near our house offers world class mountain biking opportunities to grow into. Water activities are available a short 10-15 minute drive up Ogden Canyon to the Pineview Reservoir. Skiing is a 20 minute drive to Snowbasin resort and about 30 minutes to Powder Mountain, or we can walk to back-country skiing. There are abundant snowshoeing opportunities throughout the Ogden valley. If somehow all of that doesn’t keep us occupied, we will be about an hour away from 6 more world class resorts and endless granite mountain opportunities around Salt Lake City. We will also be within an easy half-day drive south to Utah’s 6 National Parks or north to the Tetons, Jackson Hole, and Yellowstone. I think that checks the outdoor access box!
  3. Convenient Access to Travel: Salt Lake City International Airport is less than 40 minutes drive from our house. This gives us access to home, and family and friends access to us any time they want to come visit. It also allows for easy travel as occasionally required for Mrs. EE’s work.
  4. Neighborhood/Small Town Setting: While Ogden is more of a medium size city than a small mountain town we originally desired, we are very happy with this 20170611_061223compromise. Ogden’s East Bench is a quiet, well-maintained neighborhood right at the foothills. It gives safe, easy, walk-able access to hiking trails, numerous city parks, and the local public elementary school. We are also in walking distance of Weber State University, and all of the cultural, educational, and athletic events they offer. We are a very short drive to shopping and about 5 minutes from downtown.
  5. Affordability: Despite the massive change in reputation and increase in popularity of Ogden in the past 10-20 years, it remains a very affordable area to live with reasonable (though rapidly increasing) real estate prices and low property taxes. We were able to purchase a home for approximately the same value that we anticipate receiving from our current home. While all of our potential locations would have been affordable, the other areas we were considering would have meant a major downsizing or taking a mortgage to do so. Our new home gives us a smaller primary living space which we desired, while also including a spacious two bedroom/one bath mother-in-law suite with a private entrance that gives us the room to host guests for extended periods, which is our desire. When not in use for family, we can also use this area as an Air B&B rental to make some extra income. As a bonus, our property taxes will be cut in half compared to our current home in PA.
  6. Diverse educational and cultural opportunities: The biggest downside of Ogden in our minds is the reputation of having public schools that are underfunded and average at best. However, as I have been researching schools since shortly after little EE was born, I have been growing progressively more interested in alternatives to traditional schooling. One of the cool things about Ogden is that it is an area exploding in experimental charter schools. While in the area, we toured two that we are very interested in. Ogden also has private school options and an active community of home school families, neither of which would not be our first preference, but would be viable options if the public/charter schools don’t work. In addition, being in close proximity to a major university and in a city with community colleges is a big plus compared to the smaller mountain towns on our list. It will give many convenient opportunities to obtain college credits while in high school. This is a very positive trend already occurring, that we will likely encourage our daughter to pursue to make college education more affordable. Overall, we are optimistic about the educational opportunities. Living in a city of this size will provide plenty of cultural opportunities as well.

What’s Next?

The last month started with a planned laid-back family vacation. It has turned into a flurry of activity figuring out everything to make this new house purchase work. It will give us plenty of financial topics to write about, from using a HELOC to fund our purchase, to finding a property manager and being a landlord from across the country, to eventually selling our house, making a cross country move, and running an Air B&B to name just a few.

However, right now the whole process has me a bit exhausted. I will be reminding myself, “Don’t be a donkey!” and slowly sharing these topics as they fit in to a busy summer. I hope all of your summers are great as well!

So were we crazy to take to jump into all of this with so little planning? Would we have been crazy to pass up what we saw as a great deal on a house, location, and lifestyle that we know we eventually want? Share your thoughts below.

18 comments on June Update//We Spent 6-Figures On Our Vacation!

    1. Very exciting. We are prone to over-analyze things so feels good and exciting to make a decision and work through what needs done to make it work.

  1. Wow! To find all that you dream for and moving at light speed toward that dream is so inspiring to read about. Hope to stay at your Air B&B some day and meet the EE’s. Looking forward to reading more about your journey.

    1. Thanks Ken. Light speed is a bit of a stretch as are most “overnight success” stories that were enabled by years of working, saving and planning behind the scenes. Glad to know we have some Air B&B’ers in waiting. Still have a lot of moving parts to figure out, so we may need the business. 😉

  2. Hey, I say go for it on the house! It never seems like the “right time” to do anything. So if you found a good deal, why not? Congrats on the impending flurry of activity with the house purchase and move! I hope it’ll be awesome. 🙂

    1. Thanks! Agree that there is never a perfect time for anything, and we were stuck in paralysis by analysis figuring out how/when to leave work, sell house, buy house, etc. It is honestly a bit terrifying, but truly exciting to have quit the job and now bought the house to get some momentum going that will force us to make decisions to keep things rolling.

  3. Woohooo! Exciting times for the EE family! We can’t wait to bring our crew to the bonus space and let some of the weird/electic-vibe rub off on us. And the outdoor activities are calling my name!

    1. Exciting indeed. Would love to have you all out for a personal tour, though I guess we should figure out how and when exactly we’re getting ourselves out there before I start inviting others!

  4. “As a bonus, our property taxes will be cut in half compared to our current home in PA.”

    Truth. We’re in the early stages of looking, and while the Pittsburgh market may be the most stable in the country, holy cow on the property taxes.

    I somehow missed that about Ogden’s shady past! I always just assumed the population was largely LDS. When I lived in LDS towns, it was a little bit difficult socially when you varied from the norm. Okay, that’s an understatement, but I also lived in one of the areas of highest concentration, so take that for what it’s worth.

    The beauty out there, though! You guys will never be bored! And I think that’s smart on the bigger house thing. Not only do you want family to visit, but I’ve been thinking as my kids get older that there will be a point when they want to get away from me–and sadly but probably, I’ll need a break, too. Because teenagers. We’re not there yet, but hopefully we’ll have a little more space and not be on top of each other when we’re at that point in their lives.

    Congrats, congrats, congrats!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. The only negative about the low taxes in UT is that nearly everyone we talked to said that the schools are chronically underfunded. For example, the two public schools we visited were still in limbo as to whether they would have 1/2 or full day K-garten this fall only 3 months from start of school. I would think that lack of commitment makes it a challenge for teachers and administrators to plan and I can see where they are frustrated. That said, the opposite of that is that I think in our area there is tremendous waste of tax dollars and even though we own our house, we really don’t as we are paying rent on the land every month in the form of property taxes. All my teacher friends complain that they are underfunded despite our high taxes so not sure where our $ goes anyway, and even the best schools are driven by the almighty standardized test scores and teaching to tests, rather than teaching kids to learn to learn, which has me thinking about alternatives to traditional schooling wherever we live anyway.

      Ogden still does have a large LDS population, nearly 50%I believe. I’ve heard varying opinions on what is like to be an outsider in that community. We are pretty open to anyone and so will see. In that regard we are more worried about our daughter’s experience as she navigates what are always challenging times finding your place as a kid. The Mrs and I are very confident we will find our tribe and fit in.

      1. Exactly. We do have some of the best schools here, but Pennsylvania is one of the few states left that lacks a fair funding formula in education, so the disparity is gross. You guys sound like you’re super actively involved with your children, and I think that goes a long way towards combating any insufficiencies your new district will face.
        It might be hard for her as a kid. *Might.* The good thing about Mormon peer pressure is that it generally steers kids away from things like drugs and alcohol (generally.) The bad part is really just the lack of tolerance for anyone that holds other world views. But with parents like you and a rate of only 50%… That’s still a lot compared to the rest of the country, but it leaves her way more social options than some of the other SLC suburbs.
        I hope I’m not being a negative Nancy here. I should disclose that the part of the LDS corridor I lived in had a rate of 98% participation in the religion, and that I have some extra baggage as it was the religion I was raised in before I woke up to some serious doctrinal concerns. (Was raised in it out East.) I think I’ve told you before, I LOVE that part of the country. Cultural norms may be a shock, but there are a lot of good people and even more gorgeous wilderness. I bet you guys will love it.

        1. Thanks. Appreciate honest feedback and discussion. I think in our society we are often too worried about being politically correct and many issues would be non-issues if we could just speak openly and honestly.

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