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:
- We want to live in an outdoorsy mountain town that matches our interests and personalities, which our current small town lacks.
- 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.
- 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.
- We are looking for a neighborhood/small town setting in which to raise our daughter.
- 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 town 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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 several 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!
- 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.
- 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 compromise. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.