By Janet Groene, F47166
Full-timing is certainly a wonderful lifestyle, but it doesn’t relieve you from paying attention to the real-life situations and responsibilities you had before you took to the road. Here are a few things to keep your eye on as the year progresses.
The fine print. I almost discarded the flimsy envelope that arrived by bulk mail without opening it, but it’s lucky I looked inside. It contained a notice from our credit card company informing us of several changes to our account: the default annual percentage rate was raised to 32.4 percent; cash advance fees were raised to 3 percent with a minimum of $10; balance transfer fees were increased to 3 percent with a $5 minimum; and fees for late payment, returned checks, or charging over one’s limit are now $39. I can opt out, at which point our account will be closed immediately. Never has the term “read the fine print” been more important.
As I recall. When you’re on the go, it’s easy to miss news of product recalls. But you can find them at www.consumerreports.org (type the word “Recalls” in the search window) and at www.recalls.gov.
Just add water. If you yearn for the occasional day on the water to fish or sightsee, visit www.boatrenting.com or call (888) 610-2628 to see if a member of the BoatRenting network is in your area. Members of the chain rent boats by the hour, day, or longer.
Debtor’s prism. Are you being dunned for old debts? When you’re on the go, such hassles can hit doubly hard. Collection agencies can buy old debt for a few cents on the dollar, so they have little to lose and a lot to gain by coming after you. These agencies can be pushy, and may even threaten to ruin your credit rating or take you to court.
As a full-timer, you’ve probably moved around a lot, and things are even more complicated if you’ve been through a divorce or name change. It’s possible you never received the bill. You also could be a victim of mistaken identity, a bookkeeping error, or an outright scam. Begin by sending a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the agency in question, in which you request written documentation of the debt and the exact name and address of the debtor.
You may never hear from the collection agency again. If you do hear back, and if it appears that you are the person they are after, the next step is to examine your own records. You may find paperwork that solves the mystery. If you have no records, you can choose to pay or dispute the bill. However, check first to see if the statute of limitations has run out. Times vary from state to state, usually from three to 10 years. Go to
www.fair-debt-collection.com where you’ll find more information about your rights, as well as the statute of limitations rules listed state by state. You also can learn more about the statutes by contacting a state’s attorney general.
Carved in granite. A sharp-eyed FMCA member heard about a full-timer who was denied vehicle registration in New Hampshire, because he had no physical address, and the member asked whether this was a trend. Yes, and not only with vehicle registrations but in many financial transactions. For security purposes, banks and other businesses are required to have a physical address on record for you. A post office box alone is no longer sufficient for many uses.
Full-timers forum notes. This month’s question asked forum members how they cut down on monthly camping costs.
Charles and Graceann Carter, F348747, offered ideas. “We have several campground memberships after shopping carefully for those that have no annual park maintenance fees or dues. We use these sites as often as possible.” This couple also highlights the locations of discount campgrounds on their travel atlas. They dry camp on Bureau of Land Management property and occasionally stay at a Wal-Mart. For the past year they averaged $7.02 per day for campsites, figuring in annual membership fees. With solar power, a 100-gallon fresh water tank, and large black and gray holding tanks, the Carters say they can dry camp for up to two weeks at a time.
Another full-timer couple reported that they belong to Western Horizons Resorts, Resorts of Distinction, Coast to Coast, Resort Parks International, and Adventure Outdoor Resorts and said, “We wouldn’t be without Passport America.” When this couple needs some downtime, they volunteer at one of the Western Horizon parks, where they work a combined 20 hours a week and stay for free.
“Before we retired we bought a used Thousand Trails membership,” reported another full-timing couple. “We bought into Choice Camping, where we can access Coast to Coast and Resort Parks International without paying for a home park membership.” This couple also speaks favorably of Passport America. “Always ask if they have a weekly rate,” they advised. On rare occasions, they stop at a Wal-Mart for the night.
A woman who full-times alone said she uses membership parks, serves as a host in National Forest parks, sometimes dry camps, and on rare occasions stays with friends or family. She complained about one membership deal that charges $35 per year for electricity when the individual parks also charge a nightly fee for the same thing. “Double dipping,” she claimed.
To sum it all up, when it comes to cutting costs, members of our full-timers forum are keen on memberships, volunteerism, work camping, and low-cost camping on government lands. They rarely, if ever, overnight at free parking lots. Several expressed a wish that commercial campgrounds would offer a low-cost rate for those who arrive late, leave early, and want only a safe place to plug in for a night’s sleep.
During the past month several new contributors have joined the forum. Ken and Ann Sair, F381266, are second-generation full-timers. Her folks full-timed in a 28-foot type C motorhome for seven years, and his parents full-timed for five years in a 26-foot travel trailer. The Sairs retired, sold their home and most possessions, and plan to be on the road as long as possible. Richard and Betty Miller, F333547, have been full-timing for 12 years. They enjoy volunteering, work camping, photography, golf, computers, sewing, flying, cooking, and writing. Edgar and Lucy Payne, F378727, are first-year newbies and said they’ll “probably learn more from the forum than we can help others.” Welcome to you all.
If you would like to participate in the full-timers forum, send me an e-mail at email@example.com. You can remain anonymous, if you prefer.