Avoid tax problems, keep yourself and your identity safe, and learn how others have made the traveling lifestyle work.
By Janet Groene, F47166
As always, the focus of this column is on RVers who live and travel in their motorhomes as a way of life. When you’re happily homeless, there are immense advantages, but when problems arise, they have a way of multiplying. I recently heard of a full-timer in Florida who let his vehicle license expire. He was pulled over and subsequently hauled off to jail in handcuffs, because his driver’s license address didn’t match the address on the vehicle registration. He was innocent of all charges, except the expired license plate, but his transient status rang alarm bells with the police.
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Tax headache. An FMCA member got a shock when the IRS sent him a form requesting an income tax audit. He had deducted the interest on his motorhome mortgage, but his bank hadn’t submitted the required Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement. The bank refused to supply the form on the grounds that they did not consider his motorhome to be “real property,” and they had no way of knowing whether it was a home loan or a vehicle loan. The bank was wrong.
With the help of the IRS and advice from tax expert Julian Block at www.julianblocktaxexpert.com, the member filed a new form and included a copy of his own bank records showing the interest he paid. He also explained to the IRS that the motorhome is his primary residence, and the case was resolved. However, there is a lesson here for other full-timers. Aside from the hassle involved in the threat of an audit, you have another problem if your bank does not file a Form 1098 on your behalf. You have to send in your own proof of interest in hard copy, which means you can’t file electronically. Avoid such misunderstandings by making sure your bank files a Form 1098.
Mitigating modern risks. Escape The Wolf ($39.99, Dog Ear Publishing) is an intriguing and up-to-date travel book. It’s aimed at business travelers worldwide, so while Canada and Mexico are covered, most of it applies outside the Americas. Still, it provides food for thought and makes fascinating armchair reading.
Author Clint Emerson is a Department of Defense employee who was raised in Saudi Arabia and has traveled the world. He holds a degree in security management from American Military University, and he’s certified in security protocol and business etiquette. Although most full-timers don’t think of themselves as living in a cloak-and-dagger world, Emerson points out risks found in even the most benign settings. Then he gives hard-headed advice on mitigating risks such as diseases, kidnapping, car-jacking, terrorism, and technology threats. It’s a worthwhile read for yourself and your loved ones.
The book is available at www.escapethewolf.com and through online booksellers.
Identity theft. In its most recent Identity Fraud Survey Report, Javelin Strategy and Research found that the average amount stolen in an identity theft is $4,607, with an average loss to the consumer of $631. It takes an average of 68 days before victims realize they have been robbed and 33 business hours of frustrating work to resolve the mess.
One way to guard against having a crook obtain credit in your name is to put a credit freeze on your credit report. It’s a bother, because you have to lift the freeze every time you apply for a new credit card or car loan. That results in delays and costs up to $10. Is the price and aggravation worth it? Only you can decide.
Every citizen is entitled to a free credit report once a year from one of the three major agencies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax), so you can request one every four months by using www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure to use that exact URL or contact the agency itself. Similar-sounding sites charge a fee for reports or, worse still, they harvest sensitive information.
Travel on the cheap. Another useful new book is G. Michael Schneider’s On The Other Guy’s Dime: A Professional’s Guide To Traveling Without Paying ($18.99, Tasora Books). The book is Mr. Schneider’s personal story of bankrolling an exciting travel life with what he calls “working vacations.” You don’t need teaching credentials to take advantage of this idea, he points out. It’s a life for all kinds of professionals, including engineers, artists, doctors, and lawyers.
The typical full-timer retires or reorganizes his or her personal business, sells the house or rents it out, then hits the road. By contrast, Mr. Schneider keeps his day job (as a college professor) but uses his vacation, sabbatical, and leave-of-absence periods to accept temporary teaching assignments worldwide. He is paid for the work, and his expenses are also covered. Opportunities include Fulbright scholarships to teach abroad, the Peace Corps, and short-term positions galore. All you need are the right skills for the job. The book, available through online booksellers, is an entertaining travelogue as well as a useful how-to.
Live by your wits. Canadian Tracey Parnell wrote The 40 Year Old Snowbird ($9.99, CreateSpace) for anyone who wants to live in the sun all year. She divides her time between Ontario, Canada, in the summer, and Sarasota, Florida, in the winter. No matter where she is, she makes a living. A former corporate executive who once earned a six-figure income, she gives online courses at www.creatvityguaranteed.com. She also earns money by designing jewelry, selling her book, creating and selling online greeting cards, and walking dogs.
Ms. Parnell’s message is that anyone can retire young (she was 32) and live the snowbird life. Although her life sounds like a lot of work and endless hustle to manage multiple businesses, Ms. Parnell is an avid volunteer who also allots time to giving back. Her favorite cause is the Humane Society. She points out that almost every community has an animal shelter that can use help. It’s rewarding work and also a good way to meet locals.
A full-timer’s marriage manual. Doreen Orion’s hilarious book Queen of the Road ($13.95, Broadway) has been around for a while, but it’s still one of the best books written about two very different people living in an RV. She’s a city girl with too many shoes. He’s a guy with wanderlust. Both are psychiatrists. They travel with two cats and a dog that have their own prickly relationships. The book is filled with funny incidents as well as revealing insights.
Another take on the topic is Empty Nest to Life Vest: Plotting A New Course ($19.95, Inkwater Press) by Christie Gorsline. Although her big move was into a sailboat rather than a motorhome, there are endless parallels with the RV lifestyle. When she married for the second time, Christie had two little girls. Her new husband proved to be a good dad, but by the time the girls entered college, he was burned out in his career and ready for a new life.
Christie also knew it was time for a change. The book is a fascinating travelogue as well as the story of a woman’s transition from a full-time mother to a wanderer. Living on board a small sailboat and cruising abroad, she added a new dimension to her marriage and to her relationships with her daughters. Many of her tips about living in small places are useful on the road. Women also will enjoy the portions of her personal journal that are reproduced in the book.