Second acts and sharing expenses.
By Janet Groene, F47246
Are you ready for the second act in your life, perhaps one that earns a profit? Do you wonder how to divvy expenses when guests travel with you? This column covers two topics, both of them specific to full-timers.
Your Second Act
Nancy Collamer is a career coach whose mantra is “Rethink your retirement.” She isn’t talking about some foggy future, but the life you can have right now, at any age, by sliding into a new career that helps fund your retirement and lets you follow your heart to find personal fulfillment.
Her book, Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways To Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement ($14.99; Ten Speed Press), shows readers that there are plenty of ways to make money outside the traditional workplace. She is a career expert, not an RV expert, but if your dream is to retire early and travel full-time in your motorhome, this book was written for you.
Not all of her suggested “second acts” can be pursued while traveling, and some careers may require state licenses that would limit a full-timer’s travels, but her basic advice is precisely for those who dream of taking to the open road.
Ms. Collamer uses several key words: profitable, fulfilling, fun, flexible, and meaningful. The first chapter suggests that you look at the skills you have built up during your lifetime. They can qualify you for teaching, coaching, consulting, speaking, or training someone else in those skills. However, that’s just a start. In the book, she says that it’s all right to do something other than the work you’ve done all your life.
Hate your job? In the book, Ms. Collamer points out that you might combine the skills you learned in the workplace with a new, exciting, and different career. A history teacher may be burned out on classroom issues but would make a good museum docent or could write a screenplay or documentary based on a historic incident. At least one RV couple I know travels with a wardrobe of historically accurate pioneer costumes they wear when making paid appearances at hometown festivals.
Ms. Collamer cites a marketing executive who left the corporate world to teach marketing to magicians. He is worlds away from his old cubicle, yet he is trading on his marketing expertise. By chapter 2, the author expands on how to make money from your expertise. She tells of a woman who blogs about gluten-free recipes and a person who makes a five-figure income selling informational digital downloads. Both jobs are ideal for full-timers, because they can be done anywhere.
Chapters 3 and 4 are about starting your business either from scratch or by pursuing a business-in-a-box, such as selling on eBay. Ready-made businesses include multilevel marketing, buying a franchise, or direct sales consulting, such as putting on fashion shows. She doesn’t mention Avon or Tupperware by name, but they are typical of the “party plan” businesses that could be adopted by full-timers.
The best part of the book is the author’s case histories of real people whose “second act” proved to be rewarding, both financially and otherwise. A 50ish woman never had the time or money for the painting she longed to do, so she now heads a membership organization for older women artists.
Ms. Collamer leads readers through the complex workings of nonprofit organizations, volunteering, and the many ways one might make money in semiretirement. The worksheets are the best part of the book. By the time you have filled in all the blanks with honest answers, you’ll know more about yourself and the bright horizons that can lie ahead.
Share The Trip, Share The Costs
Most motorhome owners have shared the ride with others, but full-timers have a particular challenge. This is your home, not your hobby, and hospitality is still a two-way street. Your friends have had you to their home and it’s your turn to repay the favor, but your highway home has distinct needs and costs that guests likely won’t consider.
Two adages still make sense today. One is that fish and guests begin to smell bad after the third day. Another saying among sailors is that you never really know a person until you’ve sailed offshore together. The dynamics of living together in a small space are difficult enough. For now, however, let’s just talk about dollars and sense.
Scenario 1: When you had a house, Gladys and Joe stayed with you for a week every summer. They took you out to dinner a time or two, but nobody expected them to kick in for utilities or the mortgage. Now you’re taking them on a 1,000-mile trip. Fuel alone will cost $400 or more. What costs should they share?
Scenario 2: Your cousin has hinted that she and her daughter could join you for a trip to Alaska and will help pay the expenses. They aren’t well off, and they don’t realize how costly it will be for food, fuel, and travel in Alaska. How much is fair?
Scenario 3: You usually boondock, but with guests on board, you have to stay in campgrounds to get hookups, extra bathrooms, and fun activities for their kids. Should this be at your expense?
First, sit down with your spouse or travel partner and make sure you’re both on the same page before inviting family or friends on a motorhome trip. Then make a list of operating costs and agree on where guests should contribute. You now have something in black and white that you can present to your guests.
Second, agree on a chain of command. What would your reaction be if a guest expects to take the right-hand seat and navigate when this has always been your spouse’s role? What about guests who insist on taking over the galley, getting in the way, and perhaps damaging expensive gear, because they aren’t familiar with RV dos and don’ts? Avoid conflict by making it clear from the beginning that the ship has only one skipper.
You will have to make some hard decisions, so think it through. The total cost of a trip includes not just highway fuel but propane refills, generator fuel, tolls, and oil changes. There may be dump fees, flat tires, repairs, towing, etc. What about damage caused by guests (think plumbing disasters)? Let’s say you’ll be traveling in the backcountry where roads can be messy. You’ll need frequent stops at truck wash stations. Should guests kick in for this expense? Your dog is a great little traveler, but now your friends are hinting that their dog goes everywhere with them. Will that work in the close confines of a motorhome?
Many campsite rates are based on one motorhome and a specific number of people. Should you pay the surcharge for extra people traveling with you? Half the surcharge? None of it? Food costs alone can result in hard feelings, even if you agreed to split the supermarket bill down the middle. A guest may require special food, which usually costs more, or perhaps your teetotaler guest balks at sharing a supermarket bill that includes wine. In fact, alcohol can be a major sticking point. What will your reaction be when guests pour your single-malt scotch with a heavy hand, yet choose the cheap brand when it’s his or her turn to stock the bar?
When dining out, it’s easy to ask for separate checks, but even that can get sticky if valet parking is required for your towed vehicle, or your guests want to treat you to inexpensive restaurants that you would not usually patronize.
While many hard choices may need to be made, there are some easy decisions as well. Campground fees are paid by the night, so they should be easy to split down the middle unless your guests insist on staying at resorts that are outside your usual budget or your membership network. Guests who aren’t campers might not understand these costs, so enlighten them.
Admissions, greens fees, spa treatments, and entertainments costs are easy to pay individually. If possible, avoid charging these fees to your campground account. If the campground allows for two accounts, ask your guests to run their credit card for their own tab. Otherwise, you’ll have an itemized statement at checkout and will have to divide costs then.
When you must provide a credit card to guarantee reservations at a campground resort, and guests pull out at the last minute, agree on how you’ll handle any penalties or fees.
Don’t be reluctant to arrange some alone time for yourself or with your spouse. Guests will probably appreciate time to themselves, too.
The hardest decision of all is how to get this deal clear and agreeable for all. Negotiating by e-mail is one good way to have a written record. If you’re planning in person, sit down with your guests and make notes, and then keep your worksheet in case disputes arise. Save every receipt. The more you have in writing, the better your chances of keeping things fair without hard feelings.
Have you run into problems when sharing the costs of a motorhome trip? Share your experiences with firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if you want to remain anonymous.