Ladies Night

ladies nightLadies nights are such a treat. On Monday I was lucky enough to have a dear friend organize a fun ladies night with dinner at Nel Centro and see a performance of The Moth Radio at The Schnitz.

It was a lovely evening and also a real reminder of how much my life has changed in the past couple of years. The decade I spent living in Washington was punctuated with sometimes frequent get togetherness with ladies, whether it be brunch, lunch, or an occasional night out.

We joked about being “ladies that lunch”, but I realize now that we blissfully were. I say this in all the best ways. I enjoyed it immensely. I like the ritual of getting together with someone for a good meal or a coffee. It feels good. We need to find ways to connect and share.

Though I often demonstrated some kind of restraint, I was used to spending what, even I, would consider to be a fair amount of money eating out. I remember realizing that I would often spend as much as my entire family would eating out in the 80s. Times have changed, and the dollar doesn’t go as far as it did back in rural Oregon, but it still feels helpful to keep such comparisons in mind.

Nel Centro is the best of Portland cuisine. It reminds me of meals I’ve had in DC or NYC, but feels very Pacific NW as well. I had already been there for breakfast and lunch meetings in the last year, but ladies night dinner was definitely a treat with a few extras. The whole package of a cocktail, pasta, and dessert will set you back around $40. Breakfast is more on the affordable luxury scale.

Since I was most often eating out solo, this also made it easier to splurge than with a family. Now the family makes a splurge without trying.

I’m reminded of how much I enjoy meals out with friends and that it is well worth it to prioritize what makes you feel great. Everyone has their own splurges. What are yours?

Cheers,

Miel

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Manifesting My Dream Home


Manifesting our dream home has taken us 15 years, but only because we had to believe in our dream before it came true…then it happened very quickly.

Early in our relationship, Hubby and I went to two parties at beautiful Craftsman homes (at his professor’s and a fundraiser…not exactly grad school housing ;-). All these years later, I remember the feeling of falling in love with the spectacular woodwork and charming details. I vividly remember looking at each other with the earnest hope that we would some day be able to live in such an amazing home. Now we do. My jaw still drops into a gaping smile when I pass my own threshold. (Check out my virtual home tour…it really doesn’t do the place justice with the narrow lens, but it gives you an idea).

I shared recently about how I manifested our first dream homes, but it’s been truly amazing to manifest our current home. It feels like nothing short of a miracle, but I know that it happened because I was methodical in my manifesting and took action to make it a reality. It’s similar to what I’ve read in books like Notes from the Universe, but these are my personal notes.

1)  Daydream from a place of security, rather than scarcity. I loved our home in inner NE Portland, and at the time when we moved in six years ago, I honestly couldn’t have imagined any place better suited for our growing family. Yet, after we had grown by two daughters, it came to mind that there would come a day when a one shower would be a challenge (and yes, I do think about how many people don’t even have plumbing or amazing water flowing from the tap, but I don’t recommend focusing on this too much while manifesting, unless you are ready and willing to manifest some real world change…so far, I’ve mostly left that job to my twin sister ;-). My point is that I came to the decision that we should move from a place of pondering the possibilities and building faith, rather than panic and doubt.

2) As soon I/we had make up my mind that we should move, I also declared my love for our home. Feeling the abundance is the best way to create more. When we shared our plans with our kids, I made a point to let the kids know that we should still feel blessed to live in our home. Our home would still make a lovely home for someone else and that stage of their lives. I made a point of mentally thanking and blessing our home as we steadily prepared it for sale.

3) From that place of feeling secure and blessed, I moved to expressing my gratitude. I made a full list of all the things I love(d) about our San Rafael home:

  • Charming & historic (1904 Farmhouse Victorian built by a former city councilor)
  • Beautiful and flowing layout (every inch of the space was well planned and spacious)
  • Nice size, big enough but not too big
  • Close-in in location – next to streetcar/MAX/bus, walkable to the Pearl and downtown
  • Shops and restaurants nearby…more every year
  • Huge backyard, shed, sand pit & fire pit, nice patio
  • Front and back porches
  • 3 bedrooms upstairs
  • Colorful and cheery
  • High ceilings and nice light

4) Next, I enlisted my family to write a list together of all the things we wanted in a home (I would hate to manifest something that didn’t work for all of us!) The trick with manifesting is to dream big and write a very detailed list (or visual collage if you want to get creative).

So, our family wrote out a “Wish List to the Universe.”

  • Historic charm, modern updates
  • Chimney for Santa & cozy fires, with a beautiful mantle
  • Space for an outdoor fire pit
  • 4 bedrooms (Kieran requested that his be “wide open for a queen bed”)
  • 2 bathroom, one with a bath tub, one with a nice tiled shower
  • Lots of light, lovely colors
  • Tall ceilings
  • Front porch
  • Room for picnic table, BBQ, hammock, garden pots and growing veggies
  • Finished basement – room for ping pong and playing
  • Close to the park, Miel, school, restaurants and shops
  • Insulated and efficient
  • Beautiful and peaceful
  • No need to fix much or remodel (I actually added the word “much” in the line after, thinking to myself that I couldn’t imagine being able to afford a house that wouldn’t need any work…now I wish that I hadn’t added that caveat…)

5) Immediately after coming up with our gratitude and wish lists, we came up with a list of actions we would need to take in order to sell our home. Everything from hire a real estate agent to stage our home. We prioritized what we needed to get done with a time line of about six tasks each month and a five month timeline to get our house ready for sell. We had made a similar list when selling our first home and with both where able to pace ourselves while somewhat smaller tasks while reaching a pretty huge goal. We posted this five month timeline on our refrigerator and checked off at least a task week until suddenly we had reached our initial goal of putting our place on the market by Memorial Day. The only radical change in our plan was that Kevin was offered his dream job in Astoria in early May, so we took a road trip to find our dream home. Yet, I know that his job offer wasn’t a fluke, but fate, manifesting our deepest dreams. The fact that we were able to sell our home in just a weekend for $51k above asking may seem like just a lucky market, but it was really a combination between believing in our dream home and taking consistent action.

Have you ever intentionally visualized and manifested your home?

Cheers!

Darcy

Finding a New Tax Accountant

 

keep-calm-im-the-best-accountant-sustainable-family-financesI lost my tax accountant in our recent divorce. I’m taking it as a reminder of the value of starting fresh and getting my finances in order. Besides, there are some advantages to having a tax accountant more locally (ours was still out in DC). While I never actually met our accountant face to face, Nancy Tao with Tax Masters, was extremely good about scheduling at flexible times and giving us guidance around various tax situations. If you are looking for an accountant in the DC area, I would highly recommend her. Our lowest tax year was paying just under 5% in federal taxes (while both in grad school and having business income as writeoffs).

I’ve been working with a tax accountant for the last thirteen years and think that tax accountants are money well spent. In fact, my first time filing taxes as an 18-year-old resulted in getting an expected tax refund (that I hadn’t calculated properly), because I didn’t think that I could possibly get that much back (turns out that I was just working my arse off at Crater Lake Lodge for the summer between high school and college). I lived off that refund as I saved money for the next semester at Lewis & Clark College.

Now I am in search of a new tax accountant, for both my personal taxes and those of our Olivia Beach Camp Cabins.

If you are a regular reader of Sustainable Family Finances, you know that we are all about manifesting what we want in life. Here is what I’m looking for in an accountant. If you have anyone that you would recommend, please drop us a comment.

  1. Great to work with (after all, you are dealing with less than fun subjects)
  2. Savvy with tax benefits of small business ownership and juggling multiple LLCs
  3. Knowledgeable in real estate (i.e. 1031 exchanges, vacation and rental properties, etc.)
  4. Experience with blogging or online publishing
  5. Willing to give helpful advice throughout the year for planning taxes
  6. High level of integrity and attention to details
  7. Aggressive approach to writing off legitimate expenses
  8. Preferably located in Portland, Oregon

We’d love to hear if you have a tax accountant that you love, and what tips you’ve learned over the years.

Cheers,

Miel

 

 

Owning a Vacation Rental is Hard Work

Olivia Beach ClanWe’ve been so busy managing our Olivia Beach Camp Cabins (check out our new website!) that we’ve barely written about running our family business, even though it obviously impacts our family finances.

Sometimes when I tell people that I manage our beach cabins for my “day job,” I get this sense that they think it’s an easy job. It’s mostly a fun and flexible job, but it’s also a LOT of work. We are still happy to own our family beach cabins, but the daily reality of owning a vacation rental has been way more hands-on, and sometimes challenging, than we ever anticipated.

So, there’s a lot of backstory to share:

  • Kevin and I had always had the dream of owning a beach house. We set up an account dedicated to saving toward a beach house, even though we never actually saved much.
  • Miel and I had become inspired by tiny affordable cabins, and drafted a project plan before we ever had a penny to invest in it.
  • We received a family inheritance nearly four years ago after our father had passed away. We wanted to invest our inheritance in a legacy project that would benefit our whole family for generations to come.
  • We tried our best to do our due diligence before building the beach cabins (although I wish we had read this article about how expensive vacation rentals can actually  be), but our initial projections did not match our actual expenses. Utilities, Jacuzzi maintenance, and HOA dues are far more than we ever budgeted for (more on that very soon…).
  • We also chose to go with an ambitious 15 year mortgage. The good news is that the cabins will be fully paid by the time we turn fifty, but it makes cash flow situation tight today.
  • In hindsight, I think Miel and I had two different intentions when investing. I wanted a place to put my money so that I would invest instead of waste it on immediate family “needs.” Miel wanted to invest the bare minimum, and then be able to continue investing elsewhere. I realized recently that I had intended to continue invest money into the cabins for the first five years, but Miel had thought we would be breaking even financially by now.
  • Fast forward three years into business, and we’ve learned a lot.
  • A year ago we took over the full-time management of the cabins. In the first month of managing them, Miel brought in more money that the rental management agency had earned us from January-July…and that was with fall bookings. (Although this fall has been comparatively quite for guests and we’ve decided to bring our winter rates back down).
  • Owning a family business is a LOT of work. We are workaholics enough that we usually don’t mind working overtime, but getting interrupted at dinner by guests can take it’s toll. I realized that we need to find a better balance when our son recently didn’t want to go to the cabins, because he didn’t want to be “put to work” (On the last trip Miel took our kids and worked on the landscaping, laying 33 bags of mulch, plus extra projects…so I can kind of see why he was reluctant). Guests may think every is just fine when they arrive, but all we see are projects that need to get done…some maintenance, but mostly final tweaks to finalize our vision. Last time we were there for three days and managed a fifteen trip to the beach, but even with all work, we are grateful for our visits.
  • Communication is key, especially when you live with your business partners. Our experience has shown us that you need to have a balance when talking business with family. It’s not healthy to constantly talk about business matters, but you don’t want to forget important updates or ignore hard discussions. We have a family business meeting at least quarterly, and Miel and I are checking in at least weekly. We are continually looking for ways to improve our business systems, and good communication is essential.

I’ll be posting more very soon about our current financial realities, but I felt like I needed to share more of the backstory first.

What are the realities of living your dream?

Darcy (and Miel)

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Creating a Living Trust

pen estate planning living trust Sustainable family finances

As I get my financial and legal affairs in order, I’ve also taken the plunge and created my own living trust. This came about over the course of the last year or so, considering how I would want assets to be passed down to Clark and others. With my divorce, I’ve also had other legal changes that need to be recognized and dealt with (deeds changing over, moving bank accounts, finalizing taxes, etc), so the timing seemed right to deal with such matters.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is essentially your estate. This makes it clear what your requested asset allocation would be in the event of your death. It is also a way to avoid probate and make things easier for your family and ensure that your wishes are honored and that your family is planned for.

It has been helpful for me to consider how I would want my finances to be dealt with, and what I would want to go to various folks. Of course, we all want to live to a ripe old age, but planning for the possibility of death is essential to not only yourself, but also your family.

Life changes, plan for it to

I also have an interesting situation of wrapping this process up with a new partner. I started this process last December. In fact, between the time of making the appointment to talk about creating a living trust, and having the conversation with my lawyer, things had shifted in my life to the extent that I asked about how to plan for the possibility of a divorce. Now, as I end the process, I find myself in a new relationship that I see myself being in for the long term. I would have been planning for the possibility of such a relationship, but actually having the different scenarios in front of you is a bit different.

Avoid Taxes

The other reason to have a living trust is to help plan for avoidance of taxes. Luckily with the estate taxes as they are, and the number of people that I would leave various assets to, it would be unlikely for any of my benefactors to face taxes unless I have considerably more than I have today (which is hopefully the case).

Grow Up and Plan for Death

It definitely feels like I have my big girl pants on when planning for my trust. I created my first will when I left to Afghanistan in 2007, but articulating my wishes and looking at my finances in more details has been a helpful process. Similar to my views on a prenuptial agreement, I find it very helpful to have a plan for what you’d like things to look like in various situation or scenarios. What might change over the next ten to twenty years? It’s good to be prepared.

A big thanks to Lori Beight at Cascade Legal Planning for her help in setting up my trust.

Do you have a will or a living trust? Please leave us a comment to share about your process.

Be well,

Miel

 

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