Astoria or Bust!!

The view from the balcony off the girls' bedroom, McClure Park is across the street and downtown is just a few blocks away!

The view from the balcony off the girls’ bedroom, McClure Park is across the street and downtown is just a few blocks!

Wow, I can hardly believe that I haven’t written about our family’s big move to Astoria. Personally, it feels like a pretty incredible story and there have been tons of money conversations along the way and still pending…we are set to close on our house in Portland this week (thankfully able to rent back) and crossing our fingers as we negotiate some pretty significant repairs for “our new house” in Astoria.

For those of you I’m not connecting with on Facebook/LinkedIn, my hubby, Kevin, has accepted the Community Development Director position for the City of Astoria. It’s truly his dream job, and I can hardly wait to see the ripple effect of his work in the community. For those curious about the town, I wrote a brief history below.*

After momentarily being taken aback at the idea of moving, and how it wasn’t my current “vision” for our family, and once I opened myself up to the idea, I realized that it actually expands my vision of what’s possible for us. Yes, it’s a tremendous leap of faith and a gargantuan task, but the truth is that I’ve felt more in flow in the past few months than ever before.

Here are the highlights of just how serendipitous things have been throughout:

  • We actually decided in January when setting our family goals for the year that we were ready to sell our house…although at the time we were planning to move into Irvington (we even put an offer on a house a block from school that wasn’t accepted!)
  • So, we had already been repairing and purging and prepping to put our house on the market by May.
  • I was still on the fence about the idea of moving when Kevin left to interview, but in the two days while he was away I realized just what a golden opportunity this would be for us.
  • Kevin was given a verbal offer just the morning after he returned…we both ended up having to be patient for another month until the final contract was settled.
  • Knowing that we needed to sell/move relatively quickly, we put our house on the market the very same weekend that we went out to Astoria to go house hunting.
  • Once we were visiting Astoria with the intention of moving, I suddenly realized how similar it feels to Kalundborg where I lived in Denmark. Add the wind and rain, and I’m going to feel right at home!
  • Our place in Portland quickly to a sweet couple from Brooklyn for what seems to be the new going rate in town of $51k above asking. (The process has been seamless, we’ll very soon be renting back our house until early August).
  • The very first house that I fell in love with online is the one that we have currently pending and very much hope to buy (structural issues and all!) I’ve started thinking of it as Mit Eventyr Hus (My Fairy House). It’s an amazing Craftsman home built in 1915 for a local Finnish surgeon. On top of having a spacious upstairs, it has a library, parlor, sun porch, theater and a hot tub in the basement! The home inspector thought that the woodwork alone would cost around $250k to replicate today. In Portland’s market the house would surely be over a million dollars!
  • Serendipitously, the house is on 7th Street, and my Twin Sis, Miel, lives on 7th Avenue in Portland. Our father’s birthday was on the December 7th, her son’s birthday is on the June 7th…and we were born in 1977. Very auspicious and spooky cool indeed.
  • On top of all this, nearly everyone I meet suddenly has a connection to Astoria: neighbors, friends, coaches…the New Season’s clerk!

From our view, one of the only trade offs is the rainy climate…It rains about ten inches each month from November to January! So, on our list of plans/desires is to get some stylish galoshes and rain gear that will help us embrace the rainy season. 🙂 Our family is savoring the summer heat, knowing that we’ll soon be adapting to the coastal climate. Truthfully, Makenna actually loves the wind and rain, and even made up her own song on our first visit.

There’s so much to share about our move. As much as I will miss be just a mile from Miel and Clark, and our lovely Portland lifestyle, I am simply so excited about our new life ahead of us!

Thanks for all of your well wishes on our pending move!


*Astoria 101: For those of you only know of Astoria New York, aka Queens, Astoria Oregon is a beautiful maritime city at the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s the oldest white settlement west of the Rockies, and is near where Lewis and Clark first set up camp at Fort Clatsop. Interestingly, the town was booming a century ago and had nearly the same population as today. Astoria was the second largest city in Oregon with a population of 8,975. The population now is just over 10,000 (From the City of Astoria website). People talked about it being the “San Francisco of the North,” but apparently it rained too much in the winter for most people to stay.

The Financial Realities of Retirement

When you begin your first job, retirement seems so far away. It is easy to think that there are more priorities for your money than starting to save for a time so far head. Your immediate priorities may be to begin to pay off your student loan or buy your first automobile. As time goes by there is real estate then perhaps the costs of raising a family? Sometimes you might wonder whether there will ever be a time when you have a surplus at the end of each month when all your bills are paid. There is a time, however when you should sit down and think about how you are preparing for future retirement.

Set out the Picture

When you do that, you need to write down details of all your assets. It is obvious that you will include positive balances in any bank or retirement account. You may no longer have the equity in your real estate that you thought you had when the recession came along. However you need to include that equity, but it is important to be realistic. If you have investments, gold or silver or even valuable paintings you need to include these as well.

It is crucial that you take account of your financial liabilities including any personal loans, mortgages, and insurance. If you have Private Mortgage Protection (PMI) you should ask yourself whether you really need it; you certainly shouldn’t if you have paid off the bulk of your mortgage. That money could be better spent going into your retirement provisions.

Anything Obvious?

Once you have written everything down there may be some obvious courses of action. If you are carrying significant credit card balances and therefore paying a large amount of interest every month, you should be able to make savings. Today’s online lenders will listen to reasonable applications for loans. They are likely to approve an application if the applicant appears capable of making the installment payments throughout the term of the loan.

Obviously, if you earn more money each month, you will be able to put more way for the future. There are other ways to create more money by reducing your spending. You may always have had a new auto every few years. It is worth thinking whether you really need one so regularly. Indeed, used cars that have a good service record may be the answer without compromising on quality.


The closer you are to retirement the more urgent is the need to plan. Some people are quite rightly nervous about the prospect of not working and having enough money for a comfortable life. If they have lived in the same neighborhood for years then moving out of familiar surroundings is difficult. However, there are good reasons to reduce monthly bills once regular income has dropped. A smaller home is often the answer to the problem. Some people take the view that retiring in a nicer climate makes sense. It is not always wise to pick a regular holiday destination; living in such places full-time is different. However, it is certainly worth thinking about where to live in retirement and the financial implications involved.

Just Think Things Through

Everyone looks forward to a long and happy retirement. It does cost money to live in retirement. In some ways, it can be more expensive to live after finally finishing work and retirement. It’s not quite like being on permanent holiday, but it is possible to spend more during a day in retirement than when you were working full-time. As the years go by, life expectancy has increased. It is difficult to know how much money you will need to live in your later years because you will not know how many you have got.

That is all the more reason to think about doing as much as you can during your working life to provide for those later years. There is advice available, but ultimately it is down to the individual to decide the best way forward. What is certain is that it is far better to pay off any debt that is incurring high interest than to struggle on. If that means taking out a loan and dispensing with credit cards, then so be it.

The Importance of Business Insurance: Reasons to Invest

It doesn’t matter what industry your business operates in, it is crucial that you invest heavily in protecting and safeguarding its assets. People often only associate insurance with certain industries, however, you’d be pressed to find any enterprise than wouldn’t benefit from insuring their assets. There are numerous ways that you can achieve this, whether it is generalized cover or very specific insurance.

It’s important you consider the following when looking for insurance. It pays to do your research and spend time making sure you are getting the best deal. Otherwise, you may find that you either overspend or you are not covered for everything you need to be.

  1. Accident or Injury

Every workplace has casualties, whether you own a factory driven operation or one that is office based. Businesses that operate out of an office may think this type of cover doesn’t relate to them but that’s not necessarily the case. Even small local SMEs should look into this as it could cause issues if someone does get injured and you have no cover. The simple act of an employee injuring themselves in the workplace can have devastating consequences, both in terms of long-term sickness and financial damages. Public liability and other forms of insurance can help to protect your business and reduce pay-outs in instances where you are not at fault. Without this, you are liable to pay over the odds even for minor injuries.

  1. Assets – Physical and Virtual

Business has changed a lot with the growth of the internet. Now almost every business has a broader range of assets. Even a domain name can be worth millions and businesses need to know how to protect these kind of things. An ecommerce site could generate big revenues per day so any problems with the site could result in big losses. While there is an increased focus on virtual assets and online insurance, it is important to understand the importance of protecting your businesses physical assets as well. These include anything you own, from your main office space to any facilities that you may own. Insurance coverage can protect you in the event of fire, vandalism and even acts of international terrorism. While this may seem like an unnecessary expense, it is one that can deliver huge peace of mind and it is also particularly ideal for firms with international offices. This may be more relevant to certain industries. For example, if you work in the energy sector, cover such as that provided by Catlin, protects you for working in that sector, detailing specific things related to energy and power.

  1. The right Image

Creating the right image for your business is very important. Customers need to be reassured that you are a serious business and insurance is a clear indicator of that. It’s more important than ever to gain the trust of your target market so you need to make an effort in any way you can.

How the Pension Reforms Will Affect You

The 6th April marked the official introduction of some major reforms to the pensions system. Investment charges have been re-examined, an auto-enrolment scheme has been rolled out, and the ability to pull money from pensions has been completely redefined. With practically every aspect of saving for retirement scrutinised and changed by the government, almost all of us stand to benefit from reassessing our pension arrangements in light of these alterations, so which of these changes do you most need to know about?

Increased Freedom

One of the most important changes implemented by the Conservative government has been to give people greater power over how they spend, save or invest their retirement pots. You’ll now find that you’re able to access your entire pension fund from the age of 55. Additionally, you’ll no longer be limited to removing 25 per cent of your pension pot tax-free on only one occasion; you’ll be able to make as many withdrawals as you wish.

Free Guidance

An additional move by the government has been to introduce free money guidance to advise people on their options and how the changes will affect them. Although these sessions will not offer personalised advice, they will provide expert general guidance to help inform your decisions.

New Products

These changes will also mean that a number of new pension products will be made available to those considering their retirements. New income drawdown schemes, in particular, look likely to see a surge in popularity thanks to changes in their format. These alterations will mean that they’re no longer only available to those with a certain amount of other guaranteed income, and that people may be able to invest in them alongside an existing work pension.

Tax Opportunities

These reforms have been accompanied by a flurry of tax changes, foremost among them the ability for pensioners to pass on the remainder of their pension pots to loved ones tax-free. Many will welcome this, as the children of deceased pensioners must currently pay a 55 per cent tax on their inheritance. Now, those with a parent under 75 will not pay any tax at all, whilst those with an older parent will only be taxed at their current income tax level.

Increased State Pensions

State pensions have also been altered, which means a 2.5 per cent increase in income for those currently receiving them. This means that those reaching retirement can now expect £115.95 per week. A ‘triple lock’ has also been introduced, which means that payments will increase by whatever percentage is the highest out of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent. In addition, the two-tier system also looks set to be phased out, with the intention that everyone should receive a ‘flat rate’ state pension of between £144 and £155 a week by 2021.

How will these changes affect you?

Talking about Earth Day with your kids

I’m blown away by a video that poet and rapper, Prince Ea, did for Stand for Trees. It is quite simply the most poetic expression of pure truth, here on Earth Day 2015. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch this incredible call to action…then continue the conversation in the comments.

I showed my kids the video this morning, and I think they were really moved. I realized recently that I’ve been so wrapped up in raising three kiddos and launching my part-time businesses that I haven’t really had “the talk” with them about environmental issues and my previous (and now regenerated) passion for sustainable living. I’m sure there are more conversations to follow, but this was a good starting place for a conversation.

After twenty-five years of calling myself an environmentalist, I’m finally ready to take my sustainability commitment to the next level. It’s unconscionable not to at least give this planet our best try, and I actually think it will be inspiring to create a “global warming of our hearts.” I know my kids would love to be part of the solution and have bright and shining spirits to share with the world. This is just the beginning, a new leaf.

I wasn’t familiar with Stand for Trees, but there website is really impressive and there programs and impacts are explained very clearly. They seem to have a really savvy approach. I’m hopefully they will be part of the solution. Green Empowerment, the non-profit organization Miel leads, is another group poised to make a powerful positive impact on our planet. Their work is already underway, we just need to support them.

So, I’m committing this Earth Day 2015 to offset my family’s carbon footprint 100% by 2020.

Sorry, but I’m not ready to apologize.

What are you going to stand for?

How will you offset your impact and work together to fix this thing?

With light and love,