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Digital Nomad-ing and Answering All Your FIRE Healthcare Questions

Health insurance for early retirement? Is that even a thing? If it is, it doesn’t seem self-evident in the United States. For most early retirees within the USA, you have a couple of options for healthcare—make a low enough income to qualify for government-subsidized healthcare or pay an exorbitant amount of money to either buy healthcare upfront or pay out of pocket any time you get sick. But, that’s not a terribly safe way to live, especially when you’re working with a (relatively) fixed income.

Throughout their world travels, Amy and Tim from GoWithLess have had to learn this the hard way. They were originally insured on a healthshare plan but found it far riskier than they would have liked. Now, as they travel throughout the United States, Mexico, and the world, they’re making sure they’ve covered all bases so a random surgery or two doesn’t force them back into the working world.

Early retirement health insurance is one of the biggest reasons that financial independence-chasers stay at their jobs, so if you’re itching to get your post-work-life travel on, listen to this whole episode. In it, Amy and Tim drop gems about finding health (and auto) insurance when retiring early (or abroad). They also discuss the best questions to ask a healthcare provider or broker, what to look for in a healthcare plan, and how to save money with digital nomad insurance.

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, show number 279, where we check back in with Amy and Tim from GoWithLess, and see how their travel around the world retirement is going in the middle of COVID.

Amy:
So being financially independent is one of our biggest assets. Being healthy is one of our biggest assets, but being flexible is certainly on the very shortlist. And we have found that we are so flexible that we’re kind of like yoga teachers because the pivoting and adaptability we’ve had to exhibit is mind-blowing.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello. My name is Mindy Jensen, and today I am flying solo. I am here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else, to introduce you to every money story because I truly believe financial freedom is attainable for everyone, no matter when or where you are starting. That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big-time investments in assets like real estate, or start your own business, we’ll help you launch your financial goals and get money out of the way, so you can launch yourself towards your dreams. Our regular listeners will know that Scott usually says that, but he’s off being CEO today. So I am talking to Amy and Tim by myself.
Joining me today are Amy and Tim Rutherford from GoWithLess. We last chatted with them in January 2019, on episode 57. Amy and Tim shared their money story of being high income earners, who also happened to be high savers. They thought they’d be able to retire by age 55, but within one year of learning about FIRE, they were financially independent. They were really big savers.
They had been spending $115,000 per year living in a big house and thinking that they were being super frugal. If you listen to their original episode, I said I wasn’t going to judge them, but I totally judged them because after discovering FIRE, they cut their spending down two $36,000 a year, living in a paid off townhouse and missing absolutely nothing about their former life. In fact, their new life, their retirement life was going to be filled with travel, both domestic and international, house sitting and pet sitting for complete strangers all around the world.
Amy and Tim, welcome back to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, and let us pick up where we left off. In the beginning of 2019, you were waiting for your youngest daughter to graduate high school, and then you were good going to get rid of everything, sell the townhouse and travel the world. Everything happened the same way you played it, right?

Amy:
Absolutely.

Tim:
Exactly.

Amy:
Yes.

Mindy:
Okay. From episode 279, thank you. Okay. So what happened?

Amy:
So 2019, we still did a massive amount of traveling. We spent [crosstalk 00:02:58] well over a 100 days traveling. We had a house sit in the French Alps that summer. We spent some time in Northern Italy. Our daughter did graduate from high school and not only did she graduate, but she became completely independent herself, which was really surprising, at the age of 18. We weren’t expecting that. We were expecting to give her quite a bit of help, but she went off to Boston and just became independent. She’s now a student there and she just kind of enrolled a couple years after she graduated. And so we are paying for her education, but still, we are very proud of that for her.
So we got rid of most of our stuff in 2019, that included every piece of furniture, every lamp, every rug, most of our stuff. And we got down to a 5×10 storage unit by the end of 2019. And in the very first week of January 2020, we sold our town home and we hit the road with plans to go… a plan all 2020 to go from Provence and Scotland, to Kuala Lumpur. Well, of course, all of that changed from COVID and we had a giant pivot.

Tim:
Yeah. I can’t remember in our episode, if we talked about the fact that we were moving to Texas. So we moved to Texas, we now domicile in Texas.

Amy:
That’s right.

Tim:
We have a service there that allows us to do that. And so we are officially citizens of Texas, so we did that. And then like Amy said, I think we had over 200… did you already say this? Over 200 nights in houses that we had planned for 2020, and every single one of those-

Amy:
Everyone.

Tim:
Every single one of those fell apart with COVID. So we had to rearrange our year based around what happened with COVID. And so we got lots of comments on our YouTube channel about the, “You need to buy a house, you need to move in, you need to buy an RV, you need to do something different.” And so we were thrilled to not have those things in our life.
So we like to say that we were… Obviously, this lifestyle is something we were designed to be doing, otherwise in COVID I think most people would’ve just given it up and said, “Okay, this is kind of crazy,” and buy a place and move back in. But we are more thrilled than ever about our lifestyle.

Mindy:
Well, let’s remember back. Let’s go in the Wayback Machine to March 2020, where all of a sudden, everything in America shut down. I remember talking to you and you’re like, “We’re stuck in New Orleans.” That was like the height of the New Orleans, the original New Orleans COVID outbreak, because they had just had Mardi Gras, and everybody didn’t know to wear masks, it wasn’t a thing.
It’s so hard to remember back then, when people weren’t washing their hands every five seconds and doing hand sanitizer, and wear masks, and social distancing. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Were you there for Mardi Gras? I can’t remember.

Tim:
No.

Amy:
Well, I’m going to… so when we launched-

Tim:
By the way, this memory’s very vivid for us.

Amy:
Yeah. It’s not way back. It feels like it was yesterday and a decade ago, but it’s crystal clear for us. So when we sold our home at the beginning of January, we drove, we did keep our car and we drove… and I’ll just kind of fast forward. We just sold that car three days ago, or a couple days ago. So we no longer have a car.
So we got in the car, drove to Texas. And when Tim says we became residents of Texas, I think it’s important to mention, we do not own a home or rent anything in Texas, just because it’s called domiciling in Texas. And the way we look at it, if you don’t have a home, then go find a cheaper state to be your home in terms of taxes. So Texas doesn’t have state income taxes. We don’t have a home, we’re not drawing on their services. So we became Texans. This is Tim’s former home, where he grew up.
So we get to Texas, we took a cruise out of New Orleans. We kind of kicked off our journey and our adventure with a cruise in mid-January after we became official Texans, drove over to New Orleans, and we had a 10-day cruise or something, got off that cruise, left our car behind in New Orleans for two months, went to the West Coast.
COVID was a big problem in Asia, but it was not… no one was even thinking it was here. This is January 2020. So we were in the Bay Area, California. We were in Maui, Arizona, traveling all over the place. And we were both… Actually, I was sicker than I have ever been during that time, and it is absolutely possible. So we weren’t in New Orleans for COVID… Sorry, for Mardi Grass, but we were in New Orleans at the end of January, and it is possible that we had COVID.
We took antigen tests, antibody tests on the other side, in June when they were readily available. We did not test positively, but they may have been in our… we will never know if we had COVID at that time, but we were very, very sick. And we came back to our car two months later in New Orleans, sheltered in place there. And-

Tim:
So when we showed up in New Orleans was literally the day or the day-

Amy:
The day.

Tim:
They started shutdown. So basically everything was closing and we were in a friend’s place. Our intention was to be there for like a week and then to move on. And so, as things started to shut down, we weren’t even sure that we were going to have a place to sleep because they were talking about hotels being closed, Airbnbs being closed. There was no place to really go.

Amy:
We were scared.

Tim:
Yeah. So our friend, we worked out a deal with our friend and we were able to stay there for… how long were we there?

Amy:
We were there for six or seven weeks, and that’s a Denver friend who had a second home in New Orleans. That’s her retirement idea, her place to be. So she wasn’t there. It was just us in New Orleans, and it turns out I’ve only been to New Orleans, passing through for a cruise sort of a thing, maybe twice, so I didn’t really know it.
And it turns out that New Orleans was absolutely beautiful. We were there from March 14th, I think it was, for six or seven weeks. And it was heavenly because we were near the big park. We went out every night and took a five mile walk every single day for our time there, unbelievably beautiful.

Tim:
It was.

Amy:
Yeah. So [crosstalk 00:08:59] Obviously, there was no partying.

Tim:
Yeah.

Amy:
I’m not a party person anyway, but I’m a big walker. And we loved seeing cool things and beautiful trees, and it had that in space.

Tim:
This was early COVID. So this is when people were leaving their mail on the front porch for weeks and having food delivered and leaving it on the porch for a day or whatever, so we were trying to figure all that out. This was all brand new for us as well, as well as our neighbors. And so it was kind of a crazy time.

Amy:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Yeah.

Tim:
So time to reconfigure our life.

Mindy:
Well, so let’s take yet another step back and look at this. You spent the end of 2019 setting up all of your travel for 2020.

Tim:
Yeah.

Mindy:
You had the whole year planned out. You were going to go here. I’m assuming you had several plane trips already booked.

Amy:
Yeah.

Mindy:
You were going to go here and then move there, and then move there. And everything travel related was completely shut down. Airlines canceled flights. The Airbnb canceled every stay, returned all the money from the hosts to the guests, it was a big uproar. We are BiggerPockets, we talk about real estate investing, short-term real estate investing is a big part of conversation on the site, and people were in an uproar over this.
And on the one hand, I can understand this. You make the rules for your short-term rental. And if you have a cancellation, if you have a no cancellation policy and no refund policy, then the person doing the canceling doesn’t get their money back. On the other hand, I can see why Airbnb did it, because if the guests lose their money, basically they can’t… it’s not their fault, it’s not the host’s fault. There was no good solution to this.

Amy:
No.

Tim:
Yeah. As a matter of fact, so after we left Louisiana, we went to Tennessee and then ultimately, we were in Asheville, North Carolina. We stayed at Airbnb there, and because of COVID, we called it COVID pricing. We got a great deal for… we were there for-

Amy:
Another six or seven weeks.

Tim:
Another six or seven weeks, we were in Asheville, North Carolina. We got COVID pricing, which was fantastic. We considered going back to Asheville this summer, to that same area [crosstalk 00:11:09].

Amy:
A year later.

Tim:
And the price point was unaffordable versus what it was during the COVID pricing. So we are having a hard time right now in the states finding affordable Airbnbs. It’s like, things are twice as much as they were-

Amy:
Yeah.

Tim:
I guess pre-COVID from a rental standpoint, so it’s kind of [crosstalk 00:11:26] The market for Airbnbs is tough for us right now.

Mindy:
Yeah. Well, what did you do? You sheltered in place in New Orleans for six weeks, and then you went to… you hopped over to the East Coast, but you had an entire year’s worth of travel and you have no house. You do still have a car at this time. So what do you do?

Tim:
So we had intended to be in Europe and we had intended to be in Asia, all that fell apart. We were sort of stuck in the country. So do you want to go through the list of where we were?

Amy:
Yeah. So what I’ll do is I’ll… So it wasn’t just… as people remember, the idea was this was not going to be forever. This was going to be two weeks, four weeks. So first, we canceled the beginning. We started in the north, in the United States, driving around. We were going to sell our car June 1st, 2020.
So first part is the US stuff, that canceled first. Then we wondered, “Are we going to our Europe plans on June 1st? We need to kind of make a plan.” We had a flight, we had all kinds of things booked. We had houses, Airbnbs, flights, totally booked. So at some point we needed to make alternative plans and cut bait.
So we didn’t just cancel like forever upfront. It was in waves and in stages. So first, we canceled the US because that was up through June 1st. And then I don’t know, six weeks in advance of June 1st, we canceled all of Europe and had to find a plan B for that, which we ended up having the plan B, a plan C, a plan D. We’re now at like plan Q, Q, Q.
And then we had Asia. We were going to go to Asia in November 2020, Tokyo, Malaysia were to start, and those were all booked. And we didn’t cancel that. In the early part of summer, we were still wondering whether we were doing that in something like August or something, “Are we going to Asia in November?” And we ended up canceling that.
And so, we’ve had these waves of where if we make a plan and we are just now… I say that we are so… We’ve learned that our biggest assets… actually, there’s several biggest assets. So being financially independent is one of our biggest assets. Being healthy is one of our biggest assets, but being flexible is certainly on the very shortlist. And we have found that we are so flexible that we’re kind of like yoga teachers, because the pivoting and adaptability we’ve had to exhibit is mind-blowing.

Tim:
I think it’s also important though, we didn’t lose a nickel from any of our travel cancellations.

Amy:
Yeah.

Tim:
So everything that canceled, we got every single penny back.

Amy:
Well, we got a credit that we subsequently used.

Tim:
That’s right.

Amy:
Yeah.

Tim:
So we were able to use the credits.

Amy:
So we didn’t lose money, which was really good.

Tim:
So after we left New Orleans, we went to Tennessee. We were there for how long?

Amy:
We were in a house sit at a farm.

Tim:
House sit, farm. That was super cool.

Amy:
That was great. If you want to be sheltering a place, a farm in rural Tennessee is the place to do it. It was awesome. It was my first time on a farm and we’re city people. I’m a super city girl. So cows and pigs and donkeys, and mules, and chickens, and all that. And it was awesome.

Tim:
And we did our Airbnb in Asheville, North Carolina. We were there for, again about six weeks. Fantastic. That was during the summer, perfect weather. They have great beer in North Carolina, or in Asheville specifically. So that was a great time.
Then we moved across the country. We drove, we kept our car. We were supposed to be selling our car in June as we went to Europe. We kept our car and decided to keep it until we just sold it a few weeks ago. So we drove from Asheville through Denver, on our way to Washington State. So we were briefly in Denver for about a week.

Amy:
Denver was our former home.

Tim:
We saw friends. I think we saw you Mindy, potentially, when we were there last summer in August. And then we drove up to Washington to Mount Vernon was basically where we were in Washington State. We were there for-

Amy:
Beautiful part. It was actually the water. We were there for two months in north of Seattle, about 90 minutes. So we had no idea that Seattle would be that gorgeous in August. It was ideal.

Tim:
Yep. And we made our way down south. We went to LA area for a bit.

Amy:
For a month, for a house sit.

Tim:
For a house sit. And then we were in Mexico briefly, in Puerto Penasco, which is right outside of Phoenix. We were there for, again, three weeks.

Amy:
Three weeks, yeah.

Tim:
Three weeks.

Amy:
We drove down there. That was just a rental.

Tim:
Then we came back to Los Angeles, and then we were in LA briefly. And then we went to Phoenix, Arizona for about two weeks.

Amy:
Yeah, for Christmas, for a house sit.

Tim:
And then that wrapped up our year. So that was our whirlwind year.

Mindy:
Well, that’s just 2020. We’re recording this in November 2021. It’s not going to release until 2022, but what have you done this year?

Amy:
I’ll take that part. So we have had 70% of our days of 2021 have been house sitting. House sitting was not expected to be such a huge part of our story and our plan, but because the US this year has become so expensive, and we’re just kind of waiting for the world to open. So we’re enjoying the ride and loving it along the way, but this is not… we weren’t supposed to be in the United States.
And also, the United States has gotten much more expensive in 2021 than 2020. So we didn’t want to be paying those high prices for a place we weren’t really dying… this wasn’t our first choice. So we took on a lot of house sits. So we started January, just north of Austin, Texas for a month at a house sit. A friend of ours went and volunteered in South Africa for six weeks, starting in February.
So we went down to her place and kind of paid her a nominal rent to be there. We drove over to the Washington, D.C. area where we had three months at a house sit in Washington, D.C. which was great because my dad and stepmom live very, very close. So we were able to spend a lot of time with them. One of the biggest silver linings of COVID for us.
And after we left the Washington, D.C. area, that was at the end of middle of June, things have been breakneck speed since then. We have learned a lot of lessons. We learned lessons constantly after every sit, every stop. Well, since the middle of June, we have been quick traveling and we are suffering from it. It’s our own choice and it’s our own problem, it’s our own doing, but it is our reality.
And we have all these things in the books that were too… So what we keep learning over and over is that this nomadic life, it is not a vacation. We still do… Like here we are talking with you. We are in a resort hotel here in Mexico. We’re doing a podcast. We do a weekly video every week. We have an active Facebook group. We still are in touch with friends and family. We pay bills. We do all kinds of stuff that are normal people activities. What people do on weekends, we’re kind of doing that. [inaudible 00:18:16] the week, we’re taking long walks. We’re not just on holiday going to museums and the beach every day of our life.
So the quick moving around, and I’ll tell you, one of the biggest surprises is how much effort it takes to plan where we’re going, and not just planning where we’re going, but there’s other dynamics. Things are twice as expensive. That is a humongous factor that we would not have been able to predict before COVID. Countries are changing the rules constantly.
So cities and states are changing the rules in the United States constantly. So the idea of like, here’s where we’re even going, even during COVID, that’s changing all the time. So the idea of how long it takes for us to figure out where we’re going, takes up hundreds of hours a week maybe. But I will say, so many people who look at our life say, “That sounds awful.”
The thing is we actually enjoy that. So if you didn’t enjoy it, this would be a horrible life because it is a huge chunk of our time.

Tim:
It’s like a big puzzle that we’re trying to solve all the time.

Amy:
It is. It is. [crosstalk 00:19:22] Yeah. So we also get Airbnbs and flights, and weather.

Tim:
It’s worth mentioning that Amy and I both had health crises. How do you say that word?

Amy:
Crisises? I don’t know.

Tim:
Multiple crisises. I don’t know.

Mindy:
Crises.

Tim:
Anyway, we’ve had health issues and-

Amy:
Big ones.

Tim:
I went to the hospital in December 2020. I had diverticulitis, and so that was sort of some exciting… a very expensive exercise.

Amy:
For three hours, that’s it. Three hours.

Tim:
For three hours, but very, very pricey. And then Amy had some surgery in… that was February?

Amy:
No, it was early March.

Tim:
Early March, when she had surgery. So we had all this going on.

Mindy:
Yeah. You’ve been in the US the whole time.

Tim:
That’s right.

Mindy:
You had US surgeries and US hospitals. So yeah, that’s why I [crosstalk 00:20:06].

Amy:
And Tim did not have surgery with that. He just had a three hour in… just a visit at the hospital.

Tim:
[crosstalk 00:20:10] But that was difficult in the middle of COVID, just simply getting in to be seen was a challenge because the hospitals were very, very busy. And so at the time, we had some weird-

Amy:
Liberty HealthShares.

Tim:
Liberty HealthShares. Last year, in 2021, we’re on an ACA plan, but we had Liberty HealthShares. We had just-

Amy:
In 2020, we no longer have them

Tim:
We had just changed to a higher deductible. They don’t call the deductible version of Liberty. So every single [crosstalk 00:20:36] that I spent on this hospital visit was out of pocket. So I think even if we had it, it wouldn’t have been much different, but anyway, it was several thousand dollars just to be in the hospital for a few hours.

Mindy:
Okay. Well, I’ve got a lot of questions then about that too, but I want to get back to the quick traveling. You said we’ve been quick traveling since June at breakneck speed. What does quick traveling mean to you?

Amy:
So I’m going to go… So less than a month would be breakneck.

Mindy:
Oh.

Amy:
But it’s not a month… So I’ll give you the super duper auction years version of this. So we were two-and-a-half weeks in Westchester, New York. We flew down to Mexico. We had four nights in Queretaro Mexico, four weeks in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, five nights in Guanajuato, Mexico.
We flew back to get our car up in Philadelphia. We spent two-and-a-half, three weeks in Philadelphia, drove down to see some of my family in Charlotte. We were there for five nights, took the car to Charleston for three nights, Savannah for two nights, drove over to Austin on a road trip. We were in Austin for a week. Drove up to Denver, left our car by behind in Denver at the airport, flew to San Francisco, Bay Area, had eight nights in Sonoma.
Another house sit in San Francisco for two-and-a-half weeks. Did three nights in Santa Cruz with friends, back to a house sit in San Francisco, Denver for a week, and then we got here three days ago.

Tim:
And that is just as exhausting as it sounds.

Amy:
It is exhausting.

Mindy:
So yeah, I have listened to people talk about how they want to travel all the time. And my thought is I don’t want to do that. I like having a routine. I like having my own bed to sleep in. I like to go visit, but I like to come home. What you’re describing though, is kind of how I travel. Two weeks in one place is a very long time for me.

Amy:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Four nights in one place is normal. A quick travel to me is like every other night, and it took a while for me to convince my husband to stop making plans like this, but he’d be like, “Oh, we’re going to go here for a night. And then we’re going to change hotels and go here for two nights, and we’re going to change hotel.” I’m like, “No, can we just go to one place? There’s so much to see, even in a small town. Let’s just park and be in one place.” I don’t want to pack my bags and move around a lot.

Amy:
Oh my goodness. So much packing of the bags in that story.

Tim:
This has been a big lesson for us. So I think that when you’re on vacation, you’re trying to eke every bit of just… I want to do everything there is to do, and I want to see everything there is to see, and I’m trying to squeeze it all in. And so we have that same compulsion, but we’re realizing that it just doesn’t work with us.

Amy:
[crosstalk 00:23:22] normal vacationing, right? So this nomad thing, we’ve been doing it for close to two years, but there’s so much learning, I’m going to say. So we’re really torn because… so we could have spent more time in Charlotte with my family, and then we would’ve skipped Savannah and Charleston. We really enjoyed our time there. It was way too quick, and we were hoping to kind of… what we’re hoping to do is cross some places off of our list.
The reality is we have crossed nothing off of our list. Even the places that we’ve spent a long time in haven’t been crossed off our list. So we want to go… that’s why we’re nomads. We have more of the world to see than we have time left to see it. So we’ve cut out the sitting on our couch at home because we want to go see all the places, but what you say of like, I am also a homebody. I love my own home. I love coming home.
So I am an unlikely nomad, and we both like routine, but we do prefer… I have these two sides of, I love a homebody routine, my stuff, I’m a nomad who loves stuff, no nomads say that. But the other side is, say we’re addicted to new and that exciting newness, and the idea that we have limited time to do it, compels us to… that is more the scales tip where the more stable routine takes a backseat. Now we’re just trying to establish some of that on the road.

Tim:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Oh, that’s interesting. And if you’re traveling, changing places every month, that’s going to be a little bit different than every couple of days. How much lead time do you have for a house sit?

Tim:
So it varies. So it’s kind of all over the place. So we like the idea of having a plan. So right now, we’re kind of quasi plan. We have a framework basically throughout September next year. So we’re waiting, we’re intending to go to FinCon. FinCon’s up in the air in terms of where they’re going to be, but we have a framework for that together.
So with how house sitting, we kind of like the sits that show up that are a little further out, because that also means that the homeowner’s more of a planner, and so we might be more in sync with them. So things that show up that are next week sort of thing, number one, we’re probably planned out, and also the person who’s putting something out, that’s going to be there in a week, may not be the kind of… person, that just sounds bad, but the kind of sit in we want to sign up for just because of the-

Amy:
It depends on the reason though. If they had a sitter cancel and left high and dry, that’s different. But if they’re like a last minute, “Oh, let me find a house sitter for my two-month sit in a week,” [crosstalk 00:26:05] because we’re really like a plan kind of people, as much as we can be, I guess, in this life. So that wouldn’t be a personality fit potential, as much.

Tim:
So we’re currently… What is it? The middle of November right now, we’re planned through the middle of January.

Mindy:
Okay.

Tim:
So we don’t really have a gap-

Amy:
Every day.

Tim:
From January, basically to the middle of March that we intend to fill, for a variety of reasons. We don’t have that planned yet, but probably within the next two weeks, we’ll get all that set.

Mindy:
Okay.

Amy:
So we are learning to be more comfortable with having not being so planned. So it’s kind of nice having some chunks of time available so we can have serendipity into our lives. So as Tim mentions, we’re totally planned out for the next two months through January 14th.
Right now we’re wide open for two months, and then we are pretty planned for the next two months. And then we’re wide open for six weeks. So that just allows us to fill in and-

Tim:
There’s also the-

Amy:
And we’ve gotten comfortable with that.

Tim:
There’s this see-saw. So we like to be planned out, but at the same time, when things show up that are amazing, if we’re too far planned out, we can’t go do this amazing thing. So that’s something that we want to have, is this flexibility in our life to make that happen. But once we’ve committed to something, if we’ve committed to a house sit, we’re going to be there.
And so we have to play with that. So it’s always an ebb and flow of what we’ve got going on, and trying to figure out what the right thing is to do from a planning standpoint.

Mindy:
That makes sense. So what happens if you have this gap you’ve got… Having your holiday season planned out way in advance is smart. Those house sits like the Christmas house sit on San Diego Beach is probably going to get snapped up pretty quick. So you’re going to want to grab that as soon as you can and hold on for dear life. I would.

Tim:
Yes.

Mindy:
You don’t have anything planned in January. What happens if just nobody needs a house sit? Where do you go when you have no place to go?

Tim:
So this is something we’ve actually… So at all moments, there’s a place to go. It’s just, there’s a cost disadvantage. If we wait till the last minute and we can’t find something, then we can always go stay in a hotel. We can stay in an Airbnb. So in the middle of COVID, it was sort of scary because we weren’t sure. All of our options seemed to be, “We may be sleeping in our car.” And so, that was-

Amy:
Not an RD.

Tim:
That was scary in the COVID, but in our current life, it seems like there’s always a place to go and be. It just might cost us more money to be there. And matter of fact, so when we were coming into Colorado, we didn’t seem to be in Colorado for a month. We were going to be there for the film festival. We were going to see friends and family and do a lot of work.
Well, it was looking like to be in a situation that we wanted to be in Colorado, in an Airbnb is going to cost us about $4,000 for the month to be there in an Airbnb.

Mindy:
Oh.

Tim:
So what we decided is that, “Well, we’re just going to be in Colorado for a short while and we’ll pack up and go to Mexico instead.” So that’s why we’re in Mexico right now.

Amy:
Early.

Tim:
Early.

Amy:
Early.

Tim:
We had planned to be here in the middle of November, but we went ahead and decided to come down because it was going to be more affordable here than to be in Colorado. And so we always have this sort of, if you wait till the last minute and nothing good comes together, there’s the option of staying in a place that’s going to cost you some money, but we’ve never… what’s the shortest time we’ve ever been planned out? Two weeks maybe?

Amy:
Maybe about a month, would be kind of on the short end. So we weren’t intending to be house sitting all of the time. We were intending to be house sitting no more than 50% of the time. And as we move forward, we are becoming a little more particular about the houses that we take on. So when you mentioned, like you can’t find a house that we’re looking for, we’re not looking for a lot of dogs anymore. Our sleep is something that we’ve had a challenge with, and it’s not so much the sleeping in different beds, but it’s kind of being on a pet schedule that isn’t our own that really affects us.
So we want to be careful that we’re not just doing pet sit to pet sit that requires us to be following the pets’ routines. So the Airbnb kind of stuff allows us to live on our own timeline and that’s been very valuable. So I think as we look into our future, that we will not be at those 70% house sits anymore. I think we’re looking to be under 50%, but still quite a bit of it, but just not like we house sit or nothing. I think Airbnb is heavily in our plan now.

Tim:
I also think, so at the beginning of the episode, you mentioned that we were spending about $36,000 a year. We have roughly been spending that for the prior six years.

Amy:
Six years.

Tim:
This year, because of all of our medical issues and a variety of other things, we’re going to not make this number happen. Also, we’re going to give ourselves a raise next year. So we’ve always lived way below our retirement means, if you’re utilizing the 4% rule or whatever, we’re living way below that. And so we’re going to give ourselves a raise. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, but we’re going to have some more money to spend next year.
Also, inflation obviously in the states is a big thing, and we’ve never made an adjustment for inflation to our spending.

Amy:
Or we’ve never given ourselves a raise. We’ve been retired since 2015.

Tim:
We feel very justified in our raise, but we’re going to do that.

Mindy:
Everybody gets a cost of living raise, or they should.

Amy:
[inaudible 00:31:14] for six years.

Mindy:
Okay. Your raise is granted. You can be up to-

Tim:
Thank you.

Mindy:
$38,000 now and change. That brings me to my next question. What does your retirement account balance look like now after an unbelievable year, but also a lot of unplanned expenses? And when I say unbelievable year, I mean like an unbelievable stock market year. The stock market has been on an absolute tear. So I’m expecting with your cheapness, frugality, that you will have had some increases, but you’ve also spent a lot of money.
And I don’t need specific numbers if you don’t want to share them, but percentages, are you up? Are you down? You retired in 2015, you should be reducing your account balances by pulling money out, right?

Tim:
I’ll tell a little… So in 2019, when we launched, we sold our house. And so all of our money, all of the proceeds from our house sale in 2020 that-

Amy:
Did you say we owned it outright?

Tim:
I didn’t say that. So we owned our house outright, our little town home. And when we sold it in 2020, all those proceeds went into cash. We didn’t put it immediately in the market. And then March rolls around. So we had have all this cash from that, and I made some bad decisions. I sold a little bit because I just… the pandemic was scary. And it’s like, “I don’t see how the upside of this is going to happen.”
I didn’t sell a lot, but I sold a little bit, and then I’ve subsequently put some money back in the market. But basically, our situation has looked like this throughout. So we’ve never… I’m going to say we have close to a 30% gain over the course of the year over, I guess [crosstalk 00:32:51]

Amy:
Over the year, but since we retired-

Tim:
Since we retired.

Amy:
Close to a 100% since we retired. [crosstalk 00:32:56] When you consider that we sold our home. Yeah. So from 2015 to now, we are close to a 100% increase. And that, like I said, we did have a paid off home in that mix, that is part of the mix.

Tim:
Yeah. So overall, it’s been a great year for us from a financial standpoint, just because of the market and what it’s done, certainly.

Amy:
And I do want to mention the income that we make from our, I guess, side hustle. So we kind of alluded a little bit that we do a YouTube channel and people will say, “You aren’t really retired because you have a YouTube channel.” We’re very transparent with how much we make. We report it every year. We used to report it every month, but all of our business, everything that we do, we make under $10,000 between the two of us, putting out a video every week. We have a lot of things in the mix.
We don’t sell things like merchandise and Patreon, and all that stuff. So we still consider ourselves retired, and I think that when we consider the cameras and web hosting and all that stuff, I think that we actually pay to do our YouTube. But the money that comes in from those activities does offset a little bit, at least the cost of our [inaudible 00:34:05].

Tim:
Oh, I have a confession to make also. I invested in crypto, so I have a $100 in Ethereum and a $100 in Bitcoin. So far, they’re off about 11%.

Amy:
You just did that last week.

Tim:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Wait. No Shiba Inu coin or Dodgecoin, or any of that garbage?

Tim:
Nothing that crazy. Bitcoin’s crazy enough. Isn’t there Ethereum? I don’t know.

Mindy:
Okay. So it’s like you are reading my mind because my next question was, what does your investment mix look like?

Tim:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy:
Bonds versus stocks, versus index funds. And then I typed in, I have a little show notes too, I remember what I’m going to ask. And it said, “Versus crypto.” I typed that in as a joke, because I didn’t think you would be into crypto at all.

Amy:
We like to think we’re 28 years old. We’re like digital nomads [inaudible 00:34:51].

Tim:
I don’t know if this offends people or not. I think it’s sort of like gambling, and so it’s like, I figured just the kind of money I have in it, if I lost it, it’s no big deal. It’s just sort of a fun thing to watch it and see what’s going to happen there.
The space seems to be more and more legitimate every day. Banks are getting into it. So it’s kind of, I don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s just so-

Amy:
It’s fun money.

Tim:
It’s fun money.

Amy:
And we don’t have any individual stocks.

Tim:
We don’t have any… No, we don’t. And so-

Amy:
No real estate holding.

Tim:
We did a video last year sometime, talking about sort of our asset allocation and how our mix works, and how our spending works. And I can’t remember off the top of my head, how all that sort of plays together.

Amy:
But we do have different buckets of pre-tax, post-tax. As an example, we have three kids and I save every single penny of my income, it was taxed, and it went into our accounts. That’s part of what we’re living on now. So we had different buckets of when do we need this money? It’s the post-tax money, is mostly in VTSAX and some bonds.
The money for the near-term that we are using to live on, that is also a lot of VTI, VTSAX. We’re heavily in low cost index funds, like a couple bond funds. So varies-

Tim:
Speaking of non-risky investments, I bought I bonds a few weeks ago. So this is a… Treasury Direct sells these bonds and they’re adjusted for inflation. So they’re earning like 7% for the next half a year. So this is a phenomenal, very secure investment. So I have that. The max you can put in, in a given year is $10,000 per person. So we have $20,000 in theses I bonds.

Mindy:
That are giving 7%.

Tim:
Correct.

Amy:
But only on $10,000 a person. So you’re not going-

Tim:
Yes, but that’s the current yield, and then it adjusts. Anyway, it’s something that people should, I think look at.

Mindy:
Do you have to hold it for more than the six months?

Tim:
Yeah. So you have to hold it for a year at a minimum.

Mindy:
Okay.

Tim:
And then I think it’s five years after that. Otherwise, you’re penalized, I think it’s a quarter’s worth of interest, but the only reason you would get out is if the investment isn’t paying any interest. And so probably the interest you’d walk away from if you had to walk away from a quarter’s worth of interest isn’t going to be very much.
And also, it’s guaranteed not to go below… It’s always going to have a positive yield, which may be 0.00001%, but it’s always going to have a positive yield. It’s also guaranteed to double after 20 years. And so if you put in $10,000 and you leave it in for 20 years, it’s guaranteed to double after 20 years.

Amy:
We consider though, like a stock market is generally every seven years. [crosstalk 00:37:24] Yeah, this is bonds [crosstalk 00:37:28]. Safe, safer, safe.

Tim:
Yeah. Boring sort of thing, but kind of cool when it’s yielding 7%.

Mindy:
Okay. Regular listeners to this show will know that I hate bonds. I am not old enough to have bonds and I am the same age that you guys are, so I don’t think that you’re old enough to have bonds either, but these bonds were really interesting to me because they’re paying 7%, and what have bonds been yielding? Like 1% or 2%? I could do better with [crosstalk 00:37:52] stuffing it under my mattress almost in the past, but now this one’s really interesting. And I may start looking it just to see what sort of… We are getting into a hyperinflation mode, most likely.
I can’t predict the future, but I think that’s a pretty solid prediction. There’s going to be some inflation and there’s already inflation started, so I like that.

Amy:
I’m going to say that we have a different situation. So we may be a similar age, but you have an income. That changes things. So you don’t have to be worried about your putting… and we’re not worried, but when you have a job and an income, and if Carl is… your husband is-

Mindy:
He’s unemployed.

Amy:
Potentially has businesses that bring in money. We’re like the worst business people in our retirement. We’re not maximizing in the slightest. That’s not our goal to make money. So I think that it’s very different. So when you’re like, “Not old enough to do bonds,” I totally get that, but you do have an income and we’re not in the traditional age to not have an income.

Tim:
So the sequence of return-risk is just a lot more real when the income is sort of off the table. So it’s just sort of in your face a little bit more.

Mindy:
Yeah.

Tim:
But I think if things play out like we hope, there’s some chances that, well, we would probably adjust our spending quite a bit after we have access to our pre-tax dollars, but there’s some chance that we don’t need access to our pre-tax dollars, if things go right with the market, and our spending stays what it is. So that money can just be there and be available for our kids or whatever else. So some foundation, I don’t know.

Mindy:
Have you done any Roth conversions?

Tim:
Yes. Every year we do Roth conversions.

Amy:
That’s part of our move to Texas.

Tim:
Yeah. So basically, as a matter of fact, like Amy said, when we were in Colorado, I started doing this exercise and all the people that blog about Roth conversions are either abroad or they don’t talk about the impact of state income taxes on these conversions, because all they talk about is, “This is federally tax free,” and they don’t [crosstalk 00:39:58]. There is a state income tax if you happen to live in a state that taxes you.

Mindy:
Oh.

Tim:
And so I got a 5% or 6% ding on some conversion from Colorado when we were there. But anyway, it’s something to consider.

Mindy:
No, that’s a really good point. I didn’t realize that there was a state income tax on a Roth conversion.

Amy:
Neither did we, the first year. So thankfully, it was a small potatoes’ year of doing it. But that is one of the big reasons we moved to Texas, was so that we could do that. We haven’t taken advantage of that because we are [crosstalk 00:40:32]

Tim:
Aggressively. Every year we move a little bit over from… So we have this… again, another weird dynamic. So with the ACA, because-

Amy:
We’re on the Texas ACA.

Tim:
Because our income is so low, our ACA is heavily subsidized. And so if we have too much income in a given year, then it wipes away the subsidy. And so we do conversions to basically make our income happen during the year. So Roth conversion is accounted for in your income, whenever you’re doing the ACA planning.
Next year, we’re not going to have an ACA plan. We’re going to have a plan that requires that we’re out of the country for six months or more out of the year.

Amy:
Like an expat plan.

Tim:
Like an expat plan. So we’re going to have something like that.

Mindy:
Okay.

Tim:
We haven’t signed up for that yet, but got to get on that.

Mindy:
Do you know Bryce and Christie from Millennial Revolution?

Tim:
Yep.

Amy:
Yeah.

Tim:
Bryce is, I don’t know, obsessed. Is there a word that means more than obsessed? With health insurance plans for retirement, and he’s a great source of information.
They’re Canadian, aren’t they?

Mindy:
They are Canadian, but they travel into the US and they also travel abroad and-

Tim:
Sure.

Mindy:
He’s a really good source of information. And yeah, as long as you’re out of the country for six months and a day, you can… their health insurance costs are like nothing.

Amy:
Because they’re younger.

Tim:
They’re also younger. So I think the plan we’re going to sign up for is going to be a high deductible plan, $10,000 or $15,000. And it’s going to cost us $3,000 or $4,000 a year to be covered.

Amy:
And just as a heads up, I’m currently 53, Tim is 54. So for your viewers, we’re in our 50s. So it’s very different. As you age, you pay more.

Mindy:
You need to go back to work so you can take advantage of that over 50.

Tim:
No, ma’am. [crosstalk 00:42:19]

Amy:
No regrets.

Mindy:
I am super excited. Next year I turn 50 and I am super excited for the over 50 extra contributions to my 401(k) and my Roth IRA. And then after that, I’m going to revisit where I want to put my money, but that’s very exciting to me.

Amy:
You were made for this life, Mindy. Everyone else is excited to go on holiday and celebrate in a big way. You’re excited to save more money.

Mindy:
Oh my God, we just installed solar panels on our house. And you know, Carl, he did it himself with the help of an electrician to upgrade the panel. And then our friend Todd is up in the next town over, he’s an electrical engineer and his dad was an electrician. So he has both skills, which are not the same. If you don’t know, electrical engineer is not an electrician. So he helped him wire up the house.
And then other friends came and put the panels on, and yesterday they flipped the switch. And now, we are selling electricity back to the electric company.

Tim:
That is awesome.

Mindy:
And Carl’s like, “You got to turn off all the lights. We have to sell them as much electricity as possible.”

Amy:
You guys are endlessly hustling.

Mindy:
Huge dorks. Let’s go back to healthcare for a minute because that is absolutely the number one question that American early retirees have is, “How am I going to pay for healthcare?” You were on a healthshare plan and left. Let’s talk about why you left because on the surface, it sounds awesome, but in reality, it may not be so awesome.

Amy:
Okay. So we are going to tiptoe in this one.

Mindy:
We don’t have to talk smack about anything. There’s no [crosstalk 00:44:05].

Amy:
No, we’re not going to talk, but we started… So we were on the ACA in Colorado. So Colorado was where our home was and we retired in 2015. We started on the ACA in… I’ll just give our little health trajectory because it’s different every year. So we started January 2016 on the Colorado ACA plan. We had the same plan for two years and loved it a lot.
And then in 2018, that plan, they kind of stripped all the doctors out of that plan. So we changed to another plan in 2018. It was so terrible. I didn’t use a single doctor, not even a… I couldn’t get in to see one person that took that plan the whole year. So we realized we had to do something different so that we had to see some regular doctors, number one.
And number two, what we learned, which was a total shock, was at least in our Colorado plans, that all of the times we have left Colorado domestically, we were not covered with insurance. We had no idea and nobody talks about this, and you could have… So it depends upon your state. It depends upon your plan. We have friends who were in, I think Bend, Oregon, their insurance only… their ACA only covered them in their city-

Tim:
County, county. They had a whole county.

Amy:
That’s it, but not even the whole state. We have friends who are domiciled out of Florida. Not only do they have national coverage, they have some international coverage through that ACA plan in Florida. Well, our plan in Colorado, we learned two years after having it that when we left the state, we were covered for major, major, major emergencies. And it was very unclear as to what that would be, what would be covered, how much would we pay? And I do not believe that there was an out-of-pocket deductible, which is really where it gets very scary.
So if we had a $1,000,000 aneurysm, $1,500,000 aneurysm, we don’t have an out-of-pocket maximum outside of Colorado. And we did tons of domestic travel the moment we became FIRE. So we got on this Liberty HealthShares as a way to get to the doctors that we have been using for over a decade, A, and B, to help us in the United States, because that is where the real whole is.
You can get expat insurance. You can get ACA as long as your income is kept low and is subsidized, but the big problem is this, in the US, out of your state, oh my goodness. And people don’t know about it and don’t talk about it. So we added Liberty Healthcare in 2018 in the middle, with our Colorado ACA plan that we never touched, not one thing. So we were on Liberty from June 2018 until December 2020.
Now, our problem with them was that they were very slow to pay our minimal claims. We never even hit close to our deductible. Our deductible, they don’t call it deductible, they don’t call it claims. It’s all different lingo, but it’s the reality, whatever. So some deductible-ish thing. So because they were so slow to pay on claims and it was actually quite a hassle to get claims even submitted for us, we didn’t even submit our claims anymore.
So we said, “It’s just like our general doctor stuff, we’re not even going to submit them.” And so at that point we said, “Let’s move to more traditional kind of insurance.”

Tim:
So our concern was that if we had a $50,000 event or whatever, that we would be left waiting for Liberty to potentially… Usually, the way it works is you pay your claims out of pocket. Whoever the provider is, you pay them out of pocket, and then Liberty reimburses you. And then whether or not they have… they don’t really have necessarily negotiated rates with every hospital in the country. They will go back after the fact and try and negotiate with the provider.
So it didn’t feel… So it is not insurance. So it is something [crosstalk 00:47:56] insurance light. It’s not regulated, and so they have a lot of leeway to just do what it is that they want to do. And so they could actually deny a claim based upon… and I’m going to be… This is hyperbole, but if I had a beer and they didn’t like the fact that I had a beer that day, and then I went out and fell down in the street and broke my leg, well, they could choose not to pay that claim. And then again-

Amy:
But that’s our understanding,

Tim:
That’s our understanding. There’s enough sort of restrictions with it that it just seemed like it wasn’t something that it’s not real coverage, at least in our eyes. And there are some of… I think there’s some secular health sharing things now that are less sort of restricted, but I still would have the same sort of concerns with those.
I think for us, we’re going to stick with more traditional insurance just going forward. And again, this isn’t necessarily a ding against these companies that are doing this. It’s just for us-

Amy:
It wasn’t for us.

Tim:
It just isn’t for us.

Mindy:
Yeah. Well, I’m really glad that you’re here to share this because, A, I didn’t know that some of these plans didn’t cover you outside of the state. I didn’t know that some of these plans didn’t even cover you outside of the county. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are listening, who also didn’t know this.
When you have health insurance through a traditional like Blue Cross Blue Shield or UnitedHealthcare, one of those like nationwide things, yeah you’re in network here, but also if you’re traveling and you break your leg, you’re kind of in network there too, because they’re nationwide. So I think I know who you had in 2018, because in 2018, all of my doctors got stripped from my plan too. It was [crosstalk 00:49:27]

Amy:
Well, let me even jump in because it’s not been national plans. We were on national plans. ACA and corporated plans are not the same, that’s why we assumed. We were on Cigna the first two years, and it was terrific. We had had Cigna through Tim’s employer, so the difference isn’t it’s Cigna, it’s just apples to zucchinis, and the problem is-

Tim:
Even the network may be different. So it’s like-

Amy:
It’s totally different.

Tim:
The Cigna network of doctors in Colorado for ACA is different than the Cigna network of doctors for corporate coverage.

Amy:
So that’s the difference, is yes, so even if it’s Cigna, just because you have… that’s why we were so shocked and we hadn’t even thought, we didn’t know, that was what was such a big wake up call for us, was that it was the same Cigna that we thought we had always had, and it wasn’t. And we had no [crosstalk 00:50:20].

Tim:
Like now in Texas, we have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, and it only covers us really in Texas. And when we say it only covers us, if we had an incident outside of the state, they have some weird one-off, “Maybe you’re kind of covered, but it’s not really [crosstalk 00:50:34].”

Amy:
But then there’s no out-of-pocket deductible. So the problem is we’re not going to be bankrupt. Our out-of-pocket deductible is not unreasonable. It might be $10,000 a person. We’re not going to go back to work because of $10,000 a person. But I’ve had two friends who’ve had an aneurysm that cost the insurance company at $1,500,000, when it’s splits instant, and totally out of the blue. And that is a big deal, a really big deal.
And if you don’t have an out-of-pocket maximum, you are in very big trouble. If your insurance does not cover you where that happens, you’re not going to get home. You need to just deal with it where you are. And that is why we know many, many people who still work. And the reality is there’s no convenient answer. We wish we had better dues. We wish we had better news.

Mindy:
Yeah. I wish you had better news too, because this is not such a great bit of conversation we’re having right now, but it’s like you said, you didn’t know. I bet there’s a lot of people who are listening didn’t know. I didn’t know, because I’ve always had a corporate coverage, except for this weird two-year stretch where Carl was working and I wasn’t, and his company was like, “Hey, we’re not going to give you any benefits anymore. So go get your own.” And we went on the ACA and it was extraordinarily expensive, but that was okay because it covered nothing, which is super awesome.

Amy:
Actually, our ACA does cover. We love our ACA plan, I will say. Let me just even put a plug in for this. So our ACA plan, if we’re in Texas, we love it. We had our shingles vaccines. These are $300 each person, two, two. So for $1,200, free shingles vaccine. I had a major, major surgery. So just the night and day of the traditional health insurance and our Liberty HealthShares, I had major health insurance. Every single thing was proved in two days. I had surgery scheduled two days out, everything was taken care of instantly. I didn’t have to think about it, worry about it. And the claims were paid within 10 days.
So as long as we’re in, playing by the rules, and know the rules, it’s been great. And the doctor… we can use almost any doctor in Texas. So our Texas ACA has been rockstar great. It just, [crosstalk 00:52:53] you can’t leave Texas.

Mindy:
Don’t leave Texas. Okay. So what are you looking for in the plan documentation when you’re trying to find this information, that, “Don’t leave Texas?” Does it have a limitation section or… First of all, Amy, you just said, and I want to highlight this, you said you have to know the rules and play by the rules. When you get new insurance, they send you a giant wad of stuff, 47 dead trees worth of information.

Tim:
Yeah.

Mindy:
You kind of need to read all of that, but who has time to read all of that? And frankly, it’s written in legalese. Who can even understand it? So I used to work in the HMO office of one of those great big doctor facilities, where they had specialists for everything. And this was several decades ago, but working in there really taught me all the things about health insurance, and continue to ask questions and call ahead, “Is this covered? Is this doctor in network?” But not everybody worked at the one HMO office that I worked at 27 years ago. So what are you looking for in these docs?

Tim:
We don’t pretend to know the answer to that necessarily. So it’s like, I guess our experience has given us-

Amy:
Yes.

Tim:
We kind of know the questions to ask, and also, we worked with a broker when we were in Colorado, all the ACA plans, it’s sort of difficult to sort through what’s there. And so I think there are brokers in most of the markets that will help you sort of sort through what you’re are looking for, but even if you ask questions directly, they may know the answer, but you’re probably not necessarily going to know to ask some of these questions. You’re not going to ask it.
So [crosstalk 00:54:37] most people aren’t in our situation. Most people are in their state where they’re going to have coverage. They don’t leave. As a matter of fact, I saw a statistic recently that a sixth of people in America have never left their state. And so it’s like there’s-

Amy:
Ever.

Tim:
Ever. And so they-

Amy:
They don’t need health insurance outside the states.

Tim:
[crosstalk 00:54:55] That’s sort of-

Amy:
So we’ve had a lot of experience. So we’ve been on four different ACA… We’re at the end of six years figuring out our own health insurance post-retirement. So we’ve had four different traditional ACA health insurance plans in those four years, and overlapping and just solo, the healthshare.
So we have enough experience to know the questions, and that doesn’t mean that we won’t be blindsided, but we are… And I don’t know that I even share this with Tim, but it was when… So the idea that we were in the US for the majority of 2021 with this Texas situation, that’s kind of scary because we have this giant… we had, we’re in Mexico for a while, but we had this big, huge hole of no coverage. And I was just praying to get to Mexico that we can get on an expat plan and be covered.

Tim:
So brokers are great, and so that would be my advice, is if you are looking for health insurance, even… So we’re looking for expat coverage or… I guess that’s what it’s called.

Amy:
Yeah.

Tim:
What we’re going to be signed up for next year, and there’s a broker in Arizona that we work with, that’s helping us sort through that and that’s been very helpful, but I think-

Amy:
It’s his specialty.

Tim:
Same thing, if you’re looking for an ACA plan, I would look to a broker and have them help you sort through.

Amy:
And they don’t charge you anything.

Tim:
That’s right. There’s no fee. All the brokers are compensated by the insurance companies and [crosstalk 00:56:24].

Amy:
And I think you find them through like the ACA exchange sites.

Tim:
Yeah. That’s right.

Mindy:
Okay.

Tim:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Okay. That’s good advice. I don’t know if you saw the article from Tanja Hester on Our Next Life, We Think About Risk All Wrong. How Riding A Bike Almost Ruined Everything. Long story short, her husband was riding his bike. He fell, he was mountain biking. He fell. He broke his spleen or something and had to go have surgery.
They live on the border of California and Utah, and they were in one state and had to go to the other state to get the surgery necessary. It was just, “Hey, this is a now thing, or he’s maybe not going to live die.”

Tim:
[inaudible 00:57:10].

Mindy:
So it’s a really great article about how sometimes when you think you’re being frugal by getting these healthshare plans or these discount insurances, or having an insurance plan in Texas that doesn’t cover you in… name a state that touches Texas? Arkansas? [crosstalk 00:57:31].

Tim:
Oklahoma.

Mindy:
Oklahoma, and you’re on the border. And then you have to go to the other state to get surgery, you might not be covered. And these are things that you don’t think about when you’re planning your early retirement and just, “I’m just going to fly by the seat of my pants.” Sometimes that doesn’t work out.

Amy:
And our group of early retiree kind of FIRE people tend to be very measured and careful, and cautious, and one more year syndrome, all of that. So we are a cautious, conservative group. We’re saving a high percentage of our income. We’re not the YOLO crowd so much. So with that, so it’s kind of funny because a lot of people don’t… This is a big… It’s like a blinders on for a lot of the community, not everybody, but a lot of people because they don’t… again, we don’t know enough people who are sharing these stories, I guess.

Tim:
I think also a lot of the community, especially in the FIRE space, they’re younger people and they have this invincibility syndrome or whatever. It’s like, “Nothing bad’s going to happen to me.” And so the problem is if you don’t have traditional insurance, and like Amy mentioned her friends, literally you could show up at the hospital with an aneurysm. It could cost you a million bucks. This isn’t like hyperbole. It could cost you a million bucks.

Amy:
Actually, it was $1,500,000 for my friend.

Tim:
So it’s like, that is a bankruptcy sort of event for some people, most people I would think, and that is a problem for most people. And so if you don’t have some sort of coverage, and I think that’s also changed our thinking about insurance. So we don’t look for insurance to cover us if we’re going to go to the doctor and spend $200 for a physical or whatever, that is not even a part of the equation.
The equation is I just want coverage that if I show up there, it’s not going to be a bankruptcy sort of event. So that’s really the only qualifier we have as we’re looking for insurance. And so I think that’s part of the reason we walked away from the healthsharing stuff, is we just weren’t sure that they were going to be there to cover us if we had one of these million dollar events.
And so traditional insurance, I think there’s just… since they’re regulated, there just needs to be more likelihood that we’re going to be in good shape.

Mindy:
Listening to you guys tell these stories of your health insurance reminds me of Suze Orman on the Afford Anything Podcast, when Paula asked her, “Do you like the FIRE movement?” She’s like, “I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. You need $30,000,000.” And you’re thinking to yourself, “No, you could just get by on a $1,000,000.”
If you retire with a $1,000,000 and garbage health insurance, and you go outside of your county up in Oregon, and you have a brain aneurysm, you could be wiped out. And I don’t know how medical bills are discounted. I haven’t done that kind of research.

Amy:
Actually, we found quite a bit. So when Tim was in… so because we were at the last days of our Liberty health insurance, and because we had never come close to our deductible-ish, they just offered this new plan and said, “We’re going to do a crazy, like a $10,000 deductible, instead of $1,750.” We said, “Great. We’ve never even come close to it. It’s like two months before the end of the year, and we’re switching anyway.”
Well, lo and behold, at the very tail end of our two months, Tim goes to the hospital. The interesting thing is that he paid… I think he had an 85% discount as a self-pay person, which is significant.

Mindy:
Oh.

Amy:
It was over… It was about…

Tim:
$3,000.

Amy:
About $3,000, I think it was for a three hour visit. He had no procedure done. He had nothing. He was just-

Tim:
I had a [crosstalk 01:00:49]

Amy:
A CAT scan.

Tim:
A CAT scan.

Amy:
Had a CAT scan, $3,000. They did a little pulse oximeter, wasn’t that like $500? Just to measure his pulse, crazy.

Tim:
I could have bought 12 pulse oximeters.

Amy:
But he did get an 85% discount, which helped, but again, if it’s… So there is definitely that, that helps.

Tim:
But the hospital has to be willing to work with you. Anyway, it’s [crosstalk 01:01:12].

Amy:
And every hospital’s unique. I do-

Tim:
So health insurance is something I think if you have any assets, you have to do something to mitigate the risk associated with… Yeah, I have a huge event. [crosstalk 01:01:23]

Amy:
And let me mention that there’s something that is… I guess I’m going to say it’s a silver lining, getting out of the country. You kind of said it a little bit, maybe about the six months in one day. That is a way to get around it. So how do you… If you want to be somebody who travels a lot, how do you make this life work and not be potentially wiped out by a disastrous event?
And I think the answer is, so the expat insurance plans do rely… if you get a plan that includes the US for up to half the year, if you pay more for that option, if you’re never in the US, you don’t need to pay that much, but if you are, and then that will cover you in the US, and it is with traditional insurers. I think we’re looking at one that is backed by Cigna and it is a wider range of providers in that plan. And we will ask a million questions of that broker.
So that is one way of like, “Okay, I’m all sold on this FIRE thing. They’ve totally burst my bubble.” We’re not intending to do that, but going somewhere like Mexico, go somewhere great, go somewhere for great weather during your winter or something like that, go for six months or go three months, twice a year. And then you can have decent insurance anywhere in America as a retiree, before you pick Medicare age.

Tim:
Yeah.

Mindy:
What are some of those questions that people need to ask their brokers and their insurance companies about the plans? You said that you guys know some of the questions to ask, what are some of those questions?

Amy:
First of all, think of the worst case scenario. People do say like, “Is my general doctor’s visit included?” Your $250 doctor’s visit is not a lot. That should not even be part of the… that’s really not the reason to pick your plan. What happens, and people say like, “I’m going to get hit by a bus,” that’s kind of what the thing.
So if I had a million dollar emergency incident and I am like… and think about if I am in state, how much does that cost me? If I am out of the state in America, how much does that cost me? If I’m out of the country, do you cover that? How much does that cost me? And how much is my out-of-pocket maximum? That is key. I think that’s a key one.

Tim:
I think explain your scenario to the broker. “I’m going to be in and out the state,” or whatever, and let them know what your travels plans are, because that is apparently… not apparently. It is something they need to know in order to help you figure out what the options are.
I think also, it’s come up with a list of worst case scenarios, just like Amy said. So it’s like, I-

Amy:
Big ones.

Tim:
I get cancer, how is that going to be dealt with? I am in an auto accident, how is that going to be dealt with? Do I have to go to specific doctors? Because like with Kaiser, for instance, when we had Kaiser in Colorado, you could really only go to Kaiser facilities. You’re not going to go to anybody outside of Kaiser. So it’s important to know who you intend to see, and how that works? What if I have an emergency situation and there’s no Kaiser facility near, then what does that mean? What are the costs going to look like for that?
So I think it’s just kind of dream up the worst case scenarios and run these by the broker, and see what they have to say about what the coverage might look like for these worst case scenarios.

Amy:
And I think with insurance, so you hope for the best, plan for the worst. And again, we were not fully planning for the worst and we weren’t, and we have been fortunate that it hasn’t been problematic for us, but-

Tim:
By the way, I think we drove our broker crazy because we had all these questions. So we asked question after question, after question, because we have all these weird scenarios that may be a part of our life, and we want to know what the answers are. And so the broker would always have to go do research for us.
Anyway, we were a lot of work, I think, for the broker, but I thought they earned their money with us.

Amy:
And actually, if we can piggyback, now we are talking about insurance, to another exciting insurance topic, which is car insurance when you don’t have a car. I do want to talk about that.

Mindy:
Yeah. Break it up.

Amy:
So we just sold our last car just a few days ago. We have no car, but we do come back to the US. We might rent cars. We may do a house sit where we use the house owner’s car. We don’t have intentions to buy a car for years, maybe ever.
Okay. So there’s something called a non-owner policy, and this is another thing to be aware of. And again, people aren’t really talking about this either. So if you don’t have any car, then you wouldn’t have any car insurance normally. And we found this plan through GEICO from us, and we have good driving records and things like that.
So for, I think it was about $150 for six months, and you have a non-owner… So you don’t own a car and what that does is if you are driving your friend’s car or a house sitter’s car, or your parents’ car or something, if you hit a school bus of children in an icy snowstorm or something like that, even though they have insurance on their car, if there’s a lawsuit against your driving that car, even if they have insurance, the attorneys are going to come after you too. So that covers you for liability, the lot.
And another one, people with… we’re big on credit cards. We have about 30 active credit cards do travel hacking. So many people will say, “I don’t need insurance because of these credit cards.” Credit cards generally, if not always, cover you for the car. So if your car is wrecked, that’s what it’s covering. [crosstalk 01:06:47].
It’s not covering that you hit somebody and it’s $5,000,000 that you owe. That’s the liability piece. Credit cards do not cover that.

Tim:
It’s collision.

Amy:
Right. Collision covers the car, isn’t that right? And liability covers like you hit this school bus, and now you owe $150 million.

Tim:
Here’s another reason to have this non-owner policy, is that if you… Let’s say you went away to jail for 20 years and you get out of the jail and you want insurance, you are a risk. And so insurance companies are going to charge you a premium because you’ve been in jail for [crosstalk 01:07:17].

Amy:
You have no history.

Tim:
And so the fact that you don’t own a car anymore in the states, and you have no insurance, they assume you’ve been in jail basically, and your rates are going to be sky high if you have a gap in coverage, is what it’s called. So if you have a gap in your auto coverage because you don’t have one of these non-owner policies, and you want to buy a car five years down the road, you’re going to pay a huge premium when it comes time to sign up for insurance.

Amy:
And this is for the two of us, it’s about $300 for the two of us for the year. So that is something that we’re very careful with money, but that is well worth paying because it will protect our island of savings.

Mindy:
No, that’s really great advice. I did not know that there was such a thing as non-owner policy, and I didn’t know that this is something that you needed. I knew about the gap in coverage in healthcare, but I didn’t realize that that was also for car insurance, but I’ve been driving since I was 16. I’ve had insurance the whole time, because I’ve not been in jail.

Amy:
And actually, this is Tim’s first time without a car, and it’s the same, since he’s 16. I lived in New York City, I didn’t have a car for years. I didn’t have a car, I think until I was like 34 years old. So yeah, but these are things that… be protected I guess, is really going to be the theme here. It’s supposed to be about fun, no mad life. It’s really about being protected.

Mindy:
Yeah. Well, I’m really glad that you came on the show today to share all this information that you have learned from being an early retiree. We haven’t had a lot of people who are post FI, who are pulling down from their retirement accounts and traveling the world and doing all this stuff, come on the show and talk of about it.
And I’m so thankful that you gave me your time today, take time out of your very busy day of being by the beach and looking at amazing beautifulness. Amy, what does your life look like now?

Amy:
Well, we have just made it to Mexico this week. We’re here for two to four months over the summer. I’m so over the winter, and our goal is to find 75 degrees as much as possible for our entire lives. I’ve lived in snowy climates every year of my life. I hate snow. I hate cold. We are done with winter.
So here we are in Mexico. We’re going to be in Europe for the summer in 2022 if everything is on plan with the world. We already booked in everything there, and we’re back in the US for the early fall. And then hopefully getting to, or back to Southeast Asia at the November 2022 for five or six months.

Mindy:
Wow.

Amy:
So we have some really exciting things. So I look at our last, I guess 22 months of being nomads, they’re kind of like nomads with our training wheels on. We had our car, we are in America, we know how it works. Now the wheels are off. I’m learning speaking Spanish every day. So we’re doing the international piece, which is what we really had intended to do all along. Very exciting.

Tim:
Very exciting. Amy’s favorite thing also is to meet people. And so, Amy’s doing her best to meet new people every day. So our Facebook group is growing by great guns and it’s a great way to hook up with people and meet face to face.

Amy:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Well, you can’t say hook up, Tim, you have to say connect. [crosstalk 01:10:35] Hook up means something [crosstalk 01:10:37].

Amy:
Get together. Is that okay? Get together?

Mindy:
Get together, yes. Hook up means something totally different.

Tim:
I know.

Mindy:
I learned that when I said that at work and they’re like, “You can’t say that.”

Amy:
We’ve been married a long time, but yeah. So meeting our viewers and then people in our Facebook group is literally like my favorite thing in the universe, aside from Tim now. And yeah, so we hope that your viewers will reach out and join the Facebook group because that’s where we are making those connections really easily.

Mindy:
Okay. Well, that leads to my final question. That’s a great segue into, amy and Tim, where can people find out more about you?

Amy:
Well, we do a video every Wednesday on YouTube at GoWithLess. There are no spaces in that. So GoWithLess, all one word. Our YouTube group… I’m sorry. Our Facebook group is of the same name, and I do think that we’re going to be starting on TikTok. I think we’re going to be putting some of our fun [inaudible 01:11:28] stuff, because our YouTube channel seems to be more about FIRE life and more like the conversation.
And I think the little snippets of the fun things we’re doing around the world, I think those are going to end up on TikTok and YouTube Shorts. So we’re still getting over this hump of this quick travel. In two more weeks, we really settle things down. So those are the coming attractions.

Mindy:
No Instagram?

Amy:
Oh yeah. Instagram too, of course.

Mindy:
Okay. We will include links to all of these things at our show notes, which can be found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow279.
Amy and Tim, thank you so much for your time today. It’s always a delight to talk to you. You are lovely people. The next time you’re in Denver, please let me know with more than like four minutes of notice. I saw a picture, you’re like, “Hey, we all met up.” I’m like, “Oh, I could have gone down there.” But yes, I would love to see you the next time you breeze through Denver. W

Amy:
FinCon next year. We don’t know where or when, but we will be there.

Mindy:
Yes. I’m hoping, hoping that I will be able to go to FinCon but my childcare situation has kind of changed.

Amy:
Oh.

Mindy:
So it’s up in the air, but I’m really, really hoping I’ll be able to go.

Amy:
I hope so too.

Mindy:
Okay. Well, from episode 279 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, they are Amy and Tim from GoWithLess. I am Mindy Jensen saying, put it on their tab, yellow lab.

 

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Digital Nomad-ing and Answering All Your FIRE Healthcare Questions is written by The BiggerPockets Money Podcast for www.biggerpockets.com

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