The opportunity to expand your financial horizons
On the road and online
What to consider if the van life is calling to your inner nomad
Often associated with hippies who “tuned out and turned on” in a VW bus back in the day, the last two years has seen a resurgence in van life with a distinctly different point of view as work shifted to remote. There are blogs dedicated to the topic, nomadic “influencers” who broadcast from the road, and even design firms who will trick out your van for maximum aesthetic and functional appeal for individuals and families.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for RVs to purchase or to rent surged as people clamored to get out of their houses and on the road, without having to board a plane. Overall, what #vanlife may have been decades ago has significantly shifted – and many are looking to this lifestyle as a permanent or semipermanent way to travel, lower monthly housing costs or just give in to their natural wanderlust. Here’s a few things to think about before you hit the open road.
What’s your why?
Van life can satisfy your wanderlust, or it can become a way of life. Figuring out your “why” will help you evaluate if you can actually do it. Is your aim to see parts of the world you’ve never seen, will this be a temporary move for you? Or are you ready to move your life entirely on the road? Do you want to take a sabbatical? Work remotely and travel? Maybe ditch the corporate world and make an artistic hobby into a mobile, online business. Your why will map the way.
Get your van on
The anchor to this grand experiment is your van itself. Just like buying or renting a home, there are endless varieties and permutations to choose from. Do you want a fully equipped motor home, or are you a minimalist and want to freestyle during your travels, stopping to camp? Solar panels, stowable beds, induction cooktops, swiveling upfront seats, log burner fireplaces, skylights, outdoor showers, roof decks – there are as many options as you can possibly think of. Your why will help you narrow down what you want in your van.
Budget it out
You’ll need both a budget for your startup costs and van purchase or rental, gas and food, just like for any other trip. And, gas becomes a larger expense, because you’ll only get 10 to 25 mpg.
The interplay between budget and amenities is one you need to navigate based on your personal situation. Can you do without a mini-dishwasher? Is a shower a must-have? What about sleeping arrangements? See our list of questions to help you sort through and put a plan together.
Your budget will determine if you want to buy, rent or even renovate a van, which can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on finishes, functionality and any structural issues you need to fix. A new RV can run you up to $300,000 – which surpasses the cost of a home in many areas. But you can also get a used trailer camper for $15,000. Make a list of your priorities and start your searches online, then hit local dealers to get a good sense and feel for what you might like. Don’t forget to inquire about necessary insurance.
Try it out: Short-term van life
Airbnb rents stationary campers across the world. If you want to get behind the wheel, try sites like rvshare.com,outdoorsy.com or rvezy.com, where you can rent a camper, van or motorhome by the night, often with unlimited miles.
Making it work for you
Logistics will vary based on your goals. If you want to sell your home and everything you own to go on the road – you can use those proceeds to finance your trip. If you’re a remote worker, where you live might not be an issue for your employer – in which case you could keep your current job and take it with you. Use your cellphone data plan for continuous connectivity, consider adding a mobile hotspot, and plug into secure, local Wi-Fi whenever you stop.
If that’s not an option, you’ll need a way to make money on the road. Skills like nursing, coding or yoga certification can come in handy wherever you choose to travel. If you’re truly ready to say goodbye to your old way of life, consider bringing a hobby or side hustle to the forefront by selling your art, jewelry or custom coffee brew roadside – just be mindful of local licensing and other regulations. You could also potentially monetize your journey by becoming a content creator – writing a blog, starting an Instagram or TikTok channel and selling ads or procuring sponsors while you are on the road. Keep in mind, you’ll need editing skills, a reliable laptop and access to Wi-Fi for this option.
Health insurance plans generally cover you in another state for an emergency. But if you require other care or don’t have health insurance, budget for short-term health insurance, a fixed indemnity plan, or medical cost sharing nonprofit plan.
Transition any mail you can to online, cancel magazine subscriptions and the like, or rent a post box near your current home and have everything mailed there. With a full-service post box like a UPS Store, you can periodically call and have batches of mail shipped to wherever you are. Another option is general delivery at the post office in whatever town you’re at. Use Amazon lockers to receive your Amazon packages.
Wherever you go, #vanlife can be full of surprise, adventure and serendipity. Planning ahead and budgeting will allow you to enjoy this road trip and enjoy the special gifts and perspectives it can bring.
- If you’re curious, consider renting a van for a weekend getaway.
- Talk to your advisor – what would your financial picture look like if you were to espouse van life for a month, six months, a year?
- Google van life on Instagram or YouTube – what do real vanlifers have to say about their experiences? And does it truly appeal to you and your family?
How fashion companies are taking on ESG initiatives
Sustainability is making its way into the fashion industry, with documentaries like “The True Cost” delving deep into this glittery world, especially fast fashion. When talking about sustainability in fashion, the industry is encompassing everything from packaging to tracing the supply chain for complete transparency, to sourcing eco-friendly materials and increased diversity, equity and inclusion at every rung on the corporate ladder.
Stamps of approval
Many companies are embracing external certifications to keep them honest. Benefit Corporation® (B-Corp®) certification requires companies to go through a rigorous process, holding them to performance standards in the social and environmental responsibility arenas, and requiring them to change their legal structure to be accountable to all stakeholders – workers, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment. Some big names you might recognize are athleisure brand Athleta from the Gap, contemporary brand Eileen Fisher, shoe brand Allbirds, and runway brand Chloe, one of the first luxury designers to undertake this intense certification.
Blockchain is still in its infancy in the fashion industry. Typically associated with bitcoin or cryptocurrency, this technology efficiently tracks the origin of clothing, as well as safety and sustainability along every part of the supply chain from dyes used to working conditions of those who created the clothing. It can even track shipping and packaging all the way to your door or to a store. Each step or process can be tagged so that a consumer can simply scan the label to see more information.
The juggernauts in this space are luxury behemoths LVMH, Cartier and Prada. They formed a consortium called AURA that is committed to track and trace every part of the fashion industry, beginning with raw materials and finishing at point of sale. Not overlooked is the ability to reduce counterfeit goods with blockchain as well, which shores up brand presence and cements their hold in their respective categories.
Direct-to-consumer reduce, reuse, recycle
Many brands are circumventing the eBay and Real Real’s of the world to make used clothing and goods available for sale on their own sites. It’s a win-win for the company and consumers. The brand gets to showcase its commitment to sustainability as well as control secondhand sale of its goods, and consumers know that the items are authenticated by the company. Brands large and small are doing this from Coclico, a small artisan shoe brand, to Mara Hoffman, a midrange contemporary women’s apparel company.
Earth as shareholder
Of course, the biggest move in this area in the history of sustainability is Patagonia, whose CEO recently signed over the entire company and its profits to one shareholder: planet Earth. Organized through a trust structure, this unique take may be a harbinger of strategies to come.
- Consider that next purchase – do you have to have it new, or would secondhand work?
- Review your investments with your advisor – are there ways to screen for sustainable investments that match your values?
- Learn about the brands you buy before purchasing – most fashion companies dedicated to transparency will tout their efforts publicly.
Your guide to marriage and money
Here’s how to deal with finances before, during and – if needed – after marriage
Love and money can be complicated. According to research by Ramsey Solutions, money is the number one reason married couples fight and a leading cause of divorce. So, when it comes to coupling, finances may be what determines success – or not. These tips will help you no matter your marital status.
Before you walk down the aisle or cohabitate, it’s important to have open conversations about finances. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Be honest about your histories. You need to know if you’re marrying someone who carries a lot of debt or has been through a bankruptcy. These facts may become obstacles when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage together or reaching other financial goals.
Play to your strengths. If you’re a savvy shopper and your partner is a calculated risk taker, rely on each other for managing those distinct aspects of your finances. It might evolve over time, but agree on your approach for managing the finances before you say “I do.”
Every time there’s a job change, children enter the picture or new cars and homes appear on the horizon, your financial situation changes. So, check in on a regular basis. Keep these top of mind:
Tell the truth about your purchases. If you tend to hide shopping bags from your spouse (one in three couples who argue about money have hidden purchases from each other), this will jeopardize your financial planning with certainty.
Set financial priorities together. Dreams and aspirations change, which is why it’s important to have regular check-ins with your spouse about short- and long-term financial goals. Rank the top three financial priorities and have a weekly or monthly meeting to track your progress.
No one enters a marriage thinking it’s going to end, but some do. Finances can be what turns an amicable divorce into a hostile one. If you’re separated, consider this:
Heed the advice of professionals. When it comes to love and money, opinions get heated. Your financial advisor can guide you through some of the practical aspects of this emotional time and be an unbiased resource you can trust.
Open separate accounts. It’s best to close joint accounts and open new separate accounts rather than adding or removing names; it’ll give you a sense of security that you’re the only one with access. Change your direct deposit to go into the new account and start budgeting for yourself immediately.
A healthy relationship with finances and the ability to be honest about them will contribute to a healthy relationship with your spouse and can help set your marriage up for success.
Regardless of your marital status, remember these money tips:
- Be honest with yourself and your significant other about your financial situation
- Check in regularly to be sure you’re on budget and adjust if necessary
- Ask for help from professionals when it comes to finances, short and long term
Sources: daveramsey.com; bankrate.com; marriage.com