Updated: Dec 19, 2022
In the summer of 2019, my husband & I made the decision to leave our conventional lives behind and pursue a life at sea.
We had day-dreamed about it for years; talking over dinners about the awesome opportunity it would offer us to explore, reset, and figure out what we truly wanted to do with the remainder of our time on this planet.
As magical as it all sounded, pulling the trigger didn’t come fast or lightly. In the end, it took a serious assessment of our financial state before we could take any concrete steps and transfrom ourselves from Dreamers to Doers.
Could we afford the type of boat that we envisioned living aboard? How would we make money while out at sea? Did we need to focus on making money during this adventure, or could we afford to just cruise and consider it a “gap year”?
This is a short sampling of questions we had to ask ourselves. Solving them gave us peace of mind about our direction, and a financial roadmap to pursue our dream.
It also gave us better insight into the lifestyle we each desired to have at sea. It’s surprising how 2 people can have 2 completely different versions of a shared vision.
Your dream may not match ours — but my guess is that you have one. A dream, that is. Your dream may be to quit your job and start a business. It may be to start a family. Whatever the case, the hard truth is that most dreams require $$$.
How much, or how little, is the secret sauce that you must figure out for yourself.
My goal for this article is to show you exactly how we prepared ourselves financially to chase our dream. No matter your dream, you can take these same steps to figure out where you are financially today, and where you need to be to get where you want to go!
Did I mention that in my conventional life, I was in the banking industry?
A Projection helps to bridge the gap between reality and a dream.
Before we started pricing boats, we had to dig deep to uncover what we desired from this adventure — AND — what we could reasonably afford. If the two didn’t align, we would have to make adjustments. This mindset forced us to look logically at what had previously only existed as a dream.
Planning isn’t as sexy as dreaming, but it sure gets you closer to the desired outcome.
No matter your dream, it’s important to take stock of what that dream is going to cost you. To research, we joined online forums for live aboards, read countless books and articles, followed YouTubers, and personally interviewed people that had been through the process of buying a boat.
Through that research we were able to calculate the 4 O's needed to make our projection:
First, our research helped us to create a realistic list of the Ongoing Expenses that we could expect to incur in our new life:
Boat mortgage and insurance.
Monthly fees related to cruising like mooring fees, dockage, visas, etc.
Everyday expenses like fuel, groceries, data/cell phone plans, etc.
10% of the total value of the boat set aside in a fund for repairs and other unpredictable expenses, averaged out over 12 months.
James and I also planned to live aboard our boat without making any income for 12 months. This would mean saving up a year’s worth of these listed expenses. Why such a drastic stance? While we had revenue streams in mind, we didn’t want to feel rushed to make a buck as soon as we set sail.
What these ongoing expenses did NOT account for was the bridge that existed between the world we operated in today, and the one we strived to live in tomorrow. It’s that final stretch of road where you realize there are a few more tolls to pay before you are in the clear.
To complete our projection, we made a list of the following:
One-Time expenses are those we expected to incur in preparation for living aboard, like a 20% down payment on the boat! Others were related to items we needed (or wanted) to make our life aboard more comfortable, safe, or fun. Like a GoPro!
Outstanding debts are those that would be paid in a lump sum prior to our exit— like credit card balances, the remaining 4 months on my car lease, and paying off our Iphones to “unlock” them for use with overseas SIM cards. We strived to pay off all of our outstanding debts, with the exception of our mortgage. This is a debt that we would carry with us as we travelled. (More on that later.)
We realized there was going to be a transitional period of time where we would shell out money for both our current life on land AND our future life at sea. By looking closely at our cash flow, we figured we had a timespan of 4–6 months where we could manage a life on land while juggling expenses related to our future life at sea.
When thinking about your dream, what are the major expenses that you will have to carefully plan for? Use all your available resources to research the heck out of it. You might surprise yourself with how your vision changes when faced with these realities.
Defining Our "Bullet Number"
A bullet number is the amount needed before pulling the trigger on your dream.
We totaled our projected expenses to come up with our “bullet” number; that lump sum of money that we required before pulling the trigger on our dream.
Defining this number helped us realize 2 things:
Our timeline to set sail based on our ability to pay off debts & reach our bullet number.
The luxuries we were paying for today that could be cut out to speed up our timeline.
We had our bullet number. Our next step was to flush out our financials to see what it was going to take to attain it.
Getting a Grip on our Financials
We needed to look at our current financial situation clinically, and not with starry eyes. Therefore, I created a personal Profit & Loss Statement and a Balance Sheet to help us plot our financial journey to our dream.
Don’t let the financial terms scare you. You don’t need an accounting degree or a finance background to make sense of this exercise. (I have a dance degree if that gives you more confidence!) Let’s review the basics before breaking it into actionable items:
The Profit & Loss Statement = Cashflow
Our P&L Statement showed us how much we could reasonably save toward our dream each month. It reflects the income from our jobs minus our expenses. It’s basically a snapshot of our cashflow; money that’s coming in and money that’s going out.
The goal was to show a profit, not a loss, which is accomplished by spending less money than we made.
We used our profit to fund our dream — paying off lingering debts, managing those 4–6 months of anticiapted overlap, and funneling money into a savings account created specifically for the boat purchase.
The Balance Sheet = Assets & Liabilities
The Balance Sheet is a list of our existing assets and debts. It reflects the amount of money accessible to us through liquidation, versus the amount of money we owed to other parties.
The goal was to determine the assets that we could (and should) liquidate in exchange for access to cash to pay off our debts and fund our dream. At the same time, it helped us realize the assets that we should hang on to for retirement, or just a rainy day.
If you’d like to know exactly how we analyzed our Cash Flow and Balance Sheet, you can download those nitty-gritty details in our resource center for aspiring liveaboards.
The Great Unknown
No plan is fool-proof. There are still money issues that have been left unresolved that will only reveal themselves in time.
For instance, we can’t fully predict the income that we will make while living at sea. While we have a few income streams setup, it’s still unknown the exact amount that we can expect to earn each month. But, that’s also a reason we are drawn to this exciting journey — to start something new and see what we can make of it.
What I do know about the unknown is that I don’t fear it. My husband and I have taken the steps we need to get as close to the edge as possible, armed with a parachute, before taking the leap.
We’ll let the wind take us from here.
First Mate, SV Lost Cat