Help us decide our future financial paths: A guest post

#2 is on a two-week honeymoon in Italy so we’ve solicited guest posts from readers and will be running them along with random kitten pictures and hopefully(!) food pics from Italy.

Anandar is kicking us off with a money Monday question about long-term financial planing.  Help her think through her options!


Anandar writes:

For the first time in a loooong time, we have what feel like real choices in our financial life, and so I took the opportunity to write up a guest post in hoping of thinking things through (and getting feedback if you feel like commenting!).  My spouse and I are both professionals around age 40.  In our 20s, we were in grad school and/or making peanuts.  In our 30s, we were still (!) in grad school, and generally felt urgent about working to pay off the school loans/get established in our careers while paying daycare bills/afford a downpayment in our crazy-high cost-of-living area.  Now, we own a house, just paid off law school loans, our youngest is starting public kindergarten, and we generally feel less strapped.

Additional background:  We both have the sort of jobs (teacher and legal aid lawyer) that are meaningful but also very time consuming and stressful for conscientious types.   We live in a very high cost of living area, and while our fixed expenses are lower than many people of similar age and socioeconomic status—we are debt free except for an affordable mortgage, with no expensive habits–the whole working-parent-modern-life thing leaves us susceptible to throwing money at problems and “treating” ourselves in ways that we suspect we wouldn’t if we worked less.  While I wouldn’t say we live in Paradise, it is definitely a place where spending a lot of money can be fun, interesting and/or delicious.  We’re not interested in easing our finances by moving to a cheaper area, because we don’t want to reboot our community from scratch.  Our savings are on track for retirement at a typical age (we’re steady savers when working but also spend many years in grad school, including a spare PhD, not contributing to IRAs or 401(k)s).  Our savings for kids’ college are relatively modest, but we are taking a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” and “you can borrow for college but not retirement” approach (our privileged kids’ grandparents have also started 529 plans).

Here are our four options for the future, ranked from least to most expensive, and I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on how you’d evaluate them:

1)      Save up for a sabbatical year of living in another country with kids (the teacher could do this easily; the lawyer would probably have to quit current job).  This is on our “bucket list” of things to do with our children before they old enough to prefer international adventures sans parents.

2)     Save up for major house renovations to make our small home more liveable long term, including separate rooms for each child; a second bathroom; a real guest bedroom for visiting grandparents (who may in the far future want to live with us, so heck, let’s call it an in-law unit); a deck for eating al fresco.

3)    Same as #2, except borrow the money in order to enjoy the benefits of renovation much sooner, while locking ourselves in to higher fixed monthly expenses due to debt.

4)    Save like crazy in order to achieve financial independence (FI) before standard retirement ages.  Neither of us has any desire to stop working entirely, but working on a very part-time or volunteer basis would allow for more flexibility and creativity in our professional and personal lives.  Once we hit FI, we could dramatically increase our charitable donations, which we would really like to do.  I am not sure exactly how long this would take, because I am not sure how frugal we can really be and still preserve our equilibrium.

I can already hear you all saying:  since all of these options cost money, and you seem not to know what you want, why not just save as much as you can and decide later!  And for goodness sakes, these options aren’t all mutually exclusive—if you were financially independent, you could drag the kids on an international sabbatical every year!

There are a several reasons why I’d prefer to have a plan.  First, we are thinker-aheaders (if one were taking a deficit approach, we’d have anxiety issues).  Second, there are practical differences in how we would be spending our scarce free time today depending on which option is our top priority for the future (language learning! home cooking all meals!).  Third, to my mind, these options involve different mentalities with respect to our jobs and our finances, as well as our underlying value sets.  Trying to achieve FI early requires a substantial commitment to frugality.  Saving or borrowing money for home renovations entails a certain amount of doubling down on our paid work, while planning for a sabbatical involves thinking about detaching from our jobs.  And so forth.

So, thoughtful readers, how would you prioritize these options in our circumstances?  What additional questions would you ask yourself? 

34 Responses to “Help us decide our future financial paths: A guest post”

  1. Rented life Says:

    I had never thought about living abroad as an option. I know we want to travel internationally while LO is young. Hmm.

    I agree that each goal is a different mentality, I wouldn’t be able to just save at random either. I don’t know which I’d pick as each has good value except #3. That seems to be introducing debt that doesn’t make sense. So I can’t help you pick one but I’d eliminate 3 completely.

    • anandar Says:

      I lived abroad (for sabbatical-length trips) several times with my family as a child, and I feel like those experiences broadened my worldview in a way that garden-variety international travel wouldn’t have– cross-cultural friendships, school attendance. I would also read deeply and differently when I was abroad (most often we had access to an English-language library, but the books would be totally different than I was used to, and I’d develop new interests and passions). I think/hope that my kids would have similarly interesting experiences.

  2. Ana Says:

    1) this sounds like a fantastic problem to have! congrats on doing so well and being in a place to consider these options! 2) they are all so very different, I have no idea how to prioritize them for you—I don’t know your priorities/personalities/dreams. I don’t even know which of these I’d choose for myself, though 1 would be out since I can’t really pause my work and expect to have it here (or anywhere) a year later. Maybe some combination of 2 & 4 (I don’t love the idea of borrowing money, though maybe if the interest rate were low enough it may make more sense than saving for years for a home reno?)

    • anandar Says:

      Well, I am definitely very grateful for having such high-class problems, but I’ll add the obligatory note that both my spouse and I come from places of privilege (very solidly upper-middle class plus lots cultural capital); I’d say that we are more lucky than anything else. Although, we certainly have grad school classmates from similar backgrounds who have made different choices and have (or feel like they have) less freedom than we do–avoiding that trap and modeling a less-consumerist lifestyle are some of my main motivations for route #4.

      Pausing work is definitely going to be a challenge for me as a lawyer (esp since I have a very congenial position right now that I’d have to give up), but I am trying to be less fear-based in my thinking about my career– there is more good work out there, and we could get by on just one income if we needed to (except if we went for option #3 above).

  3. Leigh Says:

    So. I thought about this a bunch on my commute this morning. And I don’t think we can help you with it. This isn’t a money decision really but a life/psychology decision and we can’t tell you which you would prefer! It’s about which of these is the most important to you, not which will cost the most or least money.

    What I wouldn’t do is take on debt to do the home renovations. I would reduce extra mortgage payments or taxable investment contributions before doing that. You say that the sabbatical abroad is on your bucket list, so I would figure out a timeline for that, calculate how much you need to save to retire at 60, put your kids through college if you want to do that, and then see how much you have left. Are the home renovations more important to you than retiring early? That’s what I would be asking yourselves. I would calculate how much earlier you could retire without making some of those projects and evaluate how important they are, putting them each in priority order. Any money leftover after home renovations I would dump into taxable investments for a possible early retirement.

    You say you want to increase your charitable donations later in life. I would consider starting with that now. The writer of the blog “Where’s my trust fund?” talks about how she and her husband donate a specific percentage of their income, so that’s what I do and I have a strategy for increasing it other the years to a higher % as well.

    Good luck! You have some good options ahead of you guys! :)

    • anandar Says:

      Thanks, Leigh! That is a really helpful clarifying question. I think, when you put it like quantitatively like that, that it is more clear to me that home renovations are indeed more important to us than retiring early– our reasons for pursuing financial independence are more abstract (not because we want to stop working per se), while being able to comfortably do things like house aging grandparents who come from afar and tend to stay a long time (another high-class problem, since they are great babysitters), and live amicably in the future with two teenagers (! it will come sooner than we know it), seem more important to me.

      I should say that we do contribute a % of our gross income amount that I feel pretty good about — certainly more than the average for our income level (although that is a low bar). But a good chunk of that goes to things like our kids’ public school, which I feel obliged to support because state funding for education is abysmal. I would prefer and will get more excited about charitable donations when I can put a larger percentage of them to “systems change” type work. But I also feel, given the current state of school funding, and because we are some of the wealthiest parents at our public school, that I have an obligation to step up.

      The ethics of donating to one’s own child’s school could be a whole other post!

  4. bogart Says:

    So about those home improvements. I know this is a wildly unpopular thing to say in the PF world, but debt right now is absurdly — absurdly — cheap. Obviously this is not something to be done lightly or frivolously, but if one of those projects you listed (I’m thinking second bathroom) would significantly improve your quality of life, I might be tempted to go ahead and get it done, or at least explore what financing it would cost.

    If you end up going with the sabbatical path plan and one of those improvements would improve the rentability of your home to attractive tenants, I might add that issue into the decision-making process.

    If, on the other hand, you’d sell your home if you took a sabbatical (I am assuming not), or anticipate taking one soon and thus not benefiting as long and immediately from the improvement, then I’d delay that. Of course, if this is a “pick one” list, then this paragraph and the one above it are irrelevant, but if there is a possibility of picking multiple options and sequencing over time, I’d consider how their payoffs (enjoyability as well as general utility) will play out depending on the sequencing.

    Congratulations on being in a position to have such choices open to you!

  5. anandar Says:

    Thanks, guys! I am fascinated that so far the clear majority opinion is no on option #3– my thinking is much more like bogart’s, that debt is cheap right now, and since the improvements would pretty clearly directly improve our quality of life (especially by making it easier to entertain), and we can afford it (subject to the tradeoffs described in the post). I’m thinking that if we did take #3 as an option, we would make sure to set up a separate investment account with several years’ worth of debt. I have no idea how long the terms typically are on 100k+ home reno debt and would have a lot to learn about that process if we went that route– would appreciate advise from anyone who has done that.

    But then I think that the appeal of #3 is just that I am easily seduced into “I Want It Now” consumerism. Hmmm.

    • becca Says:

      Home renovations are a big thing, and different people clearly get different utility out of the experience. Do both you and your partner like to pick things out and have similar tastes?

      I can understand if, funding-wise, you end up needing to get most of it done all at once, but it seems to me that different parts of the renovation project are more urgent than others. Which ones are most important to you I can’t say for sure.
      Still, if your jobs are very time consuming, not having a deck may not actually be your biggest obstacle to entertaining. I personally think having peaceful outdoor space that you want to use gives a meaningful bump in quality of life, but pop up chairs on the lawn can do this as well as fancy decks with adorable matching patio sets (not that I don’t covet those oversized shade umbrellas with tables!!! They *are* pretty!).
      Whether another room will make your *kids* quality of life much better depends a lot on your kids, but if you build the extra room it might be that you can bump your kids in with each other when the in-laws visit, at least for a few more years.
      Money-wise, there’s always the possibility that the logical thing to do is to move to a bigger house, rather than do 100k of improvements to the one you’ve got. I hate moving, so I always assume that is a major drawback. Still, with so many renovations I do wonder whether the numbers themselves make sense- and that depends largely on your market.

      • anandar Says:

        Hah, you are 100% right that not having a deck is NOT our biggest obstacle to entertaining more, not by a long shot. I do see an undercurrent to all of these options I put on the table of fantasizing about “alternative, less stressful lifestyles” and the therapist-in-my-head wants to ask me about that. And I want to duck the question and focus on more practical questions (to answer your first question, I anticipate that I would love the decision-making part of the reno process, and my husband would merely tolerate it– until it dragged on and we both got sick of it)).

        Another thing I am taking away from this exercise is that I need to get some in-person advice from an architect about the house and what things would cost, possibly even before making some of the big picture decisions. The way I imagine the renovations going, it would make sense to do them all at once, but what do I know?

        And I’ve been assuming that moving to a new house would be even more expensive, given our crazy local market, but I don’t know that for sure, either. We do like our specific location very much.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Another thing to look into is whether your renovations could be done in chunks if you do them in the right order. (At my house, it would be best to make a new laundry room first–then I can pull the washer out of the kitchen and replace it with shelves temporarily. Then I could do the kitchen remodel with more cabinets and counters where the washer used to be plus a dishwasher. Creating covered parking might come before the laundry room if the covered parking was a garage in which we could install the washer.) Then you could do one chunk at a time and maybe stop in the middle if your priorities change.

        Another thing to keep in mind is that some renovations look super spiffy in architects’ portfolios. But others can involve small changes that make a big difference in comfort even if the “after” pictures don’t look spectacular. You might need to interview several designers to find one whose priorities match yours.

  6. chacha1 Says:

    I would ask myself “what gives me the warmest fuzziest most excited feeling: the notion of chucking it all for a year and running away to Oz with the kids; the notion of retiring early and spending the last third of my life doing … ?; or working harder to create a more expensive house that we may not stay in forever?”

    I think you can see where I fall on the home-renovation question. :-) I think if you choose that, you are effectively torpedoing the other options because a house never gets less expensive to insure or pay taxes on. Renovating after the house is paid off entirely is one thing, renovating when you’re still locked into a mortgage – that is blocking you from taking other options – is another. I definitely don’t favor borrowing money for renovation; I don’t care how “cheap” debt is right now. Your kids will benefit more from having parents who are not stressed out about making debt payments than they will from having their own bathroom.

    Also, a house locks you into location. If you spend all available money on your house for the next 5-10 years and then manage to save for the sabbatical, maybe right around the time your kids are in high school … what are the odds you will take that sabbatical? And if the lawyer has to leave hir job in order to take a sabbatical, what are the odds ze will find a new job right back at home?

    FIRE is a great goal if the reason is to live debt free while continuing to work at employment you love, which may or may not make any money. FIRE without having defined the reason may be a recipe for frustration, especially if in practice it means leaving your community to live somewhere less expensive. FIRE in order to give money away is philanthropy, which is for people who have no other financial concerns.

    If you want to take your kids to live abroad while they are kids (i.e. before high school) then you should prioritize that savings plan. But if deep in your hardworking hearts you are tired of living like grad students and want a nicer nest, then maybe you should prioritize the house. As mentioned above, this is a psychology question much more than a PF question.

    Congratulations on being in such a solid position and on so thoughtfully planning for the next step. I <3 plans. :-)

    • anandar Says:

      I had not thought about the fact that our ability to control the sabbatical idea is much greater right now– good point! In our minds, this is clearly a Fun Thing, but it would not shock me if one of my children was enough of a homebody to resist the idea, and for that resistance to become more, shall we say, pointed, if we wait 7-8 years.

      In theory, we are pretty committed to our particular location at least until the kids hit college (14 years). And the lawyer (me) could definitely find a new job after sabbatical, although it might not be as collegial as the current one. We could survive on one salary to avoiding rushing into an obviously wrong job– but we might NOT be able to do that if we had extra housing debt. So, I think that options #1 and #3 are particularly incompatible, especially in the short/medium term.

      You are right that it is a psychology question! I kind of wish it were just a personal finance question because that would seem more susceptible to a “right” answer.

      • chacha1 Says:

        dirty little secret: ALL personal finance questions are psychology questions. :-)

        Wild tangent: there are other ways to get your travel on than by taking a whole year off/quitting your job. And if one of the kids is a homebody and doesn’t want to go someplace unknown (= scary), mightn’t the grandparents like to have that kid for a summer while you take the other one to, I dunno, Iceland? Homebody might change its mind once the great stories come home. Or the kids could take turns. My parents did this with me and my sister – they’d park one of us at Nana’s and send the other to a camp – and they didn’t even want to travel, they just wanted a couple weeks without kids. LOL

    • Mrs PoP Says:

      re paying taxes on home improvements…

      If you’re serious about major home renovations, research if you’d be risking your homestead exemption with a renovation of the scale you’re considering. For example, in FL – If we did a $100K renovation on our house, we’d be crossing over the n-% threshold (I think n=30 or 40) of improvements allowed and our homestead exemption cap would reset. That means that our capped taxable value could climb from its current value of ~$140K (effectively $90K after $50K exemption) to the current market value + cost of any renovations, ie $240+$100 = $340K. (effectively $290K after $50K exemption). This would >TRIPLE our property taxes (an increase of ~$4K/yr) and essentially double the cost of the renovation since $4K = 4% of $100K, so we’d theoretically need an extra $100K in investments to cover the tax increase in perpetuity. This a clause that people with small homes are particularly susceptible to, but often unaware of, and the architect selling you the $100K renovation isn’t likely to mention…

      • becca Says:

        Wow, this is so useful to know! So glad you posted it :-)

      • anandar Says:

        I never heard of the homestead exemption! According to google, in our state, there is a homestead exemption that has to do with the portion of the property that is exempt due to bankruptcy (which I hope is not something we are at risk for), and then a homeowner’s property tax exemption, which exists but is minuscule.

        I do know that doing major renovations would significantly increase our property taxes, though, because the permitting process would cause our home to be reassessed at a much higher level than it is now (one of the ways we are lucky is we happened to buy near the low point of the last recession; home values have shot up since then, but our property taxes haven’t kept pace). We’ll have to figure that into the cost of options #3 or #4.

  7. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    #1. Hands down. It is such a life-enhancing experience, especially for children, but really for all of you. When you need an in-law unit, maybe the in-laws can help pay for it. Go for experiences, not things, now that you have the basics taken care of.

  8. Mrs PoP Says:

    I guess I’m the oddball that we’re not super specific on what we’re saving for, we just save for the most expensive goal we can think of and try not to stop living our lives in the mean time. So in our heads, we’re saving for ER*, where the asterisk indicates that this is subject to change at any time we decide to change our circumstances (ie move across the country, have kids, whatever…), but we’re also cash-flowing a pretty major renovation to our house – just doing it as a DIY so that it’ll be closer to $30K (over a couple of years) than $80K+ (over 6 months?) that it probably would have been if we hired it out.

    For me, having the asterisk on our goals is really freeing, and I say this as the kind of person who can get overly-obsessed with meeting goals to the point that it negatively impacts quality of life.

    • anandar Says:

      I wish our lives could accommodate a DIY reno! I can say with some confidence that that would not be the wisest decision for our marriage. I admire both your skillz and your ability to leave some uncertainty in your long term goals!

  9. senior generation who did travel as a child Says:

    it need not take a whole year to expose your children to different cultures. Doing a month long one place stay achieves much the same exposure. Sure a year would be lovelier but shorter spans in more diverse locations teaches the same thing if you choose your places carefully. That also lets you save for both home remodel and travel. AND, if the senior generation wants a ‘in-law unit’/accommodation at your house ~ allow them to contribute towards costs……

    • anandar Says:

      I think you are right that SOME sort of international travel is in the cards, regardless if/when we do my sabbatical dream. My spouse is on an academic schedule and could easily take a month+ summer vacation. It would be challenging but possible with my job. One the kids are a bit older, I will be a bigger person and encourage them to get in some travel without me!

  10. Debbie M Says:

    I think #1 sounds the best followed by #3. As for #2/3, my first though was to get a curtain or bookcases to split one room into two so each child can have his or her own space. Then if the time comes, pay for a hotel room for guests or pull a cool trailer into your back yard for in-laws. Heck, pull a trailer in the back yard and rent it out now for extra cash. Don’t know if there are legality issues or plumbing electrical issues, though.

    Of course if you can do #4 quickly enough, then you can immediate do #1 after that, then work fun and/or part-time jobs to finance #2/3.

    You say your jobs are “very time consuming and stressful for conscientious types.” Assuming that you’re conscientious types (well, you only implied it!), this could lead to burn-out, which would make #4 the best choice.

    Another thought that comes to mind is that a year in a foreign country might be much more valuable than paying for college. I loved college (and even worked at one for decades), but much of the stuff you learn there can be learned from books. But then a lot of people make the connections they use later in job hunting at college, so I don’t know.

    • anandar Says:

      One of the things that is causing me to be less gung-ho about #4 than I would otherwise be is indeed the risk of burnout, which is significant in both of our fields. Quickly pursing financial independence seems like a recipe for more stress to me! I really value my ability to throw money to solve household problems at times, wimpy as that sounds.

  11. becca Says:

    Oh! I forgot to mention- I would definitely research the financing details for the loan, even if I thought I’d be unlikely to take it out (speaking as someone who needed space for an elderly parent much more abruptly than we imagined- taking on debt to get my ideal deck is iffy, but I think I would have taken on debt to take care of my Mom in hospice in my home instead of trying to make her spend down her assets enough for Medicaid, not that we even had time to do renovations… sorry, I know it’s a rough topic)

    Also, I’d definitely delay saving for any of the goals for a year if it meant I could try out living abroad for a month over the summer, to see how the kids actually do while traveling, if I was feeling like it was difficult to commit to that as a savings/career goal with that part in doubt. My kid almost always amazes me with hir adaptability, but I tend to obsess over those kinds of decisions anyway, and “trying it out in a small way” can help a lot with that.

  12. J Liedl Says:

    Although an academic who was a child of an academic, I have never gone away for more than research trips during a sabbatical although I have taken three, now. Autistic Youngest really was not compatible with the whole “uproot for sabbatical” lifestyle. Nor are pets! I have a colleague whose wife quit her job so the family can travel across the continent on his sabbatical year. Different strokes for different folks.

    Right now, we’re saving for more home renovations. We will probably live in the house ’til my retirement, planned to happen in sixteen more years. We might well stay many years more if Autistic Youngest is still with us and the options of moving any place warmer remain remote as we are in Canada, after all. We just can’t stomach going into debt on home renovations, though, so it’s slow and steady savings that should help us. That and Eldest wrapping up her post-secondary education!

  13. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Our blog has such great commenters!

    I guess our revealed preference for ourselves is 1, 2 and 4. I really like living someplace else for a year and then coming back to home base. But that’s one of the major perks of academia and a telecommuting spouse. And if we have enough money when we get back then maybe we’ll redo the kitchen so it’s an actual working kitchen. Who knows!

    Really I tend to think of #4 and #1 as being very similar–we’re just taking our financial independence in small year-long bites in exotic locations while we’re still youngish but planning to work well into old age.

    • anandar Says:

      Yes! I appreciate the chance to write it all out– the thoughts and questions absolutely made me think about things differently– thank you all. Like a session with a “life coach,” but cheaper. :)

      I like the idea of “financial independence in small bites”– it seems more sane and doable (in the context of our lives and priorities).

  14. Leah Says:

    Totally missed this great convo yesterday, but here’s my two cents:

    #1 is also on our bucket list but also something we worry about for practicality reasons. We are both teachers, and we have no idea if we can pause our jobs for a year or not, especially since we both work at the same small school. But #1 is what I most what to do. We’ve entertained the idea of both quitting and then looking for new jobs at some point, but that would curtail travel during that year, so we’d likely have to take two years off, given the academic cycle. So, not advice per se, but more saying “I feel you.”

    While I am generally debt-adverse and prefer to save up before something, if the reno would make your life so much better, I would really research the financing and see what you can handle. Like said above, be sure to interview multiple people, and be flexible in exactly how your house changes. I imagine there are ways to change your house that are cheaper than others. And, yes, assess against just buying a different house. Maybe one way is cheaper. The only way to know is to do the research.

    I’m not personally shooting for FI, because I really do love working, so that’s my personal bias. It sounds like that’s your bias too. And, like you said, FI is hard when you have to work more (in any sense) with jobs that are already demanding. I feel like FI works great for people who make $150k+ combined and thus can save a much larger percent than they spend. While we make more than we’ve ever made before and try to save as much as we can, our net worth grows at a really small rate. The changes we’d have to make for FI are more than we can personally handle.

    Good luck on your decisions! Come back and let us know what you think. Not an easy one to solve, mostly because this is so personal. But I love all the info gathering and points people have made here on what to look at to help with the decision.

  15. Ana Says:

    So, I gave this more thought and I am coming down on the side of #1. If its something you both dream of, and you can afford it, the sooner the better—the older the kids get, the harder it will be. And if the year away is truly life-changing, it may drastically alter how you feel about #2/3/4 or even #5/6/7 that you haven’t yet dreamed of. If you pick any of the others, by necessity, #1 is off the table—if you go into debt or use your savings for a reno, quitting a job is more risky, and if you go gung-ho for FI, #1 would delay it. But if you really love living abroad & not working, that may motivate you to early retirement, or you’ll realize that even when traveling, the best part was your lovely home and so you’ll really want the reno, or maybe you decide you like living in a more rural locale and you move, who knows! Also you can always do #1 and then #2 (slowly) or #3, but you can’t reverse that. So DO IT. (and blog about so I can live vicariously, because it sounds amazing!)

    • chacha1 Says:

      Or just move overseas altogether. Teachers and lawyers are increasingly valuable overseas as expatriate communities grow.

      I thought it was telling that the sabbatical came in at #1 on the list of options. Was that subconscious? I mean, I know what MY first thing is – getting the hell out of L.A. – so that being first might be said to answer the question. :-)

  16. middle_class Says:

    So much good advice! The only thing I would add is that if you do the renovation with a low-interest loan, it might be more tempting to spend more $$$ than you would if you budgeted for it.

  17. Linda Says:

    There are lots of good comments and things to ponder here. This sounds like it was a fun exercise for you, too.

    There may be ways to do #1 that don’t involve funding it yourself. An acquaintance of mine left his teaching job in Chicago to work at a school in Kenya for a year. I’m not sure what his wife was doing in Chicago/is doing in Kenya, but the two children are going to the school where he is teaching. They didn’t sell their house in Chicago, just rented it out. The family has enjoyed the experience so much they’ve extended the contract.

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