Hi Leveraged Mamas, today we have our second guest in the Downsizing Families: Your House, or Your Life? series – Kat Soper! The loss of a treasured family member was the catalyst for Kat's downsizing experience, which sees this mortgage free, travel-loving family set off on a 2 month Europe trip very shortly.
I know what you're thinking – Kat is mortgage free, she must be either rolling in the moolah, or have gotten super lucky. But that's not actually the case, and that's why her story is special and worth sharing. It's perhaps a contrarian decision, to sell your house and not immediately purchase another.
But at this point in her life, Kat has chosen her life, over her house. Find out why from Kat herself.
Over to you Kat!
Who makes up your family?
My husband (39), Me (35), daughters 10 and 7.
Tell us a little about your life before you downsized.
I would describe our life before we downsized as ambitious.
We had never learned to save and got ourselves into quite a bit of debt in our early marriage, especially after the GFC. We learned the hard way what happens when you buy a home with 10% deposit and then the market drops over 30%.
Related: Is a House a Good Investment?
"We learned the hard way, what happens when you buy a home with 10% deposit and then the market drops over 30%." - Kat Soper on Downsizing Families: Your House, or Your Life?
So, at the time we had our first baby, we decided to move to Australia where Husband could earn more money. He spent the first 7 years of the girl’s lives working away in various roles at the Australian mines while I was a stay at home Mum to our young family.
In 2013 we moved back to NZ, but it wasn’t until 2015 that he moved back to a NZ based job. He worked in a corporate managerial position which still required him to travel a lot.
When we moved back to NZ we purchased a doer upper home, a big 1970s house with lots of character. All of our spare time and money was spent on doing up the home.
We also liked to travel overseas regularly.
I would describe us from going from near bankruptcy in 2008, to extremely comfortable in cashflow terms by 2013. Then moderately comfortable after he moved back to NZ based work in 2015.
If there was a catalyst for downsizing for your family, what was it?
Absolutely. 2 ½ years ago my father was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. During this time, along with my mother, I was one of his primary carers/support people.
Unluckily, at the same time, husband had 3 separate head injuries. As a result of the first 2 (6 days apart) he had 9 months off work. Then the second one (right as we were losing Dad) he was off for 2 ½ months.
It was stressful to say the least and really made us question the value of life.
How did you downsize?
After we lost Dad, we decided to sell our big beautiful home and move in with my Mum.
Becoming debt-free was AMAZING.
Living with Mum has its challenges, but, has freed us up to life life in a way that we’ve never had before. In July 2018 we are leaving on an around the world trip. We’ll be going to visit Fiji, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bali.
What were your biggest concerns before downsizing, and how did that turn out?
That we’d never get back into the property market again. But, I’ve decided to let that go. We did it twice and we’ll do it again. Life is too short to worry about that. I’d rather be living our dreams than burning ourselves out affording a house that we love but feels like a noose.
"I’d rather be living our dreams than burning ourselves out affording a house that we love but feels like a noose." Kat Soper on Downsizing Families: Your House, or Your Life?
What were the most difficult changes to adjust to?
Living in someone else’s house (and with significantly downsized stuff) is a challenge when you’re used to
a) your own space and
b) having everything your own way haha.
We’ve learnt to keep our eyes on the bigger picture of what we are about to achieve.
How is life better after downsizing?
I actually LOVE not having a mortgage. Everytime I freak out that we’ll never be able to get one again, I remember how wonderful and freeing it is not to have one right now.
When we got married almost 17 years ago, we were supposed to move to Europe and travel. It has taken us alllll this time to make that actually happen and I am so SO excited about it.
We’ve also had the freedom for husband to give up his job. As of 2 weeks ago he is my full-time partner in crime in my business
Do we worry that it will be stressful financially. I’d be lying if I said no.
But, it’s only money.
And if the last 2 years have taught me anything it’s that life is short. We only get one chance at this. I don’t want to have any regrets when my chance has ended.
"If the last 2 years have taught me anything it’s that life is short. We only get one chance at this. I don’t want to have any regrets when my chance has ended." Kat Soper on Downsizing Families: Your House, or Your Life?
The way we are living now, I don’t believe we will have.
Have your jobs changed since, or in order to support your downsizing (or as a result of it)?
As above – husband could leave his job.
Under what circumstances would you recommend downsizing to other families?
If you are feeling trapped or limited by your debt, and it’s starting to make you feel miserable, then I’d totally recommend asking yourself if downsizing is a good solution. Noone’s situation is the same. We are all completely different in our goals, and the circumstances we’ve chosen would not be for everyone.
But, if the only thing holding you back is fear of what others think, or fear of downsizing, then I say just do it. Don’t let fear (or what anyone else thinks) hold you back!!!
"Don’t let fear (or what anyone else thinks) hold you back!!!" Kat Soper on Downsizing Families: Your House, or Your Life?
For readers thinking about downsizing, what tips do you have for them?
Have a plan.
Crunch the numbers.
Realise that it will be an emotional roller coaster for a while and that it’s ok.
Remember that money can be earned again.
Focus on the long game.
Where can readers find about more about you?
That’ll probably do…
Kat, thank you so much for sharing your family's downsizing story, and giving us a glimpse into your life post-downsizing. Your ‘mortgage free' is a different version to what people might have thought, but I admire your courage in making a decision that was right for your family, despite the popular opinion that a owning a house and having a mortgage is what we should all do, regardless of our unique needs and situations. Sometimes we need to think outside the box and not be afraid to challenge the status-quo.
Leveraged Mamas – if you're interested in travelling vicariously through Kat and her family (I know I will be), jump on her Instagram as I know she'll be posting trip pics there.
Are you dreaming about escaping the 9-5, but worried about how you're going to earn your keep? I highly recommend reading this book: Be a Free Range Human : Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills. I'll be giving a copy to a lucky mailing list member, so sign up below!