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April 1st, 2013

Memo From Frank & Dave

RV shipments rose to 285,749 in 2012, which was the strongest showing since 2007. Experts expect 2013 to be even higher, as the industry fights its way back to the 2007 rate of 353,400 units sold. So what is fueling the surge in sales? While the manufacturers have correctly figured that the lower cost models would lead the recovery – and have re-focused their offerings to reflect that strategy – the real reason for the improvement is the 10,000 baby boomers per day who are taking retirement. At this point, there is so much pent-up demand from this demographic that sales increases should be a given for the next decade or so (baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1961). It’s nice that RV is on the right side of that curve.

How To Buy A Job (And A Whole Lot More) At An RV Park

For some reason, many people put down the concept of "buying a job" when investing in real estate. Of course, those same people don't consider spending $200,000 to get a law degree "buying a job" as an attorney. Or $400,000 to "buy a job" as a doctor. Every kid in college today is spending $40,000 to $200,000 "buying a job" for when they get out (if they can find one). So why should real estate be different?

Buying a job as the owner/operator of an RV park can be a lot better than those other examples. Here's why.

It's a happy lifestyle

The folks I know who are lawyers and doctors are not very happy people. They drive a nice car and have a large mortgage (bigger than the house it is associated with today), but their day-to-day lifestyle is less than pleasant. This takes a toll on their health and relationships (I know one doctor who is on his fifth marriage and has a daughter older than this grandkids), but they keep at it until they die. The same is true with attorneys. Many I know have already had mid-life crisis where they quit their firm and try to "find themselves" (one moved to China and spent six years learning the language and living in poverty). I doubt that many doctors and lawyers would rate their lifestyle as pleasant, despite their material possessions.

RV park owner/operators, on the other hand, are a very happy group indeed. They deal all day with happy customers who are always curious on things to do, or to tell about things they just did. There are few customer complaints, and nobody argues about the price. Collections are 100%, since they pre-pay while checking in. And there is always something fun to do, whether it's jumping in the golf cart to see if everybody has hooked up O.K., or chatting at the front desk, or selling a bag of Fritos.

If you talk to most RV park owners, one of the things you will never hear is how they hate their job - or even their boss (you'd have to have multiple personalities to achieve that one). They are all very happy with what they do.

They control their own destiny, and know what that destiny looks like

With the advent of the internet, and the coming of age of developing countries with the export of their services, being a doctor or lawyer is scary stuff. Technologies already exist that would allow a doctor in India to read the X-ray of a patient in the U.S. And you can have an attorney in China write a contract for you. Clearly the future for lawyers and doctors is in some degree of doubt. With a push to cut costs, the economics of medical care and legal services does not look that good.

Meanwhile, the RV park owner has no such worries. No type of technology or trend is going to make people give up their vacations, or beam their sewage to the moon. It's a pretty safe bet that the RV park of 2020 looks and works pretty much like the one of today. And that's very reassuring.

You are building an asset for your family

While you are pursuing the "job" you bought with the RV park, you are also building equity. And that's the most important difference with doctors and lawyers. When they die or retire, their practice is erased, except for those rare occasions when they can sell their practice (and even then it is not for much and they have to carry the paper). An RV park, on the other hand, is a tangible asset with a lot of value.

And you have two choices. You can pass on either the operating business to your descendants, or sell it and give them the money instead. And remember that there are no degrees needed to run an RV park. Your kid can flunk out of high school, and still own and operate an RV park.

So while an RV park owner is having fun, they are still building wealth for their family.


Owning and operating an RV park is partly about "buying a job". But what is wrong with that? If you enjoy the work, you will not only be a happy person with better relationships, you will also be building a sizable asset for your family. If that's what "buying a job" means, then everybody should absolutely "buy a job". Just ask any RV park owner.

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