Retirement has been a series of adjustments for Paul Jasmine. He is happy to tell you there is now time available for skiing, rides in his 22-foot Chapparal boat on Lake Tahoe, and the prospect of vacations to destinations like Costa Rica. Also expected has been the effort needed to replace his steady paycheck with payouts from his pension, IRA account, and income from some rental house investments.

On the downside, his bank of 30 years doesn’t want to extend credit to him anymore. “I never had any problems while I was working,” he says. “Things change big time when you’re retired.”

Paul, 67, spent his career as a risk-management engineer in San Jose, Calif., for a series of companies including GE Capital, which leased equipment to the booming high-tech industry. After working from home for a few years, he decided to take the plunge into retirement, so he and his wife, Dana, 13 years his junior, decided to swap their San Jose house for a place in South Tahoe.

While Paul works his investments, Dana got a job in the pharmacy at the local CVS, which provides an income, medical insurance, and an opportunity to earn a pharmacy technician’s license.

For Paul, adjusting to a life of financial self-reliance has not been uniformly smooth. There was a somewhat ill-fated decision to sign up for a real estate investment class, which led him to buy a number of Florida housing lots sight unseen. “I paid too much and got hammered,” he says philosophically. “I’m dumping those as fast as I can.”
Paul also has a weakness for buying into time shares, which he gently describes as “probably not the best investment.” It did yield that vacation to Costa Rica, where they went ziplining and visited a rain forest, as well as another trip to Hawaii.

A better decision was to buy some rental houses in the Midwest. Even with that investment there were challenges, with tenants damaging the houses. But the units are stabilized now, and long-term leases are yielding 12%.

Paul and Dana’s two children are grown and both working in Southern California. Natalie, 28, is working at a Ritz Carlton, and Kevin, 24, is working at a marketing company that Paul struggles to describe. “I can’t even understand the job descriptions,” he says.

The sometimes-disorienting world of the tech boom has of course provided the Jasmine family with what might have been their best investment—buying their house in San Jose in the mid-90s. “It was just an orchard city when I was a kid,” he says of his hometown, but that the region’s rapid transformation has left it almost unrecognizable.

“It’s a nice place to be from,” he sums up, “but I can’t stand visiting there anymore.”

So Paul and Dana decided to invest their real estate gains into a 2,500 square foot house in Lake Tahoe in 2016. When they decided it was time to tackle the unfinished landscaping, Paul applied for a HELOC with his long-time bank. He describes the 1.5-month experience as “terrible” and a never-ending series of requests for more information. “They want you to fax things,” he says. “Who uses a fax?” When he didn’t hear back, he called and was told he’d been turned down.

Then he applied to Figure, where he was pleased to learn that the company didn’t worry about whether his income was W-2 or 1099. “It’s a better way to get a loan,” he says of the 5-day process. “The world needs this.”

Now the landscaping is being installed, including natural Tahoe-area landscaping, a small waterfall, lawn, trees, and bushes. This place might not be their last house—he noted a touch wearily that the area was prone to getting snow in May—and he predicted that someday they’d end up moving to somewhere a bit warmer, and cheaper.

But for now, they are enjoying their upgraded house and looking forward to their trip to Cabo in this fall. “That’s what retirement is supposed to be about,” he says, “enjoying life and going to nice places.”