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Retired RVers make travel a way of life

Robin Williams lampooned them in a comedy last year. People from all walks of life drive them, including Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. You see them on the highways -- motor homes towing cars that bear license plates from all over the country.

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For some retirees, recreational vehicles, or RVs, are a comfortable way to travel on extended trips to visit the grandkids. Others have sold their stick-built homes to take to the road full time.

It's hard to say how many retirees have chosen this lifestyle, says Jane Kenny, author of "RV Retirement." She says 10 percent of Americans over the age of 55 own an RV. About one-third of them are either full-timers (as are Kenny and her husband) or live in their RVs at least three months of the year. She estimates the number of full-time retired RVers at 1.5 million.

Enthusiasts cite the lure of the open road, the opportunity for extended visits with far-flung family and friends, the camaraderie of the RVing community and freedom from the demands of homeownership among the many attractions of the RV lifestyle. They admit it's not for everyone.

Hitting the open road
1. Buying your home on wheels
2. Living expenses
3. Practical matters
4. Support groups
5. Assisted RV living

"You have to able to go with the flow," says Jamie Hall-Bruzenak, author of "Support Your RV Lifestyle!"

"Someone who needs a lot of structure may have a hard time. Living full-time in an RV is not a vacation. If you are unhappy in your existing life, you'll probably be unhappy traveling."

Even for those bitten with wanderlust, the decision to spend all or part of your retirement looking through the windshield of an RV should not be taken lightly. RV lifestyle specialists advise setting aside time to do some serious homework and take a good look at your finances, health and capabilities before you hit the road.

Buying your home on wheels
Living on the road means looking at your finances in a new way. On the one hand, you won't have work-related expenses or, if you're a full-timer, home maintenance costs, says Alice Zyetz, an RV lifestyle specialist who has lived on the road for 13 years, both solo and as half of a couple.

"Living in an RV reduces your energy expenses: less electricity, gas and water," she says. "Your reduced space limits the number of things you can buy."

Next: "Heading for the highway, looking for adventure ..."
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