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5 globe-trekking retired couples
Not content to laze about, some retirees view their newfound freedom as an opportunity to pull up stakes and adopt a nomadic lifestyle.
Whether hitting the open road in an RV, traveling the world by plane or boat, or moving to an exotic location, adventurous retirees must also navigate an unfamiliar financial landscape.
CFP professional Neal Frankle, founder of Wealth Resources Group, says budgeting for a more traditional retirement lifestyle is different from one where travel rules the day. “There’s a lot more variation and possibility for needing to dip into capital.”
For that reason, he advises retirees to carefully resist drawing down their assets too quickly.
Read on to see how five couples made their retirement dreams come true.
Tim and Lynne Martin, Wanderers
Photo courtesy of Tim and Lynne Martin
The decision: Three years ago, at the ages of 70 and 65, the veteran travelers were on vacation in Mexico when they decided to sell their home, all their belongings and make traveling a full-time way of life. “We told ourselves, if we’re going to do this and be home-free, let’s take the time and really be home-free,” Lynne says.
The plan: In the past three years, the Martins have lived in nine countries. They plan to keep going until they are unable or unwilling to continue their nomadic lifestyle. Eventually, they say, they’ll return to California, where their children live, and buy a small house.
The finances: The sale of their California home helped finance the costs of their peripatetic lifestyle. Now, as they travel around the world, they rent apartments and keep only what will fit in two suitcases.
Lynne has written a book about their retirement choice, “Home Sweet Anywhere,” which has brought in extra income. Otherwise, they live off a fixed monthly budget of $6,000 — a combination of investment earnings and Social Security.
“Part of what makes this work is that we live in rented apartments,” says Lynne.
The Martins save money by booking repositioning cruises to travel from the U.S. to Europe, for example; they dine in a lot and they spend up to three months in one place, which gets them a better rental rate.
“It’s a question of averaging it out,” says Lynne. “If we stay in London or Paris at the beginning of the year, we might stay in less expensive places like Istanbul or Mexico later.” There’s always the option to rent a studio instead of a two-bedroom apartment to further cut down on costs, she adds.
Benefits and challenges: The Martins miss their family, but they frequently communicate electronically. The benefits so far outweigh any minor challenges of moving around, Lynne says. They enjoy the flexibility of their new lives and meeting new people. “It’s astounding how many people are out there and living all over the world,” she adds. “Our motto is: Postpone nothing.”
David and Jan Irons, ‘Commuter cruisers’
Photo courtesy of David and Jan Irons
The decision: David, a lifelong boater, met Jan in 1994 at a sailing event. With a passion for racing 18-foot sloop sailboats called Y Flyers, David shared Jan’s dream of cruising off into the sunset on a larger sailboat, but didn’t want to give up land-based life completely.
The solution was commuter cruising, or sailing for several months at a time on Winterlude, their 37-foot Passport sailboat. The rest of the year, they live in their Illinois home.
The plan: “David has always said that when he retired, he wasn’t going to go anywhere he couldn’t wear his shorts,” Jan says. “That set the tone for the commuter cruiser lifestyle.” The couple began a website called CommuterCruiser.com and Jan has co-written a cookbook, “The Boat Galley Cookbook.”
Jan sold her media-buying agency at the age of 49 and David sold his family business, a greenhouse/florist, after he took an early retirement package from his full-time job at the local telephone company. A few months after their youngest son left to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, the couple set sail for the western Caribbean.
The couple spend six to seven months a year on Winterlude, which they keep in Florida. In addition to the East Coast of the U.S., they’ve sailed Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and the Bahamas. Next year, they plan to cruise the eastern Caribbean.
The finances: The couple downsized to a two-bedroom home on a lake, paid off their mortgage, the boat and their vehicle. “We were debt-free and living a simpler life before we retired,” says Jan.
In addition to Social Security and investment earnings, Jan earns some money from writing articles for magazines and royalties from the cookbook.
They find their budget balances out when they cruise less expensive locations in Central and South America.
Benefits and challenges: “Without a doubt, the most valuable aspect of the cruising lifestyle, whether full-time or commuter cruising, is the lifelong friendships you develop,” says Jan.
Weather is the constant challenge, she adds. “Being able to predict a weather window is critical while living in a sailboat.”
The second-biggest challenge, she says, is learning to be self-sufficient. Outside U.S. waters, the services for boat repair are harder to find. “Also, you can’t just order a part,” Jan notes. “Believe it or not, there are parts of the world where FedEx and UPS simply don’t go.”
John and Kathy Huggins, RVers
Photo courtesy of John and Kathy Huggins
The decision: When Kathy was 13, she toured the inside of a GMC King Motorhome during a family camping trip and was smitten. “After that, every time I saw a motor home, I said, ‘I’m going to have one of those.’ John didn’t get on board quite as fast,” she adds. But after visiting RV shows and researching the lifestyle, they set it as a retirement goal.
In 2005, a week after John was laid off from his executive position at Honeywell at the age of 68, they looked at each other and decided to buy an RV and hit the road.
The plan: The couple sold their home in Sarasota, Florida, and moved into a small condo so they could use some of the money to help finance their 40-foot Fleetwood Expedition RV. Then they sold the condo during the height of the housing bubble and hit the road. They’ve mostly traveled in the West and are planning a trip to Alaska next year.
The finances: “During the first year, we traveled constantly, which is what you do on vacation,” says Kathy. “Now it’s a lifestyle.” The frenetic first year came with a cost, specifically in higher fuel and short-term RV park expenses, she says. “It woke us up to the fact that we had to be careful. We have plenty of savings, but didn’t want to drain it too fast.”
Longer stays at campgrounds result in a better rate, as well as the added benefit of having time to meet the locals and get to know the area. Fixed monthly costs include cellphone, TV, mortgage and insurance.
The couple earn extra income through their “Living the RV Dream” podcasts and a book, “So, You Want to Be a Full-Time RVer?”
Benefits and challenges: Living and traveling in close quarters has allowed the couple to become closer to each other, they both say. They’ve also been able to stay as long as they like, wherever they like. “Our plans are set in jelly,” says John.
“We’re not rushed anymore,” Kathy adds. “It’s amazing how relaxing our life is. It’s kind of like living in the 1950s. You put your chairs out front at night and meet CEOs, janitors, families with small children — all types of people.”
Art and Susan Randell, Hawaiians
Photo courtesy of Art and Susan Randell
The decision: The couple, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had visited Hawaii 10 times since 1988 and knew they would live there one day, says Susan. “When our daughter and family told us they would be moving overseas in June 2013, we decided to live our dream and move to Hawaii.”
The plan: Art retired in 2008 from a job as a government contractor and Susan retired in 2013 at age 66 as a casino/hotel internal auditor with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The couple kept their condo in Fort Lauderdale and all its furnishings. They currently rent it out. In Waikiki, they rent a furnished apartment fewer than three blocks from the beach.
The finances: “It’s funny because everyone thinks Hawaii is more expensive,” says Art. “Day-to-day living is not. The cost of living is higher in Fort Lauderdale than it is in Hawaii, which was a very pleasant surprise.”
The flight costs to visit the mainland are the biggest expenses, followed by the price of staples. “Milk and gas are more here than on the mainland,” says Art. “And, of course, buying a house here is off the charts.”
The cost to rent is fairly comparable to Fort Lauderdale, while car and health insurance are half the price for the same coverage, Susan says.
Benefits and challenges: “Moving to Hawaii was the best move we ever made — and we made plenty of moves over the years,” says Susan.
“We have an active lifestyle; we walk a minimum of two to three miles each day. We never tire of going to the beach for sunset,” Susan says. They both volunteer and enjoy the casual lifestyle.
The drawbacks are the distance from family. They have a son in California and a daughter and grandchildren in Kuwait. They have visited Kuwait and enjoy playing host when family and friends visit Hawaii, says Susan.
Recently, Susan attended a few acting workshops through the University of Hawaii, and subsequently they both served as extras on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Ron and Eva Stob, ‘Loopers’
Photo courtesy of Ron and Eva Stob
The decision: “I was the one who said ‘Honey, let’s get a boat,'” Eva says. The suggestion became the title of their first book, a guide to traveling the Great Loop.
The plan: The Great Loop is a 6,300-mile water route around the eastern part of North America, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and then north up inland waterways such as the Mississippi River. The Stobs chose a 40-foot powerboat they christened “Dream O’Genie,” and lived on it for six months while they traveled the Loop. Since then, they’ve purchased a home in Tennessee and use their boat for frequent short trips. They publish guidebooks on the Loop and started an association to help others who want to follow in their wake.
The finances: “I did a lot of research before our trip, so I had a rough idea of what it would cost,” says Eva. “I set up a budget and there were a few things that were significantly more expensive than what we would spend on land — fuel being one of the largest — and some things were less expensive, so it balanced out.”
Oftentimes, the couple chose to drop the anchor, rather than tie up at a marina, to save costs, Ron adds. But the biggest and most frustrating financial strain on the budget came from unexpected boat repairs.
“Three days into our trip, we had a boat breakdown,” says Ron, who found a few inches of water in the engine compartment. They ended up stranded in Cocoa Beach, Florida, for nearly four weeks that left them some $8,000 lighter.
“Someone told us to figure 10 percent of the total cost of the boat for repairs and upgrades every year,” says Eva. “That was about right.”
Benefits and challenges: The camaraderie with other boaters is the biggest benefit of the lifestyle, they both say. They recommend cruising the Loop all at once as full-timers instead of breaking it into smaller trips with time on land in between.
The drawbacks for the Stobs were the unexpected breakdowns that cost them both time and money. “Boats are notorious for falling apart,” says Ron. “Engineers love it because they’re constantly tinkering.”