We are everyday people. We aren’t wealthy. Tom worked hard for 42 years on the railroad. My career mostly consisted of owning a small real estate company experiencing varying degrees of success and failure, always subject to the turns of the market and my own life experiences, ups and downs.
I had often said that I’d never retire having loved the clients, the excitement, and the gratification of helping people make the biggest financial decision of their lives. It was now over. I felt sad. What would I do but wrap myself up in the eventuality of Tom’s retirement?
My goal was to come up with some ideas to present to my exhausted husband on the weekends who still working twelve-hour days this late in his career, along with the two hours of driving time. I had felt a little guilty being home, not contributing more than packing his three-meal-lunch each day and the basic, relatively easy everyday running of our two-person household.
Strangely, during this time, we negotiated a deal, albeit at a loss, to be rid of our house to free us to move on. Not what we had wished. We knew that living on a retirement pension the upkeep would be prohibitive forcing us to live the last third of our lives in a perpetual state of stress, leaving no room to travel. We hadn’t been on a real vacation together in over fifteen years never wanting to spend the money or to leave, or a beautiful home.
Neither of us ever minded the definition of the stereotypical male/female roles. We grew up in an era when gender roles were more defined than today. We never fought it. We never fought with one another over it. We relished in giving each other the very best we had to offer, without complaint, without judgment, without “snipping” (in itself, the secret to our marital success).
So, as we counted down the days, each weekend we began talking about that which most Minnesota “Snow Birds” do; move to a warm climate in an income tax-free state, downsize our “stuff,” sadly say goodbye to our family and friends, sell one of the two cars, and occasionally go on a Viking River Cruise with other “old timers” like ourselves.
We finally relented buying the proverbial AARP card, good for a full five years. Wow, we can get a discount at Denny’s in Las Vegas, Perkins in Rapid City, or Old Country Buffet in Miami! Here come the Golden Years! Ouch, more than those crunchy joints are hurting!
In our typical fashion of online researching of literally every thought, our brains regurgitate, we investigated best places to retire in the US, buying an RV, moving to a retirement community, or simply renting a condo in Scottsdale, Arizona while we think it over. Although not an income tax-free state, the climate is good in the winter, the desert appealing for its mysterious beauty and the population not unlike ourselves. A good temporary solution.
I added back the following onto the new worksheet: visas, taxes and tips, airfare, ferries, taxis, auto rentals, cruises, food (eating in 6 days a week, eating out once), a monthly (or longer) vacation rental home fully equipped with kitchen and all household goods, entertainment, unexpected expenses and on and on. We talked. We giggled. We dreamed aloud. We accepted that our preliminary numbers were subject to change as we completed more research.
Tentatively, tempering our enthusiasm, over the next several weeks, we came to this startling realization: If we didn’t have a home, with its fixed monthly expenses, we could travel the world as long as we wanted to, living off of our monthly income alone, as long as it met strict criteria.
Now, two and a half months later, after hundreds of hours of research, we have booked and paid deposits for 492 days beginning October 31, 2012, with more plans brewing imminently. Planning is a full-time job in itself.
The next post will include: the strict criteria to make this possible. And soon, the set itinerary thus far, the resources we have used to make this possible, the endless list of “to do’s,” the amazing people we have encountered all over the world, and most of all the preparation we are making for all the “what if’s” that we will surely encounter along the way. Then, of course, there are the “unknowns” that we choose to acknowledge exist and pray that our good sense and resources will guide us along the way.
Fearful? A little. Joyful? A lot.