If you’re soon to retire and wonder, ”What now?”, the short answer is, “Plenty.” The better answer is, “Let us count the options.” There are so many alternatives to the same old, same old that don’t cost more than you’re spending right now, expose you to new cultures and new people, offer great enrichment opportunities, and a chance to see the world, you’ll have trouble choosing where to go and what to do. Don’t believe it? Check out these five alternatives to retiring at home.
Four years ago, Lynne Martin, now 70, and her hubby Tim, now 65, (pictured) decided to make a major change in their lives. “We were both ready to retire and came up with a plan that met our most important requirement: travel,” she says. But this would be different from before. They wanted to go back to favorite places and live like locals.
They sold their California home, put important stuff in storage and started renting places through HomeAway.com, an international rental agency. From three nights in a New York apartment to three months in a Paris apartment, they’ve lived for various amounts of time all over the world—a condo outside Lisbon, an apartment in Istanbul overlooking the Blue Mosque, a beautiful house in San Miguel Allende, an apartment in Marrakesh. They often rent off-season and are able to negotiate a better rent. (The condo in Portugal—with three bedrooms and three baths, near the beach-- was $1,500/month because it was in the winter months.) And their lifestyle costs no more than when they lived in a home. “We shop the local markets,“ says Lynne, "and eat in our rental and spend our time really getting to know places we love. For us, it’s a more productive way to spend money than putting it into a leaky roof or yard work."
It’s hardly a new concept, but it’s getting more media attention as Boomers search alternatives to retiring at home: living aboard a cruise ship. “It’s an exotic, out-of-this-world way to live,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com. “You have literally no responsibility—all your needs are taken care of—while you also get to travel and meet new people.” The food is usually great (and you don’t have to cook it), entertainment is plentiful, enrichment lectures abound. And your room is cleaned every day.
“This isn’t just a rich-person’s option,” says Brown. Some cruise lines offer rooms for $40,000-50,000 a year—which covers all your expenses except spa services, alcohol and shore excursions.
Imagine living in a chateau, on a ranch, or in a light house. That’s the life of retirees who are willing to live in and take care of property for absentee owners. Lynne Macco, 57, and her hubby, Timothy Mount, 65, (pictured) happen to love living near water and when they discovered a lighthouse off the coast of Maine through the Caretaker’s Gazette, they jumped at the chance to be the caretaker for three months. Since that first opportunity, they’ve tended to lighthouses in Alaska and Massachusetts and are currently in a lighthouse in Tasmania. There’s no rent when you caretake, but you do have to manage minor maintenance issues, or in the case of Macco and Mount, be ambassadors for guests who come visit the property. "We give tours of the island and tell the history of the light house,” says Lynne. Otherwise, their time is theirs to take walks, garden, read, and enjoy the peace and quiet. This couple does own a house in the Adirondacks that a caretaker watches for them.
Veronica and David James (52 and 55, respectively), authors of Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All, became empty nesters in 2008 and on a whim bought a motor home on eBay for $3,000. “We figured we’d just hit the road for a while," says Veronica. “We didn’t really have a plan.” Six years and two motorhomes later, the Jameses are full-time RVers, traversing the country in search of good weather, relatives, and the chance to see national parks and wacky museums, like the Spam Museum. If they want to be by the ocean or in the mountains for a while, they park and enjoy the views for a week or more.
Though their van is small, it has all the amenities of home. David cooks most meals and Veronica discovered, after keeping a financial log, that they were spending less than they had in their home in Nashville.
For Dianne Clark and her husband Mark Wayne Clark, both 71, staying at their home in Phoenix all summer had become unbearably hot. Both retired, they decided it was time to become a sunbird, and as luck would have it, Dianne’s cousin had an investment home in Spokane for his future retirement. His experience with renters was spotty, but when Dianne asked if she could rent it, he jumped at the offer and gave them a great price. After all, she was family.
From June to October each year, Dianne and Mark live in Spokane where the weather is so mild, they have practically no utility bills. They’ve made good friends through church activities and volunteering. They take advantage of the nearby orchards where they pick their own fruits and vegetables for a quarter a pound. If they eat out, it’s for lunch, not dinner. They go to free concerts in the park; they buy half-price tickets to other outings. Life is much slower than in Phoenix and the climate is ideal all summer.
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