The Best Retirement Ideas We've Ever Heard
Say goodbye to the old-age home and evening bridge games. For a new generation of retirees, it’s all about discovery, simplification, and transformation. The newest trends show that many seniors are forgoing traditional retirement plans in favor of lifestyles that offer adventure, exploration, and flexibility. Read on to learn about these inventive new ways of living, and look forward to the wild ride ahead.
How’s this for the good life? Debbie and Michael Campbell, 58 and 69 respectively, call themselves Senior Nomads. Three years ago, the pair decided to untether themselves from their full-time home and hit the travel circuit. After quitting their jobs, off-loading most of their possessions, and finally renting out their Seattle abode, the couple relocated to temporary rentals around the world. “We take turns picking where to go next,” Michael told Afar.
As of June 2015, they had stayed in more than 50 Airbnbs and 30 countries, and are still counting. According to Debbie, the benefits have been incredible: “We’re more fun, we’re more open-minded—we’re even more in love. We don’t sweat the small stuff. And we’re healthier! We’ve both lost weight because we walk an average of five miles a day.” So what led the Campbells to their new vagabond life? According to Michael, “What got into my head [was] ‘If we reduce our expenses to as low as possible, would it be possible for us to travel and live in other people’s houses for the same amount of money that we would spend to be retired on our rocking chairs?’ Turns out it was!” For Debbie, “Most of the fun comes from opening the door and not knowing what’s on the other side.” We don’t blame her.
Forget high-end hotels. Living aboard a luxury cruise ship is the way to truly live large in retirement. Earlier this year, USA Today profiled Lee Wachstetter, an 86-year-old widow from Florida who has been living aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship for seven years. Introduced to the lifestyle by her late husband, Mason, Wachstetter thought it only fitting to continue the tradition after his death.
She’s been to well over 100 countries ("Just say I've been to almost any country that has a port"), and though she actually prefers to stay aboard when the ship docks for a bit of peace and quiet these days, Wachstetter still makes an exception for Istanbul. "I can't resist the Grand Bazaar. … You can find gorgeously regal or glitzy outfits there, perfect for formal or casual wear,” she gushed. As for friends and good company? “You meet interesting passengers, and I've made lots of new friends that way.”
A group of so-called “idyllic lifestyle seekers” often turn to farmland. For one California couple, the dream to own a vineyard had been with them for a long time. But without a ton of money saved up—about $150,000, Tom and Ivan Phelan turned to South America. And for $132,000, the couple purchased 108 acres in Argentina.
Today, they harvest a variety of grapes, including Malbec and Chardonnay; have a staff of workers; and even “rent” plots of their land to other couples wanting a piece of the dream. The appeal is twofold: incredible pride when sipping the fruits of their hard work, and something special to pass on: “Now we have a legacy to pass on to our children and grandchildren." Cheers to that!
For younger retirees in good health who crave not only the open seas but also adventure, activity, and travel, purchasing a sailboat or yacht is a favorite. For Max Fletcher and Lynnie Bruce, 59 and 61 respectively, their 40-foot sailboat has been a home base while they’ve visited countries like Germany, France, India, Iceland, and Norway.
Their nautical lifestyle was made possible by lots of long-term saving, they admit, but once aboard, the cost of living can be quite cheap. The couple dines aboard; docks in central ports, and only spends between $1000 and $1300 a month.
“One of the beauties of living on the boat is finding how simply you can live, how few material possessions you really need,” Fletcher said, “to be able to focus on the things that are most meaningful to us.”
College is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, so it’s no surprise that some retirees are heading back to school in retirement. But while night school tends to be associated with advanced adult education, these retirees are getting the full coed experience thanks to college retirement communities. Larry and Arlene Dunn love being around young people, so they decided to live near Oberlin College Conservancy of Music in Ohio. There, they can audit or enroll in courses, attend free lectures, mentor college students, and even earn a degree.
With around 60 of these types of communities around the United States, it’s a great option for retirees who want to stay on the grid and near family. Other perks of being in a college town include tons of activities; access to libraries, gyms, and affordable housing; as well as top-notch medical care.
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