Living where you want to live

Do you dream of moving closer to family or enjoying the convenience of a senior living community? Here's how three retiring couples decided.

One of the things that makes working hard feel worthwhile is the idea that one day you'll be able to retire and spend your days exactly how—and where—you want. But in order to do this, you'll need a plan—in particular a financial plan for after those regular paychecks stop. These three couples are spending their retirement in different ways. Here's how they’re making it work.

"We moved to a retirement community."

Bill and Marijane Schrammel of Millsboro, Delaware, knew early on that a 55-plus community was where they wanted to spend their retirement years. "I wanted to be in a place where there was always something to do," says Bill. The couple, who also wanted a location their kids and grandkids would find enticing, settled on Delaware because of its beautiful beaches and its manageable drive to the Northeastern states where their three grown children live with their families.

In order to fund their retirement goals, Bill and Marijane, who both worked as educators, took advantage of a Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) plan offered to teachers in addition to their pensions. The Schrammels also worked with a financial planner to manage their investments and dabbled in the stock market over the years. "We didn't live high on the hog, but we took nice vacations," recalls Bill. They had also invested in time-share properties, which made traveling with their family of five more affordable.

The Schrammels made their move from New York to Delaware in 2011, and now they spend their days playing canasta and billiards or hanging out with friends in their community's beautiful clubhouse. "I think when people retire and don’t do anything, it's bad for their health," says Bill. "I didn’t want to retire and do nothing. That was my investment strategy."

"We moved closer to family."

Tom Glover has always been a saver. When he was in the Air Force, he got in the habit of saving half of his paycheck—and as a result, he was able to buy a car when he returned from overseas. When he married his wife Emry, and had two children, he began planning for their retirement. "I was always thinking about how can I better my family," says Tom, who credits having a five-year plan, that he revisited each year, with helping him to achieve his financial goals.

Tom took advantage of retirement accounts everywhere he worked, and later, when he started his own business with some of his former co-workers, its rapid success helped bring his retirement goals to fruition. At age 62, he was able to leave his grueling workweeks behind. When Tom and Emry's daughter settled in New York with her family, they decided to sell their rural Pennsylvania home and move there as well—despite the higher cost of living. Thanks to the dividends from their Roth IRA, the Glovers were able to afford a down payment on a house right down the street from their daughter, and they now get to see their only granddaughter whenever they want to. "We get to watch her grow," says Tom.

"We sold all of our possessions and hit the road."

Stu Worth, a teacher, and his wife, Christine Angland, a bank employee, thought their retirement was still a few years away when a visit to a local garage sale in August 2020 changed their lives. They knew it was a hot real estate market for sellers in their area, but they didn't know just how hot until they learned the homeowner had sold his house (hence the need for the garage sale) within days of listing it. Stu and Christine wondered whether they could do the same. The answer was yes, and the sale of their home yielded enough money for the couple to pay off their existing debt, bank the rest and retire this past June.

After selling most of their possessions, Stu and Christine set off on a cross-country trip, staying in Airbnbs along the way. "Shedding the debt and not having a mortgage or rent to pay is really freeing," says Stu. The couple's next adventure is a tour of the country's national parks. "We never had the opportunity to see the United States. But to get in a car and drive across the country? I'd recommend that to anyone."

While not having a home base took some getting used to—all their remaining belongings, for instance, have to be carried with them or left in storage—Stu says they're comfortable with the nomad life. "Financially, we could go and buy something if we wanted to, but we want to continue this for the short term," he says. "Who knows what curveballs life will throw at you?"

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