One of the really nice things about a satisfying retirement is the freedom that comes from deciding how you live or even where you spend your time. Some of us are happiest staying where we are now, with an occasional trip to add new experiences to our lives.
But, what about those retirees who have decided to really break the mold? A while back the Wall Street Journal had a story about folks who have picked, shall we say, more unusual retirement options. A few other news stories that filtered across my desk make it obvious that a "traditional" choice may not be so obvious. Consider these:
Live on a Ship
For roughly the same monthly cost as a typical full service retirement community, a small but growing number of people are living for several months or more each year on cruise ships.
A recent research study concluded that the services on a typical cruise are comparable to those in a retirement community: dining choices, escorts for dances and dining, help with doling out medicines, and daily housekeeping. Cruise ships have a doctor and nurse on board and on call 24/7, as well as a decently outfitted medical facility without worrying about health insurance or copays. Entertainment, fitness centers, libraries, and satellite TV complete the package.
Between cruises, those who have adopted this lifestyle stay with friends or in a short term apartment rental or hotel. Of course living space is at a premium, but as a trade off you spend your time visiting fascinating location anywhere in the world and have your needs and wants taken care of.
Just a month or two ago I saw an article about folks who live on cruise ships full time. For all the reasons noted above, these people have left any land-based living arrangement behind. Click here for an excellent article on the good, the bad, and the ugly of cruise-ship living
Spend part of the year as a Park Ranger
This retirement lifestyle could be considered a type of snowbird living. Folks spent the summer months living in an RV while serving in volunteer capacities at national or state parks. Usually the rental fee for the camping space is free, or deeply discounted in exchange for the help.
The volunteers may serve as managers of a camping/RV site, teaching interpretative classes, or working in a gift shop. The story I saw told of a couple that spent last summer at Yellowstone, the previous summer at Yosemite, and plan to be at Mt. Ranier this year. During the winter months they pull the RV to a warmer climate or spend time visiting friends. For more information on this option, For more information on this option, click here
Share Housing with others
There are a growing number of such senior developments in the U.S. with more in other countries. I have read predictions that most metropolitan areas will have at least one cohouse development within the next decade. Especially for those who have lost a partner or have no nearby relatives, the sense of family and of sharing one's life with others are major draws.
If this sounds like something you'd like to explore, take a look at CCohousing,org's website.
Live in another country
Moving to a place like Costa Rico, Mexico, Belize, or anywhere else in the world is becoming a reasonable choice for many. Estimates are that over half a million Americans are spending their retirement years outside their home country.
The primary reason is cost. Health care is usually 50-80% less expensive with comparable care. Many doctors in Central or South America, for example, are trained in American schools. Larger cities have modern hospitals and clinics. Housing is usually much less expensive, too. Social Security checks can usually be sent to you, though the rules vary by country.
Another reason folks choose to pull up stakes and start over again is the desire for adventure and a fresh start. Retiring to another country is a major decision that requires serious thought and preparation. It is not something to be done on a whim. Learning a new language and customs while fitting into a new culture can be daunting to some, but amazingly stimulating for others. Interesting? Click here
I've just scratched the surface on this topic. Additional options include some form of extended volunteer work, like the Peace Corp, or building a small apartment on the property of grown children to create a multi-generational situation without sacrificing privacy.
I'd like to know is what do you think? Are any of these ideas (or others I haven't mentioned) logical alternatives to aging in place or a typical retirement community?
It is kind of exciting that we do have options.
Interesting topic. We have friends who retired, sold their home and belongings (with some in storage), and spend their time volunteering in National Parks. Winter is spent in Texas at the LBJ Library and summers in Rocky Mountain National Park. The pics are really beautiful and they appear to be having a grand time.ReplyDelete
Another friend sold his Denver home and car, took his dogs, and is building a new home on an island off the coast of Honduras. The pics are lovely, and he seems happy as a clam.
Neither of these options are right for us as a couple, but I can definitely see the advantages of either. And it's fun to follow them via pictures and stories online.
I have dreamed of the cruise ship option or living as a camp helper in National Parks. But, I realize that I (and Betty) would not be happy with either of these choices. Still, it is fun to dream.Delete
I have a friend who is considering moving to a "tiny house" as she prepares to move back to the US from Australia. The whole tiny house movement is another to consider.ReplyDelete
What can be done with 200 square feet or less is quite remarkable.Delete
I can understand the desire to move to another country more than I ever thought possible.ReplyDelete
Betty and I wonder what will be the last straw that pushes us to make that decision. Luckily, since the people in Washington don't seem to fully grasp that Hawaii is a state, that seems far enough away!Delete
On our trip out west, following the Oregon Trail, we met a couple that was living the park ranger lifestyle in Oregon's Hilgard Junction State Park. They seemed very happy and content. As for us, we took an unusual route. We retired to Pennsylvania. Who does that? we are constantly asked. Well . . . lower taxes, lower cost of living, access to good medical care, access to cultural events in NY and Philadelphia. And we found out the Eagles are pretty good ... or at least they were last year.ReplyDelete
So were the Phillies, at one time!Delete
Betty and I would have retired to Pittsburgh except for the weather. That is a fascinating, very livable choice. And, I was born in Philly, so you have my vote for the Keystone State.
Oh, and four seasons, but mild winters (at least compared to NY and New England).ReplyDelete
It's nice to dream but I'd bet 99% of us aren't quite that adventurous (not me anyway). I am aware of people that have sold up and live full time in an RV where they spend years exploring the entire country top to bottom east to west. I believe there's even organisations that will provide you with a physical address so you can receive mail, renew driver's licenses and so on. There are as many ways to live your retirement as there are people.ReplyDelete
South Dakota is one of several U.S. states that make establishing a legal residence for RVers very easy. There are several companies that forward mail, even opening the important stuff and sending you email copies.Delete
I couldn't live in an RV full time, or on a cruise ship, but I like the lifestyle in small bursts.
We still keep the overseas option open if things deteriorated enough here in the US. Likely a country like Ecuador, but some of the Caribbean countries are making it extremely attractive right now for expats.ReplyDelete
Many people are going the RV and tiny house route; could still be a possibility in our case. Also, in our months of timesharing per year we have met people who contract with the timeshare operators to stay year-round at the resorts or usually a specific resort. Not a bad way to go either; kind of akin to the cruise ship option.
Yes, regarding timeshare living: having weekly maid service and all maintenance taken care of are nice features. We owned several weeks for almost twenty years but found the ever-increasing maintenance fees and special assessments big turnoffs.Delete
Careful about choosing island life with global climate damage bringing more & bigger super storms! I would only live on one in rental property & cheap furniture so wouldn’t have much to lose.Delete
Enlightening post. Living outside the 'norm' during retirement was never on our radar, but after moving into our RV on a whim (something we intended for only a year or two), we find the RV lifestyle addictive. Over the past five years, we've put contracts in on three different houses in different locations, and each time, we felt relieved when the negotiations stalled. Now we're in Phoenix for the winter to look at real estate, and we'll see how that goes and if we're ready to lock up the wheels. Great blog!ReplyDelete
Welcome to my backyard. Housing and grocery prices in the Phoenix area are below average, as are real estate taxes. With an RV you can escape the brutal summer temperatures that start in April and just ended about 2 weeks ago!Delete
I still toy with the idea of an RV lifestyle for at least part of the year. There is a lot to love.
We have some acquaintances who have bought into a cohousing arrangement in a northern part of Canada where we used to live. We briefly considered it too. The idea of aging with friends around seemed appealing. But there were some aspects that didn’t work for us, and we are glad we chose to retire where we did.ReplyDelete
I think we are too solitary to have cohousing work for us. Even so, it is a great choice for many; it beats aging alone when you are a social person.Delete