For couples like Dave Forsman and his wife Bobbi, retirement is the beginning of a glorious third act, filled with travel and new opportunities. For the last 2 years, the retired couple have spent their days asea on their beloved Lady Liberty trawler.
The Forsmans exemplify an alternative approach to retirement. Instead of spending their life in the family home or downsizing to a smaller condo, adventurous types are pursuing other options after they finish full-time work, from sailing the high seas to roving the high plains in an RV.
The Forsmans met 40 years ago on the water. In 2009, they bought Lady Liberty, a 40-foot Pilgrim trawler, and decided that when they reached 62 they would retire and live aboard full-time. This gave Dave 5 years to ready the vessel — and themselves — for their adventure.
“We planned and saved to make sure we had absolutely no bills when we retired. Both cars, the house and the boat were paid for,” Dave Fosman explains. “Our pensions pay about two-thirds of our normal salary, and coupled with government benefits, financial planning made it easier to live a lifestyle we enjoy.”
“The benefits of a seafaring retirement are freedom and variety,” he explains. Life has seen them stopping into any port they feel like along the East Coast, making new friends and catching up with old ones.
“The lifestyle comes with its downsides,” he warns. Even their relatively roomy sea home is tight on space. “You'll need to let go of most of your pre-retirement possessions.” Forsman says that many couples never leave the dock because their boats are laden down with too much stuff.
Some of these tips also apply to retirees who hit the road. Those who prefer to keep their feet on dry land can choose an RV instead of a boat. “Full-time RVing can be a joyful time for retirees but space can be even more limited for them,” says Margo Armstrong, a long-time RVer and author of a how-to blog.
“The biggest challenge “the new RVer faces is ‘letting go’,” she warns. “Overloading the RV is the major cause of accidents on the road.”
Know your vessel
Choosing your vessel carefully — on the road or at sea — is also vital. “Buying a quality-built, older RV for cash may be the best choice,” says Armstrong. “Forget taking out a 20-year mortgage on a brand new RV,” she advises; “they age quickly and could be falling apart within six years.”
“If you plan to travel often, go motorhome. If you plan to stay in one spot for a season, go fifth wheel,” Armstrong adds. Unlike a motorhome, which has its own engine and driving cab, a fifth wheel couples to the back of a vehicle and is pulled along like a trailer. “Whichever you choose, get it inspected before buying,” Armstrong notes. This is your new home, after all.
Ideally, you'll have experience with your new movable home before you go all-in. While an RV or boat may be cheaper than the average home price, you'll need to factor in additional costs such as gas, the cost of maintenance and overnight stays. A campground berth can run $500 a month. Wandrly magazineOpens a new window in your browser has a full breakdown. For boats, marina berths can more than double that cost.
Retirees opting for a travelling lifestyle should structure a schedule that matches with their confidence level. Newcomers will want to give themselves time to get used to the road or water, which means planning ahead of time and keeping things predictable.
“Be organized, do your research, and plan out your first 6 months. This gives you a feeling of security until you learn by experience,” Margo says, adding that travellers should restrict their travel to a maximum of about 480 km each day. Driving can be gruelling, especially for those not used to a full-time life on the road, so keeping distances relatively short will help avoid fatigue. “Get the RV park reservations made as far out as possible for those first 6 months. This early period is not a time to be spontaneous unless you are visiting friends that have RV hookups.”
The Forsmans also plan their moorings carefully, being frugal sometimes so they can splurge on luxuries where it counts.
“Most of our meals are cooked on the boat,” Dave says. “But we do spend money to stay in marinas when travelling rather than doing much anchoring overnight, and we keep the boat in a relatively nice marina that is safe in hurricane season, in a gated community.”
The Forsmans are slowing down a little. To avoid bad weather, such as dodging hurricanes, they're buying a condo at a marina in Florida, where they’ll live for 6 months of the year. This shows the importance of long-term financial planning at the start of your retirement travels. You never know when health, a change of circumstance or just the need for a rest will tempt you to be more grounded. Ensure that your retirement plan leaves you with options.
If you have an appetite for adventure, these lifestyles are worth considering. Just be sure that you choose your new travelling home wisely and learn the skills to steer and maintain it. A little learning before you retire will be invaluable once your journey is underway.