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Retirement Living Choices . . . Planned? Selected?

August 05, 2020
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We have helped hundreds of clients retire comfortably, knowing their financial wants and needs are covered.  But how they succeeded in their unique choices of retirement lifestyle is a different story.  

Barbara and Jake were both school teachers and coaches who, being methodical, started exploring potential retirement communities years before their exit from the classroom. After sampling over a dozen venues, they selected rural Vermont – mild summers and snowy winters, cheap cost of living, low taxes, and plenty of biking and hiking trails. They loved it and made friends locally. After five years, they returned to New Jersey; they missed the proximity to New York, their local friends and amenities. Jake said he is happy they tried Vermont and keeps in touch with their northern friends and plan to ski with them every winter. 

Dave built his construction company from a dump truck and shovel to a multi-million-dollar enterprise. As an entrepreneur, his definition of retirement was clear: “Being able to work when I want to and not having to worry about the business when I decide to go fishing.”  It took him years of trial and error, but he finally achieved his goal. He gradually backed away from day-to-day operations by delegating and promoting. At 72, he signed the papers that transferred his stock to his groomed CEO and two VPs, all in their 50s and 40s. As part of the deal, he was available, as needed, for 100 days a year for three years.  Or, as he put it, “I get to make sure they are doing a good job -- enough to pay my note.”  His only regret was that he didn’t start planning to retire earlier.  Dave died of a heart attack at age 82, happy to have seen the business he built continue to thrive.

John and Maureen owned restaurants, two at the Jersey shore, and one year-round near their home. John is a chef specializing in Italian food and seafood. Maureen handled the books and managed the waitstaff. They argued over who worked hardest, who worked at all, and whose family had the best cooks, etc., always with a smile, never vindictive. Every winter, after Christmas to mid-February, they went to Florida, usually at Isla Mirada, where they slept late, fished, drank, and played cards with fellow Snow Birds. When John had an unexpected medical alert at age 52 (heart, diabetes), they planned to retire to Florida. After five more years, we transferred the main restaurant to John’s cousin who already had a successful restaurant 30 miles north.   Meanwhile, the beach restaurants were on the market.  One sold immediately to a competitor.  The second was scheduled to shut down on John’s 60th birthday. At the last minute, it was sold to some young cooks anxious to try their own cuisine. It went for a bargain, but better than the kitchen equipment at auction. 

Meanwhile, Maureen had scouted Florida and selected a large condo in a community on the ocean with several marinas. After a great send-off by family and friends, they drove three days to their new home. It seemed they did everything right.  

After exactly three years, they were back looking for a condo in their old neighborhood.  They were not prepared for Florida’s summer heat and humidity.  Maureen was appalled at the variety of “nasty bugs” that invaded their new home.  They swapped their “buggy” condo for a slightly smaller bungalow and continue to be Snow Birds from Thanksgiving to March. Family and friends are welcome to visit and stay (“no more than 10 days”). There, Maureen earns Master’s points in bridge and John goes fishing nearly every day, cooking fresh seafood and controlling his health.  When needed, John helps his cousin at the restaurant in New Jersey. They couldn’t be happier.

Jake is a serial entrepreneur.  Like Dave, he loves what he does and wants that ability to take a hands-off approach to his business. After operating a major restaurant franchise as an employee, he found wealthy investors willing to trust his expertise to open that franchise in New York City.  It was an instant success.  He then convinced them to branch out into other franchises in the metropolitan area.  At age 54, he was the CEO of two LLCs controlling 9 restaurants, 2 gyms, 2 daycares and 10 Montessori schools. His management style is based on good communication, training, and opportunity. All his best managers are given the option to become owners. Jake’s wife, Kathy, has her own hair salon which she has franchised. Life is good.

Their plan is to retire to several homes around the country from a home base smaller than their current expensive home. (Six bedrooms in retirement?)  They have condos in Vail (skiing), Hilton Head (golf, boating), and Newport (sailing).

Jake’s business ventures will remain in his portfolio indefinitely, but the CEO slot will go to a woman he is training. Kathy’s business requires her attention for a few years, as she has not yet found a replacement CEO.  All these ventures are fraught with risk – consumer tastes can turn on a dime – so we have shown them how to assure a retirement income separate from their businesses.  Now in their 60s, they are already considering additional retirement lifestyle venues. 

George and Jerry have been joined at the hip since they founded an industrial design firm devoted to patent applications and their own inventions. After we prepared them for sale, they cashed in big on a bidding war for the company. While they fulfilled their 2-year handover duties, they planned their lifestyle as perpetual fishermen (“Beach Bums”) in Florida where they had vacationed in the past. Two years later they were looking again; Florida’s hot humid summer was too much and fishing competition took away most of its appeal. As of 2017, they live near San Diego where the weather is kinder. They own a 26-foot deep-sea fishing boat that they love. They also enjoy exploring the west coast of Mexico for food and parties.  They say “this is it!”  I believe them.

Lastly, Mark and Marie retired in 2014. He had been a salesman for a pharmaceutical company; she was a Registered Nurse. Early in their marriage, Mark won a cruise to the Bahamas.  The following year, it was a cruise off New England.  Ever since, they have taken cruises whenever they could get away, including with their children. Their chosen retirement lifestyle includes (until now) cruises of over 200 days a year.  Their nest egg has continued to grow as Marie teaches Nursing part-time and Mark founded a lawn-maintenance business in 2009 which gives him added income. Surprisingly, the cost of a cruise with the perks available to repeaters is no more expensive than living ashore.  Due to the pandemic, their cruising is on hold.  Marie volunteered to help at the local hospital while they wait for cruises to re-board.

I am amazed at the variety of retirement lifestyle choices – and the number that veered in a different direction post-retirement. Obviously, the best we can do is plan and then sample those plans to see if they are the right fit.  When your income is sufficient and flexible, making a change is not a strain.  The most important step is to be sure your planning has that option.

Want to learn how?  Contact us to arrange an appointment to see if you are financially prepared to retire . . .  or not.