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Monday, October 2, 2023

Reader Story: How We Stay a Nomadic Life in Retirement

I just lately made a name for readers to share their tales to complement posts by Darrow and me. First up is Margot who shares her and her husband Nick’s story.

Nomad travel notes

Their path to and thru retirement contains overcoming adversity of their private and monetary lives, difficult our notions about how a lot is “sufficient,” the ability of flexibility and creativity, and discovering the braveness to dwell your finest life in retirement.

(Disclosure/Editor’s Word: This put up comprises quite a lot of hyperlinks to sources Margot has discovered useful. One is NewRetirement, a longtime affiliate associate of the weblog. The entire different hyperlinks are included in your comfort. We don’t make any cash if you happen to click on these hyperlinks, and the inclusion of hyperlinks to any of these websites doesn’t suggest that this website has vetted or endorsed them.)

Take it away Margot. . . .

What an honor to contribute a weblog on this website. The sources and recommendation have been so useful to me as we navigate life past work. 

We’re Margot and Nick, 70 and 75 respectively. We journey full-time. Individuals name us nomads, vagabonds, wanderers, or “slowmads”—our most well-liked fashion is to remain in locations for 1-3 months at a time. We hope to proceed for no less than the subsequent 5 years, good well being and attitudes permitting. 

All of our belongings are in a ten×10 storage shed in Washington state. Our medical doctors, dentists and digital mailbox are additionally there. We personal no actual property or pets. We have now no grandchildren and our dad and mom have lengthy since handed. Every of us has one little one and they’re on their very own on the ages of 32 and 38. Our knees are nonetheless good. 

We have now about $750,000 in financial savings and investments. I took my Social Safety by myself work report this month. With the help of plans created by way of NewRetirement and Schwab, we’ll spend to our guesstimated earthly ends. That is additionally known as Die With Zero (the title of a really fascinating guide by Invoice Perkins). The children will probably be alright.

The place did the vagabond dream originate?

It began in 2006 when Nick and I had been matched up by way of It’s Simply Lunch (a courting service) in Orlando, Florida. From the get-go we talked about touring—the locations we nonetheless needed to expertise. 

Nick had lived in Parma, Italy as a teen and hitchhiked Europe in his 20s. I had grown up on navy bases world wide…. And, then, we began watching Home Hunters Worldwide on HGTV and the goals began to gel. On the time we had been 58 and 53. 

Nick was laid off from his communications place in 2010 on the age of 62. He was a graphic designer and author—it was not his first downsizing rodeo. 

So he determined to hold it up and take Social Safety early. He discovered a excessive deductible Blue Cross/Blue Defend coverage till Medicare kicked in. A small proportion of a household enterprise plus Social Safety stored him afloat.

Associated: When to Take Social Safety

Nick’s divorce and lay-offs had taken their monetary toll on his financial savings. In 2010, he moved into my very underwater and extremely mortgaged Orlando space house (due to a 2006 divorce, exorbitant house appraisal and the next 2008 housing disaster). It was a paycheck to paycheck life.

What Kicked Us Into Excessive Gear? 

Life turned on a dime in 2011. Nick proposed; I used to be provided a job throughout the nation at decrease pay BUT it got here with a home.


We bought married on a seaside in St. Thomas. We drove cross-country from Orlando to California. I persuaded the financial institution to permit me to do a short-sale of my Florida house. And stopped paying the mortgage, citing hardship as my wage was lowered by ⅓ on the new job. I stored up all utility, pest, and garden upkeep for the Florida property.

Practically 9 months later, every week BEFORE the home’s foreclosures hit a Tampa court docket, the short-sale settled. $180K of debt flew off my shoulders and, due to federal laws, was not taxed as revenue. And a pleasant household bought an important, well-maintained home at a value under what I had paid for it in 2001.

Residing With Most cancers (X2)

Then a hammer fell—at his Medicare examination in 2013, Nick’s PSA was 147. A tumor on his backbone translated to Stage 4 (terminal) prostate most cancers. Solely 28% of males along with his prognosis survived for five years. We had been nonetheless newlyweds.  

A pal suggested us to take a look at the illness by a high quality of life lens. Nothing like most cancers to stir the Stay Your Life Stay Your Life perspective! So we began dipping into my 401K and took 3-5 week holidays, due to my understanding bosses, to lots of the locations we’d dreamed about our first few years collectively. 

After 4 years, I began to joke he’d higher die or we’d go broke. However, rattling, he simply stored on residing. Miraculously, stripping his physique of testosterone by way of drug remedy paused the most cancers’s progress. And we stored draining our financial savings. However we knew then (and nonetheless know now) that the medicine may cease working at any time. 

After which, a second hammer fell in 2019. I used to be recognized with Stage 2B breast most cancers. I scheduled skilled duties round my remedies. Doing radiation at 7 am was chosen so I may put in a full-day’s work. I took a complete of three sick days after I had surgical procedure. Looking back, what was I considering?

One thing wanted to alter. The stress and 60 hour+ weeks couldn’t presumably be good for me. I used to be working extra and having fun with it much less. (BTW, I had a lumpectomy and radiation and there’s no present proof of illness, thank goodness).

The Change or Die Level 

In Could, 2020, I hit knowledgeable and private wall. I used to be working my tail off addressing the challenges COVID created for my group. There have been deep and rancorous divisions of opinion about one of the best methods to handle the enterprise.  

I figured that I used to be being paid for my mind. However my recommendation and work had been falling on deaf ears. Why was I nonetheless working?

Can I Retire?

I didn’t assume I had sufficient cash to cease working. All my retired mates—those with company jobs or jobs with pensions had $1.5-$2M saved. All of the calculators mentioned I needed to have 10-20 instances my revenue. I wasn’t anyplace near that.  

I had solely began maxing out my 401K after I bought my first 6-figure job in 2001. My divorce had taken a monetary toll on me.  And we had spent a ton on journey, considering Nick’s demise was imminent. We had run up bank card debt. My 401K sat at $350,000, and I had $80,000 in financial savings—hardly sufficient to dwell on. My solely selection dying at my desk.

A Tragedy…. and a Blessing?

However destiny and tragedy had intervened. My youthful brother—a Sort I diabetic—died in his sleep on the age of 63. He was at all times enjoying his blood sugars near the bone and he by no means revealed a coronary heart situation to me or our different brother. His two wives had been within the rear-view mirror and he had no youngsters. He additionally had 14 acres and a paid-off home.  

The true property market was a sizzling one and my surviving brother is a realtor. Inside 18 months, we bought the home and 4 extra heaps. Now, each journey begins with a toast to my late brother.  

Could 8, 2020 was a very tough day at work. I walked the 9 steps from my workplace to our (connected) home and advised my husband I had written my employers to barter a separation settlement. It was time for me to personal the minutes and hours of my days. I used to be performed with deadlines and pleasing others. The purple ball got here off my nostril.

Nick was thrilled—he had seen how discouraged I used to be. No extra Crabby Appleton. We opened a bottle of champagne and began to determine how we may afford to dwell for 3 years earlier than I took Social Safety. We crunched numbers and made lists of nations.

A Monetary (and Private) Reboot

Because of the sale of household property and a superb 12 months for the inventory market, we paid off all our money owed and invested the remaining. We now owned no actual property.  

Travel Calendar

I ran the numbers once more. If we stored annual bills between 75-100K, our nest egg of $750K would—barring some unseemly tragedy— final us a lifetime. We maintain a 2-3 12 months money bucket (in a T-bill ladder) and don’t plan to the touch investments till 2025.

I’ve a handful of speculative shares in a Roth IRA that my late tech-geek brother really helpful that will but repay (e.g. JOBY, IONQ, LVWR). This rocky market fascinates however doesn’t scare me. 

Between Could and August of 2020, we bought, donated and tossed most of our stuff and relocated to Washington, a tax-free state. I culled belongings and art work by imagining what I needed to be surrounded by in my 80s once we cool down. The storage unit is sort of a second-hand retailer the place I need to purchase all the pieces in it! 

A pal suggested me after I give up to do completely nothing for the primary 6 months. What did I need to say YES to? We sat in a waterfront cottage and turned our goals of worldwide journey into 5 years of plans.

Hitting the Street

We spent two months every in Honolulu and Croatia and three months on Lake Como in 2021.


In 2022 we slept in 57 beds—a month every in Vienna, Paris, Germany and Andorra, a month-long road-trip by western Canada and one other road-trip from Maine to South Carolina to see kin and mates. We’ve taken 5 post-COVID cruises with 12 extra booked by 2025.

We flew to Bonaire in February for a month, then jumped to Aruba earlier than a 21-day trans-Atlantic cruise to Barcelona the place we are actually. We’ll head to a seaside home close to Valencia for one more month earlier than heading to England, Norway and Scotland.

2024’s plan is Sydney, Auckland, Perth, Bali and a world cruise.

2025 would be the 12 months of South America:  Lima, Cuenca, Santiago, Montevideo and Sao Paolo after which Lisbon, Tenerife, Isla de La Palma, Funchal and Porto are within the consideration set.  

We combine 6-8 weeks of pet-sitting yearly to offset the growing costs of short-term leases. We each have had pets our total lives and we miss the cuddles.

Pet sitting

By way of TrustedHouseSitters.com, we’ve had  2-3 week sits in Vancouver, B.C., Washington State and England. We have now 5 weeks scheduled for Australian Shepherds in England and a cat on the outskirts of London. 

As its identify implies, this worldwide (and really searchable) fee-based membership website and app relies on belief. Individuals who want care for his or her pets whereas touring put up all the main points and invite functions, normally 1 week to three months out.

Usually by way of video convention, we interview with our potential hosts. No cash adjustments arms. An added bonus is consuming all perishable meals within the fridge and visiting new locations.

Nomad Funds 

We’re NOT on trip—we simply dwell our lives in a sequence of various neighborhoods and cultures. Our core price range is $60K a 12 months plus an extra $40K for splurgey journey for 5 extra years. The transition from accumulation to spending has NOT been an issue for us. Social Safety now covers 70% of our bills:

  • Lodging: $30K (short-term leases and resorts)
  • Meals: $15K (we just like the occasional Michelin-starred expertise however largely prepare dinner “at house”) 
  • Cruises: $25K (usually, inside cabins. As a blackjack participant, I additionally get dozens of provides for “comped” cruises. We cruise an ocean somewhat than fly over it every time potential).  
  • Transportation: $10K (trains, planes and vehicles) 
  • Charitable giving: $8K (I’ve at all times given monetary voice to my coronary heart by giving no less than 10% of my revenue to causes I care about). 
  • Clothes, mail, leisure, and so forth. $5K 
  • Insurance coverage, medical & taxes, telephone: $7K

We anticipate our post-nomad bills—in our so known as “no-go” years to be round 60K, coated by our Social Safety, utilizing dividends and RMDs for shorter stints of journey.

Gained’t You Get Bored?

“Boredom is the shortcoming to choose up on delicate vibrations.”

–Colin Wilson 

Individuals marvel if we get bored. By no means, ever! There are such a lot of books to learn and other people to look at. We stroll. Nick brings his watercolors or guitar. 

We meet new mates and check out new meals and study new prepare and bus programs. We pack lighter and lighter—we now journey with two roller-bags and two back-packs.

Well being “Care” vs. Well being Insurance coverage

And what about healthcare? We plan no less than 2 months in Washington yearly for medical and dental appointments and follow-ups.

Medicare Benefit will cowl an emergency abroad (I up to date the unique textual content from Medicare to Medicare Benefit in response to reader feedback and added the hyperlink to info on Medicare Benefit plans for readability).

And we even have Med-Jet for emergency hospital-to-hospital air evacuations. We additionally purchase the cruise/air provider insurance coverage. AND, for longer land stints, we get protection by way of a quote from insuremytrip.com

We’re contemplating an annual journey coverage however, at our ages, the alternatives are restricted and costly. Many nomad mates report glorious care abroad at very cheap costs.  

We’re intentional about each step we take. We’re extra frightened of falls than COVID. A bathe mat travels with us wherever we go. We keep away from the damaging behavior of being 17 years previous in our heads. The “3 factors of contact” rule is necessary (i.e. if there’s a railing, we USE it). Additionally “one factor at a time”. We frequently warning one another about steps, uneven cobblestones and low beams. 

We discover lodging by way of VRBO.com, Airbnb and expat FB pages. Brief-term resort stays are simple to guide final minute by way of Hotwire. We play the factors sport with bank cards to keep away from paying money for air transportation. 

Associated: Journey Extra and Spend Much less With Credit score Card Journey Rewards

We belong to a GREAT FB web page for nomads of all ages known as Go With Much less the place info and ideas are traded generously.

The Energy of Flexibility and Creativity

In every single place we go, everybody we meet is curious and generally envious about how we dwell. And marvel if they might do it. Over dinner final week, one in every of our new companions mentioned they weren’t positive they’d the heart to dwell like we do.

My response? All it takes is the willingness to be untethered. We’re easy-to-please individuals with newly discovered flexibility about what life (and prepare strikes) throw at us.

And what occurs when you possibly can now not journey at this tempo? 

Our endgame is to search out an condominium within the little Washington State city the place our storage shed is. And get a canine. And possibly cats, too. 

The liberation of proudly owning nothing is exhilarating. This manner of being on this planet is extra enjoyable than I ever imagined. Not working is extra rewarding than I ever imagined. 

Stay your life. Stay your life.

Chris’ Take Residence Factors

Man Plans, God Laughs

A lot of you, like me, are planners. If we’re being trustworthy a extra correct description could be management freaks. Studying by elements of Margot and Nick’s story made my coronary heart race and palms sweat a little bit as I guess it did a few of yours. To call just some examples….

  • Nick “hanging it up” after a layoff, regardless of not having his funds so as,
  • Margot shortselling her home on the final second earlier than foreclosures,
  • Holding “speculative inventory” positions into retirement,
  • Each Nick and Margot assembly what’s a lot of our biggest private and monetary fears head on, receiving severe medical diagnoses.

And but they not solely handle life, however dwell a lifetime of journey most of us even with good well being and much bigger portfolios could be afraid to pursue.

Margot suffered the lack of her brother. She grieved his passing. Then, somewhat than dwelling on shedding him or feeling uneasy concerning the cash he left her, she made the lively determination to concentrate on the blessing of receiving an inheritance, being grateful for what she obtained, and utilizing it to dwell life much more totally from that time ahead. 

Studying this story is not going to make me cease being a planner, and I hope that’s not what you are taking from it both. Nevertheless, it should function a reminder for me, and hopefully you, that there are a lot of issues we don’t management. Inevitably issues will occur, each good and dangerous (and generally each directly!), that aren’t in our plans.

Our success and failure in life and retirement will not be finally decided by these issues that occur to us, however in how we take care of and transfer ahead from them.

The Position of Flexibility and Understanding When You Have “Sufficient”

A significant component in Nick and Margot’s potential to maneuver ahead is their potential to be versatile and artistic. A possible issue for his or her creativity and unconventional method is the concept necessity is the mom of invention.

Many people obsess about whether or not we’ve got sufficient, and within the course of find yourself with greater than sufficient. Generally we find yourself with far greater than sufficient.

There’s a physique of analysis exhibiting most retirees won’t ever draw down their retirement portfolios. It is a frequent sample I observe in readers I’ve spoken to and supersavers I do planning work with.

Margot and Nick have low mounted prices (no house, no automotive, few possessions). They can discover artistic methods to decrease housing, transportation, and journey prices (home/pet sitting, comped cruises, bank card journey rewards, flexibility, and so forth.).

They dwell a lifetime of journey and journey that individuals with far bigger internet worths solely dream of. Charitable giving can be a precedence.

Kudos to them for making this work and utilizing the sources they must construct the life they need to dwell!

If you need to share your story to assist others study from it, ship me an e-mail at [email protected].

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Helpful Sources

  • The Finest Retirement Calculators can assist you carry out detailed retirement simulations together with modeling withdrawal methods, federal and state revenue taxes, healthcare bills, and extra. Can I Retire But? companions with two of one of the best.
  • Free Journey or Money Again with bank card rewards and enroll bonuses.
  • Monitor Your Funding Portfolio
    • Join a free Private Capital account to realize entry to trace your asset allocation, funding efficiency, particular person account balances, internet price, money circulate, and funding bills.
  • Our Books

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at [email protected].]

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Disclosure: Can I Retire But? has partnered with CardRatings for our protection of bank card merchandise. Can I Retire But? and CardRatings might obtain a fee from card issuers. Different hyperlinks on this website, just like the Amazon, NewRetirement, Pralana, and Private Capital hyperlinks are additionally affiliate hyperlinks. As an affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases. If you happen to click on on one in every of these hyperlinks and purchase from the affiliated firm, then we obtain some compensation. The revenue helps to maintain this weblog going. Affiliate hyperlinks don’t improve your price, and we solely use them for services or products that we’re aware of and that we really feel might ship worth to you. In contrast, we’ve got restricted management over many of the show advertisements on this website. Although we do try to dam objectionable content material. Purchaser beware.

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