The idea of retirement typically conjures up images of Florida and grandchildren. But for retirees looking for a little more excitement during their golden years there are some more unconventional options to pick from. As Bedda D’Angelo, a financial planner out of Durham, North Carolina, puts it, “Don’t get me wrong. Retirees enjoy their grandchildren but for the most part they have other have other fish to fry.”[gallery]
So for folks who might shudder at the thought of babysitting Frank Jr. for a more than a couple of days, there are few offbeat retirement paths to consider that aren't all about playing cards and bird watching.
Samantha Vient is a certified financial planner in Orange, California who specializes in working with retirees looking to move out of the country at least part-time. “Retirement abroad may not sound like the most unusual situation but depending on the location it certainly can be,” Vient says. Central American countries like Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are rising in popularity among some of her clients.
“The amount of time they spend there depends on how much they have to retire on. A couple retiring on social security and a small pension is going to move there full time. They will end up buying a house there for less than $200,000 and stay. Often the cheaper medical costs are an incentive to stay there too."
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Of course, Mexico is the top international retirement location for Americans. A study by the International Community Foundation surveyed 1,000 U.S. retirees living in Mexico and found that 79% cite lifestyle as the reason for choosing Mexico, and 75% attributed their decision to the cost of living.
“Whether you are wealthy or trying to live on your monthly social security checks, retirees who live in Mexico can stretch the dollar a lot further. Housing and healthcare (including hospice care) are the areas where the biggest cost savings can be realized,” Vient says.
Some retirees never really retire at all and continue to work well into their golden years. But there’s a difference this time around. “The pressure is off so it can be much more fun,” D’Angelo says.
Retirees are mixing work with retirement through so-called "workamping," or working and camping. Workampers live in RVs while working in recreational areas such as parks, campgrounds, amusement parks or resorts in exchange for wages and a free campsite in which to park their mobile homes. Workamping is a term coined by a website of the same name that matches RVers with employers around the country. More than half of all Workampers work to supplement their retirement income and travel while doing so.
Looking for something more rugged? Cut the recreational vehicle from the picture and travel around the country in an 18-wheeler instead. Believe it or not, more and more retirees are signing up for truck driving classes. Meg Green, a fee-only planner in Miami, Florida says the idea of getting paid to haul goods on long distance trips is appealing to some retirees looking to stay productive during retirement. “You couldn’t pay me $100,000 to do that but some boomers like the idea of seeing the country and getting paid for it,” says Green.
Fred Hiebert who runs United Transportation Driver Training in Manitoba, Canada says an increasing number of retirees are signing up for his class. The appeal? “They get to travel and don’t have people in their way. They get to see the countryside, sit back and enjoy it without anyone bothering them,” Hiebert says. The majority of retirees getting truck-driving lessons in Hiebert's classes are men, but about 40% of those men are accompanied on their long-haul trips by their retired wives.
And get this: Retiree truck drivers are in demand. Hiebert says the companies he ships goods to are requesting his more “mature” drivers. “The industry has lost many of its seasoned drivers and the companies are calling me saying ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job with the 18 and 20-year-olds but they are harder on the equipment.’ They love the retirees who are more mature and have more work experience,” Hiebert adds.
But if you’re seeking a less nomadic lifestyle there are a few not-so-typical retirement communities that cater to the niche interests of retirees. For instance, one community in Burbank, Calif. focuses on the arts and is ideal for writers, actors and musicians. The Burbank Senior Artist Colony houses retirees in an apartment building in downtown Burbank and features a performance theatre, a media center, art studios and on-site art classes.
For the star-gazing retiree, the Arizona Sky Village offers a residential community 4,600 feet above the sea-level near the Chiricahua Mountain Range. Gene Turner, who co-founded the village with astro-photographer Jack Newton, says the communities are occupied by nature lovers and amateur astronomers.
Sky Village’s 75 four-acre lots are sold out, but the community offers fractional share haciendas that come furnished with their own telescopes along with unobstructed canyon views, Turner says.
If your interest in the skies has more to do with flying than star-gazing you might consider Daytona Beach, Florida’s Spruce Creek Fly-In Community, which is essentially a residential playground for pilots. The private gated community is home to 5,000 residents whose homes are often decked out with their own hangars.
Of course such a community needs its own airport so this one is built around its own 4,000 foot runway and 14 miles of taxiway. The noise factor? “It’s not anywhere as loud your typical commercial airport. These are you neighbors taking out their planes for a ride and sharing the taxiway with people in their golf carts and kids on bicycles. Of course, the planes have the right of way,” says Carlos Bravo, CEO of Karlhaus Realty.