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Annual Retirement to an RV

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Wednesday June 23, 2010: I retired a year ago. I was 62-1/2 so not quite retirement age but I’ve never liked putting things off if they don’t have to be put off. I also decided at the time, to not start my social security or pension plan since both would grow if I left them alone for as long as I could. If you’ve been following my Webpage for any length of time, you also know that I sold all property in the fall of 2006. That means Gwen and I have been living in our fifth wheel full time long before I retired from work. I felt we didn’t have a choice but to sell our property since we were still making mortgage payments and continuing to make mortgage payments would likely keep me working much longer that I wished. In some ways, I was lucky, if my property did not have a mortgage, it would have been much more difficult to choose full time RV living. I have friends who have tried to travel while continuing to own property “back home” and they worry all the time about that property and usually even cut their travels short to check on the property. We have other friends who are living full time in their RV but have rented out their home, planning to return at sometime in the future. Again, they worry. At one time I owned 38 acres in the Oregon woods. I built my own home and developed the property the way I wanted it. Had I not sold it in a previous life time, I would find it difficult to leave it now. My two choices for retirement were to move to property I could afford without having to work to support the property or sell all and buy an RV. Gwen and I chose the RV. We anticipated the sour real estate market back in 2006, sold our property, so have been living in a fifth wheel since then. What changed for us in June, 2009 when I retired was that I no longer had to make a two hour commute to work each day, no longer had an income from that job and we were now able to move about the country rather than stay locked into one location (because of jobs).
One of our Arizona winter camping locations

I write a one year review of our fifth wheel on the anniversary of our purchase so I’m doing the same for retirement. We planning for retirement, we considered our financial situation, living quarters, travel destinations, health needs, food, hobby interests and the unexpected.

Before selling all our property, I had a garage full of tools including stationary tools such as a table saw, band saw, drill press, etc. The number one question men asked me is “how I can do without my tools?” It was difficult to get rid of them, some I had owned for 40 years. It wasn’t just the tools; you know those bags, jars and boxes of useful nuts, bolts, screws, gears, partially defective gizmos that are kept because “some day I might need that thing”?. Well, I had to get rid of all that stuff too. I DID get rid of all of it and survived. I have since learned that there are some very nice RV resorts, especially in Arizona, which have full woodworking shops for use by the residents. If I need a woodworking-fix, we’ll stay in one of those parks for a month.
Another Arizona winter camping location
I was very nervous the first few weeks of retirement. Essentially I was expecting a “surprise” at any time which basically went something like this: “Surprise! … With all your planning you forgot to think about this _____! And THIS is a deal-breaker!” Well, there have been surprises, but none so huge as to be deal breakers. We planned pretty carefully financially expecting to live frugally until we both begin our socially security and pensions. I still teach two online college courses which helps. But, it seems that the only way we could live within our original budget is to stay put in ONE location and we don’t want to do that. We enjoy seeing new territory which means visiting new towns, the sites in those towns and especially the restaurants in those towns. So, we are over budget on food/restaurants. Early in our travels we had to replace all tires on both the truck and trailer. I hadn’t expected to do that so soon and I hadn’t remembered the tires costing so much. It’s been about nine months now since getting new tires and they all look pretty worn so I don’t think they will last but maybe another year. So we are over budget on maintenance and it looks like the cost of tires will happen more often than I originally planned. Pretty much every time I hitch up to the trailer it costs another $200 in diesel. But we aren’t too much over on diesel, maybe $500/month rather than the $400/month we had budgeted. Hiking in New Mexico
Winning in a New Mexico Casino

We had never lived on solar power before beginning our retirement. That was an expensive gamble, just check my solar page to learn the exact investment in solar. If you’ve been reading my reports for a year, you know that I was so impressed with solar during the first two weeks that I sold our little Honda generator. That turned out to be a mistake so I had to replace the generator in February. Over all, the solar has been a good investment, one which allows us to camp in the wilderness without having to listen to generator noise nor burn fossil fuel most of the time. So our living choice of camping in the Arizona desert during the winter months has been a good one. We have many friends who do the same so we spent most of the winter months camped only a few yards from friends and many activities. The choice we made to spend most of 2010 in New Mexico has been a good one. New Mexico has the best bargain for RVers of all the states. We were able to purchase an annual State Park pass for $225. We actually purchased the pass on March 1, 2010 but it does not expire until March 31, 2011 so is valid for 13 months. We can stay in any state park for up to 21 days at no extra charge. If we happen to park in an electric site, it will cost us $4 extra per night but since we generate our own solar power, our camping has been free since March 1 and we don’t plan to leave New Mexico until September. Every state park we have visited so far has been very nice with excellent campsites and facilities. Our living plan has worked so well, we are beginning to wonder what we will do next year. Our plan for spring and summer of 2011 is to visit Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. We expect our camping expense to increase. Even the Senior Access pass will get us only ½ off of National Forest campgrounds and we have learned that means an average of $10/night. Anyway, the camping expense will likely increase next spring.

Visiting native american ruins in New Mexico
Another part of our plan was to use Mexican dentists and optometrists. Literally thousands of retired folks visit Mexico for four reasons, dentists, optometrists, pharmacy and liquor. We have used Mexico for some minor pharmacy needs but generally don’t have enough need to even mention it for ourselves and liquor, we don’t use at all. We used Algodones, Mexico, just across the border from Yuma, Arizona for both dentists and optometrists.  We took recommendations from those who had been there before. I needed a crown which cost $200, not the cheapest price but I didn’t want the cheapest Mexican dentist if you know what I mean? Gwen needed new glasses. She got two pair with all the extras such as transition lens and a new prescription for around $180. I think we can do better than that next year.

I will have to admit there are two appliances I miss, the dishwasher and our own laundry washer and dryer. Not that I do most of the dishwashing OR laundry, I would just feel more comfortable if we had both. You know it’s actually possible to get both for RVs but the RV appliances are so small they are like toys. You pretty much need to be in an RV park with 50 amp service, water and sewer connections to use those appliances. We choose to camp away from RV parks most of the time for the space and privacy.

"Laundrymat" in Mountainair, New Mexico
I expect to be drawing on social security and pension plans sooner than the original plan. Other than that, I am very happy with retirement, glad that I began at age 62-1/2, I no longer must commute each day, glad that I don’t have property to worry about, glad to travel to a new location every two weeks and very happy we chose New Mexico as our first extended retirement destination. I’m looking forward to year two and no longer fear the “surprise”.
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