Thursday, June 21, 2018


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Island Life

Retirement looms large for many of us baby boomers. There it is, just ahead now, OMG! I would often sit back in my office and daydream of retirement. After swimming for years in the rough and tumultuous seas of commerce I would emerge from the ocean onto a tropical sandy beach and there would be a bevy of beautiful singing island girls welcoming us into retirement as I set aside my labors and worries joyfully arriving at my beach front thatch hut in which my wife and I would live out our remaining years catching fish, consuming coconuts, peeling bananas, combing the beach with my metal detector finding lost treasures etc.. Wearing only hawaiian shirts, shorts, black socks and sandals I would at long last be free from the anxiety and demands of roof leaks, lawn maintenance, mortgage payments, commutes to work, termites, insurance, gas prices, children, bosses, co-workers etc. etc..

The reality of course is a compromise. While money can't buy happiness, it's extraodinarily hard to be happy without it. The question that troubles us all is: "How much is enough?". What has intrigued me since retiring in Key Largo Florida is the range of people that have retired with varying degrees of money. Some, like Ed, have done it modestly, while others like Henry have done it with wealth. Who's the happiest? I don't know but here are some of the results I have seen.

Key Largo is the northern most Key (island) and commutable to Miami. The island is surounded by beachfront homes all the way around facing out to sea or Florida Bay. Most of the beachfront homes beginning price (as of this writing) is about a million and half dollars and go up from there. These are NOT exceptional homes. Mostly 2 or 3 bdrms with 2 baths and modest appointments. If they were located anywhere else inland on the mainland they would cost between $250k and $300K. They are about 70% UNoccupied.

Here is a map of all the inhabited keys

Click Map to Enlarge

Most beachfront homes in all of the keys are owned by non-resident owners. Many located in Miami but a substantial amount owned by folks in other states. The motivation for buying these homes vary. Some rent these homes out for weekend partiers, national holidays, summer vacations, or for 6 months at a time etc. etc. (short term rentals) in order to offset the upkeep and build their equity. Owners will then spend a week or two each year in their own beachfront vacation in hopes their own equity will build over the years of ownership. If one is retired and can afford to pay a million and half dollars for their permanent retirement residence then you don't need to be looking at alternatives which is the subject of this blog.

Ed, a landlubber from Iowa worked in the Insurance business most of his life and saved modest amounts of money every month for forty years. Deciding to retire at 62 Ed started planning when he was about 50. Both his children were grown and gone living their own lives, his wife passed away when Ed was 58. When Ed retired at 62yrs old he decided to commit to living just on his monthly social security income of about $2,000. Educating himself about boats prior to retirement he settled on a brand new Ranger 29 (Click Here). It holds about 150gal of diesel fuel which gives him quite a bit of crusing range, plenty of water and air conditioning etc., etc.. Ed spent a chunk of his home equity to purchase and outfit the boat for about $250,000. How to predict your Social Security income:(Click Here)

Ed sold his car and bought an electric bicycle that can do up to 25mph. Selling his car cut down on his overhead substantially. No more insurance to pay, maintenance and upkeep, gas etc. etc.. He decided to park his brand new Ranger 29 in a slip just down the road from Key Largo in Mangrove Marina in Taverneir. Cost of the slip is about $600 a month including electricity, water and sewer. Cable and internet are extra. He is about two minutes from a hospital and grocery store. The existing live-aboard boat community in Mangrove Marina welcomed him with open arms sharing their extensive marine knowledge and helped quite abit with his boat. It took Ed about six months to get comfortable piloting his boat around the Keys and taking on a few short voyages to Nassau, the Bahamas and even went to Cuba and back. He went with a group of other boats for safety.

Ed, a landlubber from Iowa

As of this writing Ed is on his way up the gulf coast headed to New Orleans. A really nice guy that has found his calling. This option looked pretty appealing so my wife and I decided to buy this 45ft. liveaboard power boat and give it a try. It's an older boat purchased for $60k and boasting two complete staterooms, two full baths, a laundry, full galley (Kitchen), a solan with wide screen HD TV, etc.,etc.. It took a bit of doing learning how to pilot this behemoth up next to the fuel docks. In fact it scared the shit out of me as I had never driven anything this big, especially in tight quarters, but I put on a brave face and a life jacket put it into reverse, lifted the engine throttles and slowly backed out of the slip into the open water. It was both scary and thrilling. If you are interested and want to see the boat I bought:

There are many different options to consider when adjusting to a new and different lifestyle. For those that want a bit more of a 'conventional' experience and still want to live on the water there is the Houseboat option shown here just below. There are MANY different configurations and personalizations one can make on the houseboat experience and still have waterfront access for around $80k to $100k.

On the other hand, Lou did almost the same thing but on a much tighter budget. He and his wife have lived on his sailboat continuously for the last 27 years. Anchored offshore and not having a monthly slip fee and utilities is a big savings. Lou comes into the fuel docks once a week puts his trash & garbage in the dumpster, loads up on groceries, buys fuel for his generators and small engine, empties his holding tanks, fills his water tanks and heads back out to anchor. The whole thing takes about 30mins a week. They have two small dingys for transport to and from shore during the week. Both work here in the keys and enjoy a very frugal lifestyle with many friends and are very well thought of. They have a sandbar party almost every weekend with lots of BBQ.

Take a look at this blog of a young couple on a sailboat operating on a shoestring and having a wonderful adventure (Click Here). Now here is a tour and a sample of sailing in a 50ft catamaran in 6ft waves. Catamarans are popular for their stability, speed and roominess. These are easy liveaboards.

It's been six years now since my wife and I retired in the keys and we've learned a great deal. On arrival we decided to rent one of those water front vacation homes in the "off-season" for several months in order to learn the lay of the land. We moved here from a small town in New York just beside West Point. Here is a short video of our very first sunset in Key Largo and the vacation rental we first stayed in. This was November and very cold in New York: . Key Largo was a very welcome change from frigid days of snow and ice.

A couple of years ago my wife and I sold our 45ft boat to a young couple of avid divers who have made it their permanent home here in the Keys. We now live in a beach front condo here in Key Largo, purchased a salt water pontoon boat and travel trailer. In the hot months (August-September) we travel trailer the backroads, highways and byways of the sun belt, generally through the southwest of the U.S.. In the condo we take an evening cruise on the pontoon boat with a bottle of wine and friends around sunset. I can report we are enjoying our retirement immensly. The salt water pontoon boat requiring almost no maintenance, and the travel trailer is a delight. Our small condo has worked out perfectly for us. We hope you come to Key Largo for a visit and see if it suits you for retirement.

Sam & Wanda at Nest Key

Here are some very interesting videos (on the left) for your perusal discussing building your own floating house. Many have done so for retirement and enjoy a really wonderful lifestyle.

powered by Surfing Waves
powered by Surfing Waves

Here on the right are some of my personal videos taken over several years showing the transition from New York to a life here in Key Largo. Drop me a line in the comment section below if you have any questions and I'll be glad to chat with you about our personal experiences in making the transiton. It gets hot in the summer but if you like fishing for the big ones and living on or near the water you should really take a look at Key Largo and vicinity.

A final option being looked into goes something like this. Buy or build a floatation platform of which there are many types. Buy or build something like this: . The chief reason I find this so appealing is in the winter months one can move this unit onto their flotation platform, cinch it down solidly and have a viable waterfront home for the winter. Alternatively, one can come into shore at a public launch ramp, hook up this unit to their truck and head north for the three summer months, all on a very tight budget.

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