My “soon to be” five-year-old grandson loves to play with his dominos. He painstakingly sets them up in rows and patterns and then asks his mom (my daughter) to take a video and send it to me. He gets so excited when they start to fall and is giddy with laughter as one domino after another clatters to the hardwood floor. Of course, this takes only a few seconds, and then it is all over with. But in his case, the process starts again and he sets them all backup.
My husband and I have been talking about pushing over some dominos as well. But our dominos represent decisions, activities, vehicles, and how we will spend our time in retirement. I suppose I thought by this time we would know exactly how we wanted to set up our dominos. In fact, I thought we would be pushing them over by now. I believed that these decisions would be easy. For the amount of time we have spent talking about this, I imagined all of our decisions would already be made.
But, that is definitely not the case. In fact, I think we are probably more confused than when we started. When an idea is just a possibility there is no risk, it is only a conversation. But as the time grows nearer to my retirement it is starting to feel real.
Last weekend, with no plans yet again, the weather bleak, wet and dark, we masked up and visited a local RV dealership. As we sat on the fold-out sofa, we dreamed about what it would be like to go on the road and see some national parks. Since I’m learning to golf, we envisioned finding a place to park in a warmer place next winter near some golf courses, walking trails, and maybe a pool. We poked our heads into a few motor homes and some travel trailers but mostly we sat and talked while inside several 5th wheel trailers.
Everything is on the table for possibilities. Like a four-legged stool, each of our conversations includes activities, location, desires, and cost. Trying to balance all of these things will hopefully lead us to a “sweet spot” and a decision that we can both support and not regret.
There are so many choices – long term rental, short term rental, resort, RV park, park model, hotel, purchase a second home, RV, or tent camp. Before we can decide any of this, we have to fully answer some questions.
What activities do we want to do? Golfing, Biking, Hiking, Skiing, Camping or something completely new? Where do we want to be next winter? Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, California? How do we envision our day to day life? Traveling from place to place with a camping club, staying at a campground with a pool and access to golf, staying for a week, a month or three months? Will we join people we already know or make new friends along the way?
All of these questions need to be answered in some way before we make a decision that will result in an expensive purchase. The temptation to go out and buy something is strong. The desire to “get started” on our retirement journey is real, and with so many unknowns with the pandemic, we think our choices are limited. International travel is out and staying in places where there are lots of people (restaurants, hotels, and bars) probably won’t be a great idea for quite some time.
This has to lead us to consider a recreational vehicle, which is precisely how I found myself sitting in a future living room and kitchen of a fifth-wheel trailer. It is self-contained, we can control who is in our unit and when we can prepare our own meals and we can social distance just by shutting the door. Best of all, we can park anywhere we want in the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico when the borders are finally open again.
Originally, I wanted a small, light, weekend travel trailer. We would buy used to keep the costs down and we could keep our existing pick-up truck. Then the idea of snow-birding to Arizona took hold in my husband’s mind. The thought of living in a small trailer for several months turned into the desire for a larger home on wheels. I understand! He is 6’6” tall and most trailers are made for people that are 6’ tall. He can’t stand up in a regular trailer, has to duck through doorways and the beds are too small. His feet go off the end!
Therein lie the dilemma and those falling dominos. Each decision could have a cascading effect on what we do with our time and our financial situation. If we get a larger trailer, then our perfectly good “paid off pick-up” would get traded in for a bigger, heavier, and more expensive vehicle. My husband is even now analyzing gross vehicle weights, dry weight, axle distances, and towing capabilities. After a conversation with our son, he shared, “He thinks I’m over-analyzing all of this. Do you think so too?” I smiled and said “yes” in my mind and then with my mouth said, “No, take your time, honey, this is a huge decision.” Should we get a new truck or a used one? Should we buy a new 2021 or an older model used 5th wheel? Which brand of 5th wheel would be the best value and be easier to maintain? What are the reviews for an infinite number of choices?
There is no rush to these decisions. We can do whatever makes sense for us. But with cold weather days getting a little longer, the promise of spring, and my retirement date coming up quite quickly, it feels like we are under pressure to make a decision. But what is the right decision?
Before we push over a pile of dominos I want to think through where they will land. The problem is my husband is an analyzer and I go with my feelings. We are anxious to get started on this new life and are dreaming of a way to get out of town that is safe and affordable. We just aren’t sure what we are going to do. But that brand new Winnebago we saw sure looks like it could be fun though!
For this week anyway, no dominos are getting pushed over. Unlike my grandson, once they are pushed over, we can't easily set them back up again!
Barbara is the new star of the Rock Your Retirement show! For one year, she'll let Kathe Kline tag along as she goes through her retirement journey.