Peter and Sally’s Adventures Along the Way to Retirement

Category: Adventurous retirement

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Lao Tzu, philosopher.

By Peter and Sally
Our friends Peter and Sally have a zest for life that is evidenced in the choices they have made over their adult life and into retirement. They also seem to move a lot. We appreciate that they were kind enough to share that history with Topretirements. They have ended up (so far!) in a very cool, extremely tiny incorporated city below Palm Beach. Our hope is that you will find their saga interesting as well as instructive.

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May 15, 2016 — We have many friends who have spent their entire married life in one home. It didn’t turn out that way for us. It’s not like we planned it or anything, it was just that the grass always looked greener somewhere up or down or across the road. Circumstances also change. Here is our tale of where we lived from newly married to several iterations of retirement.

1978, Hartford Connecticut – A cool condo! One of the first in the city. Historic rehab, 3 levels, exposed brick. Walk to work with all the other hip, young professionals. Perfect.

But … shlepping groceries up two flights, no yard, condo association, street noise, the purse snatching episode. So…

1980, Foxcroft Road, West Hartford Connecticut – Our own house in a classic suburban setting where the young professionals move after they’ve done their urban guerilla thing. A cute, 5-room red brick cape. Nice yard, quiet street and friendly neighbors. Then 2 cats, a dog, a baby named Matt. Sally paints every room and papers the baby’s room. So pretty. So peaceful. Perfect.

But … all that baby stuff! Toys everywhere – no room for the playpen. The ceilings are too low, the garage is a little too small. And so is the yard. So …

1984, Steele Road, West Hartford Connecticut (2 blocks from our Foxcroft Road house) – Big colonial, 3 floors, 4 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, needs a lot of work. Sally paints every room, we refinish floors, redo kitchen, redo master bath. Great neighborhood, lots of kids, dinner parties with young, interesting neighbors, walk the dog to Elizabeth Park and its famous rose garden where we were married. Matt strolls to school. Comfortable, beautiful, safe. Perfect.

But … detached garage. Shlepping groceries through the muddy or snowy yard. The kitchen is too far from the family room and the beautiful metal tile roof is getting very rusty. So…

1995, Mohawk Drive, West Hartford Connecticut— Bigger colonial, 6 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 2 half baths, attached garage. Double lot on the golf course. Needs MAJOR work. Undo “modernization” done by prior owners in the 60’s. Remove walls, restore crown molding, woodwork, refinish floors, replace ceilings, add mantle, rebuild a back staircase, design a wall of bookcases, gut and replace entire kitchen and pantry. Sally paints every room (sometimes twice). Beautiful! Matt walks to middle school. He has his own “suite” – bedroom, bath, and study (as do we).
Christmas is great – lots of room for the family to gather and bedrooms to stay over. Matt’s friends love to come over and gather in the finished basement or horse around in the yard. Perfect.

But … Matt goes off to college. Wow! What a big house! We both trip and fall down the
sizeable front staircase…sober no less. We’re living in four rooms: the kitchen, den, office and bedroom. What a waste of space. We need something cozier. So …

Downsizing Begins
2003, Cedar Close, Bloomfield, Connecticut – Originally built in the thirties, it is the loveliest little house in the world, each room an independent, unique, wood-paneled beauty. Cozy with lots of windows, bookcases, a substantial fireplace in an oversized living room, sizeable decks off the den and the kitchen, and a steaming stand-up Japanese-style hot tub on the deck outside the master bedroom. Our two acres are protected by a small nature preserve and adjoin walking trails. Quiet, peaceful, just the right size. Needs a little work, not much, just the kitchen. Not much painting required – just a couple of bathrooms.

But … Well, for starters, the winters!! Snow, ice dams and leaky eaves, falling down on the steep, icy driveway, schlepping the trash cans and recycle bins to the top of our hill every week. And in the spring, weeding the garden, painting the deck, washing all those windows. And then Peter needs heart surgery. Major wake-up call. Time to retire, slow down and move to easy street. So …

Heading South for Retirement
2012, Front Street, Key West, Florida — We dispose of most of our worldly possessions, transition into an apartment in downtown Hartford for 6 months and then hit the road for Key West, Florida. For a brief time we owned a little condo at The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, but the vibe was a bit too precious for Sally. We want southern sunshine and the proximity to the ocean, but we need a more “eclectic” community… i.e., an edgier hometown with a more diverse, unpredictable, artistic array of characters.

Over the years, we vacationed up and down the East coast, but nothing had the charm (for Sally) and the quirkiness (for Peter) and the free-wheeling friendliness of Key West. So Key West it is. We time the real estate market just right and go back to the future… we purchase a cool condo again, this time a 3-story brick townhouse in the Truman Annex, a former Navy base that was converted into a beautiful residential community back in the seventies. What fun! A vibrant, historic city that’s been reinventing itself for 150 years. We can walk or ride our bikes to everything we need or desire. It abounds with quality restaurants, theater and music venues; a legendary list of writers, artists, sinners and saints; and it boasts a long list of irrepressible, eye-popping celebrations that can make you jump for joy or run for cover.

Key West is a frothy concoction served up in a sublime contradiction: rich and poor; young and old; athletic and dissolute; family friendly and a singles haven; spiritual and profane; expensive and cheap; a surreal adventure and a quiet retreat…just the place for strong hearted, lively spirits of all ages and inclinations. Perfect.

But … No yard to speak of, the cruise ship tourists are a maddening horde and, let’s be real, we can’t party like we used to. Island life is smaller than we anticipated, the condo is closing in on us and the staircases are killing our knees! Then another wake-up call. Peter has to have more heart surgery, this time about 160 miles up the road in Miami. Urgent but, thankfully, not an emergency. And, no surprise, we get caught in a wicked traffic jam on our drive up to Miami…5 ½ slow, frustrating hours. So…

A very nice home in Atlantis

A very nice home in Atlantis

2014, Atlantis, Florida — The day after the surgery, we drive about 60 miles north to Atlantis, a tiny city of 1 ½ square miles incorporated in 1959, and located near Lake Worth in Palm Beach County. We find a pretty one-level, single- family home, 2800 square feet, 4 bedrooms (we use 2 as offices), 2 full and 2 half baths, an attached garage, our own private screened pool and an unobstructed view of the golf course. We can’t walk into town anymore; we have to drive short distances to shop at Publix, CVS, Home Depot, et cetera. But it’s no problem unless Peter decides to take I-95 (aka “Die-95”) and starts jockeying for position with the other cowboys who think they’re racing on the NASCAR circuit.

Our home provides much more space to spread our wings and we’re centrally located about 20 minutes from every imaginable convenience: beautiful beaches, arts and entertainment, polo matches, world class museums and, everything from hamburger joints to some of the top rated restaurants in Florida. With its own police force, an active self-governing city council and JFK Medical Center located right here in our little community, our home in Atlantis has turned out to be just the right place for faint-hearted, weak-kneed, pill-popping, high-spirited characters like Peter and Sally.

Perfect.

City Hall in Atlantis

City Hall in Atlantis

When we reflect on our forty happy, lucky years together, it seems as though we’ve always found just the right home at just the right time. And when the times change, we change with them.

It’s a wonderful journey.

Perfect.

Peter and Ziggy in the Lanai

Peter and Ziggy relaxing in the Lanai

Thanks Peter and Sally, we have enjoyed the trip!

Comments: Have you made what you thought was the perfect retirement move, only to find that your dream or your circumstances had changed? Please share what your learned in the Comments section below.



Posted by Admin on May 14th, 2016

16 Comments »

  1. This is the best article! This article shows me that what you thought you wanted 10 yrs ago may not be the right choice now. It makes me feel better about our protracted search for where to retire. The difference between us and this couple is that they made choices and just changed if it didnt work out whereas we keep postponing the decision. I think we need to follow their example.

    by Carol — May 15, 2016

  2. Peter and Sally (and Ziggy too) . . . what an awesome journey and adventure you took us readers on! Reading your well-written story, including some photos, made it all the more enjoyable! THANK YOU so much for sharing this because you both are an inspiration to many of us. If I may be so bold as to say: You have lived your lives by changing, adapting, trying something new, etc., and the BEAUTY is that you were able to dream it and able DO it. Your story reminds me of what the essence of “The Dash” is about. For anyone not familiar with “The Dash”… clearly Peter and Sally have lived and continue to live so wisely in “The Dash.” My hat is graciously off to you both and I want to share this with you and everyone who may have never heard of this. It is my sincere hope that we can ALL, in our own way, learn, be inspired, be enriched, and enjoy our internal and external lives just like Peter and Sally appear to have done so well. Yes folks, we only get one turn on this earth … lets try to capture all the opportunities we can.
    The Dash Poem – Linda Ellis, Author, Speaker, Poet
    http://www.linda-ellis.com/the-dash-the-dash-poem-by-linda-ellis-.html
    The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis has inspired millions around the world. Read the famous poem and change the way you live your dash!

    by Patte — May 15, 2016

  3. Perfect story, laced with humor and truth! Confirmed that retirement is a series of chapters, just like life. For years I thought that the perfect retirement existed and would be our “final” chapter….not so, there is just now. We have found our Nirvana in Beaufort SC, for now. We see may retirees in our community moving on in their 70’s and 80’s and a few who have discovered a new”now” and are trying something else – life aboard a boat, RV adventuring, etc. Bravo to Peter and Sally, and Bravo to us all for staying open to new experiences rather than accepting a less than enjoyable situation!

    by SandyZ — May 18, 2016

  4. What a great story! It is encouraging to see such an adaptable and adventuresome couple. I also realized we also need to stop postponing (Carol) and do what we need to do…and smile, breathe, and enjoy the transitions.

    by Paula — May 18, 2016

  5. Thats great for them and I hope thier happy.
    IN REALITY, they will always fear going to the hospital if they have even looked into the healthcare system in Florida !
    Due to the fact my wife is an RN, we know numerous RN’s at other hospitals in this state and my current neighbor here in Orlando works for the insurance industry, I can say with confidence and unfortunate first hand experience that the healthcare system is 10 years behind the times “on pupose” so they can collect more money from the insurance system.
    Unfortunately I received a lot of care from the Connecticut healthcare system after having been run over in 1987 and they are years ahead in proceedures and quality of care.
    I hope you all the best and of course not having a personal income tax or the annual cold will help as you get more mature (because old is only a state of mind !).

    by Richard — May 18, 2016

  6. How lucky you are to have been able to make these changes in your lives, moving up and down the exclusive top rungs of the economic ladder. You definitely represent a minority. I just returned home from grocery shopping. The bagger had to have been in her late eighties, working to supplement her meager social security. She’s not alone.

    by kathleen — May 18, 2016

  7. I also thought this was great story of a great journey. Congratulations Peter and Sally! We also moved a lot — sometimes for similar reasons, though seldom just to get to another place we thought better — motives differ for everyone. Jobs and “retirement-like” thinking did apply too our moves.

    My thought is that I really wouldn’t be overly concerned about the medical circumstances that Richard pointed out. It’s all a crap-shoot. You can be “screwed” just as well by the latest and greatest as you can by older systems. There are always schemers putting themselves ahead of you. I think having reasonable medical facilities within easy reach is of the greatest importance “surviving” the unexpected is important to you.

    One side story a little similar to Peter and Sally’s adventure was when we latched unto an unexpected opportunity to move from our happy home in No Va to what we expected to be a much happier home near Chapel Hill, NC (that was not our current home of 23 years). The move was to a home that we felt would be our “retirement dream” (thinking 15 years in the future at that time). It was almost new and had been lived in only by a little old lady. Within 3 months we totally renovated the kitchen, remodeled the loft over the living room, hugely changed the exterior landscaping, had running difficulties with a particular neighbor, helped fight off MASSIVE building programs literally adjacent to our lot and other “unanticipated” projects. So much for the dream! After 9 months, we realized that our next renovation was going to cost at least $50,000 and we needed to change our thoughts to building a new house elsewhere. So since we left No Va in early 1989, we moved twice including a year-long rental, and finally moved into our current home in late 1992 where we actually retired 13 years ago in 2003 — but that accomplishment took those 3 moves in 3 years.

    This last move has proved to be “the one”, but we do still look for new possibilities (we also have transitioned from mid-40s to late-60s). While we feel open to starting anew in another place (most probably in NC also), we have continually improved and updated our new home right down to massive landscaping changes in the past two years up to and including now.

    That leads me to agree — take the opportunities as they come and make the best of what you do. Change is possible, but you need to accept the surprises and chaos that comes with it.

    by Rich — May 18, 2016

  8. Great story! Maybe it will inspire me to do something similar. We’ve lived in 5 homes and now a condo and feel we have at least 1 more move left in us. I am recently retired and just waiting for my wife to be ready to do the same. With family in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Orlando, have a feeling that next move might be from the Midwest to the sunshine state. Will have to add Atlantis to the list of places to visit.

    by Dennis — May 18, 2016

  9. This concept comes up constantly here and in other forums. The idea that anyone who has a decent life or retirement must be wealthy — in the top 10% maybe. That is absolute foolishness and I don’t think anyone should disparage another if they have been successful with their life.

    Sure the wealthy and near wealthy pretty much have an easy life financially. Makes me wonder why we hear about many of the same people with their suicides and drug issues. The same can be said for almost any financial level from poverty to “keeping up with the Jones middle class — life just isn’t perfect. Likely the 80-year-old does needs to support herself somehow, but just possibly she simply wants to avoid the “stuck-in-the-house” syndrome that can lead to depression and other issues.

    I probably qualify as being “top rung” despite living month to month on a strict budget and qualifying only as low-middle income. And yes, we did almost everything right from starting college with virtually no financial support from our parents, to taking jobs available even if we only made $75/month, to seeking out opportunity and moving when needed despite the financial impact of being stuck with two house payments. The GI Bill saved us more than once — how can I regret my time in service aside from the opportunity to serve? Both working 60-100 hours a week for more than 20 years certainly impacted our lives and our families, but we found ways to make it work. We made our lives what we wanted from them even when there appeared to be no way out. We started debt-ridden our of college, struggled hard to overcome all the obstacles, held ourselves open to new (and sometimes terribly difficult) challenges, ended up retiring early (partly due to health problems) and today live decently well while watching every dollar (literally, we record everything spent). Many people would say we are “lucky”, we may or may not be “top rung”, but we made our own luck and took advantage of that which came to us no matter how scary and risk-filled it sometimes was. We are normal. Most people I know have had their own travails.

    I again say “congratulations” to Peter and Sally no matter how it was that they succeeded. Walk a mile in our shoes — could you have managed? A degree of envy and jealousy is natural (believe me, I have enough to share), but please don’t disparage someone who has managed to make their life a good one. It is simply what we all dream about.

    by Rich — May 18, 2016

  10. It was fun to read your adventure and continue to dream of ours. It’s time to retire to Florida!

    by Craig — May 18, 2016

  11. Thanks, Sally, very entertaining and inspirational story. And thanks to Pattie for the poem. I’ve seen it before but a reminder is always thought provoking.

    by Kathy W — May 18, 2016

  12. Great article! I love this website. Waiting for my wife’s retirement (1-4 years) I wrote a poem many years ago that this article reminded me of. “When you live your life in the past you may find that things never last, and when you live your life for the future you may find there’s simple no cure, but nice you live your life in the here and now, you’ll soon see that love always comes somehow!”

    by Greg D — May 18, 2016

  13. Greg, Your wife’s a lucky woman. You’re a keeper!

    by ella — May 22, 2016

  14. Many thanks to all for your kind words, poetry and encouragement. We were so pleased you liked our little story.

    Many years ago, a friend who was diagnosed with a grave illness told us about a game he played. He suggested that we write down (separately, and in two minutes) everything we’d like to do if we had a ton of money in the bank but had only two years to live. The exercise, as you surely know, is to balance the value of time alongside the security of money. Most importantly, it’s a device to crytalize what’s most important in your life, set goals and pursue them. The “game” refreshed our perspective, provoked many honest, heartfelt discussions and triggered a number of surprising decisions and happy adventures.

    Of course, luck plays a big part. Fortunately, our friend was misdiagnosed and enjoyed a long, fulfilling life. We know we have have been lucky, and try to be grateful for every extra day.

    We never had a barrel of money. Just travel along, singing a song, side by side.

    All the best…Peter and Sally

    by Peter and Sally — May 28, 2016

  15. Gratitude, everyday. How to get to Atlantis? Practice, practice, practice.

    by Alice — May 30, 2016

  16. A fun word to describe Peter and Sally: FANBYs (Find a New Backyard) – serial relocators. Enjoyed the article!

    by Jan Cullinane — May 30, 2016

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