Why Betty Loved Living the Mobile Lifestyle in Retirement

Category: Adventurous retirement

September 23, 2016 — By Betty Fitterman
Note: This is a 6 part series that Betty Fitterman was kind enough to contribute way back at Topretirements’ beginning. To see the other 5 parts go to our Tips & Picks Section/Adventurous Retirements (we will eventually move all of them into the Blog so people can Comment on them).

While millions of baby boomers are starting to check out active adult communities, college towns, and cities as their retirement destination, a sub-set of young-at-heart retirees has a much more adventurous approach. These folks have adopted a mobile lifestyle, and for them, the entire continent is their community.

We’re talking about the permanent and semi-permanent RVers, many of whom have sold everything – homes, condos, cars, furniture and all – to live as turtles, as one friend described it, carrying their homes on their backs for as long as they enjoy it.

It’s not an easy decision, especially when it comes to friends and family left behind, but the rewards are many. It’s exciting, educational, and freeing, and if you do it right, a great way to conserve your finances for the long haul.

This writer made the decision to liquidate everything and move into a luxury mobile home only after a couple of years of vacationing in, first, a rental RV, then a mid-size Class C Mobile home, the kind that looks like it’s been built around a truck cab. Although I enjoyed these vacations immensely, I could not for the life of me imagine moving into one full-time, and it took my husband three years to convince me to abandon my successful advertising business, say goodbye to friends and family for the time being, and sell everything we owned.

I’m a nester. I loved my beautiful home, but the cost of running a six-bedroom home on two acres was killing us. I knew we’d have to do something soon, or we’d be living in a double-wide in some backwater town, working at the local WalMart and scraping by to stay alive. We wanted to travel. We wanted some semblance of the luxury we’d worked so hard for. We wanted to retire without money worries. So with the housing market dropping into the basement, we put our dream house and our investment condo up for sale, sold three of our four cars, and went shopping for a mobile coach.

We were lucky. We shopped around and found a like-new Class A Mobile home, the kind that looks like a rock-star bus and has a spacious, comfortable interior. Ours had been owned by a poor soul who purchased it then became ill and couldn’t drive. We profited from the collapse of his dream, I’m both happy and sad to say. It was an incredible bargain, a 2004 with only 4000 miles on it.

Monterey RVOn the plus side, a mortgage of $100,000 was immensely preferable to our current million-dollar noose, and while gas prices were soaring, they still didn’t compare to the taxes and running costs of owning a home with a yearly tax bill of $47,000. I kept looking at that number and imagining how many vacations we could take with that money. Moving to a landed retirement community would also be a smart move financially, but we’d have to figure the cost of vacations and home upkeep into our plan.

With our home on our backs, on the other hand, we could be on permanent vacation, and while there is some upkeep to be factored in, it still would be less than owning a home. Besides, once we’d found the place that “makes our hearts sing,” as my husband kept saying, we’d still have plenty of savings to purchase a pretty house and keep the RV as well. It seemed like a win-win situation, and while I was less interested in this peripatetic retirement for all the emotional reasons a nester can come up with, my husband was so gung-ho about it, I simply couldn’t say no. I wish you could have seen the look on his face when I finally said okay, let’s do this thing.

Just a few months into this adventure, I am finding extra benefits I never even imagined. We had a gardener and a cleaning lady, but now I’m doing the housework. It takes all of one hour every week. I don’t mind; it’s exercise.

While most decorating is done by the RV manufacturer, I still managed to exercise my decorating muscle by ripping out some of the more mundane furnishings and adding my own personal touch by way of new coverlets, curtains, a coffee table scaled to our living space and some sexy-looking pillows for the couch. I’ve scoured antique shops for things like a vase that won’t break (an old bean pot is just heavy enough and looks wonderful) and a dish drain in bright red. A born shopper, I’m learning the wisdom of thinking twice about a purchase because there is a finite amount of space to both display and store things. As a result, I’ve saved money, but had just as much fun.

My husband is so happy he’s doing all the hard work that I would never want to do, and almost half of the indoor chores. He walks the dog, sets up the camper at each stop, shampoos the rug, dries the dishes, does the barbecuing, and washes the laundry. He’s more of a partner than I’ve ever had, and that feels wonderful. But I haven’t become Mrs. Homebody by any stretch of the imagination. There are wonderful restaurants in every town, so we go out whenever we want to. I miss going to the movies, but we have satellite TV, so I can rent a movie and watch in my pajamas. And I still treat myself to jewelry (small and packs well).

But the best part is the travel, of course. Our enormous windows offer us a huge, unobstructed view of this continent’s most glorious sights. We can stop just about anywhere. On the side of a waterfall, near a babbling brook, at a honky-tonk amusement park, or simply on the side of a country road to take pictures of a dilapidated barn. Two weeks ago, we drove all the way from New York to Nashville just to see the Eagles in concert.

Can you do all of this in a car? Sure, but will you? RV living has given us the chance to slow down and enjoy the world. We have met some lovely people along the way and exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to stay in touch. In March, we will head to Florida to an RV Event in a community devoted to astrology. We’ll lie on our backs in a farmer’s field and enjoy the show above our heads. We’ll meet people who love this hobby and then we’ll move on, visiting friends who have retired and moved to pretty little houses in pretty little towns all over the country. This is our retirement community. Everywhere and anywhere you can drive a 32,000 lb. vehicle.

Much to my surprise, I’m already loving this lifestyle. And if a curmudgeonly old nester with a successful business she enjoys going to every day, a love of the big city, and a penchant for the finer things in life can say this, then maybe there’s something to mobile living after all.

In coming articles, I’ll write in more detail about the cost of RVing vs. landed living, the learning curve that’s involved in living together full time – believe me, no small feat – life on the road, and I’ll share some tips about where to go and how to travel without angst into new and unfamiliar places. Tune in. This is just the beginning.

About Betty Fitterman
Betty Fitterman was in advertising for over 30 years before her retirement. An award-winning writer, she was EVP/Creative Director and a member of the Board of Directors of Lintas Advertising until 1997, when she and her partner Frank DeVito formed DeVito Fitterman Advertising, which today is a successful agency serving blue chip clients like Johnson & Johnson, Ricola, ASCAP. Fujifilm and Arch Insurance, among others. To read her humorous observances on mobile living, visit her blog at http://adventuresinthebettybus.blogspot.com.

This is a 6 part series. To learn more about Betty’s continuing RV adventure go to Tips and Picks.

Comments? Have you ever thought about buying an RV and using it as your portable home? Have questions about how to to do it? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on September 22nd, 2016


  1. These comments were moved here for further discussion on the RV lifestyle:

    My wife (soon to join me in retirement) and I are considering pursuing the RV lifestyle for the coming 2-3 years; possibly by late 2017, early 2018. Neither of us are familiar with this type of lifestyle and would encourage any feedback about what and how to learn the basics of being a mobile consumer of parks and generally any experiences related to that type of living?by Peter Callanan — September 21, 2016 |

    I don’t know anything about the RV lifestyle but here is a link to books that might be of interest to you Peter Callanan.?https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Motorhome+and+RV+Retirement+Living?by Louise — September 22, 2016 |

    Peter, Check out RV-Dreams.com and also Living the RV Dream. There is a lot to learn , but the RV lifestyle is becoming very popular. There are also numerous websites and blogs for full-time RV living. RV-Dreams puts on educational rallies which I would highly recommend. My wife and I will be full-timing upon our retirement in about 4 weeks. She started our research/education about 4 years ago. Can’t wait for the adventure. Starting out in Florida for the winter.?by BRFGolfNut — September 22, 2016

    by Admin — September 22, 2016

  2. How do you establish residency as far as taxes go? Each state has different income tax situations.

    How do you get your mail?

    How about health insurance and prescriptions?

    by Louise — September 23, 2016

  3. Anyone who happens to see this, Betty Fitterman’s full story is well worth the enjoyable read. Go through the 6-part series to get established and then use her link to jump to the blog. My choice was to then jump to the beginning (the end as presented on the blog site) and start with her adventures in 2008, working forward to the end of that year and then on in time.

    From our well-traveled perspective, Betty tells a story in the way that most will enjoy whether you have reasonable means for a comfortable retirement or less so. And even the truly wealthy might well enjoy a well told tale. For me, I felt like I was reading about a kindred spirit. One with a little more means than we have, but who is well grounded in what it means to be pretty “normal” in a mixed and sometimes bizarre world.

    by Rich — September 23, 2016

  4. Louise,

    Answers to those questions (and many more) can be found on a You Tube channel called “Enigmatic Nomadics”. (Not to be confused with a related channel called “Enigmatic Nomadics/Vlog”.) In May of this year three videos were posted addressing drivers licenses, state of residence, mail, health insurance and a number of other related issues. There was also a video posted in February regarding quality healthcare, dental care and prescription drugs being obtained in Algodones, Mexico which is just over the border from Yuma, AZ. The gentleman in the videos, Bob Wells, also has a very informative website at http://www.cheaprvliving.com. Admittedly, this channel and the website are aimed more at the van dwelling crowd, however, much of the information Bob provides is entirely applicable to full time RVers. Check them both out and I believe that specific questions can be submitted through the website.

    by MarkM — September 23, 2016

  5. Louise,

    Check out DakotaPost for mail forwarding all over U.S.


    We have full-timing RV friends who us it. You can also check some of the big RV clubs like FMCA or Good Sam.

    by Marianne — September 24, 2016

  6. Thank you for sharing Betty Fitterman’s life adventure. She has the attitude that everyone should have in retirement no matter where or how they decide. I think if anyone read’s the 6 part series they are going to come away with a different view on options to retirement.

    by DeyErmand — September 25, 2016

  7. Below are some links for 4 youtube bloggers I watch that have full-timed
    and might give you people to follow and gain ideas/info:

    go to you tube and search on there “Names”…

    The wynns (great info, not they are on a Catamarin) : http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/

    less junk more journey (fun couple with cute little girl) – http://lessjunkmorejourney.com/

    RVLove (husband still works, wife from Australia) – good tips…funny –

    Outsideourbubble.com (nice couple, good tips) – the downside of full-timing –

    by mike — September 25, 2016

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Salary Data custom salary reports specific to your state and industry.