Note: This is the latest in our series of adventurous retiree profiles Our goal is to portray a variety of active baby boomer retirement lifestyles for our members. If you know a boomer retirement we should know about tell us via the Contact Us link.
Len and Ann are the kind of people that don’t like to stand still. And that’s a trait which perfectly qualifies them to be residents of The Villages, that giant, non-stop fun active community of 100,000 people near Ocala, Florida. Here is their story – we hope you find it useful to learn more about how they came about deciding to living here, and what it is really like to live in The Villages.
What They Did Before Retirement
Len had a long career as an IT guy at SNET, the former Connecticut telephone company. He retired the first time at age 50, then became a consultant with Coopers Lybrand (which eventually merged with Price Waterhouse). Because he was initially based in Myrtle Beach, he shuttled between there and Connecticut for a time. The job eventually took him to Tampa, Florida, while Ann continued to spend most of her time in their Connecticut home.
Ann, also a computer person, enjoyed her career as a data processing teacher at a state technical college. After that she owned and ran an ice cream and candy story in their Connecticut town for 13 years. When she finally sold the store she began spending most of the year in Tampa & Sarasota with Len.
The Transition to Retirement
In Tampa Len had initially rented apartments from month to month, since he only used them as his base while going out on the road. The consulting job kept him traveling until 2001, when the Enron collapse and the 9/11 tragedy events put a crimp in management consulting. He subsequently started his third career as a virtual help desk IT resource for a large insurance corporation, a job which he still enjoys doing 2-3 mornings a week. When he started that gig he and Ann began a search for a more permanent place to live. Their plan was to find a nice place in a community where they could enjoy their semi-retirement.
Their Retirement Priorities – and What They Considered
They were tired of scraping ice off of the windshield; they both agreed they wanted a place with warm winters. As they began to look around the couple’s top priorities were to find somewhere where they could enjoy golf, be close to the beach, and have quick access to a good airport. They concentrated on new construction to minimize maintenance. They soon bought and built in a Sarasota country club, where they lived for 9 years. Although they liked the community well enough, eventually they began to look around. They found the pool required a lot of work, and they worried about issues in the community down the road. Their fellow residents’ average age was older than they would have liked, and they tired of the country club social life.
A Visit to The Villages Turns into More
Some friends in their community had places in The Villages, and they talked a lot about it. So Len and Ann took a drive up there to look around. They followed that up with a “lifestyle visit” – a short stay in this sprawling community near Ocala. At that time their visit cost about $75-$100/day for a 2-3 bedroom villa or house, and which included golf, golf cart, and some restaurant meals (these lifestyle visits are still enormously popular, but now include dining discounts instead of free meals). While there they spoke with a helpful real estate agent who kept in contact with them, and eventually showed them a lot of properties. Eventually they sold their Sarasota property and purchased a home in The Villages, choosing a 2 bedroom plus den and 2 bath home as opposed to the other option, a villa (semi-detached home with fenced in but smaller yards).
What Their Home is Like
Homes in The Villages are priced from below $100,000 to about $1 million. Although they were originally all manufactured homes, most now are stick-built on site. Some have masonry sides, while others have vinyl siding. Theirs is 1800 sq ft. with a layout they love. The neighborhood is the basic structure in The Villages. Each one has an adult pool, and every 4 or so neighborhoods have a family pool (OK for kids). The pools are built around golf courses so they don’t bother homeowners. Activities like horseshoes, pool, and bocce are available near the family pools, which their 3 grandkids enjoy when they come down to visit.
Their Retirement Lifestyle
Both Len and Ann love living at The Villages, where they have now been for 2 1/2 years. Ann enjoys water aerobics as well as taking part in the great variety of activities offered by the neighborhood ladies’ group. Those include day trips, lectures, yoga, line dancing, and more. Or, she might play cards or get together in one of many smaller women’s groups. She reports that she is much more willing to try something on her own than she was in the Sarasota country club scene where they used to live.
While Ann is out having fun with her fellow women residents, Len’s big activity is almost daily pickle ball games. He also enjoys playing golf with his neighbors 1 x 2 times a week golf, plus an occasional game of setback. An avid photographer (the photos on this page are his), he also likes attending camera club meetings or the New York sports teams fan club he organized.
Their Social Life
Since everyone has moved here from somewhere else, most folks are looking to make new friends. Life at The Villages mostly revolves around one’s neighborhood, which are usually defined by the street that leads to it. Their neighborhood has 206 rooftops (homes and villas). A common social activity is a Flamingo Friday Party held twice a month in one of the community member’s driveway and garage. Together Len and Ann frequently enjoy activities like team Trivial Pursuit at the neighborhood rec center group. Or they might take part in neighborhood game night. Bridge is very big here, as is mahjong, card games, movie clubs, etc. Though there is a non-stop array of things to do here, there is no pressure; people do what they want at their own pace.
The fee for amenities is $140-150 /month, plus trail fees for your golf cart, if you want to us it on the golf courses. The amenities fee covers almost all amenities as well as golf on the executive courses. A few things are extra, such as classes in the recreation center and the fitness room. When you buy your home it comes with a bond that costs about $20k. This covers the cost of building the amenities, and it is paid down over 20 years.
If You Choose This Lifestyle – Some Practical Advice
Len and Ann were kind enough to share several pieces of practical advice for people considering a move here:
They learned that living in a place with so much there is a tendency to overbook themselves. For example, Len owns a Ford Mustang, so he is eligible to join 2 clubs for that – the Mustang Club or the convertible club. With almost 2,000 clubs and countless sports clamoring for their attention, they recommend you pace yourself so you don’t get overloaded.
While making friends at The Villages is remarkably easy, the couple recommended that if you buy here consider moving into one of the newer neighborhoods. That’s because everyone is in the same boat in a new neighborhood, all looking to make new friends. You will be fine if you move into an older neighborhood, they say, but it might take you a little longer to get settled in socially.
If you are interested in The Villages by all means take a advantage of the “Lifestyles” visits. Come with an open mind, talk with people, and ask them questions.
– Len and Ann are very happy with their home and its quality. They report that when there was a problem, the builder fixed it immediately under the warranty.
– The nice thing about this place is that people don’t care where you live, how much money you have, or what you did in your previous life. All walks of life are represented here and most everyone gets along fine. Politics and religion are generally not discussed, “because we are done with all that stress and confrontation.”
– They both agreed The Villages is a great place for single women – people are accepting, and there are tons of things for them to do without feeling like a 5th wheel.
– There are a lot of rules which you have to get used to. For example no statues are permitted in your yard, parking of boats and RVs is tightly regulated, no vehicles with advertising are permitted, garbage goes to the curb in plastic bags, and you have to take care of your own yard. They believe that the rules are effective at maintaining the lifestyle, and recommend that you read them before you come.
– Compared to where you might be moving from, you will be closer to your neighbors here than you might be used to. So don’t move here if you don’t like being around other people. Yes, you will have neighbors and your house lot might be smaller, but you will see other advantages – like a more interesting social life and less work around the house.
– They are far from the beach, a previous priority. But now they recognize they didn’t go there much anyway.
Of course we had to ask Len what he thought about the semi-mythical, Viagra-powered, aging Lothario called Mr. Midnight, who was portrayed in the book about The Villages, Leisureville. As expected, Len was dismissive: “Andrew Blechman wrote about a place neither he nor anyone he socializes with can recognize.”
Len and Ann agree they haven’t seen any major pitfalls to living here. In fact, they would make the same decision to move here “in a minute”. Thank you Len and Ann for sharing your story!
Comments. Please let us know what you think about The Villages. If you live here, please share your insights for your fellow members.