Message in a bottle
To Stede & the group...
Looking back at this thread, there are some pretty consistent messages. Beyond them, it''s fair to apply general themes about financial & retirement planning to a ''cruising escape'' plan, as they are in fact the same. Here''s my shot at summarizing, folding in info from other sources (e.g. Latitude 38 frequently has cruising sailor accounts of budgets, financial planning prep, etc.) and our own experience:
1. Medical insurance once you surrender access to a group plan, is one key inhibitor for many. Because health coverage is more universal and liability costs are far less in other developed countries, we have to at least investigate sources of coverage outside the U.S., e.g. Siegfried Preuss Group Health in Germany, which cruising sailors have found (e-mail: email@example.com). For an explanation of this, one helpful boat web site is http://www.norsiglar.com/english/spesificationf.html - look for ''insurance'' on the left margin.
2. "Retirement Income" for most of us can only be the result of working a savings & investment plan relentlessly for a lengthy period. If unclear how to do this thoroughly, attend an Adult ed course. Alternatively, get one of the many excellent books and work your way through it, together if with a partner, religiously. Some folks enjoy having a hefty Golden Handshake but most of us who are cruising got here by spending carefully, investing steadily, and remaining on careful budgets while cruising. No secrets; just steadily working The Plan.
3. The money used to invest in one''s escape (whether it qualifies as ''retirement'' or is just a ''break'') comes from examining your lifestyle and adjusting it to support your future goals - again, no secrets. There are lots of good examples of this in the posts preceeding this one, but here are a couple of details I don''t see being mentioned that are very helpful for some of us: 1) initially write down every single expense, every day, over several months - usually, people discover money is being used in ways or in quantities that surprise them; 2) construct an annual budget based on the essential expenses you are identifying, and follow the budget - this means posting expenses, revisiting goals, adjusting the budget as you learn what was omitted/can be done without, etc. at least weekly...until this becomes a way of life; 3) Your computer is your friend - it makes doing all this ''book-keeping'' much less painful; moreover the web has some useful $$ planning software on-line and free.
4. FWIW, we have kept a 4-year annual budget, looking forward, for the last 10 years, to help us reach both our cruising goals and retirement planning goals. It wasn''t fun but was the only way we got where we did. Altho'' we are inbetween extended cruises and busy doing a refit, we continue to maintain the budget and track costs daily even tho'' folks might assume we no longer need to. Truth is, we do. We have left careers twice for extended periods (once in our early 40''s, without health or boat insurance; now in our 50''s, with health & boat insurance - guess we''re more risk averse now!) and believe re-entry to the work world is just another challenge that must be thoughtfully tackled once you face it.
5. Amen to the many comments about adopting the lifestyle before you begin the cruise! Working on boat systems is like on-the-job training with both immediate & longer-term financial benefits. We are not *entitled* to new(er) cars, new clothes, meals at nice restaurants, a large home and get-away vacations...none of those are "ours" nor are they essential to health, happiness, an appealing appearance, or a respectable lifestyle. Instead, those are purchasing decisions we tend to make with that veneer of entitlement, as tho'' they are part of a basic lifestyle. Some can afford to operate this way, but most of us can''t...tho'' truthfully, many of us do.
6. Accept - in fact, embrace! - the fact that we all must cruise within our own individual means. If someone is thinking they don''t know how others can afford to go cruising when they can''t, they''re likely picturing a size boat, number and type of boat systems, cruising route and/or ''style'' of cruising that, sad to say, just isn''t within their grasp. Young people take off with almost no savings. You''ll find boats of all sizes in the same interesting ports. Cruisers of some nationalities (the French are great examples) often place functionality, simple systems with hull/deck/rig integrity, and a simple lifestyle as the only thresholds to going cruising. This attitude tends to set more feasible norms for others and low-cost cruising becomes more widely supported as a result. Put another way, we all encourage a distorted view of cruising when encouraging air conditioners, water makers, massive electrical systems or "needing at least 40 feet" as prerequisites for a ''good'' cruising boat. (I''ll confess I tend to emphasize safety issues & equipment here to the extent that it may make some feel like they can''t afford such ''adequate'' safety, when in fact they may be thinking about *my* view of what''s adequate).
I''ve seen a LOT of individual cruising budgets over the last five years (SSCA Bulletins, L38 articles, numerous books by Beth Leonard, Liza Copeland, etc., and on many BB''s like this one. These budgets are all over the place! They reflect far more on the individual crews'' desire to be cruising, their creativity and ingenuity in dealing with issues other than throwing money at them, setting reasonable goals, and not being bothered when they''re the only ones in an anchorage that haven''t visited the local cantina or are on one of the smaller, simplier boats in the anchorage - and such budgets reflect far less on what is actually "required to go cruising".
Good luck to all of those who aspire to retire and/or go cruising in the absence of large pensions or investment portfolios. Trust in the fact that it can be done. You just need roll up your sleeves and get busy. <g>