Nearly ten years later, Terry and Dave have found that purpose, and then some, by blending their ambitious travel with volunteer work. “It’s been very, very rewarding,” says Terry. Adds Dave: “I mean, how many times can you play golf?”
The story of how Terry and Dave found their purpose is a case study in the whys—and hows—of giving back in retirement.
Putting the pieces in place
When Terry and Dave first met their financial advisor, 30-year Prudential veteran Edward Newman, in 2006, they’d been living in Wisconsin for decades. Terry was running her own direct sales business and Dave was working nearly full time doing architectural work.
When Newman asked them to talk about their retirement goals, Terry and Dave explained that they hoped to retire in about two years and that their bucket list contained just one major item: domestic travel. They’d vacationed abroad in the past but felt they’d never really seen America, at least not “the way you want to see it,” as Terry puts it. To do that, they decided, they’d need a sizable motor home.
They spent a good part of the next couple years researching the lifestyle of perpetual travel and the type and cost of the vehicle they’d need to live it. Newman, meanwhile, ran the numbers. Happily, Terry and Dave had been diligent savers throughout their working lives; plus, they’d come close to paying off the mortgage on their home. Newman figured the couple could sell the house, buy the bus-sized RV they had their eyes on, generate enough income to travel on, and still have enough assets to purchase a smaller home once they exhausted their wanderlust and decided to come in off the road.
During those planning conversations with Newman, it also became clear that Terry and Dave needed something else to help make their dream real: a level of comfort about their financial status. In short, they felt comfortable with a certain amount of market risk, but also hoped to turn at least some of their savings into a dependable stream of retirement income. So, Newman helped them select an annuity that would help protect a portion of their retirement income during market volatility. It turned out to be a fortuitous decision: Unlike countless Americans, Terry and Dave were able to stick with their retirement plans even after the global financial crisis and its accompanying market meltdown struck in 2008.
Putting their plan in action
After nearly three years of planning, Terry and Dave finally pulled the trigger. The house sold quickly in late 2007. They purchased the motor home with part of the proceeds and, with Newman’s help, invested the balance—hoping both to enhance their income and grow their assets enough to buy a small home when the time came to taper off their travels. They gave away most of their furniture and bulky belongings and hit the road in early 2008.
That first year on the road was indeed a dream come true. Terry and Dave traveled the country, reveling in their freedom and experiencing the joys of discovering new places and meeting new people together. At the same time, however, they began to feel that something was missing—that sense of purpose, as Dave later put it. Terry and Dave had long been active members of their Wisconsin church, which had channeled not just their faith but also their impulse to give back through community service. Suddenly, Terry says, “we were going to a different church every week, so we really couldn’t get involved in the same way.”
That realization led them to start looking for volunteer opportunities that would enable them to get involved even as they continued their travels. They soon hit on Habitat for Humanity’s RV Care-A-Vanners program, which recruits people just like Terry and Dave to travel the country helping build homes for people in need of safe, affordable housing.
Within days of arriving at their first building site, Terry and Dave were hooked. They loved joining the community of fellow Care-A-Vanners, who often gather at their camp sites after working to share a meal and swap stories of road trips and volunteer experiences. And they took deep satisfaction in helping the new home recipients, who are frequently victims of natural disasters and who often work alongside volunteers on their own homes.
“It’s just a hand up for them,” says Terry. “And they’re always so grateful and so appreciative.”
Over the past eight-plus years, Terry and Dave have helped construct dozens of homes through the Care-A-Vanners program, and have four more builds planned for the year ahead.