Retiring On A Sailboat
Life can be a challenging journey with many years spent grinding out school, finding work, raising a family for some, relocation, moments of success matched with recovering from failures or missed opportunities. At some point along the way, or on several occasions for many of us, our minds wander to an easier life; one with less stress of earning money and managing an ever-growing quiver of responsibilities and daily stress.
As the saying goes, “Nobody plans to fail but many fail to plan.” Many variations of this famous quote exist, but the core message remains the same. Those who look years into the future and create a realistic plan, accounting for obstacles and diversions, will more likely succeed at setting themselves and those with them up for the later years in life.
The journey along the way will surely deviate and may take longer than planned, but creating a timeline and following through on saving enough to retire is a benchmark in most of society. By knowing the goal and working backward from the future, one can determine how long it may take to save enough for part and full time retirement.
What Is Retirement?
Let’s examine that word for a moment...retirement. What is the definition of retirement? According to several sources below, retirement is defined largely by ceasing to work. One could argue that a more accurate definition would be to cease to be employed by someone else.
However you choose to define it, the point at which one decides they are financially and medically secure -- or in some cases when an employer decides for them -- that is the point at which one becomes technically retired.
According to Wikipedia: Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours.
According to American Heritage Dictionary: Retire: To withdraw from one's occupation, business, or office; stop working.
According to the Oxford Dictionary: Retire: Leave one's job and cease to work, especially because one has reached a particular age.
So with that said, where to begin in the planning stage is the first obvious challenge. Many look to their elder friends and family for advice, but most people these days have had and will continue to have different incomes, tenures at any given job, and disparate definitions of happiness. Retirement can take many forms.
Some may join a community of 55+ residents, while some may remain in their homes for the rest of their lives. Others, however, may seek “new sniffs” and look for an expat community in another country. Dozens of countries have thriving expat communities where people live comfortably around those who are like-minded. And still others are seeking something altogether different.
Retiring As A Liveaboard
Yes, we are talking about becoming a liveaboard retiree. These adventurous souls seek not a place on land, but rather pursue a life asea. They will make big decisions about personal life, personal belongings, safety, and finances before rushing out, purchasing a boat, and cruising. If the last option sounds good to you, welcome aboard.
Thousands of people retire from land to sea and move continuously from port to port, town to town, ocean to ocean. A nomadic boat life keeps them active and engaged, and the open water and fresh sea air can keep them healthier in many cases than their landlubber counterparts.
They are certainly forced to remain active while living aboard. Other perks can include having no mortgage and low rent, plus making new friends becomes an ongoing endeavor. So for those who have energy and heart, who love adventure and don’t mind getting their hands dirty along the way, the decision to retire as a liveaboard a boat can be very rewarding.
Financing A Retirement
Unless you have over a million bucks in the bank or market earning you dividends and interest, you will need some sort of income. Those who are over a certain age can count on government subsidies in the form of Social Security, pension, or other forms of retirement related social programs. But let’s assume you are not yet past that age.
Let’s assume that you have several years yet until those benefits begin but want to get started on transitioning now rather than waiting. What follows is merely suggestions andopinion of what may work for some and may not work for others.
What Are Basic Costs For A Liveaboard Retiree?
We hope that at the very least this article will get your mental wheels turning in the right direction with ideas and reality checks before plunging headfirst into the liveaboard arena.
Keep in mind that these are mere estimates and may vary depending on market conditions. Here are the basics of what you will need:
- A boat (24ft minimum LOA if solo, 32ft minimum if a couple). See our boat buyer's guide.
- A tender (soft or hard bottom dinghy, kayak, canoe, or other means to get from boat to shore when at anchor or on a ball away from the comforts of a marina slip)
- Insurance (budget for $500/year)
- Tow package (budget for $180/year)
- Repairs and maintenance (budget for $300/month -- $3,600/year)
- Fuel (budget for $100/mo if inactive, $200/month if actively cruising)
- Marina fees (budget for around $800/month, depends largely on region)
The above are the basic fixed costs of living aboard. Adding these up, the total to get started can vary greatly, but with food, drink, and other variable costs, a liveaboard can expect to spend between $2,000 and $4,000 per month.
For those on a fixed income, this amount may be manageable and keep them afloat for several years. For the rest of us, those who are not yet of age to receive benefits, we must devise creative ways to generate income.
What Is The Best Liveaboard Boat? [Video]
Supplementing Your Income
Some may stay in one area and work on land. With minimum wage on the rise, it’s not out of reach to be able to acquire a basic job in the service or tourist industry, or to find work during off hours such as graveyard shifts or at call centers and other office jobs.
Others may seek to make money without stepping onto land. This requires the internet and a good laptop computer, which most people have these days. Blogging or joining remote work websites such as iWriter, Upwork, eLance (which is now part of Upwork) and others can provide a decent income if you put in the hours, but keep in mind that you are competing with those in other countries who are willing to work for a few bucks an hour.
Alternatively you can become a reseller on eBay or Amazon.com along with many other marketplace websites. This requires some ingenuity and imagination, but if you find something that can be purchased locally and shipped to the consumer, you may find that eeking out enough to cover expenses can be attained in a relatively short period of time.
Share And Discuss Liveaboard Ideas
It never hurts to befriend other liveaboards and most are open to discussing finances as they relate to the lifestyle, garnering tips on saving money that benefit the community as a whole. You may want to consider growing plants onboard to supplement your diet and ave money.
There are also ways to save money in the long run if you have the budget at the outset of your adventure. Purchasing and installing wind and solar systems to power DC on board can eliminate the necessity to draw power from a dock, which in itself can cost upwards of $1,000/month.
The costs of such systems can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, and you will find that your need to become handy (if you are not already) is as important as anything else. This raises another point. In a perfect world, your boat is in ship-shape condition and does not require any repairs or urgent updates.
But in the real world, you will find the list of projects growing exponentially as you live aboard and regular wear and tear (including the effects of salt water) will reduce the lifespan of many parts of the boat.
Couple Decides To Retire Aboard A Boat In The Caribbean [Video]
The Importance Of Boat Maintenance
One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of preparing to become a liveaboard is maintenance. If you are handy around the house now, you have a leg up on most people who move onto a boat. Knowing the basics of plumbing and engine maintenance are essential, with woodworking and mechanics not far behind.
If you are not currently handy, you soon will be. It is an inevitability that within the first few months, you will be performing maintenance that requires educating yourself and dipping into your savings. Keep in mind too that you must find a place to store all of your tools.
Tools can be heavy enough to shift ballast, so be mindful of the distribution of your tools throughout the vessel. And when you need to use power tools for deck or interior work, assume that your marina has strict rules about what can and cannot be performed while at dock.
Many times you will need to put your boat into a boat yard to work on her, which can add yet another layer of expenses and open up new projects as you discover the conditions of the hull, prop, and zinc could be less than were advertised when you purchased her.
With all of these things said, if budget for a few thousand a month and have a solid plan in place, you can enjoy all of the financial benefits of living aboard and cruising. Fair winds and good luck!