Do You Have an Exit Plan?

Printed in Escapee's Magazine, July/August 2013

When we consider making the move from a conventional lifestyle to the roving life of a “fulltimer,” with an RV as our only home, there is a great deal to consider and many changes to deal with. It is very easy to become caught up in the excitement of this dramatic change and so give little thought to what is to follow. Rarely is anything truly permanent and everyone who lives long enough will eventually have to deal with some things which we tend to find less than pleasant to think of. It is important to realize that someday our situations will change such that constant travel is no longer practical or possible. There are even some who find that they do not enjoy life on the road without any real estate to call home the way that they believed they would. Planning ahead can help to know when it is time for change as well as what to do next. There is some security for the person just starting out to live free of physical ties in knowing that he has an alternative in the event that he should need to stop.

Exit plans do not need to be so detailed that they are limiting, but having no plan at all can make the task almost overwhelming when needed. Even detailed plans can be changed, but the complete lack of a plan when you find yourself in shock, grief, or medically disabled can make the decisions insurmountable and choices may be made for us. The best plan is one that is frequently discussed and updated. There is no doubt that for most of us, if we make all of our future choices today, when the time comes those plans will not fit, but if we review them frequently, making adjustments or changes on a regular basis, when that time comes and we are not at our best the range will be narrowed and our decisions will come more easily. Even without specific plans, time spent familiarizing yourself with the options available can be very helpful in the event that we need to leave the road.

It is good to start planning by answering some questions, then developing a plan based upon the answers. Current age and health condition should be considered, as it is an indication of how long it may be before the plan will be needed. Since most of us travel as couples, what will we do if one of us should become disabled and require constant care? Should one die, what will the plan be for the one who remains? If all goes well, eventually the RV will wear out or we may reach the age where we should stop driving it. When we stop traveling, will we stay in the RV, or would we prefer to live in a house, park model, apartment, senior housing, or some other alternative? If we stay in the RV, will we be able to manage entry steps, stairways, and narrow spaces? What will we do if one of us should need to use a walker or wheelchair? If we live out our lives in the RV, where will it be parked?

The best plan should be one that is flexible and which has options built into it. A good plan considers not only where we will stop but also what we will do once stopped. Since full-timers tend to be active people, it is important that this plan include activities that we enjoy to prevent boredom. We need to have a reason to get up each morning, as few of us would find life in a rocking chair satisfying.  While family ties may play a part in these plans, most of us will want some kind of outside activities or volunteer involvement of our own choosing. It is healthy to keep both the mind and the body active. Family involvement is not usually the best choice to occupy all of our time so hobbies and other activities should be considered.

In selecting your eventual home it is important to consider access to medical care and hospitals which are listed as providers accepted by your health care plan. While we may not like it, geriatric care is in the future for most of us. Access to home health and nursing services may be needed as may house-keeping services. Most of us would prefer to be in our own homes and outside assistance can extend that ability.

We need to plan for the financial requirements of our future as well. At some point we will probably want to replace the current RV, or perhaps to buy some real property once more. The unpleasant fact is that major life changes usually require money. The better we know our options, the more easily we can plan for our financial needs or limitations. Real estate prices vary widely as do most of the necessities in life and these expenses may need consideration in choosing where to stop.

There are some very good home choices for the aging RVer with the growing number of permanent residence RV parks, park model homes, and places such as the Escapee ERPU and Co-op RV parks. We have found that the RV community becomes such a part of our lives that it can be very difficult to move back into a conventional housing community once you have experienced this lifestyle. One option that appeals to some full-timers is to have a fixed RV or park model in two locations, one for winter and another for summers, thus following the weather without the need to drive or tow an RV.

If you are thinking of moving into one of the senior housing communities, be sure that you plan sufficient financial resources to enable this. There are some which have government subsidies to keep rental costs down but we found that there are very narrow income and asset limits for them and most of us simply do not qualify. Rental rates for those not subsidized can be very high. For us, buying into a 55+ community was the best answer.

If you have not considered the purchase of long term care insurance, this would be a good time. While this may not be the best answer it should be considered early as the longer one waits the higher the premiums will be and the fewer options will be available. Bought early, one can choose a policy that has a fixed payment term of 5, 10 or 20 years.  Asset protection plans are available which pay for the care of the first of a couple, but only one. These policies are designed to allow the healthy partner to continue to live well and retain their assets. A couple is required to “spend down” resources to a very low level before Medicaid will assist in payment for care and Medicare has no provision for such payments. Long term care policies do not have minimum age limits so if you buy one with a fixed term the cost will be less and it may be paid for before you retire. You would do well to shop several different underwriters as offerings can be quite different. There are many different options so examine them carefully to find one that fits your needs.

Estate planning can be important if you have significant assets and such things as a “Living Will,” medical directives, and durable power of attorney need to be addressed. Life insurance should be considered if a primary source of income will be lost with the passing of the recipient of a large pension needed by the other to live. Such policies can provide a degree of financial security and they can be a reasonable way to provide for burial related expenses. Like most insurance, the earlier you buy it the more reasonable the cost will be. If your RV is financed, you may want to consider a term life policy to pay it off if the primary income should be lost.

No two couples have the same issues to address, but this should give you a starting point for developing a general plan which can be modified and developed as you  move ahead into RV living. Professional help could be a good choice, but with the modern internet you can do most of the research on your own if you spend the time. Planning ahead can make the future less difficult as long as we remember that all plans can be changed and that we review our plans frequently.