Chapter 6 - The Hoffman Retirement Plan
After getting involved in sage advice in the last chapter, I decided to go ahead and divulge our retirement plan in this chapter.  This chapter is intended to serve two purposes: First, although your situation and talents are undoubtedly different from ours, the plan may give you some ideas on how to put together a similar one for yourself; second, I plan to write another book later on how it all worked out and this will encourage you to buy it also to see how successful the plan was (or to laugh about the fact that you knew it would not work out when you read the plan in this book).  In this chapter, I also include some information about camping clubs that we have investigated, the one we joined, and how to get alot of free gifts while you're looking even if you don't join.

First, a little bit of review.  I may have told some of this earlier, but need to repeat it here to make sure it's all clear.  At the end of our five-month trip, we had learned a couple of things about retiring:

1 - You can get bored real fast, even though you're traveling and living the easy life -- you need a hobby (Chapter 5).

2 - No matter how much you like traveling, sooner or later you will get tired of it or you will get too old to drive -- you'd better have a "homestead" you can settle down at when this happens.

3 - You need to have some sort of a money-making plan, unless you are fortunate to have enough saved to support yourself forever.

4 - Even with a money-making plan, it's necessary to estimate the number of years you plan to be traveling, compare that to the amount of "guaranteed" income you have, and then save enough to make sure you will be able to survive.

Well, we sort of had the semi-retirement plan in our heads as soon as we got to California at the end of our trip.  Since then, it has been becoming a bit clearer each year.  The sequence of events, past and future, that I hope will lead us into this retirement, are as follows:

Well, this is the part of the book where I talked about how much money I thought we needed, how much we had, etc. Since then, I've found a number of websites that provide much more professional advice on how much you need to retire, so check out my page on How Much? to see what they have to say.

Now, about those camping clubs.  Update: Before getting into this, let me point out that my experience with camping clubs has grown significantly since writing this, as have my views on the clubs. Check out my Camping Clubs page for more info. I've left the following here because it was in the original book and offers a few good points possibly not included in the webpage. There are a number of clubs like Good Sam and KOA that are inexpensive to join and offer a number of niceties like a monthly newsletter, etc.  I haven't joined any of these yet, but probably will as soon as we get on the road.  The kind of club that I plan to discuss in more detail here is the kind that costs more but allows you to camp cheap the rest of your life.  The two that I am most familiar with are Thousand Trails and Coast to Coast.  We attended several of the sales pitches of both before finally joining Coast to Coast.  The reason we chose it over Thousand Trails is that it has campgrounds all across the United States, while the majority of the Thousand Trails camps (at least the last time we checked) are on the West Coast.  We were almost sold on Thousand Trails because we are Roy Rogers fans, but Fess Parker (ex-Daniel Boone) is also an old favorite (i.e., Roy Rogers advertises for TT and Fess Parker speaks for CC).

The way these camps work is as follows.  You get a bunch of ads in the mail asking you to go to their sales pitch and win some wonderful prize.  These ads also say that if you have been to one before you aren't eligible for the prizes.  Both of these statements are wrong.  First, you won't get a wonderful prize, but will usually get something reasonable like a set of steak knives, a transistor radio, or some cheap luggage.  Second, you can attend several of these pitches in different parts of the country with no problem because the various camps don't communicate with each other very often.  You can go to these sales pitches over and over, get some ok prizes, and never buy anything -- that's what we did for awhile, but finally decided to join.

The way the camping clubs work is that you pay an upfront fee of about $3000 to $5000 which then allows you to camp for $1 per night at any of their 500 or so campgrounds for the rest of your life.  Things they don't make real clear are:

-  You may have to reserve your time far in advance to get into some of the more popular camps.

There is about $200 per year to pay in annual membership fees and maintenance fees on your home campground.

You can get a membership for 50% or more off the price by looking into ads in camping magazines -- there are a number of people who want to sell their membership.

-  If you sit down and figure it out, a membership is probably worthwhile only if you are a "full-timer" -- i.e., assuming that camping costs $20 per night, you would have to camp ten times a year to recoup the $200 annual fees and you would have to camp about 200-250 times to compensate for the original fee paid.

-  I have heard complaints that some campgrounds don't really honor your reservations if they have "hometown" people wanting to camp -- I don't know how bad this really is, but will let you know in my next book.

Despite the disadvantages, we decided to join for a number of reasons: 1) We are in a better position now to pay the upfront fee than we will be later to pay $20 per night, 2) We do plan to camp full-time for several years, so hope to recoup all that it has cost us, 3) The camping free discussed in the earlier chapters is fun and challenging in the short-term, but would probably become a real bother over a period of years, 4) The rationing of water and electricity which is forced upon you when you camp free would also probably become a real bother over a longer period of time, and finally, 5) The campgrounds give you a chance to meet many new people and the opportunity to sell some of the money-making gimmicks mentioned in Chapter 5.

Well, I hope our retirement plan has given you some ideas that will help you do the same.  As I said earlier, look for my next book to see how this all worked out.  To recap, here's the plan:

-  Midyear: Publish this book.
-  Later this year: Publish/distribute a resume/brochure.
-  Later this year: Buy motorhome.
-  Next Spring: Sell townhouse.
-  Next May: Age 50.
-  Next September: Hit the road.

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