September 23, 2008
They Turned Lives Inside Out to Retire
By Lynn O'Shaughnessy
Before he retired, Vin Feudo could buy just about any toy he desired. For years, Feudo, a college professor, tooled around suburban Augusta, Ga., in a sports car, but his real passion was sports memorabilia. Among Feudo's prized possessions was a Red Sox jersey with Ted Williams' autograph and boxing gloves that Muhammad Ali had signed.Like Feudo, 62, his wife, Bonnie, 58, an elementary school teacher, was no slouch as a shopper. She couldn't remember all the stuff that she had bought that ended up crammed into the closets of the couple's four-bedroom home.
"Money would come in," Vin recalled, "and we'd spend it."
Three years before retiring in 2005, the Feudos stopped their profligate spending. All they needed was motivation from an investment adviser, who encouraged their exotic retirement dream: to move to a pinprick on the globe, the Caribbean island of Antigua. But they weren't interested in settling into a leisure life of sunscreen and lounge chairs. Their goal was to teach impoverished kids.
Vin and Bonnie managed to pull it off. Today, the couple live happily in a double-wide trailer that has a flushable toilet -- a luxury for most island residents -- though no hot water.
To get there, the Feudos sold their house, their cars and nearly everything else they owned. On Mother's Day weekend in 2005, an auctioneer sold all the furniture that had been hauled onto the lawn, as well as nearly everything inside the house. Hardly anything was spared, except for what the couple's four grown children claimed.
The auction started at 10 a.m. By 3 p.m., they say, you wouldn't have known that hundreds of people had traipsed through the house or even that it had been recently occupied. On the following Monday, the Feudos finalized the sale of their house and sold their cars.
Mustering the moxie
"What people could not understand -- our parents, other family members and friends -- was how could we give up our beautiful house," Vin says. "We were probably living the American dream as far as most people were concerned. But it wasn't really our dream."
The Feudos say they probably wouldn't have mustered the moxie to strike out in a radically different direction had they not consulted Will Rogers, a financial adviser in Augusta, who devised their retirement plan in 2002.
In reviewing the couple's retirement assets, Rogers told them they needed to save more aggressively, pay down debt and consolidate accounts that were scattered in various financial institutions.
It was during this time that they and Rogers discovered an overlooked pension plan.
"When we researched their past employment, it turned out Bonnie only needed to work a few more days in her former school district to be vested," Rogers recalls.
Living on $3,000 a month
From a nest egg that's more than $500,000, the couple are living on $3,000 a month. They decided to postpone taking their Social Security to max out their benefits later.
They're planning to return to the States in a few years when they're ready to slow down.
For now, they say, they've never been happier, getting up before dawn to begin their day teaching students at three Catholic schools. They typically don't collapse until 11 p.m.
"We learned you can live a larger life with simplicity, without all those thing that people aspire to have -- a house, car, pool -- we had all that," Bonnie says. "I couldn't tell you one thing I had in those closets, and I don't miss it."
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