Michael and Debbie Campbell in Seattle (for the moment).
Michael and Debbie Campbell in Seattle (for the moment).

Senior nomads: Investment plan launches travel adventure

A couple from Seattle enjoys a unique retirement “living our daily lives in other people’s homes,” made possible by sound planning.

March 16, 2017

When Michael and Debbie Campbell retired in 2013, they figured their life story had one more great adventure in it. So they rented out their Seattle townhouse, sold their boat and car, stored most of their possessions, and set off to explore the world.

“We have discovered that we can get along with just what we have,” said Debbie Campbell, 60. “We don’t buy anything that’s not essential; if you can’t eat it, drink it, get somewhere on it, or attend it, we tend not to buy it! When people ask us what we’re doing in retirement, I tell them we’re not on vacation. We’re just living our daily lives in other people’s homes.”

Through the website and mobile app of Airbnb, the Campbells have stayed in 126 private homes and visited 170 cities in 56 countries — all of Europe, plus Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Mexico, and Cuba. The Campbells’ adventure sparked a website and blog, “The Senior Nomads,” a feature in The New York Times on their unique lifestyle, invitations by Airbnb to speak at events in several cities, and their first book, “Your Keys, Our Home.”

How is it financially possible? Planning. The Campbells are Wells Fargo customers, and they went through the Envision® investment planning process with their financial advisor, Tama Borriello of The Meydenbauer Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors. It helped them better understand how to set up a withdrawal schedule in an effort to realize their goal of seeing the world without busting their retirement budget.

When the Campbells retired in 2013, they set off to explore the world.
When the Campbells retired in 2013, they set off to explore the world.

“If you take the time to plan out what an appropriate withdrawal schedule is for you based on your financial and life circumstances, it helps take away the fear of the unknown,” Borriello said. “It frees people to ask, ‘What do we want to do with our time?’ Then they are better equipped to build the plan to help make it happen.”

The Envision process is an interactive tool that adjusts to market moves and changing conditions so customers can see the potential impact on their finances now or for 20 years or longer. The Campbells use web conferencing to regularly check in with Borriello and to help keep track of their investment portfolio as they travel from country to country. In their first year of travel, Michael Campbell, 71, said they realized they were overspending, so they made some adjustments in year two. Now in year three, they are on budget, leveraging the strength of the U.S. dollar, and avoiding countries with high inflation and living costs.

The couple often plots out their next destination around the dining room table. Michael Campbell’s laptop sits on a colorful world map Debbie Campbell bought; it doubles as a mouse pad. He’ll open his iPad to one of his favorite travel-planning apps and keep his smartphone nearby to check their calendar.

The Campbells said they became true nomads when they sold their townhouse in 2015.

“We want to keep doing it as long as we are learning every day, having fun, staying close to our budget, and still in love,” Debbie Campbell said. “We’re growing in the same direction, and it has been a real relationship-building journey together.”


Note: A version of this story also appeared in the 2016 Wells Fargo Annual Report (PDF).

Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

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