How To Move Your Retirement From Good To Great

Would You Rather Say….

…”I’m planning on having a “Good” Retirement”?


…”I’m planning on having a “Great” Retirement?”?

Seems obvious to me, we should all be planning for a GREAT retirement. Whether you’re in pre- or post-retirement, the same concept applies. What can we do to make our retirement Great, rather than Good? It’s an important question..

Ask Yourself: Are you being intentional in moving your retirement from “Good” To “Great”?

But, what does that mean, exactly?

How do we work toward a “GREAT” retirement, instead of drifting hopefully toward a “Good” retirement?

Read on for some ideas…..

Moving From Good To Great

One of the benefits of approaching or achieving Financial Freedom is that, for the first time in your life, you can truly decide what you want your life to be. “Freedom” means a lot of things. Be intentional, and take some time to think about what Freedom means to you. Then, decide how you’re going to use your Freedom to live the life you want to live. “Great” is achievable, but you have to work for it.

Decide if you’re satisfied with “good”, or if you want to go for “great”.

My very first post was about Contentment, and it’s an important mindset to insure you enjoy life to the fullest. Deciding to be content with your situation, however, doesn’t exclude you from leveraging your financial freedom in an attempt to move from Good To Great.

It’s Your Choice. Your Freedom. Your Life.

How are you going to live it?


Or Great?

Good To Great Case Study: “Downsizing Again!”

(Maybe a better title is: “Downsizing II”)

In an attempt to move from “Good” to “Great”, my wife and I have decided to implement “Downsize II””, our second downsize move in 13 months (!!).

Radical? Yes.

Intentional? Yes.

Only 1 year after moving into our wonderful mountain “retirement cabin”, we’re making a deliberate change in an attempt to move from Good to Great. We don’t know how it’s going to play out, we’re only 48 hours into this.

I’m blogging this “live”.

You’re invited to come along for the ride, and view our experience as an example. A case study of how we’re being intentional in moving from “Good To Great”. Maybe you can learn from it. It’s what this blog is all about, sharing our journey toward retirement, in the hopes that it can Help People Achieve A Great Retirement (my byline).

Look for ways to apply the principle in your own life, and start moving from “Good” To “Great”.

April 2016 — The Day We Completed Our Downsizing Move

Pursuing Great: Downsizing II

This is a relevant topic in my life at the moment. My wife and I have had a lot of discussions about what we want our retirement to be, and decided this past weekend to Pursue Great.

One year ago we implemented our downsizing plan, sold our city house in 7 days, got rid of 30 years worth of stuff in 24 hours, moved to our cabin in the mountains, and became debt free. Long time readers have lived through that with us (and new readers can “catch up” on the story by reading the above links, preferably in order. Wink.).

After living in the mountains for a year, we’ve realized there are several things about our cabin that are “Good”, but we saw opportunities to move them to “Great”. A weekend vacation cabin does not always make a “Great” retirement home.

Things That Were Good, But Could Become Great:

  • Difficult driveway, with no place to park our (soon to buy) 5th wheel camper.
  • No real yard, and we like to “putz”. Hard to do when you live on a 30 degree slope on the side of a mountain
  • Inadequate dog run for our 3 “canine kids”, they deserve so much better.
  • Several cabins within a stone’s throw of our cabin, with renters every weekend.
  • A “Community Water Well” (we don’t even know where it is).
  • A major climb up the mountainside to our cabin (snow = problem). Sometimes, lower is better.

Our mountain cabin was good, but there were things we’ve realized which would be less than Great in retirement. So, we had to decide if “Good” was acceptable, or if we could take action now which would move us toward “Great”.

Downsize II, From Good To Great

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT!! After much thought and prayer on the subject, we decided to start looking seriously at a “Great” cabin which would better meet our retirement needs. We created a checklist of “must haves”, and agreed we wouldn’t move unless we found a place that met all of our criteria (e.g., a yard, seclusion, 5th wheel parking, meets financial needs, etc.).

This past weekend, we found the cabin that “Checked All Of the Boxes”, and we made an offer.

Yesterday, we finalized the agreement with a seller. We now have a signed contract. Barring any unforeseen problems, we’re going to BUY ANOTHER CABIN!

We’re Moving From Good To Great!

The “Great” Cabin — closing scheduled for May 12, 2017


“I thought you’d found your mountain paradise?”, they scream.

“We Did”, we answer, “But We’re Moving From Good To Great!”

The new cabin checked every single box on our criteria for being “Great” (along with a few “bonuses”), so we decided to pull the trigger. We weren’t in a hurry, so we were able to make a “lowball” offer. It worked, and we couldn’t be happier about the new cabin, and about having a place that will perfectly meet our needs in retirement.

It even has a perfect loft, which will soon be converted to my new “Cabin Office” (a “Good To Great” improvement from my current office, which is in a basement bedroom at our “Good” cabin):

(BTW, I’ve decided to name my new office “The World HQ Office Of The Retirement Manifesto”):

The soon to be World HQ Office of The Retirement Manifesto

Downsize II: Checking Every “Great” Box

The “Great” cabin checks every box on our list of criteria, including:

  • A Flat, level yard, with the perfect place for a real dog run
  • A second driveway, 80' and out of the way of the primary drive. RV now has a home.
  • Seclusion: the nearest neighbors are 1/4+ mile away in any direction
  • Woods: We’ve got miles of woods immediately behind our cabin, perfect for private dog paths.
  • Water Security: A private well, which we can hook up to our whole house generator (a future post).
  • A 2 mile walking loop, on gravel roads. Peaceful, and flat(ish).
  • Closer to town than the “Good” cabin.

Bonus Round!!! Extra Boxes Checked!!!

  • World Class Trout Fishing: 1/2 mile behind the cabin, thru beautiful and secluded woods (soon to be our private trails, to be built by me, by hand), lies the Toccoa River, home to the best trout fly fishing in the SouthEastern USA. Private river access, 1/2 mile from our house!! Private Trail!! Yes, this was a BIG bonus, and beyond the scope of our “Must Have” checklist. Other river access points (where I fish now), are 3 minutes away, vs. 30 mins away from our current “Good” cabin.
  • Lake Swimming: 5 minutes up the road is an AWESOME public beach on my favorite swimming lake, Lake Blue Ridge. Our “Good” cabin was 30 minutes away. Now, I’ll be 5 minutes from the beach, an easy bike ride from our soon to be new home. This beach is awesome, with a 200 yard wide swimming area, perfect for working on my Passion, “swimming in cold water”, in safety.
  • Gardening: Behind the dog run is a large, flat plat of land which will make a perfect garden, should we so choose in retirement. In addition, the front yard offers unlimited landscaping opportunities, giving us lots of options to “putz” in the yard!
  • Metal Roof & Wrap-Around Porch: Not sure why, but my wife and I have always wanted a metal roof (ah, the sound of rain….) and a wrap-around porch. “Check” and “check”, with a green metal roof and a wide 10' porch around the entire house, with 3 porch swings! Take THAT, you brutal Georgia sun!
  • Financial Advantage: I’ll talk about this in the next section, but a nice boost to our retirement $$.
  • Fire-Pit & Waterfall: I’ve always dreamt of building a waterfall feature, along with a nice stone fire-pit for evenings outside. This cabin offers the perfect spot for both, giving us some exciting projects to think about for that first year in retirement. (Hmmm…seems something to provide Purpose after retirement!?)

My future dream retirement waterfall project?? Great!! (photo courtesy of DIYNetwork)

The $$ Impact Of Good To Great

We wouldn’t make this move if it didn’t make financial sense (After all, I am a personal finance blogger, who will be retiring early!). We were prepared to do an “Even Swap” between houses (no net $ outlay), but ended up doing much better than that.

Not only does this cabin check every “Great” box, but we’ll probably bank an additional ~$40k when we’re done with this move. Here’s how we see the numbers:

11% Annual Return On The “Good” Cabin:

  • November 2011 purchase price $189k
  • March 2017 value (Zillow) $300k
  • Annual Return: 11% (um, yeah, we crushed it!)

(Ok, in full disclosure, we have added some upgrades to the cabin since the purchase. However, we also generated 3 years of rental income, so I’m keeping it simple and just comparing purchase price to current value. Rent income covered our upgrade expense).

Bring on the criticism, but regardless of how you do the math, we’ve done very well financially with this home. Here’s what Zillow says it’s worth:

How We’ll Pocket ~$40,000 With This Move

I’m a realist, and don’t believe the Zillow numbers (easy come, easy go). For the sake of this illustration, let’s assume we sell our “Good” Cabin for our estimated selling price of $269k (based on some comps we’ve looked at with our realtor), less transaction fees:

  • Proceeds From Sale Of “Good” Cabin: $255k
  • Minus: Cost to Purchase “Great” Cabin: <$215k>

Net Gain To Retirement Cash + $40k

By selling our “good” cabin for $255k net, and using only $215k to buy the “great” cabin, we’ll be able to pocket ~$40k of additional cash to fund our early retirement plans. Given that we were willing to spend up to $275k for a “great” cabin, we feel like we’re getting an extra financial boost by purchasing this cabin. In reality, we’ll invest some of the cash into upgrades, but we’ll still be ahead financially vs. staying in our “good” cabin.

Bottom Line: We Moved From Good To Great, And Pocketed $40K In The Process!

Of course, how we actually do will depend on how our awesome realtor, Dana @ NorthEastGeorgiaProperties, does on our sale. The pressure’s on, Dana! (Thanks for all you’ve done, you know Jackie and I adore you!)


As you achieve Financial Freedom, you should consider whether you’re satisfied with “Good”, or if you want to go for “Great”. Spend time thinking about what you want your retirement to be, and look for ways to move From Good To Great. In our case, “Great” meant a second move in 13 months. Radical, yes, but the move will go a long way in moving us toward a Great retirement, rather than merely accepting “Good”. We’re acting now, while I’m still working, and will get the rewards for years to come in retirement.

What about you? Are there things you’ve done, or are planning to do, which are moving you from Good To Great? Do you have stories of others who have done things to move to Great? Please share in the comments, let’s learn from each other as this blog continues it’s focus on:

Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement.