Far From the Madding Crowd

Where will you live when you retire and can choose anyplace you want to go? One federal employee couple opted for a different lifestyle spending their summers in a small town in Maine–away from the hustle and crowds in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

When you retire from your federal job, you have new options that are open to you. Having options means making decisions about how you want to spend the rest of your life—or at least a good part of it.

Many readers have spent several decades living in a place dictated by where your job is located. After retirement, you may find that living in a large metropolitan area such as Washington, DC or one of the large federal regions cities is much more expensive, crowded, and generally more of an inconvenience when you are not bound to one place to earn your daily bread.

When you retire, you are free to live wherever you choose. In fact, if you choose to gravitate toward a small town or city, you may find that your income goes much further than in a large city. But, whatever your preferences, the choice is yours.

Some federal employees approach this new-found freedom and opt for a completely different lifestyle.

Here is an example of a couple that made a lifestyle change to take advantage of their freedom as federal retirees. They chose to remain anonymous but said their government careers were spent in a Maryland suburb near Washington, DC. They now spend their summers living in Eastport, Maine after having purchased a small house there. Housing is relatively inexpensive there with the median cost of a house at $96,000.

Eastport is, to put it mildly, off of just about anyone’s beaten path. It is a small town with antique shops, good restaurants, and a beautiful view. It is just about as far East as one can go and still remain in the United States.

“Small” means different things to people but Eastport is very small. Its population is about 1/5 of its peak in 1900 when it had 5311 people. It is a coastal town and fog and tide seems to dominate the area. The port is considerably different at low tide and the seaweed covers the rocks and the scent of the fish and seaweed fills the air. It is located on the southeasterly part of Moose Island, which lies between Cobscook Bay to the west and Passamaquoddy Bay to the east.

There are federal employees working in the area as evidenced by the boat run by the Border Patrol but this is not an area where federal employees meet for lunch or after dinner drinks to discuss the latest agency activities.

But there are advantages to living here—at least in the summer months.

The average temperature in the summer is about 75. The winter months can be brutal though with the typical low temperature in January hitting 13 degrees.

There are antique shops, good restaurants, a local library and plenty of fresh air (along with the smell of the ocean and associated scents from seaweed, fish, etc.) In fact, one of the most memorable meals from Eastport was from a local restaurant with a specialty of lobster sandwiches and, with a total bill of about $15, affordable for anyone.

And, for those who like wildlife and enjoy getting out on the open water, there are whales that also visit the area and plenty of chances to try your hand at deep sea fishing.

While small towns are less expensive in many ways, the income tax in Maine is steep at 8.5% for anyone with an income over $19,451. This couple still keeps their residence in Maryland where they are close to family members. Moreover, they have both used the experience from their federal careers and enhance their income with part-time jobs in Maryland during the winter months.

But, in the summer, they can experience a totally different lifestyle and to be part of the community that is not possible from a long weekend or a short vacation. There are numerous visitors from cities such as Boston and Providence that give the area an aura of sophistication (along with customers for good restaurants and antique shops) and the city accents can be heard throughout the town during the warmer weather.

Some people retire and then wonder why they left their career because they are not sure what to do with their free time. Others take advantage of the freedom to go and do what they may have always wanted. My advice: Plan ahead and use this gift of freedom to make your life enjoyable. If you are (or will be) a federal retiree, you have earned and achieved the ability to do what many Americans will not be able to do. Develop a plan on how you want to spend your time, estimate your income and expenses, and then implement your plan.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47