By Jeff Headrick, Financial Planner
Have you ever considered moving to the beach? If so, here are 23 ways to prepare!
Just so the reader understands my background, I’d like to explain that most of the information herein is based on my personal experience. Never one for a great deal of conformity, at different seasons of my life I have moved to the beach in Myrtle Beach, SC., Key Largo, FL., St. John U.S.V.I., and Wrightsville Beach, NC. I just can’t seem to stay away from the water. While most of these beach moves were when I was much younger and single, the most recent involved moving the entire family of four plus a golden retriever.
1. Start with a Vacation
Right around the time my second child was born, I began to get that itch to move to the beach again. While the mountains and lakes of Tennessee have a call of their own---the siren song of the Atlantic has always been, for me at least, a little sweeter.
My wife and I began having serious thoughts about moving to the ocean about nine years ago. We had just had our second child, a beautiful little boy. My daughter was already nine at the time, and having experienced some wonderful moments with pigtails and Polly Pockets, there was something yearning inside of me that seemed to be calling both my wife and I to the ocean. I can’t describe it any better than that. If you have the same calling you’ll know it, and you might not be able to explain it either.
During the four years it took us to prepare for our move we did a lot of things. My wife and I really tried to be as communicative as possible and to think as one.
While we began exploring the possibilities of moving to the beach, we soon realized that some of research should begin from our home at the time in Knoxville, TN. However, we knew that we could learn even more by taking several vacations to beach towns that were on our bucket list. What better we way to see for yourself?
We visited several beach towns in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Read on to learn from our personal experience.
2. Visit Local Department Stores
This may sound silly, but on a vacation early in our “research” to another beach on the coast, my wife and I walked into a Walmart to pick up some sunscreen. We ended up walking around several parts of the store to purchase other items in the process.
When we got back to the car I asked my wife what she thought about that particular Walmart. She said something about it just didn’t feel right. I agreed. Sometimes you have to go on your instincts, and you if you both get a vibe you are not comfortable with, better make note of it.
3. Visit the Local Grocery Stores
Don’t forget to visit the local grocery stores. The thing you have to remember is that when you move to a new location, little things like grocery stores become big things. You will be in them a lot. Are they in a safe part of town? Is the parking easy? Is it in a newer, growing neighborhood, or in a part of town on the decline? Again, what you are looking for here is a feeling. And you can’t get an accurate feeling of this doing research on the Internet. This is boots on the ground kinda stuff.
4. Visit Local Parks & Playgrounds
If you are incredibly well off and disdain public parks I guess you can skip this part. But for the rest of America public parks and pathways can make or break a zip code. My wife and I currently live in a pocket of Wilmington, NC. that is less than one mile from Wrightsville Beach. We have access to over a dozen tennis courts, several playgrounds, multiple walking trails, and even free outdoor concerts--- all that are within 15 minutes of our home.
You want to check out local parks if you have kids or if you enjoy the outdoors. You can do so much for free if you know where to go!
5. Visit Schools
My son goes to a terrific elementary school where I occasionally volunteer. From time to time I see parents who have taken time off work to travel and visit new potential schools for their children. I’m always pleased to see this kind of research. I don’t believe you’ll find many schools that would turn down a complementary tour of their school to new prospective families. Can you even put a price on this knowledge?
6. Visit Day Cares
If you have infants or toddlers, this one is a biggie. If you are moving away from your home base you are probably moving away from a lot of dependable family support. So, unless your mother in laws are moving are moving to the beach with you, this might not be a bad idea.
7. Visit Summer Camps
Summer camps have become huge over the last several years. While I was growing up summer camp was only five days long, and as long as I promised not to come home for five whole days I don’t think my parents really cared where I went. Kidding mom! But times certainly have changed.
My point is that since summer camp can mean 8 to 10 weeks of the summer for your children, it might be a great idea to check out a few when you’re doing your initial scout trips. If you find one that looks super fun make sure that your child sees it. This will help motivate them to make the move. Their opinion matters as does anyone’s involved, and this is wise to be remembered.
8. Visit Potential Places of Worship
When my wife and I originally moved to North Carolina, we initially settled in a quaint small town called Southport. We had scouted Wilmington and Southport simultaneously since they were close. So, when we finally decided to move after four years of planning we chose to give Southport a try.
On one of our visits to Southport we attended a local church and liked it even more than our church back home. If you are a person of faith you can understand how comfortable it made us feel knowing that there was a place of worship that we felt at home with.
9. Make it a Group Decision
As a financial advisor I love to read about some of my heroes like Warren Buffet. Warren was once asked if there were a lot of people involved in his decision-making process. His response was that when he got ready to make a group decision---he only had to look in the mirror!
While we all wish we had that kind of knowledge and wisdom, unless you are moving to the beach solo, you have to make this a group decision. That’s not to say that the leader of the home can’t have a little more say, but a true leader takes stock of what his team thinks and feels.
Listen to your kids. Listen to your spouse. Listen to your heart. With a time and effort, you will make the best decision.
10. Be Flexible with Your Employment
When I decided to move the beach, I owned my own investment firm. My plan initially was to simply maintain an office back in Knoxville, Tennessee and simultaneously open up an office in NC.
While this sounds realistic, in actuality it’s a lot harder to do than you would think. So, while I totally enjoyed the independence of owning my own firm, when I initially moved to North Carolina I stumbled upon a job offer to work with a Fortune 300 company that were interested in my skillsets.
I negotiated an arrangement with them to maintain my Knoxville practice while simultaneously opening up a new one in Wilmington, NC (I would commute from Southport) ---but under their umbrella. The arrangement worked out great for five years, and it’s this kind of flexibility with your employment planning that can make a move to the beach more plausible.
Finding employment at your dream location could be an article of its own. Maybe even a book! But for the purposes of this article just know that you need a sound plan for employment, and you’ll need to be open to exploring different things.
11. Make Sure Everyone’s Working
Before we made our move to the beach my wife did not have a job outside the home. Between homeschooling and all of her other responsibilities she definitely had her hands full. She had also just had a major surgery, so work at the time was out of the question.
However, unless you are in a comparable situation when you move, try and make sure everyone’s earning an income. The reason for this will be covered over the next few paragraphs, but in a nutshell adding an additional income even temporarily is not a bad idea.
12. Develop a Strong Cash Position
As many of my readers know, I’m a Dave Ramsey fan. One of the things Dave Ramsey mentions a lot is Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law is a law that states the following: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
This is why you need cash. This is why you need an emergency fund of 9 to 12 months expenses. At the very least you would be prudent to have 6 to 9 months expenses. If Murphy’s Law does not happen to you, then guess what? Then you will have lots of extra cash in your pocket. It’s a pretty good worst-case scenario.
Having cash create creates peace, harmony, and energy. You’ll need all three firing on all cylinders if you are moving to the beach.
13. Cut Your Expenses: Go Lean
Benjamin Franklin said the following. (I’m going to paraphrase here.)
If you want to build wealth there are two ways you can do it. You can invest wisely and make a lot of interest on your money. Or, you can simply live modestly and spend less. But if you are truly wise, you will learn to do both.
At this point I could drop the microphone and walk off the stage. I can’t say it any better than Ben can.
If you are currently making a comfortable living where you’re at, you should be able to go ahead and cut some of your living expenses before you move. Consider it a training exercise. If you can’t cut some costs now to help store up funds for the future, how will you be able to adjust your living expenses if needed once you have moved to the beach? Here’s a recent blogpost if you need some inspiration starting a budget.
I realize that this doesn’t sound fun, and maybe it’s not. I absolutely hate doing lunges as a part of personal training. But, but when I do it consistently it is the most rewarding of exercises.
Think about it however you need to think about it to find your motivation. Just try and get it done. Go lean!
14. Evaluate Your Employee Benefits
I would definitely recommend that anyone in your tribe who is currently employed examine their employee benefits. Why do I ask you to do this?
First of all, as a financial planner I can assure you that most people have only a very basic understanding of their employee benefits. Some have no understanding at all. This is unfortunate because while great employee benefit packages are on the decline, there are still a lot out there that are terrific. And these days evening a benefits package that’s modest in scope, may prompt you to stay home a little longer in order to find the best job at the beach.
Employer benefits are more important than ever in my opinion, and these should be at the forefront of all your financial decisions just like your emergency cash positions, 401K planning, etc. Understand your benefits, and you will understand your financial plan much better as well.
15. Create a Best Case/ Worse Case Scenario
Once you have taken six months or a year or maybe even two or three years to get your ship ready to sail, you may be getting the jitters. You may want to speak with your spouse or significant other about a best case/worst case scenario. Usually when we do this we can hash out multiple scenarios and be all the better off as circumstances change.
What’s the best thing that could happen to our family if we moved? What could affect us in a negative way?
16. Continue to Think Collectively
Continue to think collectively. You may be retiring and moving to the beach from New York. You may be in your mid-30s and relocating to Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, or Los Angeles to further your career.
Whatever the case may be continue to think collectively, read collectively, and pray your way into super synergy. Like I said earlier, even the feelings of the children matter.
17. Listen to Your Inner Voice
Moving across the country, across the state, or across the globe will take some thought. While technology and so many other things have brought the world closer together, it’s important to know that moves are not easy.
They can be incredibly stressful. Make sure you are finding some quiet time to listen to your own voice. To gather your horses, as I like to say.
I truly believe that we all have an inner voice that speaks to us and gives us direction. I know mine has inspired me to make some pretty big moves during my lifetime. This is not to say that I always hear it or that I always get it right. But more often than not it has led me to a beautiful shore.
18. Don’t Let Others Hold You Back
Beware of the naysayers. I believe that any given time there is an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. You have to choose who to listen to.
Not everyone is a dreamer and not everyone has a lot of vision. Some people were not given these gifts. That’s perfectly okay.
But I have had instances in my past where people were trying to influence my decisions to make a big move based on their own fears or insecurities. They were giving me advice that was coming from their heart; but this didn’t make the advice right for me.
I just had to decide whether this was advice that I needed to welcome or to let pass through.
Use your inner voice when listening to someone’s opinion. How do they know? Do they have a lot of life experience? Have they ever made a move like this before?
19. Don’t Get Analysis Paralysis
Don’t get analysis paralysis. I am so guilty of this, and it is from experience that I write. You can analyze things to death, and if you’re not careful this analysis can suffocate your dreams very early on.
Do your homework, poll your team and gain their insight, then pull the trigger.
I was sitting on a bar stool about 25 years ago contemplating whether or not I should move to the island of St. John in the United States Virgin Islands, or spend another Summer in Myrtle Beach, SC. (I had already spent two summers as a lifeguard in Myrtle Beach.)
I was single, not attending school, and loved to windsurf and sail. Like, what was there to think about?
One of my wise friends named Mitch simply leaned across the bar at me and said, "Well, you never know until you go." (Mitch had lived there in another life). I ended up spending seven months in the Virgin Islands the following Summer. I still carry the sights, sounds, and smells of St. John with me even today.
20. Invite Your Friends and Loved ones
When my wife and I finally made our decision to move to the beach after years of waiting and preparation, we started to invite friends. We wanted our family and friends to know that we were moving to the beach to be closer to our dreams, not further away from them.
We decided to rent a home in Southport for the first year. (After the first year, we moved to Wilmington, where we have been for the last four years). Once I signed a lease on the rental property, there was about a three-week gap before we would actually make our move from Knoxville.
Around that time, one of my clients back in Knoxville told me that she had been considering taking a vacation with her partner. She didn’t know that I had secured a rental property already.
I offered her our home in Southport if she wanted to go down and experience a vacation in NC. There wasn’t much there yet, just some bedroom furniture, a sofa, and a television. But it was enough to make her and her partner very comfortable for 10 days. They still tell me five years later how much they enjoyed the beauty and the experience of their Southport vacation.
My mother and stepfather also came down and had a similar experience. They would come down again and visit us after we had moved in fully. And then my wife’s mother came to visit, and so on, and so on.
Having family and friends around while you’re making this transition is not a discomfort. It is a joy. I highly encourage you to tell all of your friends and loved ones to visit as much as they want.
Most people will be too busy to actually make the journey. Keep this metric in mind and invite everyone you know and love.
21. Hit the Ground Running
Depending on how big of a move you make, you will need to take a week or two ---maybe even a month or two and incorporate some rest. Moving is among one of the most stressful activities of our lives.
While your rest is important, hitting the ground running is important to. Don’t over run your dreams by becoming a workaholic, but don’t let your family down financially because you had to spend the first three weeks paddle boarding around Wrightsville Beach. Work hard and play hard. Strike a balance that fits your families’ lifestyle.
22. Return Home for the Holidays
Don’t forget where you come from.
I love to have days when I realize my children are prospering. But as I get older, I realize that they are prospering not just because of what I have done, but because of what my mom or dad, or grandmother or grandfather may have done. As busted and broken down as family can be at times, they are still important.
Wherever you move do not become an island. Return home for the holidays when appropriate, and you will probably appreciate the beach even more when you get back. I know this has been the case with my family.
23. Live Your Dream
At Inspire Financial Planning, we are big on inspiration. While many will live their whole lives in a big city far from the coast and be perfectly happy, there are some who will always feel more at home by the sea. Like I said, I shouldn’t have to describe it to you. If the sea has called you, you will know it, and perhaps I’ll see you one day when I’m walking the South End of Wrightsville.
Live your dream.