Accountant retires on cruise ships to avoid cost of land living

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When Angelyn Burk, a recently retired accountant, decided to crunch some numbers one evening last year, she made a stunning discovery: It would be cheaper for her and her husband to spend their retirement perpetually aboard cruise ships than to continue living on land.

“This is how I want to retire,” Angelyn, 53, decided in that moment. “Life is too short.”

She turned to her husband, Richard Burk, and said: “We can do this. Let’s make cruise ships our home.”

To her delight, he was onboard. The couple had thoroughly enjoyed the nearly 10 cruises they had been on together in the past, and they have a mutual love for travel as well as a shared disdain for airports.

They looked online and determined that, on average, they could string together voyages on various cruise ships for markedly less money than their collective cost of living on land. All they had to do was hop from ship to ship with some small breaks in between. “We calculated that we can probably live reasonably well with about $100 a day together, with what we’ve saved up,” said Richard, 51, who retired as a computer programmer last month.

“It became a no-brainer,” said Angelyn, who resigned from her accounting job in 2019, and briefly bartended before the pandemic.

The Burks have grown frustrated by the mounting costs of living on land, they said. Between the mortgage, Internet, electricity, property taxes, insurance, and other costs associated with owning their home in Seattle, the couple was spending more than $3,500 per month. That doesn’t include food, transportation, entertainment and other expenses of everyday life.

“It became a no-brainer,” said Angelyn, who resigned from her accounting job in 2019, and briefly bartended before the pandemic.

The Burks have grown frustrated by the mounting costs of living on land, they said. Between the mortgage, Internet, electricity, property taxes, insurance, and other costs associated with owning their home in Seattle, the couple was spending more than $3,500 per month. That doesn’t include food, transportation, entertainment and other expenses of everyday life.

“By living on a cruise ship, you gain your room, you gain board, you’ve got entertainment that’s built in, you’re going to different locations,” her husband echoed. “It’s hard to beat that.”

Their next cruise is set for July, at which point they plan to embark on back-to-back cruises for about nine months, with a few brief land breaks. Between cruises, they will be nomads of sorts, visiting family and friends, as well as staying in Airbnbs and hotels, which they will mostly pay for with credit card points.

They’ve tested the waters of their retirement plan over the past year, taking a nine-day Carnival cruise from Miami to the Bahamas in November, a seven-day Carnival cruise from Long Beach, Calif., to the Mexican Riviera in March, and a 21-day Holland America cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal, ending in Vancouver in mid-May. The couple is now staying with family in Seattle, awaiting their fourth grandchild’s birth, as well as their son’s graduation from the University of Washington in June.

“It’s definitely caught fire lately in terms of people considering this as a prospect,” said Collen McDaniel, the editor in chief of Cruise Critic, a cruise ship review site. “We’ve heard of a number of people doing it over the years, and we’re hearing more and more [of it].

While the pandemic temporarily disrupted the cruising industry, it is making a comeback, and recently Cruise Critic posted a poll on Twitter, asking, “Would you retire at sea?” Of the 141 respondents, 43 percent voted, “Yes, sign me up!” and 33 percent voted, “Maybe, if it’s feasible.”

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