How To Move Your Retirement From Good To Great (Good To Great Part I)

Post-Production Update:  This post generated some of the highest traffic ever on my Blog.  With the popularity, it’s evolved into the foundation of an entire “Good To Great” series on this site.  The entire series is outlined below:

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?

The Question Today: How Do We Move Retirement From Good To Great? Click To Tweet

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.

Freedom Means A Lot Of Things. Use It To Move From Good To Great. Click To Tweet

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.

We have decided to move from Good To Great for retirement. Click To Tweet

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.).

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: We're leaving our dream retirement cabin after 1 year. We're moving to... Click To Tweet

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! Click To Tweet

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.

Editor Revision Post-Production:  Since publication, this post has formed the foundation of a “Good To Great” series that has evolved on my blog.  If interested in the other posts from Series, click below:




  1. The new digs seem to fit your needs very well. The only question anyone would ask is whether this is a one time change or the start of consistent upgrade in digs. Knowing your a PDF blogger I gather it’s a one time thing. That being said churning real estate is a sure fire way to burn cash if done regularly. I get the sentiment as we sold our first home after just four years to buy the one we are in today. The last home just didn’t feel right. This one will remain our home as long as work doesn’t drive me to a different state (a real possibility, but otherwise our current house leaves us satisfied.)

    1. FTF, no one can tell the future, but I’d be very surprised if we move again in the next 10 years or so. We’re going to have our 5th Wheel after we FIRE next summer, and are planning ~6 months/year on the road. While we’re in GA, this “Great” cabin will meet our needs for years to come. I agree, the “friction” costs of buying/selling are flames to the very important retirement cash reserve.

        1. Hey Dana!! Yeah, our realtor rocks. You should meet her sometime. Wink.

  2. LOVE the new place!! I can’t believe you guys are already packing up but more power to you – many people live in places that don’t suit there needs for way too long. That wrap around porch alone is worth the move!! As for me, I have made no moves toward a greater retirement besides saving and pondering. I’ve been starting to think of taking a gap year on my journey to FI, give away all my trips, and hit the road…or maybe I just need a vacation. 😉

    1. “That wrap around porch alone is worth the move!!” Funny you say that, my wife and I have talked about that porch more than any other aspect of the house! We’re really looking forward to hanging out on that porch!!

      As for you, you’ve got time. I agree with your focus on savings at this point. Don’t sacrifice life now, maintain a balance. Think long and hard before you take a gap year, you’re crushing it! Take that vacation first, and find time to think! We could have retired 5-10 years ago if we had focused only on that goal, but felt it was important to maintain balance along the way. No regrets!

  3. Good for you! It’s hard when things are good to generate enough motivation to make a change, but I love that you didn’t allow yourself to get complacent. I hope the new cabin continues to be a great fit for you!

  4. Great article Fritz. The new place looks nice and sounds like it will really meet your future plans. Knowing what you want and setting down a checklist helps keep the emotional decisions a bay. As for the $40k gain. Was it “location, location, location”?

    1. David, nice to see you here. I’m not sure if the $40k was “location”, or if we just happened to find a cabin that was well priced. It is in a different zip code from Blue Ridge, so perhaps that had some influence. However, it’s actually closer to town, so we couldn’t care less about the zip code!! Stop by and see us if you get up to the mountains!!

  5. The WORLD HQ Office….??? I didn’t know I was friends with such a superstar! It likes like a dream home and I hope all your retirement dreams come true there.

    1. Hey, it’s my blog, and my cabin. I can call my office whatever I want, right?! After all, I AM the Chief Executive Office / Founder / CFO / CTO / CMO and Chief Editor!!

      Too bad the pay doesn’t match the title, right!! 🙂

  6. Congrats on moving from “good” to “great”, Fritz! 🙂 The new cabin sounds perfect and looks amazing. And it’s awesome you are saving money making the move!

    Do you take requests? When you get around to building that water feature, I am requesting a step-by-step DIY guide (plus costs). 🙂

    1. “Do you take requests?” For you, Amanda, of course!! I’ll have to put that in my queue. Don’t hold your breath, the waterfall is absolutely a “post-retirement” project, but it’s great to know we’ll have the perfect place for it when the time comes!! I’ll take good notes…..

  7. Holy crap! That new cabin looks spectacular, Fritz. Congratulations. It’s amazing what people can do when they engage their functioning brains. Reassess current housing situation + checklist of realistic wants + the absence of a deadline = a far better housing situation and a far better retirement. Bravo, my friend. Can’t wait to visit the World Headquarters of the Retirement Manifesto.

  8. Fritz – it looks just amazing!
    Your idea of make sure it ticked every box was ‘Great’. You’re moving with the benefit of knowledge from the previous purchase, and you had to live in it full time to really understand all the issues. Now you do, and you’ve made $40k into the bargain. Well done

    Love the porch!

  9. The Great cabin looks fantastic and sounds like the perfect spot for you all. My husband’s Aunt & Uncle just moved from a good to a great, retirement home 2 months ago. They cited a bigger yard and more open space for entertaining as a couple of reasons why. Not sure of the price difference, though.

    I’m all for going good to great! Congratulations!

    1. “I’m all for going good to great!” Glad to hear about Aunt & Uncle, we should all look for ways to move to Great! Thanks for the congrats, now we just have to close on this sucker, May 12 can’t get here quickly enough!!

  10. Congrats on the move…downsizing is always a good idea. We upsized but I am at the family growth stage. Once we know how big our family will be then I think I can consider downsizing. The place sounds perfect. As a Tennessee native I appreciate covered porches with rocking chairs and swings! Nicely done.

    1. “The two points which really make it worth it are closer to town and that you pocketed $40k!” I agree those are great, but I can’t quit thinking about those wrap-around porches, and the fact that I have a trout stream out my back door. Woot woot!! Retirement is going to be GREAT!

  11. Fritz, as happy as I am that you’ve found your GREAT retirement home, you know how sad I am to lose you both as neighbors on our mountain. Luckily, we’ll be moving up here full time sooner than later and will have more time to plan get-togethers in the future.

    It sounds like you have found a great place – and, coincidentally, it ticks off so many of our own “must-haves” for our retirement home. We love our wraparound porch, our metal roof — and that our neighbors are not within shouting distance. I can completely understand some of the not-so-perfect things that popped up once you spent more time at your place in the mountains. I know how much you love it!

    I think it’s easy to think you KNOW what is going to be “perfect” — but until you’re doing it, living it, day-to-day, it can be tough to say the word “FOREVER.” Change is good. And GREAT is better than GOOD, so I am sending a virtual high-five your way. Look forward to seeing your new home!

    1. Gwen, you’ve been a great neighbor, and we’ll miss you. We’ll definitely get together for lunch/dinner when you and D have a free weekend, would love to catch up. We’d love for you to visit the home (we’re moving thru May), let’s keep in touch.

      We appreciate your comments about “understanding”, sounds like we have similar “must-haves”. Hope you find your “Great” cabin, look forward to seeing you soon!

      PS: High 5’s back ‘atcha.

  12. Hey, Fritz.

    Congrats on finding your “great” abode. I’m happy for you. I moved to the mountains 12 years ago and as luck would have it, my house is already great and I need not move again.

    BTW, if you like the sound of rain on a metal roof, you’ll LOVE the sound of hail


  13. I really dig the new digs, Fritz! That wrap around is awesome – very Norman Rockwell!

    I love the idea of good to great. Continually improving our situation (financially, physically, mentally, whatever-ally) is something I try to do.

    Congratulations on the new place!

  14. Fritz, Congrats. Looks like not so much downsizing but “rightsizing”. We are thinking about exactly the same thing. After raising a family in our house for the last 23 years, we have a “checklist” now that is different than 23 years ago. It’s super nice to not have a timeline. Your new place looks amazing.

    1. “It’s super nice to not have a timeline.” You’ve got that right, Sidney! Our realtor was a bit surprised when we said we didn’t want to list our “Good” cabin for sale until after we’d moved. It’s paid for, we don’t need the $ for the new cabin, so why kill ourselves? We’ll take a month to move, get the dog run put in, and then start having folks look at our current home. Not having a timeline is, indeed, “super nice”!

  15. WOW! The great cabin is great. So gorgeous! I think it’s amazing when the “great” options cost less than the “good” options–that’s certainly been our experience. 🙂

  16. Thanks goodness! I thought you were going to say you bought a tiny house! Ugh!!! 😉

    Do you tell readers where you live (what state)? I may need to come visit you. Ha!

    Congrats! It looks great!

    1. I really don’t get the tiny house thing. We, like many, enjoy the TV shows, but I can’t imagine what it’d be like to live in one. Then again, we’re going to spend 6 months/year in a 5th wheel, one could argue it’s not that much different.

      So….now that you know where we are, you’ll have to come visit! Open invite, any time. Would be great to meet you (if not, look forward to meeting you at FinCon!).

    1. JIM!! Great to see my podcasting friend on my site (loved your interview with Kirk about his hike, btw! He just completed the GA section of the AT as a warm up for his PCT next month!). Thanks for stopping by, glad I’m making you think! 🙂

  17. I’m so glad you decided not to settle, even though settling would have been the easier option. The new place sounds perfect for your family.

    I think the advice in this article goes far beyond retirement planning – in all areas of our life we should attempt to go for great, and not just settle for the merely adequate.

  18. Having owned a mountain cabin myself, I can COMPLETELY relate to your grips about the good cabin. Renters are noisy, slopes can be a real downer, especially in winter, and we had no yard either, so we had to drag our dogs up and down the hill (and they are SUPER lazy).

    Congrats on the great home purchase. Enjoy it in good health.

  19. We have 5 more years before retirement kicks in. Even though we love our home, it’s too big and we have a lot of yard to take care of. It is a great family home, but I think we will end up selling and find!ing our new “Great” home. We have begun looking, but nothing is speaking to us yet, but we have time.

    Enjoy your beautiful new home

  20. Wow that’s an awesome new house. I was ready for you to say that you paid $40k more with all the amazing features. Seems like you got a steal of a deal and really are going from good to great. Congrats!!!

  21. Oh my gosh Fritz, being able to move to such a great cabin with more space, privacy and being closer to town? And you still get to pocket $40K from it?! That is amazing! Sign me up right now!

    Just really happy about what you’ve accomplished and can’t wait for more updates!

  22. That’s awesome – congrats Fritz!

    This is a GREAT reminder about keeping an eye out for what’s working and what’s not. The new cabin looks and sounds like a big upgrade!

  23. Congratulations Fritz! I love that you made a list of what you were looking for and went out and found it. I LOVE the wraparound porch. My wife and I have always lived them and hope to have one someday. If you make it to Washington state on your journey in the fifth wheel, we’d Love to give you pointers on what to see. So happy for you and your wife!

    1. John, we’re definitely planning on heading to Washington (we’ve always love the Pacific Northwest, and our daughter will be moving there this Fall!!). We’ll look you up (I keep a list of “readers/bloggers by state”, and have added you to “Washington”!). Couldn’t agree more with the appeal of that wrap around porch, May can’t get here soon enough!!

  24. Great digs Fritz. I am happy for you both that you are having a great retirement. There are only a few who successfully achieve FIRE. Even among those, even fewer achieve contentment in retirement with a loving spouse. You are fortunate to be among the chosen few. You are at the self-actualization stage in Maslow’s hierarchy. Best wishes.

    1. Hey 10! I love your concept of being in the self-actualization stage. You’re exactly right, but I really hadn’t thought of it in that way until I read your comment. Great addition to the discussion, thanks for stopping by!!

  25. I think it’s important to constantly evaluate your big life choices (job/housing/vehicles assuming you like to spend your fortune on that). Most people feel like they’re stuck in their house and stay there for decades. Kudos for recognizing the need for change and taking the steps to make it happen!

  26. Congratulations on the new cabin! It sounds awesome! Such a good reminder to always be re-evaluating our goals. I am looking forward to early retirement to give my husband and I the ability to have patience and flexibility looking for a perfect long term home! Enjoy your new digs 🙂

  27. Greetings! Great post as always – really enjoy reading up on your financial advice and how you made retiring early work so well for you. Love the cabin and your conscious decision to downsize. I believe that your profit really was the result of hard work and careful decision making.

    I was wondering if you ever considered Housesitting as a means for travel and income. It is a low-maintenance job and has the benefit of free accommodation. Housesitters have the chance to experience a different lifestyle in a new location. I recommend visiting a website like to view opportunities for you!

    1. Mrs. Farmer, great to see you leaving a few comments on my site, much appreciated. You’ve certainly got a wonderful locale in upstate New York, but I think the winters in the North Georgia mountains are a bit more to our liking! We’ve moving into the “Great” cabin tomorrow!! Woot woot!

  28. Man, such a great way to think about things. Well done! I think I found my “great” home I’m currently in and bought in 2014 after owning a home I bought in 2005. During this time, I figured what I liked and didn’t like.

    But I keep looking for fun! And each time, I come back satisfied with what I have, even if the other houses are much larger.

    Keep it simple!


    1. Sam, I appreciate you stopping by, and taking the time to comment. I’ve enjoyed reading about the work you’re doing on your place, sounds like you’ve done well on your journey from Good To Great! We’re on parallel paths, and I enjoy keeping tabs on your progress. Thx again!

  29. Hey Fritz,

    I’m a bit late to the party here, but am enjoying reading about your progression to “greatness”. I can fully relate to the good cabin’s shortcomings. We have no place at our cabin to put in a decent yard/dog run, and even though we’re on 3 acres there’s no real flat area for the puttering that we too enjoy.

    We have even more in common than initially thought. I’ve been fly fishing for 20+ years. I got to look at the Toccoa at the Blue Ridge dam on our final visit to my grandparents cabin but have never fished it. Let me know if you’re ever in the vicinity of north western North Carolina and I can show you some spots.

    Thanks for the nudge about getting on Twitter. I’m now following you.

  30. Great article! Such a unique way of thinking about certain things. We are considering downsizing especially in the hot real estate market in Canada and thinking of putting those funds towards our retirement. There are always concerns about future costs and expenses with health care and in-home care or even old age homes… I recently read this article and I found it very interesting as it talked about a variety of issues one may face if you were to retire unexpected ie. loss of job, injury, dismissal.

    Check out the article here by Lori Pinkowski:

  31. I really enjoyed this article. It tends to confirm what I have always thought. Retirement is such a great time of life (or should be) Thanks for sharing this.

  32. Great article. Decisions decisions! We have often considered downsizing now that we have retired. Downsizing brings with it a host of other considerations. I appreciated your article and the comments. Thanks so much!

Comments are closed.