South Orange-Maplewood Group is ‘Figuring Out Retirement Together’ (FORT)

0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

When I received my invitation to a meeting of FORT (Figuring Out Retirement Together), a local group sponsored by SOMA: Two Towns for All Ages, I was skeptical. Do people even retire anymore? I wasn’t ready for a life of gardening and golf. And I’d rather poke a needle in my eye than move to a condo in Florida.

It turns out I’m not alone. At the March meeting, a packed audience at the Woodland listened to five “retired” panelists (at least two of whom are still working part-time and/or remotely) who spend several months a year traveling abroad.

One thing is for sure: this isn’t your grandmother’s retirement. From driving a truck through Namibia to wandering the Yucatán Peninsula, I would have envied their adventures at any age.


Alan Levine introduces speakers at FORT meeting at The Woodland, March 25, 2024

“In many ways, we’re more flexible now than at any time since our twenties,” said panelist Joan Lebow. “You can plan the life you’ve always wanted.”

Richard and Carol Ann Magid decided to keep one foot in New Jersey and, “get out in the winter.” For the past three years, they’ve rented a house in the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende.

The well-known expat enclave attracts artists from all over the world and offers a vibrant cultural life. “I keep saying I’d like to try somewhere new, but San Miguel draws me back,” Carol Ann said. The couple’s rental is big enough for visitors and they welcome a steady stream of friends and family.

Suzanne and Arthur Portnoy were also charmed by Mexico but chose a different approach. “We call it slow travel. We don’t make a lot of plans, just float from place to place,” Suzanne said. “We recently flew into Oaxaca and spent five weeks exploring the region. We ended up in a beautiful Pacific Coast beach town recommended by people we met along the way.”

Joan Lebow has “slow traveled” to more than a dozen destinations in the past few years, including Italy, South Africa, Namibia, and France. She and her partner go in the off-season, buying one-way tickets for maximum flexibility. “We were recently in Cape Town for a month, then rented a truck and explored Namibia,” she says. She uses social media to stay connected with people she’s met along the way.

San Miguel de Allende (Photo- Jillian Kim)

The panelists offered tips and advice for others who want to spend long periods abroad, from preparing your house to making sure you have health insurance coverage. They all emphasized that “it’s easier than you think.”

“We get our mail held, but it’s all junk anyway,” said Richard Magid. “There’s very little you need to manage in person anymore.”

FORT is headed by SOMA residents Alan Levine and Janet Coviello. The group plans to address other topics of interest to current and future retirees in upcoming meetings, from making new connections in retirement to navigating Medicare. There will be hikes and other social activities, as well.

To get on the mailing list for future meetings, email




Related Articles