A couple are preparing to spend the rest of their lives sailing the world – buoyed by the new pension freedoms.
Ian and Ann Clarke have dreamed of a life on the ocean ever since meeting more than 20 years ago when Ian worked as a sailing instructor in Turkey.
They have now decided their two children are old enough to leave behind and are selling their home and all their contents with no plans to return and live in the UK.
They had a 45-ft yacht built for them four years ago when Ian’s dad told them to ‘stop wasting time and get on with it’ just before he died.
Their move has also been influenced by the new pension rules which will allow Ann, 54, to start taking tax-free lump sums of around #10,000 a year for the next five years from hers.
She spent 30 years with RBS and last month took early retirement from payment service company Worldpay where she was chief operating officer of ecommerce.
A close family friend was diagnosed with skin cancer last year aged just 33 and that also influenced their decision to up and go.
The couple are also funding their adventure by selling their five-bedroom old mill home in Shepreth, Cambs., which they hope to get up to £1.25 million for.
They announced their plans to neighbours in the local village newsletter, saying they would be selling the bulk of their possessions in two yard sales.
Around 150 people went to the first sale last Saturday to buy antique furniture and other belongings.
The couple plan to live off about £20,000 a year from their savings and also plan to buy several buy-to-let properties in the UK to provide a monthly income and security for their children.
Ian, 50, is a software engineer who runs his own company and his current contract is due to end this summer.
If all goes to plan they aim to say goodbye to son Jamie, 20, and daughter Samantha, 17, in March next year and set sail from Turkey where their boat is based.
They want to spend the summer in the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic in September and getting to the Caribbean for Christmas.
The first 12 months are planned but after that they intend to play it by ear.
Ann said: “We’ve been talking about doing it for the last 20 years.
“But we got married and then had young children and the time just felt right. We have a daughter who is doing her A-levels and a son at university.
“These new pension rules came in that basically allow me to breakdown my pension so I can access small parts of my pension before I reach 60.
“We are using that money to buy several ‘buy-to-let’ properties that we will then use as a source of income while we are away.”
She added: “We’re now just completely de-cluttering our house. We have lived there for the past 11 years so it’s quite scary to think of how much stuff we need to get rid of.
“I open a cupboard and it dawns on me how much there is to go.
“We decided to set a date of March because our house is an old watermill and it looks at its best in the summer.
“We want it sold by the summer and then we’ll buy a few other properties and move into one of them during the winter.”
She said: “We’ve always been on sailing holidays so I’m not too worried about being on the water permanently, although I think will be a bit strange as we have only ever been away for two weeks or a month at most.
“I think the hardest thing will be leaving our friends. We have said to everyone that they must come out and visit us, but you never know who is actually going to do that.
“Ian and I have always worked so we have always had things to discuss in the evening.
“So it is a worry that we will be together 24/7 and we can’t have ‘how was your day’ conversation in the evening.
“But all the stresses and strains of working long hours and normal life won’t be there so I’m sure it will be fine.
“It’s just really exciting, our plans are to go away indefinitely we don’t know when or if we will come back.”
Ian, who first stepped onto a boat as a toddler, said: “There is a whole mixture of feelings, from the realisation of a dream coming true through to it actually being a little bit scary.
“It is a big lifestyle change and there is a lot to do make it happen. I would say I have wanted to do this from my mid 20s, so before I met Ann.
“There’s pictures of me on boats going back to me being a toddler, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I really got into yacht sailing.
“My dad said to me before he died ‘go and live your dream’. He said this was something he had always wanted to do but never got the chance.
“It’s amazing that we’re finally able go out and do it. The thought of selling everything we own is slightly daunting.
“It has led to some disagreements in the house, but I have had to think ‘will I be upset if I don’t have this when in 25 years time when I am a grandad?’
“And to be honest there’s really not a lot that you would be upset about not having.”