Located along the banks of the Tuckasegee River in the North Carolina mountains, you’ll find a quaint mountain haven of Cullowhee River Club with phenomenal views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and close proximity to numerous small towns. This is exactly what Dr. James Spirito and his wife, Cher were looking for. A home on the river in the heart of the Blue Ridge.
“For us, it was like all of the stars fell in line. We wanted to live in North Carolina on a river, where there was a continuity in neighborhood design, and we found it at Cullowhee River Club,” said Cher. They are currently building a cottage that should be ready by late June, just in time for summer months in the mountains.
The Spiritos will use this home as a vacation home as a nice getaway for “fun, casual, relaxation.” It will enable them to have more free time to enjoy their “antiquing” hobby. From this mountain location, Cher says its an easy day’s drive in any direction for antiques with all of the historic towns in neighboring states.
Cullowhee River Club is designed as a respite from the world with a Grand River Lodge and the River Park Pavilion where residents can enjoy one another’s company or simply relax along the river. The Property Owners Association even rents boat racks monthly on a first come, first served basis. And, because 60% of the land surrounding the Cullowhee River Club will be perpetually protected open space placed in a conservation easement, the community will have groomed hiking and biking trails for its residents to enjoy. The trails will also connect to the planned Jackson County Greenway Trail System.
While the Spirito’s primary home will remain in Florida, the Spiritos love to travel the world and have been to just about everywhere except the Middle East. “I have recently retired from Delta Airlines and am still in the stage of missing it very much. There is a reason there is a club called Clipped Wings … you never quite get over the longing for taking to the skies,” says Cher. They even own a condo in Thailand, from where they travel about. With Cher being a former flight attendant, the Spiritos have been able to take advantage of world travel, even many times to her favorite country of Japan, where the people are known for their honesty and respectful nature.
The Spiritos just celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. Dr. James Spirito (Dr. “J”), a retired engineer, inventor, defense contractor, and professor still has much to offer the world. He is currently building a 1933 Hot Rod. For Dr. “J” life and retirement have taken him down many roads, some straight and some curvy but always an adventure. He is a refreshing example of work hard and play hard.
The Spiritos have a great love and admiration for one another, have built an enviable life, and are looking forward to enjoying their next phase in the mountains of North Carolina.
The Lake and Hills Garden Club Celebrates 30 Years
Keowee Key’s Lake and Hills Garden Club celebrated their 30-year anniversary this year, and it’s stories like this one that have helped hold it together.
Laura Havran has roots at Keowee Key; a fairly rare phenomenon for residents living in 20th century-born master-planned communities. Havran’s mother, Jeanette Dodge (known as “Parky”), and her father, J.T. Dodge, settled in at Keowee Key in 1989, 14 years after the community formed. Laura and Dick Havran and their three children spent summers on the Lake and fell in love with the lifestyle there. So much so, that when they started exploring retirement options, they consistently compared communities they visited to Keowee Key. And, nothing measured up.
“Finally, my husband said to me, ‘Remind me again why we’re not considering Keowee Key?'” Havran said with a chuckle. “It was then that we realized that this was where we really wanted to be.”
Not long after they moved to Keowee Key, Havran followed in her mother’s footsteps again when she joined the Lake and Hills Garden Club.
“My mother was a 27-year member and a former garden club president, so when I moved here it was sort of expected,” Havran said. Not to mention, Havran, one of eight children, grew up with vegetable gardens, freshly cut flowers from front yard gardens in vases on every table, and good weeding and harvesting skills.
“Gardening is sort of in our blood,” Havran said. “Both of my parents grew up on farms, so growing things was just a way of life for them.”
The Lake and Hills Garden Club, of which Havran is now president, was formed by seven women residents at Lake Keowee in 1988 and has since made a name for itself in the region. 2018 marks the club’s 30th anniversary.
“People come from all over the region to attend our annual October auction. We have several that come from Clemson every year,” Havran said. “The garden club is kind of known in the region for the work we do. So, supporting it at the auction has become a tradition that people really look forward to. Everyone gets all dressed up. It’s quite an affair.”
Due to the auction’s success, the Garden Club is able to host community programs and initiatives, such as seminars presented by Clemson professors and area authors, planting 100 dogwoods near the clubhouse, the nursing home project, and the National Wildlife Federation Certification program. The Club’s goal is for the entire community, including the clubhouse gardens, to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat®.
Members like Alice Guzick (head of the National Wildlife Federation project), Barbara Shaver, Irene Feber, and Edna Mallamed have been with the club since its inception.
“They’ve done what it takes through the years to rejuvenate membership and to keep the club alive and vibrant,” added Havran
Garden Club members take their skills and big hearts into nursing homes to work with residents. They allocate funds raised to support relative local and national initiatives. And, they spend time together at floral arranging and planning workshops, and working on planting and preservation projects.
Havran says that while she loves all the work that they do together, she loves the fellowship almost as much.
“We have such a great mix of ladies with so many different skills and backgrounds. It’s just a whole lot of fun, and we’re able to do a lot of good and learn so much in the process.”
And, as for her mother’s legacy, Havran carries it with her.
“I’ll just be going on about something, and one of the club members will say, ‘oh, that’s so something Parky would say,'” Havran said with a laugh. “And then, I realize that they’re right.’
“You don’t need a retirement home, you need a great home for retirement,” ~ Francisca Alonso
There is the passion of an artist, the preciseness of an engineer, and a profound empathy for the human condition that informs a conversation with architect Francisca Alonso, one that is as captivating as the transformative vision she has for residential design in the 21st century.
Francisca and her husband/architect partner of 30 years, Antonio, are co-founders of AV Architects + Builders, established in 2001 and based in Great Falls, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Francisca’s father was the famous architect Melvin Villarroel Roldan, who has designed luxury resorts and hotels on the Mediterranean coast and all over the world. When Francisca and Antonio launched their business in 2001, they decided to carry on the legacy of resort-style living. The company’s mission is, “Building custom dream homes designed around your lifestyle, that make you feel like you are on vacation, every day of the year.”
While there are many formative pillars of AV’s design philosophy, Francisca sums them up with the following tenets:
Removal of Clutter
Control of clutter is a key ingredient to a happy house. It’s rejuvenating. It’s like a detox. At the end of the day we don’t need so much. When have you ever walked into a luxury vacation home that had clutter? When you are staring at clutter, it creates distractions, so make certain that multiple storage solutions are a part of your home design.
Every indoor space that we design has a mirror image in an outdoor related space. A master bedroom has a patio. A great room may have an outdoor grotto. A front entrance will have a front porch.
A 2,000 sq. ft., home, for instance, should have at least a third of that – 700-800 sq. ft. – set for designed outdoor space.
Double the Windows, plus Limited Hallways and Doors
Our designs call for double the amount of window space in a standard home in our area. And there should be at least two viewpoints to the outdoors and nature in every spot in the house, all of which reduces stress and adds to your well-being. This requires broad open-concept floor plans, multi-use spaces, and the limiting of hallways and doors.
(Many of Francisca’s window designs, especially in bedrooms where windows have to provide egress in case of emergency, have an almost Mondrian quality, with offset panels virtually creating a piece of art in glass. The offset allows for one large casement window – facilitating egress and allowing for cross ventilation – while smaller windows of different sizes and shapes infuse design interest.)
Quality of Materials
We don’t want you to have a lifetime membership at the hardware store, so we build with materials that last. Instead of using pine trim we use PVC, which is rot-free. We use aluminum windows, so you don’t keep painting them, and engineered quartz or porcelain instead of granite so you don’t have to keep treating it. You should enjoy your home, not have to maintain it.
Smart Home Peace of Mind
Home security from your smartphone is so easy to do nowadays. We design a fully integrated system that controls lighting, alarms, temperature settings, and locking systems. The system can even detect moisture in specific areas and will send a message to your phone that will tell you if there is water under you dishwasher. It’s all about safety and energy efficiency.
But Francisca and her team have added another layer to the concept of stylish resort living, and it is outlined in a book she authored called, Nesting for Empty Nesters, The Vacation Style Living Approach to Aging in Place.
A magna cum laude graduate of The School of Architecture at The Catholic University, Francisca is also CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) certified, a prestigious designation bestowed by the National Association of Home Builders. It is with that training that she imagines a residence that uses smart design to prepare your home now for a better quality of life in retirement and beyond.
Francisca explains, “People are living much longer and more active lives these days. If we design or remodel a house for a couple in their 50s, they may live there until they’re 90. So why not build blocking now behind a wall that can anchor a grab bar or handrail in 20 years? Why not build a curbless shower with no doors that looks sleek now, but will allow disabled access in 30 years? There are hundreds of beneficial manifestations of Aging in Place design.”
In this regard, Francisca seems to think of everything. She is currently working with researchers at a Washington D.C. area university on building a sensor into a shower floor, or any space, that will detect an unusual compression of the floor that might be consistent with a fall, which can then be signaled to a family member for follow-up.
In addition to her father’s influence, Francisca admits to an affinity for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, which is hinted at with some of her flowing horizontal rooflines. “Wright designed a home that was built for the end-user,” she describes. “Architecture is not monumental or ornamental, it’s designing for a person and how they will operate in their home.”
And like its co-founder, the company is passionate, precise, and profoundly empathetic in bringing trusted and flexible home design solutions to those of us approaching a fulfilling and active life as seniora. In Francisca’s sage affirmation, “You don’t need a retirement home, you need a great home for retirement.”
To many it is a sanctuary, the most wonderfully versatile piece of recreational equipment ever conceived. A thing that allows you to close your eyes and connect to the ancient swells and rhythms of the sea. A thing that can silently transport you to secret coves and unimaginably beautiful places. A thing that allows you to work as hard as you’ve ever worked and race 32 miles out to Catalina Island in the sport’s iconic championship. Or express your inner “devotional warrior” on your floating yoga mat … your paddleboard. While every long pull on the paddle carries you farther and farther away from the stress of the day.
Jump on Board
Sound inviting? Then seek out a place near you to learn to paddleboard and you’ll begin to understand the enriching hold of the fastest growing water sport in the world and an elixir for those in their silver years…both from a fitness standpoint and an aesthetic one.
Tom Lawn got hooked on paddleboarding as a newcomer five years ago when he bravely decided to paddle out to a shrimp boat trawling just off the tip of the North Carolina coast where he was unexpectedly adopted by a pod of some 80 dolphins following the boat for free snacks. So close Tom could touch them, the pod let him paddle along for a mile or so. And then the board had him.
At 66, Tom is a fixture at St. James Plantation, a 6,000-acre planned community of beautiful coastal landscape in Southport, NC, where he is unmistakable driving the mint condition, aqua blue Dodge van he and his wife Sue bought new in 1977. His paddleboards ride on top of the van, surfboard inside, with the couple’s Llewellin Setter, Esker, calling shotgun.
According to Tom, “Paddleboarding is so many things. It can be spiritual while paddling alone through the pristine backwaters of the bay. Or just family time, with Esker perched on the nose of the board and Sue paddling beside in her kayak.”
Sometimes Jenna Chenevert and Susan Goodwin will just sit down on their paddleboards and eat the lunch they packed earlier back home. Neighbors at Eastman, a welcoming four-seasons community in New Hampshire, the two thrive on the fitness and aesthetic benefits of paddleboarding on the community’s miles-long lake, and all around New England.
Jenna shares that, “It’s amazing how much stand up paddling exercises your core and legs, plus it requires excellent posture. But for seniors, perhaps the biggest benefit is how it enhances your balance abilities.”
Susan particularly embraces the natural beauty that comes with the activity. “I love paddling through the early morning fog on our lake, or for 30-mile stretches on the Connecticut River, where the fall foliage reflected in the water is just stunningly beautiful.”
A Little History
Today’s paddleboarders carry on a legacy that some suggest dates back 3,000 years to Peruvian fisherman who paddled reed boats out past the surf break, then stood up and surfed the fully stocked boat back home. But the earliest actual evidence shows a Polynesian paddleboarder heading out to greet Captain James Cook off Hawaii’s Kona coast in a famous engraving dating back to 1779. It would be his ancestors who brought paddleboarding to light two centuries later on the north shore of Oahu.
You will want to do a lot of research before buying a paddleboard, but generally you’ll be looking at a board that’s 10-12’ long and costs between $500-1,500. A lighter graphite paddle will be worth the investment to your hands and arms on long rides. Make certain, also, that the weight of the board (generally 24-30 pounds) is manageable and that you’re able to lift the board, or comfortably load it on a car rack for transport. There are even inflatable paddle boards that are lighter and easier to manage.
So, if the idea of enhancing your physical and spiritual health, while meeting new friends sounds inviting, just look for the mint condition, aqua blue van and say hi to the explorative new world of paddleboarding!
This 3,600 acre lakeside community is tucked in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region. Two hours north of Boston and minutes from Lake Sunapee, New London, Lebanon and Hanover, residents have easy access to medical facilities, employment, educational opportunities and a multitude of cultural venues.
Retirement planning is pretty variable, so don’t expect right answers, just right questions.
In 1951, Dr. Albert Einstein was working as a physics professor at Princeton University. One day, he and his teacher’s assistant were walking across campus when the assistant asked the question, “Dr. Einstein, how do you think our advanced physics students did on their final exam?” Dr. Einstein replied, “Not very well.” The assistant looked surprised and shocked as he responded, “But Dr. Einstein, why wouldn’t our students have done well when we gave them the same test as we gave them last year?” Dr. Einstein replied, “The questions were the same, but the answers are different this time.” While this scenario applies to many situations, it definitely applies to retirement planning.
In many ways, planning our retirement takes a similar path as Dr. Einstein’s advanced physics class. The questions are still the same, but the answers are different. Here are some of the more important questions:
Do I have enough to retire?
Will my money last as long as I live?
What kind of lifestyle can I afford?
How much risk should I take?
What to do?
Every individual should have a retirement plan regardless of his or her age. This means talking to an advisor about how much money is needed to retire using today’s assumptions regarding life span, health, income levels, inflation, and projected investment returns. As you near retirement, consider a few tactical steps to maximize your security and peace of mind.
Evaluate personal spending.
Instead of worrying about which stock to buy or sell daily, save more money and you’ll get accustomed to spending less now. The good news is that spending is typically highest in the early stages of retirement and declines as the years pass. Take an honest look at your pre-retirement lifestyle, expectations for future spending, and planned activities (such as hobbies and travel). Your conclusions in this thought process will shape your income requirements, and the level of risk in your portfolio.
Coordinate your planning.
Connect the dots between your financial plan and your estate and tax planning. Work with a trusted fiduciary advisor who puts your interests first and can regularly meet face to face with you and your family. Empower your financial advisor to work directly with your estate lawyer and CPA to be sure you get the best results. We do this for our clients and the results and follow through can make a big difference on tax day and when facing big life transitions.
Create a system and follow it.
Today, most individuals invest for growth. Balancing the risk/return and growth/income decision requires thoughtful portfolio design, periodic review, and rebalancing from year to year. And the personal discipline to stick with the plan! An individual is 20 times more likely to achieve desired results with a written plan. It should include details regarding risk, taxes, and portfolio design.
Manage your withdrawal rate.
Research shows that even in the most favorable market environments, taking more than 6% annually from a portfolio over a 30-year period can lead to premature depletion of assets. Determining a sustainable withdrawal rate is wise and allows retirees to maintain stable income throughout various market environments.
Plug the tax and expense drains.
The up and down movements in the stock market are out of your control, so try not to worry when they don’t move in your favor. Instead, plan for adverse markets and pay more attention to characteristics that are controllable. Evaluate the possible impact of taxes on your retirement income. How much should you withdraw from the portfolio to receive enough income after taxes? Should you first withdraw from taxable or tax deferred accounts, given your age, tax rate, asset composition, and other personal factors? What expenses are set in stone for you and which are optional?
Figure inflation into retirement spending projections and expected investment returns. Although inflation has averaged just over 3% on a long-term basis, many advisors say that a 4% assumption is more prudent. The difference between these two rates is substantial over a lengthy retirement. For instance, to maintain purchasing power throughout a 25-year retirement period, a $100,000 annual withdrawal must increase to more than $209,000, assuming 3% inflation, and $266,500 at 4% inflation. There is a big difference.
Make it count.
Many people spend more time planning their vacation or next automobile purchase than they spend thinking about retirement. Your golden years are one of the more important periods of your life – you will enjoy them better if you’re prepared. Take the time to investigate.
Keep it simple.
Invest in things you understand or that your professional advisor can explain in language that makes sense. Great results do not need to be complicated. The far more important concept is the eighth wonder of the world…time and compounding. If an investor will invest in the best businesses in the world, led by the smartest management, providing world-class goods and services to an increasing global consumer, the results tend to be good. And, in most cases, dividends that tend to increase each year helping income keep pace with inflation.
Great results are most often the product of great relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out qualified experts who can keep you on course as the answers change. Less worry and peace of mind is the goal. We are here to help support your success!
About the authors: Vinton Fountain III, Buck Beam, Brice Gibson and Christopher Riley CFP are members of Fountain Financial Associates, a registered Investment Advisory Firm in Wilmington, NC. Their mission is to give clients and their families a better life. Learn more at www.fountainfinancial.net. Advisory Services offered through Fountain Financial Associates, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Fountain Financial Associates, Inc., and Cetera are not affiliated.
When Mary Lou Shannon decided to move to the Traditions of America community of Saucon Valley near Bethlehem, PA, she had three things in mind: being closer to family, pursuing her passion for gardening, and finding a vibrant group of friends. “I was a real estate agent for 32 years in the Washington, D.C. area, and I decided that I wanted to live closer to my son and daughter-in-law in Bethlehem,” Mary Lou says. “I loved the concept of customizing my home and moving into a community when it was new. I knew from my real estate work that that first group of homeowners was pretty tight, and I wanted to be a part of that closeness wherever I ended up.”
Mary Lou’s search initially led her to Traditions of America at Bridle Path. The community was almost sold out, but construction on Saucon Valley was just beginning, and Mary Lou already knew she loved the area. “I’d driven through Saucon Valley when I was visiting my son. I loved the farmland and yet it was close to a great shopping center and the highway. I surprised my family, and came up for Mother’s Day weekend … I’ve never looked back.”
From the very beginning, Mary Lou knew that connecting with her new neighbors mattered to her—so she volunteered to host a friends-giving event for her first Thanksgiving in her new community. “I got to know a lot of people doing that. Our clubhouse was finished by then, and we had a lovely candlelight sit-down dinner for 70 people,” Mary Lou says. “Then I got on the social committee. I got to know people and know what was going on in the neighborhood. That was important to me and has a lot to do with my happiness here.”
Mary Lou began playing bridge and joined a book club. “You have to put yourself out there in a community to get the full benefit of it,” she says. Then, she started getting her hands dirty. “I have a lovely garden already. It’s my second summer gardening here, since I moved in two years ago … I have a variety of plants. The lettuces are in now … I’m planting things that are low-maintenance, hostas and native plants.”
Her life at Saucon Valley has been everything she hoped for, but Mary Lou wanted to expand her horizons beyond its boundaries as well. “I told myself when I retired that I wanted to do hospice volunteer work and take a master gardener program. I signed up for both of those before I even moved up here. They’re an important part of my life, because I’m meeting people outside of my area but I’m also giving something back to the community,” she says.
Mary Lou has always loved to garden, and the master gardener program has given her new insight into one of her favorite hobbies. “It surprised me how much I didn’t know. There’s an emphasis on native plants, protecting the environment, the connection in the natural environment of plants, insects, birds, and woodlands. I’m finding that fascinating.”
She was eager to share what she’d learned with her neighbors. “I wanted to encourage more people to garden with a perspective to the natural environment, so I arranged a lecture from a naturalist on attracting birds to our gardens, and then I asked for a shelf in our community library,” she says. “I’m trying to encourage people to use less pesticides and grow some native plants.”
As much as Mary Lou has given to her new home, she’s gotten a great deal from it as well. “Downsizing and establishing yourself in a new community are easier to do sooner rather than later,” she says. “What this community offered is way beyond my wildest expectations for friendships and support.”
“Downsizing and establishing yourself in a new community are easier to do sooner rather than later,” says Mary Lou Shannon.
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