Jetter can still live her dream if she's willing to buy a smaller boat. A 56-footer is too big for a solo sailor anyway, says Kretschmer. She can easily find a good-quality, 10-year-old 43-footer for $150,000 or less.
"Used boats are a great value," says Kretschmer, and smaller ones cost less in up-keep.
Replacing a mainsail on a 43-footer would run $5,000 vs. $12,000 on a 56-footer. Since the selection of saltwater vessels will be limited in Michigan, Kretschmer suggests that Jetter shop in Florida or the Chesapeake Bay area.
Jetter plans to use a $75,000 inheritance toward the boat. Until she makes the purchase, Vander Zwart recommends keeping the cash in a money-market account or CD.
A number of funds now pay 4.5 percent or more; compared with her current 3 percent, the higher rate could add an extra $2,300 by 2009. Shirley estimates she can save an additional $400 a month, or $10,000 in the next two years. If she must, she can withdraw the rest from her 403(b).
Jetter needs to budget for other costs, including her mortgage. She has little equity in her home, so rather than selling it she might want to rent it out the first few years she's off at sea.
Since it's in a picturesque area near Lake Michigan, it should easily generate rent to cover the mortgage and property management fees.
Jetter luckily has health insurance covering overseas travel via her retirement plan. But she will need to consider boat maintenance and docking fees.
Vander Zwart estimates that she'll need $3,500 a month for these and other living expenses. She can cover that with pension and savings until age 62, after which Social Security will bring her to $4,150 a month.
Since she'll be reducing her savings a bit, she needs to invest more aggressively. She has too much (11 percent) of her portfolio in cash, says Grand Rapids planner Ron Van Surksum. He advises shifting it into the Fidelity Freedom Fund, which is set up as a diversified portfolio unto itself. "That'll allow her to concentrate on the currents of the seas, not the currents of the market," he adds saltily.
Taking all this advice into account, Jetter's now looking for a smaller boat requiring no financing: "I'm willing to lower my expectations so I can go simple - and go soon."