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Saving for Retirement

Peace Corps Stint Puts Their Retirement on Hold

A life-changing experience in Romania delayed this couple's retirement but provided a strong foundation for their golden years.

World travelers: Frank and Ximena Huthnance are looking forward to a second tour in the Peace Corps. Inset Photo by Joseph Sywenky

THEN: Frank and Ximena Huthnance appeared in Kiplinger's Retirement Planning Guide in 2005, when they were finishing up a two-year tour as Peace Corps volunteers in Radauti, Romania, a small town near the Ukraine border. Frank, then 67, worked in administration for Habitat for Humanity, and Ximena, 63, taught English at a local high school. They left for Romania just a month after Frank retired from a career in banking.

See Also: SLIDE SHOW: 6 Good Reasons You Shouldn't Retire at 65

NOW: Frank, now 77, and Ximena, 74, began new careers a month after returning from their life-changing experience in Romania. Frank's Peace Corps background helped him land a job as director of human resources for a hospice in Clearwater, Fla., where Ximena volunteered. "The hospice's CEO thought we had the right sort of philosophy and experience," says Frank.

Their time in the Peace Corps also helped them financially. Because their housing and health insurance were covered in Romania, they didn't have to touch their retirement savings and were able to put aside most of Frank's Social Security benefits (except for about $300 per month for travel). "We learned to live with a lot less in Romania," says Ximena.

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On weekends, they'd help build houses for Habitat for Humanity ("I'd haul cement and Ximena would lay flooring," says Frank), teach English to families in their village, or explore Europe. "The experience was incred­ible," says Ximena.

After living in a 360-square-foot apartment in Radauti, it was easy to move to a small apartment in Clearwater Beach. They still lead a low-key lifestyle, although they have treated themselves to a boat, something they always wanted.

Frank retired from his job at the hospice three years ago, and now they spend most of their time with their six daughters and 15 grandkids. "All summer long, we have grandkids coming and going nonstop," says Frank.

But the Huthnances haven't turned into stay-at-homes. Last year they spent four months in Europe, including a visit to Radauti. "I'm glad I delayed retirement -- it gave us enough money to travel," says Frank.

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In July, the Huthnances plan to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with family and friends in Ecuador, where Ximena grew up. "We were married in a beautiful church in a valley," says Ximena, "and we're going to renew our vows."

They'd love to return to the Peace Corps in a few years, maybe to China or the Philippines. Says Frank, "Learning Romanian improved our cognitive abilities, and we are looking forward to learning another language."

See Also: SLIDE SHOW: 8 Great Places to Retire Overseas