Making Your Money Last

Meet the Real Golden Girls

Joan Forrester, her sister, Lois McManus, and friends Joanne Murphy and Nancy Rogers share homes in Florida and Massachusetts, which lets them enjoy a more comfortable retirement than they could afford on their own.

KIPLINGER'S: How did you decide to live together?

FORRESTER: It just happened. I was planning to move from New England to Florida. That got everybody else thinking about moving. Now we share a big house on a golf course, close to the beach, plus a summer home in Plymouth. We're developing a whole new social circle. It's great! We call ourselves the real Golden Girls.

How did you know it would work? Before we bought the house in 2004, we took a cross-country trip together in a motor home for two and a half months. We figured that if we could get along in that small space for that long, we could live together in a big house. You have to have enough space so you can go to your own room if you don't like what's going on.

Who owns the houses? Joanne and I own the house in Florida, and Nancy and my sister Lois pay us rent. I originally owned the house in Plymouth, but when my sister sold her condo, she used the money to renovate the Massachusetts house, and I gave her half-ownership in return. When one owner dies, the other gets to live in the house as long as she wants. Then the ownership shares will pass to our heirs.

How do you split other costs? Joanne owns a car that we leave in Florida. My sister owns a car that we leave up north. And I own a van that we drive back and forth. We have a kitty for gas and food and split everything else, such as utilities, four ways.

Any other savings tips? I persuaded the golf club to sell us two family memberships rather than four individual ones. That saves us about $500 a year each. And we split the membership costs for the warehouse clubs where we do our grocery shopping. Two of us pay the Sam's Club membership in Florida, and the other two cover the BJ's membership in Massachusetts.

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