Retiring can be stressful.
You’ve worked for so long for that moment, and, with more time on your hands than ever, you want to get it right. That’s particularly true if you’ve chosen to leave the working world behind in a literal sense, moving to a new home. That means finding a home, probably selling the old one, moving your stuff, learning a new community and making friends.
If you — and perhaps your partner, too — play golf, then there’s the added wrinkle of trying to figure out where you’re going to keep your game from getting (more) rusty. You may want to join a club, and it’s clear not every club is alike. They offer different amenities, have different initiation and monthly fees and have radically different cultures. Some clubs have a lot of hidden fees, including frequent assessments that drive away members. Some clubs are particularly crowded during certain months, perhaps because their membership is mostly made of part-time snowbirds. That’s the kind of knowledge most people don’t have until they’ve bought in and are ticked off.
If you’re moving to a place where you don’t know anyone who belongs to a club, you don’t even have an inkling of what’s available and how to narrow down your choices. That’s the niche Jason Becker looked to fill with Golf Life Navigators.
After doing a graduate thesis at Florida Gulf Coast University, Becker, a co-founder of the company and PGA of America professional, became intimately aware of the approximately 175 member clubs in Naples, Fla. He realized that the club websites provide little to no meaningful information for prospective members, and, even if those sites did, they couldn’t convey the cultural and community aspects of a club, or the minutiae and details that really define the membership experience. He decided to create a concierge-style service that works now mostly with retirees looking to make the transition to life in Florida.
Golf Life Navigators works for free (although a small fee will be charged starting in 2017) with people looking to transition to living full-time — domiciling, legally speaking — in Florida. GLN has also opened an office in the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas of Arizona, another popular retirement destination.
The process is fairly straightforward. Prospective clients fill out a questionnaire either online or on the phone, and then there’s a follow-up call to discuss the results. From there, the clients visit. GLN uses their local knowledge, including working with PGA of America professionals, to make recommendations for three or four clubs that fit a client’s needs. GLN then shepherds clients to the potential clubs. GLN is paid by the member clubs when their clients join.
Since the company opened its doors in 2013, Golf Life Navigators has added an in-house brokerage team, called Golf Life Properties, to also offer real estate services, combining finding a home and a club. Ultimately, Becker said, Golf Life Navigators could well add wealth management services, as the transition of assets from another state to an income tax-free state like Florida can be made easier. Clients, Becker said, are more apt to trust a business affiliated with the PGA of America than someone with a Realtor symbol, something that might irk the real estate community. Then again, Realtors don’t have that club information critical to someone who makes golf an important part of their life.
Becker has found that his clients don’t retire in haste. Rather, it’s a multi-year process — even longer than one might expect. The clientele, averaging in range from 53 to 56 years old, take two or three years. They move around in short-term rentals to settle on an area. Then they might grab a long-term rental or even purchase a condo that they rent out to become snowbirds. When it’s finally time, these people have decided it’s time to transition to a new lifestyle, and they’ve had someone to help them the whole way.
It’s a process, and it’s one people want to get right instead of going fore right.