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Twenty-five years ago, Darrell and Carol Frail had young children and a wonderful relationship. But financially, they were admittedly going through the motions of a busy life. Darrell felt consumed by work as an executive in the automobile industry, and Carol was fully immersed in raising the couple’s children. Financial goals felt like a mountain to climb.

“I didn’t and I still don’t like the B-word: budget,” Carol laughs.

The fast-paced couple was zooming through life until clarity came to them at a campsite in Texas.

“When our kids were still in grade school, we bought a pop-up trailer and went camping—and we got hooked,” Darrell remembers. “We met so many people—fascinating people. We met people who would come help you with anything; it’s almost like an extended family. That’s how we got the travel bug.”

It was then that Darrell and Carol resolved to tour America in retirement in a recreational vehicle (RV)—or, in Darrell’s words, “a big ‘ol class A motor home.”

But that dream didn’t turn into reality overnight.

“It all started with budgeting and planning,” Darrell says. “We had goals to put the kids through college and pay for their weddings—and it was time to plan for our retirement.”

"Why should I risk my retirement on something that I’m not good at? I wouldn’t have done this without a partner—I wouldn’t have had the confidence."

The couple turned to their Northwestern Mutual financial advisor, Fernando Suarez, for support and guidance.

“Even as a CFO for a big business, putting together a plan for us with annuities, insurance and investments is not my forte,” Darrell says. “Why should I risk my retirement on something that I’m not good at? I wouldn’t have done this without a partner—I wouldn’t have had the confidence.”

Working with Fernando, the couple created a comprehensive plan.

“Fernando had pictures of buckets—and helped us see that, If you invest this much, you can retire by 60 and you’ll have about this much income until you’re in your 90s,” Carol says. “I don’t think Darrell and I would’ve been able to retire without speaking to Fernando when we did.”

Equipped with a future vision and a plan to make it happen, the couple stayed focused.

“It was a bit of sacrificing,” says Carol. “A little less shopping. Our house was more modest than others had.” 

The couple was so disciplined that Darrell was able to retire even earlier than expected, at age 58. They bought their RV in 2013 and hit the road when Darrell retired in 2016.

“You almost have to pinch yourself sometimes,” Carol says. “It took a lot of honest heart-to-heart talks between a husband and a wife and an advisor to bring it all together. But we did, and it made all the difference.”

The happy couple is loving life in retirement. They’ve joined a camping club and take several trips across America each year. So far, the Frails have ventured across the west to such destinations as Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Tetons. This year they have plans to see Mackinac Island, Mich.; New Orleans; Destin, Fla; and even make a stop in Indiana to see where their RV was manufactured.

“We want to see every nook and cranny in America,” Darrell says.

This article contains profiles of certain Northwestern Mutual clients, their personal financial needs and how Northwestern Mutual met their needs. The personal financial needs and results of the clients shown may not be representative of the experience of other clients.   Also, working with a Northwestern Mutual financial representative or any other financial services provider is not a guarantee as to future investment success.

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