I don’t feel old. Nevertheless, if I was in States I’d probably start receiving mailers from AARP as of next year (I’m in my mid 50s). Thanks to training in powerlifting for the past 8 years I’m a fair bit stronger now than I was in my 20s or 30s. I’m not a senior citizen nor will I be one in the near future. I am, however, smack in the demographic that should be in the “end game” part of retirement planning.
The impact of technology on the work/life balance of modern corporate workers has been dramatic – and Covid-19 has accelerated the process. There is effectively no barrier from you and your work – and no real or tacit “down time” is allowable. Corporations obviously know that short term gains will be followed my mid-term burnouts and therefore pay a lot of lip-service to “disconnecting” and “wellness” but this belies their real productivity expectations. For most corporate workers, the only realistic way to meet current expectations is to work long hours and on weekends.
For all of my career, including the present, I’ve always worked hard and never been hesitant to put in what ever hours are needed. Recently, however, I reached the “wall” to use a runner’s term. I cannot literally sustain or “increase” my current pace of work for another 10 or 11 years (if I was to program a traditional North American retirement age). I’m literally living to work, with some short “family time” and powerlifting training (becoming harder to fit in as we work later and later) breaks thrown in. Real vacations, where one could actually stop working, have become rare indeed.
I’ve reached an age where many people I knew growing up are passing away on a more regular basis. Some of them were adults when I was young, but a number of them have been my age or younger. Given that I started working full-time at age 18, by my calculations I’ve worked approximately 35 years so far. This, of course, forces one to ask that existential question – what is the purpose of life? I know the answer isn’t “work to live”.
My current situation:
- Senior Manager in corporate setting. Reducing hours or taking a more junior position is not possible.
- In the country where I live, I’m at the age where employers start to find ways to “off-load” older employees quietly, so chances are I wouldn’t make till 65 even if I wanted to.
- It goes without saying that employers here do not hire older people for the same reasons above (higher “social” costs than younger staff) so an “end of career” change is not likely.
- I’ve two children – 1 in university and 1 in high school
Therefore my current goal is stay employed until my youngest is has finished his bachelor’s degree. The country I have lived in for the past 23 years is a great place, I owe it almost everything. One thing it is not, however, is cheap to live in. Therefore, I’ve actively started looking for a country suitable for retirement. My criteria are the following:
- Reasonable cost of living (this includes real estate cost as well as reoccurring expenses). The goal is to be able to live comfortably on a retirement income.
- A decent infrastructure, political stability and in an area that will be hit less by global warming in the next 20 years (i.e. no beach front property in 3rd world nations).
- Language – it should be one that I already speak fluently or speak to some degree. Croatia is flat out great, but realistically I’ll never probably speak the language beyond a rudimentary level. Ditto Thailand. I know a lot of English-speaking expats don’t mind living in countries where they don’t speak the language, but that would quite frankly bother me.
- Culture/Cuisine – Very important…is it a country that, as my kids would say, I “vibe” with?
The countries on my shortlist:
- France: this checks all the boxes (provided you avoid the more expensive parts) , I know it very well and it’s the language if I feel most at home in after English.
- Spain: Even cheaper than France, love the cuisine and culture. Very cheap real estate and living costs (save utilities). My Spanish is both rusty and Latin American influenced, so there’d be a learning curve, but it’s almost a plus. I’d look forward to improving my Spanish.
- Portugal – As above, only my Portuguese in non-existent. Harder to learn than Spanish by all accounts. Still, it’s such a cool place I’d consider it provided I spent the first year in intensive Portuguese classes.
- Mexico: I know what you’re thinking, Mexico is corrupt and has almost entirely taken over by the Cartels. Vast swathes of the country are flat out dangerous. Still, there are still pockets (Merida, San Miguel de Allende, etc.) that check the boxes above and remain relatively safe. For how long, though?
- Italy: This should tick all of the boxes above and I feel that Italian would be easier to learn than Portuguese. Amazing country, but I’m not sure I want to live there. However, given the right reasons, I would consider it.
I am currently planning trips to Spain, Portugal and France as soon as travel restrictions are relaxed a bit. My first order of business if to find a house in good shape that I can buy cash and use a vacation rental to help cover expenses until I retire. Realistically, this phase might take a least a year. I don’t anticipate “jumping on a property” right away unless it absolutely meets all my criteria.
I guess it’s interesting that retiring to my “country of origin” is not even on the radar. I don’t really have a compelling reason to go there. It’s not particularly cheap unless I want to live in some areas 100s or thousands of miles away from the remaining family and friends I have there…there are a lot of great things about it, sure, but there are a lot downsides too – that are obvious to those of us living outside the country, but less apparent to some living in the country. I wasn’t born there nor have I spent most of my life there. If I had to go, so be it, it’s just not my first choice.
I think my situation is only unique in that it’s unusual even now for Americans or Canadians to expatriate or immigrate and even more so for retirees. Most of the rest of world’s population, this option has always been on the table (if people were given half a chance). Even now, as I visit Canada and the US and I explain that I live in Europe, I’m often asked “why??” by truly surprised or puzzled people. I feel this is shifting and will continue to shift as we’ve seen a lot of recent US or Canadians immigrants going back to countries like China, India, Nigeria, Ghana and Mexico as opportunities in those countries grow and as the trade-offs of living the American or Canadian dream become less worthwhile on the whole.
Question to you my readers: What country would you consider retiring to and why? Please put your answer in the comment section below.