In 1860, life expectancy was age 40. Now, it is 80 and projected to be 85 by 2050. There is also an exponentially growing number of us living to age 100. This dramatic lengthening of our lifetime is a beautiful gift. In midlife and retirement, what we experience today differs greatly from what our parents and grandparents experienced. We are living longer so we have more time. There isn’t a clearly defined set of rules, expectations, or responsibilities. Life has changed, but we lack a roadmap of possibilities and are on our own to try to navigate our future.
Retiring used to mean you no longer had to go to work. Today many who are ‘retired’ are still working either by necessity or by choice. Retirement is being completely redefined. It is not the beginning of the end, or simply a continuation of the life we had before. While there may be a short period of rest and relaxation, most people want more. In fact, today’s retirees see retirement as a new chapter in life, their next adventure. Retirees do gain some freedom from work stress, commuting and office drama. The pressures of working and raising a family have passed, but other stressors can appear or remain, particularly financial worry.
Overcoming Negative Stereotypes
Stereotypes of what this stage of life is like are inaccurate and not helpful. Studies published by AARP show negative portrayal of adults 50+ is much more common than negative portrayal of younger adults. While this demographic comprises 51% of consumer buying power and 45% of the population, they’re severely underrepresented on both the big screen and on TV. Instead of depicting older adults as positive and happy, retirees are often stereotyped as out of touch, technologically incompetent and dependent. These stereotypical messages make it more difficult for us to imagine the inspired possibilities for the next chapter of life.
The truth is ageism abounds in the United States’ culture, which values youth. There’s an obvious bias against older people, and some have called it the last socially acceptable prejudice. At what specific age do we become “old” anyway? Middle age (which was “old” in the last century) can be a very difficult period to navigate. “Middlessence” is a four-decade-long period of time, and we haven’t been given the tools or the training necessary to navigate the frequent life transitions we experience during this period of our life.
None of us receive a manual to guide us through this challenging period, nor is there any sort of rite of passage initiation. We’re on our own to keep learning and growing so that we may thrive in these times of constant and rapid change. We don’t want to just live longer, we want to live longer as a healthier, happier member of society with the freedom to make our own choices and chart a course toward our desired future. It is empowering to live in a culture that values and respects its elders, which is typical outside the U.S.
Research shows that older people with a positive mindset on aging, who feel worthy, happy and hopeful as they get older, lived 7.5 years longer than those with a negative perspective about aging. One of the intangible benefits of living overseas I have heard repeatedly from my podcast guests is feeling young and alive. That wonderful feeling of being vibrant and youthful is one reason we moved to Mexico. Before that, we lived in a much older community in Florida, where we found vibrancy lacking. It wasn’t a good fit for us.
Being in a totally new and foreign environment is an exciting adventure. Recall the feeling of going to your first state fair or your first exotic vacation or some other life experience that left a big impression on you. Recall the sense of wonder, the sense of joy of exploring new places, having experiences you never had before. Remember the sense of adventure, new discoveries, the wonder of it all, and imagine feeling that again, feeling young and totally alive once again. What is that worth?
Geoarbitrage: Increase Your Quality of Life and Decrease Living Costs
According to The Federal Reserve, among households aged 45-54, a staggering 42% have no retirement savings and the median retirement savings is less than $100,000. Geoarbitrage is a brilliant financial strategy. It simply means saving money by moving to a lower cost area while maintaining the same level of income. Not only can it reduce your living costs and increase your quality of life, it is a very smart long-term financial strategy. Housing costs eat up the lion’s share of income for most middle-class earners. If you can reduce housing expenses by 50% or more that has a profound economic impact.
Perhaps no other financial strategy can reduce your living expenses by 50% as effectively as retiring abroad. Doing so means it is unnecessary for you to sacrifice a great quality life now in order to (hopefully) have a bright economic future someday. Such a strategy can provide you with the opportunity to travel the world, live in beautiful places and dine out frequently. You can enjoy personal services such as massages, housekeeping and many others at a fraction of U.S. prices.
About the Author
Dawn Fleming has literally been there and done that, and is now living her very best life. With her husband Tom, she owns and operates Overseas Life Redesign, a global coaching and consulting company that encourages others to discover their dreams and turn them into reality just like she did. Her podcast shares success stories of international retirement as well as advice for listeners seeking to leave their comfort zone and experience life abroad. Her new book, Claim Your Dream Life: How to Retire in Paradise on a Shoestring Budget, comes out March 29.