“I used to dream about all the places I would go as soon as I was old enough to get away,” says blogger Stacy Monday. “But then … life happened.” After a career as a paralegal and mediator, Monday (who’s just a kid of 50) decided to join the ranks of roving retirees, selling everything and setting off around the world.
I love this trend. People who are supposed to be staying home, minding the grandkids, playing bridge, and complaining about their taxes and their teeth are now saying, “To hell with all that. I’m going out and having adventures!” There are 360,000 Americans collecting Social Security benefits abroad, up 48% from ten years ago. More than half of all Britons, Irish, and Germans would prefer to live in foreign countries when they start collecting their pensions.
Not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of retirement. A friend told me recently, “I can’t stand the thought of not making money any more.” She’s had a phenomenally successful career and is struggling to re-envision a life that isn’t validated by hefty paychecks. Post-career transitions can be tricky for anyone, and more and more people are easing into retirement by traveling and living abroad. It gives you something to look forward to, and – not to sound too shallow, but let’s be honest here – to post about on Facebook and other social media.
A few generations ago, no one worried much about retirement because it was considerably shorter. Now, if you live in a developed country and stop working at, say, the age of 60, chances are you’ll be planning for 23 years of retirement living. Some of my post-career friends are so exhausted they just want to put their feet up; as one often boasts, “I have six Saturdays and a Sunday every week!” Others, like Monday, are looking over the adventures remaining on their to-do list. If you’re still compiling ideas, check out online bucket lists. Mud fights, bungee jumping, and covering a car with Post-it notes aren’t high on my agenda, but I am willing to consider eating a fried Snickers bar and drinking vodka in Russia.
If you’re still contemplating where and how to spend what the Spanish call “the Third Age,” you’ll want more than a bucket list; you’ll want facts and figures.
1. Where’s the best place to retire? Personally, I favor Seville, for the lifestyle, warm weather, cost, and general zaniness. But that’s me. Google lists 6,690,000 sites offering their opinion; you might start with the Telegraph, International Living, and US News & World Report. Be sure to check out such practicalities as cost of living, tax implications, and medical care. (Americans take note: Medicare doesn’t cover you in other countries.)
2. How complicated is it to move overseas? It’s not that different from other moves – which means it’s nightmarish at times, but something that you can accomplish with a little imagination, and a lot of effort and paperwork. Check out such websites as British Expats and Future Expats Forum, and my expat guide 101 Ways to Enjoy Living Abroad.
3. What about roaming the world? In an earlier post I wrote about young friends who are digital nomads, constantly traveling the globe while working at online jobs. Nowadays, people of all ages are becoming vagabonds; as a recent New York Times article put it, “Increasingly, Retirees Dump Their Possessions and Hit the Road.” The new, older nomads are building interesting lives, each with a unique mix of work, play, and volunteering.
4. Where can I find out about volunteer opportunities? Many organizations, such as Projects Abroad and Transitions Abroad welcome older volunteers, although you’ll likely be asked to pay handsomely for the privilege of organic farming, working in an equine therapy program, or helping out on an archeology dig. It’s good fun if you can afford it.
I’ve always disliked the word “retire,” which to me implies you’re taking yourself out of the game. I prefer the Spanish word “jubilado,” which sounds jubilant, like you’ve got something to celebrate. And with so many years and options available, you do.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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