Why are big numbers of Americans pushing back their planned retirement dates? The Employee Benefit Research Institute in its annual Retirement Confidence Survey says the reason can be summed up in three words: "a poor economy."
More specifically, according to the study, Americans are changing their retirement age for the following reasons:
Poor economy, 25%
Can't afford it, 18%
Change in employment situation, 17%
Health care costs, 12%
Higher-than-expected cost of living, 9%
Lack of faith in Social Security or the government, 9%
The unpleasant reality of today's America is that Americans trying to get ahead by working face daunting odds... and long working lives.
But you don't have to -- not if you allow yourself to think outside the box. I know that sounds cavalier and maybe cliché. But a cliché can be useful until something better comes along, and in this case what's called for is literally lifting yourself out of your current box and motivating yourself to transplant yourself to a new one.
Maybe I'm stretching the metaphor, but you see what I'm getting at. What I'm saying is this: get up, get going, and get out of the country, at least part of the time, at least for a while.
Changing your geography will allow you a fresh look at the world. Once you've engineered this change in perspective, all kinds of new ideas and opportunities will occur to you. Maybe you think you can't afford to retire overseas. My point is that, increasingly, Americans don't think they can afford to retire in America either. I'd argue that, unfortunately, that may be increasingly true. A typical retiree has a long and maybe difficult retirement road ahead of him in the United States. However, a retiree with even a smaller-than-typical retirement nest egg will find that his retirement prospects abroad are far brighter, maybe reinvented entirely. Overseas, retirement worries become retirement adventures.
In a new environment overseas, you can figure out how to make a buck if you need to. I recently met a young American expat in Chiang Mai who formed a small company to create apps for tablets. In Boquete, Panama, last time I was there, I met expat Americans who worked selling houses to other expat Americans. In France I know an expat who writes books for a living. In Mexico I know an expat who makes pottery and exports his production to the U.S.. In Thailand I know an expat who makes wooden furniture and exports his production to the U.S..
And I know dozens of people making money through online businesses in places all around the world. This is the era of the laptop enterprise.
Slugging it out in a median American job puts you further and further behind on your road to retirement. Figure a way to get yourself overseas and get on with your life from there.
Ecuador may be one of the most inexpensive places to live for retirees on a budget. Not only is the cost of living extremely cheap, according to Fortune magazine, but the South American country also uses the U.S. dollar. One couple interviewed by International Living lived on $600 a month, spending as little as $1.25 per month on gas and $1.70 per month on water. (Image via Flickr, Carly Lyddiard) Correction: A previous version of this slide said that Ecuador was in Central America.
Easy accessibility and excellent health care are two major draws for retirees settling in Panama. According to U.S. News & World Report, the cost of living is not the cheapest -- especially in Panama City -- but the great retirement benefits, travel and entertainment discounts and country-wide use of U.S. currency make up for the extra expenses. (Image via Flickr, Francesco Veronesi)
Since 1985, 25,000 foreign retirees have settled in the Philippines, Global Post reports. Taxes are minimal, so living is very comfortable on a pension of $3,000 per month. Post 50s may have to share the beach with younger folks since the minimum age for ex-pat retirees is 35.. (Image via Flickr, SToto98)
For a tropical climate where English is the official language, retirees should look no further than Belize. The coastal country offers no tax on foreign retirement income and minimal sales and property taxes, according to U.S. News & World Report. (Image via Flickr, Ian Morton)
Some cities in France may be a bit out of the price range of the average retiree -- looking at you, Paris -- but the monthly expenses of other towns in the southwest are more affordable, notes the AARP. For Francophiles looking to settle in France, the history, culture, wine and food are among the biggest enticements. (Photo credit: AP)
With consistently perfect weather and beautiful beaches, Bali joins dozens of other beachfront locations that make for great retirement living. According to The Wall Street Journal, retirees can settle down on the Indonesian island for about $1,000 a month (not including housing), as long as they don't mind trading in a front door for a open entryway -- as is custom in Bali. However, medical care is not the best. (Photo credit: Getty)
With no taxes on foreign retirement income -- according to U.S. News & World Report -- Costa Rica may be one of the ideal places to retire. Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, the cost-friendly country boasts stunning beaches and rain forests. HuffPost bloggers Jeff Jones and Gay Haubner wrote about their experience finding a house in Costa Rica. (Image via Flickr, Dottie Day)
No list of places to retire abroad could be complete without Italy, where Diane Lane's character traveled to in the 2003 film "Under the Tuscan Sun." Settling in Rome is not the most feasible option, but like France, there are several Italian cities that offer a comfortable life of leisure, full of delicious Italian food and wineries, on a budget, AARP reports. (Image via Flickr, Russell Yarwood)
Certain cities in Mexico are not the safest, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border, but there are still parts of the southern country that are increasingly popular with retirees. Campeche, located near Belize, boasts beautiful waterfront properties on the Gulf of Mexico and a low cost of living. A week's worth of market fruit and vegetables cost less than $10, according to International Living. (Photo credit: Flickr/Malias)
While taxes are a bit higher in Argentina than other South American locales according to U.S. News & World Report, the large country offers a wide range of places to settle -- from major tourism hubs to smaller, inexpensive villages. However, retirees should plan on spending a little more on monthly expenses, because of the rising cost of living and devaluation of the U.S. dollar, U.S. News & World Report writes. (Image via Flickr, Luis Fernandez)