It's March, and that means it's time for... the Employee Benefit Research Institute's annual Retirement Confidence Survey.
Now, we've lived abroad for 12 years, and we're used to seeing retirees throughout Latin America and the rest of the world who are excited about life and looking forward to new adventures.
However, according to this year's Retirement Confidence Survey, the percentage of Americans who believe they're likely to have a comfortable retirement is apparently at a record low. In fact, in many ways it seems workers are in worse shape than at any other time in the survey's 23-year history.
The stock market is up. The economy is on the rebound. And yet more people than ever in the U.S. are afraid that they've been shut out of a decent and dignified lifestyle in their golden years.
Money. In the final analysis, it boils down to money. You either have enough or you don't, and fewer people than ever before in the U.S. think they'll have enough to be comfortable when they retire.
That's usually when we say, "We know how you can live better than you're living right now on half as much money."
It's really very simple. All you have to do is what those retirees we mentioned throughout Latin America and elsewhere in the world are doing.
They're living where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is higher than in the U.S. In some cases, because of where they're living, the money they have goes twice as far as it would back in the States.
In essence, they double their money by living in the right place.
Does it sound like sacrilege for proud and happy American citizens like us to say that there are places in the world where the cost of living is lower than in the U.S.? Of course not... most people know there are places in the world where the costs of utilities, property taxes, medical care and fresh food are significantly lower than in the States.
Is it sacrilege then for us to say that there are places in the world where the quality of life is better than in the U.S.?
Depends on what you mean by "quality of life"... if you mean the ability to get anything you want, anytime you want, delivered anywhere you want with just a phone call or the push of a button, then the U.S. may very well offer the best quality of life on the planet. There is no more convenient place on earth if all you want is stuff.
But if by "quality of life" you mean a place where the pace of life is unhurried, people value family and community over work and consumerism, the food you eat came directly from a nearby farm or ocean, doctors still make house calls and give out their home phone numbers, and there is no need at all, at any time of year, for snow blowers, overcoats, furnaces, space heaters, long johns, studded tires... or even cars... then there are places in the world with a much better quality of life than the States.
We've lived in such places for the past 12 years, and as much as we love the U.S., we plan to keep doing so.
And over the past 12 years, we've begun to wonder why more people don't take advantage of this simple idea... that living abroad in the right place can save you money and improve your lifestyle at the same time.
It's something we're sure those folks from the Retirement Confidence Survey haven't heard about, or they'd have more confidence.
In Nicaragua, a couple can live well on $995 a month. And InternationalLiving.com Editors Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher say that Nicaragua's lower cost of living does not mean you have to sacrifice the quality of life you are used to in the US or Canada. Spend a bit more, they say, and because prices are so economical, you'll even be able to afford luxuries like household help.
In Malaysia, a couple can easily live on just over $1,000 a month and a budget of $2,000 a month will have you living in relative luxury.
InternationalLiving.com Editors, Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher live in Ecuador and they say that it's easy and affordable to retire there for less than $18,000 per year.
Panama is much more developed than most visitors expect, with all the services and amenities you might wish for. And you can live comfortably there for $1,865 a month.
You can live well in Mexico for $2,129 a month with many of the comforts you're used to in US and Canada.