Retiring Cheaply – just how important is cheap?

Retire Cheaply

There’s always a trade-off when you focus only on price. Maybe what you want more than cheap is the feeling of not having to worry about money and the opportunity of finding new things to stimulate you.

If you’ve considering making a move to a totally different country and culture, then you’re probably bored or fed up with some aspect of our culture. You’re looking for change, and hoping to be surprised. Surprised you will be, and not always delightfully. But it will be a learning experience of the first order, and those aren’t always guaranteed to be pleasant.

Patience and acceptance will get you far.

There are different components to feeling well-off enough to not worry about money. For example, it’s far easier to control your spending than it is to earn more money. You can bankrupt yourself with foolish spending or bad investments even in Southeast Asia or the Andes, two regions where most prices are a fifth of what they are in the States.

My advice: give up on the idea of real-estate investments, land speculation, or starting a profitable business. Start a business if you must in order to have something to do, but simply assume that if you do most things right, you’ll break even. Think of yourself as retired. Your level of income will not rise again. This is it. Learn to live within your means and you’ll never worry about money again.

This will, of course, be much easier in a place with a cost of living that is a fraction of what it is where you came from.

A place that is five times cheaper might not be more fun to relocate to than a place three times cheaper. That’s up to you. More important that the actual cost of living will be the health and happiness of the community in which you choose to live.

The poorer the country, the more likely they are to put heavy import duties on technology. So don’t expect to pay what you would in the states for a new laptop. You’ll have to pick one up on your next trip back to the States, if there ever is one.

That brings us to the next item:

There may not be another trip “home.” This may be it. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

An awful lot of people make an abortive attempt to retire somewhere, buy a new house on the coast for a fraction of what they would have paid in Florida or California, and then get tired of it six months later. I mean, how much enjoyment can you really get from a stunning view? How many of your friends are really going to come visit? So there are many lightly-used vacation properties in gated communities in third-world countries that are on the market again. A building and a view do not constitute a life.

No matter where you end up, you’ll need to find something to do or you’ll drink yourself to death, or start an affair with the neighbor’s spouse. Neither approach will end well.

Even if you do figure out what you want to do with yourself most of the time, you’ll still have to transition from one task to the next, and during that down time, you’re bound to notice that most folks all around you are simply struggling to make do. It will make you feel separate from them. This gulf will exacerbate any feelings of loneliness you’re already experiencing. Seeing all your neighbors bent over in a rice paddy or hacking away at plants with a machete doesn’t enhance your fragile sense of belonging.

In the time you have left on this planet, you can’t possibly change their economic condition. You can’t fix it, or make it all better. You’ll just have to figure out where and how you can fit in to the prevailing structure. Surely your presence here is a help to at least some of your neighbors. You’re a customer for many of their services. Your very presence is bringing income to their community.

People are highly capable of change, and the neighbors can adapt to you the same way you’re attempting to adapt to your new community. They’ll accept and value you for who you are, if you do the same for them.


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