For the second year in a row, American retirees won’t see a cost-of-living increase in their Social Security benefits.
As a snapshot indicator of the state of the U.S. economy, this is not a good thing.
Just how bad is it? This is the first time in three-and-a-half decades that the U.S. has gone two consecutive years without a Social Security cost-of-living raise. In other words, the government has no faith the economy will rebound in the coming year.
While my husband and I are more than a few years shy of being eligible to collect Social Security retirement benefits, this latest news doesn’t make us happy—mostly because of the effect it has on friends of ours who do depend on it.
It does, though, reinforce the fact that we made the right decision when—in mid-life and at the height of our earning potential—we decided to turn our lives upside down and move overseas.
We had a modest amount of savings. But even more, we had a desire to do something fun and exciting. We didn’t want to eventually arrive at the end of the road with any regrets.
We were new subscribers to International Living. We’d read the electronic postcards, poured over the magazine articles, special reports and more. The message just made sense: you can live a better life for less money overseas.
So we sold our house, cars, and furniture, and moved to Ecuador. We did, indeed, find life to be far less expensive there. And the fun and adventure was well worth anything we may have given up.
In fact, after a decade living in Latin America, we no longer see much difference between the “First World” and what is perceived as the “Third World.” Modern supermarkets, high-tech malls, high-speed Internet, complete cell phone coverage, and excellent doctors and healthcare facilities…we have all that in Latin America, of course.
In those early yeas of living overseas, we did what International Living has always recommended: we rented ($600/month for a four-bedroom/two-bath house in Quito with a garden and separate guest casita.) Only after we were really sure that we were cut out for the expat lifestyle did we buy our first overseas property.
Today we have a home in Merida, Mexico and a condo in Cotacachi, Ecuador. We pay about $140 for our annual property taxes in Mexico and less than $30 in Ecuador. We have a comprehensive private health insurance plan that costs us one-fourth what a similar policy back home would cost. Our homeowner’s association fees in Ecuador are less than $100/month. We spend $5 at the local farmer’s market each weekend for produce to last a week or more.
Because our daily living costs are so low, we can afford to splurge on someone to clean our house—$20 for our larger home in Mexico and $10 for our small condo in Ecuador. These are good, fair wages.
So, can you, like International Living says, live a good life on your Social Security income when you live overseas? Yes. We know people who are doing it. And while no one is happy about the latest turn of events…and I’m not at all sure Social Security will still be around when I turn 62…frankly we’re not worried.
Our retirement strategy has always been to do just what we’re doing now. Live better for less overseas. Now that’s security!
Editor’s note: It’s true—six months from now, you could be living in paradise…for way less than it costs you to stay at home. That what the Ultimate Event 2011 was designed to help you do. Get full details of next year’s event (Feb. 15-19) here.