Say Goodbye to a “Do Nothing” Retirement

I think it’s time we started looking at the whole idea of retirement in a different light.

There’s a general perception of the post-employment years as an opportunity to “do nothing.” But recent research conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that this may be an unhealthy way of thinking about retirement.

According to the study, retirement can increase the chances of suffering from clinical depression by around 40%, and of having at least one diagnosed physical illness by 60%.

This is due, in large part, to less exercise and decreased social activity that comes part and parcel with a “do nothing” lifestyle.

But many folks are beating the retirement blues by moving overseas to fair-weather, walkable havens where a healthy lifestyle comes naturally and passionate and engaged expat communities keep them socially active. Others still use this time to pursue their dream businesses and enjoy their life-long passions…

I recently spoke with a charming lady in Cuenca, Ecuador who is using her retirement to slow down…but has no intentions of stopping entirely. She and her husband live comfortably, budgeting just over half their Social Security per month for their living expenses and saving the rest. But she’s also using some of her free time to do a little freelance writing. Not because she needs the money, but because it’s a life-long passion of hers. She takes on enough work to keep her busy and engaged, and the extra income is a bonus.

She told me about a couple of other expats in Cuenca who are using their post-employment years to their fullest and having the time of their lives. One 85-year-old expat has had a musical renaissance and can be found weekly blowing the sax in a jazz-and-blues pick-up band at the Broken Bridge Louisiana Pub. Meanwhile, 73-year-old Cherie has opened a five-table, Mexican eatery on Solano Avenue serving up tacos, California burritos, and strawberry shortcake. She’s not going to get rich with the profits from this little bistro, but she loves managing her own restaurant and chatting with her customers.

Of course, Cuenca isn’t the only place expats are enjoying a retirement renaissance. In Cambodia‘s capital, Phnom Penh, 64-year-old Michael Wells supplements his Social Security and funds a life of five-star travel writing part-time.

“My primary income is from my monthly Social Security check, which covers the basics of my living costs,” says Michael. “But this was a way of both keeping myself busy and earning an extra income at my own pace. This means I can afford to do pretty much whatever I like when it comes to my passion of luxury traveling.”

So far, he’s visited almost every country in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma…where he stays at five-star hotels for a fraction of what they would cost in the States. And it’s all possible because his cost of living is just a fraction of the cost back home.

“The cost of living in Phnom Penh is so ridiculously cheap,” says Michael. “What I used to spend in the States in one week more than covers my expenses here for the whole month. My basic overhead to cover rent, food, and social activities is not much more than $1,500 a month.

“I love the simple things that I can afford to get done for much less here. Small things, like a visit to get my hair cut, are so much more pleasant—and a heck of a lot cheaper. My favorite place to go is the Tokyo Barber Shop, where I get my hair washed and shampooed by a lady who also gives me a free head massage, followed by a very professional haircut by one of their barbers. And all for just $5.”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are folks all over the world who are spending their retirement years enjoying lifelong passions, pursuing their dream businesses, and living life to the fullest.

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