If you look up the definition of ‘retirement’ in a dictionary for clarification purposes you’ll see that it has at least 5 different meanings:
1. The act of retiring.
2. The state of being retired.
3. Withdrawal from one’s occupation, business, or office.
4. Withdrawal into privacy or seclusion.
5. A place of privacy or seclusion; a retreat.
However, for most people retirement means just one thing – hitting 65 and quitting work, putting your feet up and waiting to die! In other words, retirement is not seen as a positive opportunity, rather an enforced and inevitable life stage. Well, we’re here today to happily demonstrate the fact that far from being a negative aspect that you will one day unavoidably encounter, retirement can be an opportunity for a new way of life at any stage in your life.
Why should you wait until you’re 65 to have the life you really long for?
Why should you wait until you’ve worked your butt off to find peace, fulfillment and happiness?
Why do you have to ‘retire’ where you’ve lived your whole life?
Why can’t retirement be redefined in our minds so that it becomes a chance to change our lives, retire from the everyday mundane that we’re used to, branch out, find a retreat and do something wholly different?
The good news is that according to three Escape from America Magazine subscribers to whom we’ve spoken, retirement can be redefined. It can be an opportunity taken at any stage of life – and the ultimate goal of a redefined retirement is finding, establishing and living a brand new life – i.e., the life you’ve always longed for.
As our case studies demonstrate, you can retire from your old life whenever you want to, you don’t have to wait until you’re 65 or even 70 to do so. What’s more, as stated, retirement is an opportunity – an opportunity to change your life completely for the better: and as we will show, you don’t need to be retiring with millions in your bank account to ensure you have the opportunities you’ve always dreamed of.
If you’re stuck in a rut, fed up of your life, frustrated by the limitations you seem to have to accept and you’re convinced that there has to be another way – a better way – we’re here to show you, with real life examples, that there is indeed a better way.
Let’s start with Tony Gray, he was formerly employed as a refuse collection technician (i.e., a garbage collector!) in the UK until he decided to make the most of the housing boom in Britain that finally burst a couple of years ago. Using the money he’d leveraged from his British property he took the equity he had accrued and moved abroad to live in France with his wife in January 2006.
“I was 50 years old when I decided that I’d really had enough of my job and way of life. We lived in a town where crime was on the increase and the standard of living we could afford was just average. There was no way I wanted to spend the rest of my life getting up before dawn and sorting other people’s rubbish. We were lucky because we’d bought our house 24 years previously and had almost paid the loan off, so when we sold up we took almost all of the money in the house. But that was it, there was no other money, so it wasn’t a case of being able to move to France and not work.
“Neither my wife nor I spoke French – I still barely speak the language although my wife has really got a good handle on it now! So working locally wasn’t going to be an option for me, I knew that – but I didn’t care. I saw the opportunity to get out of my old life and I just took it. I think if you want something enough, you will get it because you’ll be so single-minded that nothing will stand in your way.
“We bought a house to move into and really I think we’d have been better off if we’d rented in France first because then we might have avoided a lot of the issues we have had with our house. It needed a lot of work doing on it and I just assumed that we’d be able to renovate it with no problems. The truth was it took a lot of arguing with the local authorities to get the permissions we needed to turn our house into a home. We battled through it and now we really have got the home of our dreams…but it ate into our savings a lot!
“I fully retired for about 6 months after moving to France – and I thoroughly recommend it! I had a 6 month sabbatical from having to worry about work – but then I actually began to get bored. My wife was working part time as a housekeeper for another British couple whose second home is in France, I was overseeing the building work and fighting the bureaucracy on our house but I was basically bored.
“In the village where we live there’s a bit of an expatriate enclave, mostly Brits, and one of the people I’d become friendly with was much younger than me and I knew for a fact that he never went out to work! I was curious about how he made his income, and he told me he day traded and earned all he needed to live what was clearly a very comfortable life, 100% tax-free. Naturally I was very keen to learn more – I became a pupil of his really, I spent a good year honing my skills, lost a bit but overall I gained 9% in just 12 months – far better than any rate of interest I could get on my money in a bank.
“I now spend my days trading – and a reliable Internet connection is the one thing I couldn’t live without. I think I’m successful at what I do because I’m not under any pressure to have to trade. Very recently I was as confused as the next man about what the markets might do with a hung parliament in the UK, a major oil leak in America and austerity looming in the eurozone…but I make enough money from my deposits annually to be able to stay out of the water when it’s really choppy.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a massive risk taker – and I left school at 16 so it’s not that I’m particularly clever when it comes to money and numbers – so I would definitely say that day trading is a very genuine chance for anyone to retire from their life and move somewhere where they’d love to live and earn a decent income from playing the markets. I’m very structured in terms of my day and the limits and risks I’ll work with, I’m also not greedy and I know when to get out and even count my losses occasionally. Overall I am averaging a very health return a year – and that, together with the money my wife brings in allows us to live in our now perfect home in the country we love and only work for on average about 4 hours a day.”
If you feel that 50 is far too close to a conventional retirement age for you and you’re seeking inspiration from someone who retired practically before they began working, Jane Peters’ story should inspire you. At the age of 26, having graduated college and worked as an investment adviser for a few years, Jane really longed to see more of the world.
“Most of my friends traveled and got the ‘itch’ out of their systems before college or straight afterwards, but I was in so much debt that I got on a graduate recruitment program straight away, qualified as an investment adviser and got stuck in to work. At the time a lot of my friends actually envied my financial independence and I’d say I certainly matured far faster than a lot of them – but by the time I was 26 I suddenly felt really middle aged! In fact I think I had a really early midlife crisis!
“My long-term boyfriend and I broke up badly which left me as a single mom to my little girl, and the realization that I was solely responsible – financially and emotionally I suppose – for my daughter made me determined to make some changes. I wanted to see more of the world, and I wanted to give my daughter opportunities that I’d never had. So instead of buckling down and working on my career like the ‘old’ me would have done, I packed up and moved to Australia!
“It was meant to be a temporary ‘thing,’ and I certainly planned to be back in the States before my daughter started school, but 8 years on and I’m still living in Australia, I’m married to a local man and I have never really looked back. My husband and I have a gallery, he’s the artist and I’m the business brains! We started the business with a bank loan and today we’re completely self-sufficient in terms of financial independence – and we also showcase works of other artists from all across Australia. I think my financial background has really helped us to keep a handle on the money side of things; and the independence my new life gives me is huge and so fulfilling.
“I do miss my family – although we take it in turns to visit once a year for a long vacation – but I have no other regrets. I don’t even wish I’d made the move earlier because then I wouldn’t have my daughter with me. I would say that anyone who wants to retire from their current life has certainly got the seeds planted to enable them to find a better life already. You just need some determination to make the necessary changes, and some tenacity to get you through the transition period as you move from being a stranger in a strange land to being an expatriate at home abroad!”
Our final inspiring story comes from Dan Kuemmer, a German national who retired to South America looking for a quiet life and who has accidentally built up a very successful building maintenance company after tapping into local need.
“I decided to retire from my old life after a health scare woke me up to the fact that I had sacrificed my health for my business. Yes I was successful, yes my family and I enjoyed a good life, but it was not worth it for the stress I was under, with my doctors bluntly telling me that I needed to make significant changes to my lifestyle or I would not live to see my children graduate school.
“My wife is from South America – and I think the shock of what the doctors told me had her taking charge and almost before I knew it I had signed up to complete retirement back in her old home country in the arms of her extended family! We certainly had the money to make a very comfortable life there because I sold my share in my business to my partner – and my children were already trilingual in German, Spanish and English so I was not worried for their education. We also knew the area we moved to very well, as we holidayed there twice a year with my wife’s family.
“My Spanish improved massively after we moved because I had little to do all day but sit around with my ‘new’ extended family and ‘shoot the breeze!’ I also met up with other foreign citizens from mainly British, American and German backgrounds who had made homes from themselves in this stunning part of the world. I am a very practical man, I built my former company in Germany from the ground up with my own skills – and so it was very hard for me to sit back and not be active in my new life.
“Within months of making the move and seeing my family settle and thrive I began the renovation of our home. My wife could not understand what I was doing as the property itself was structurally well constructed – but I found the electrical installation, the plumbing and even the finishings to be well below my own personal standards! I feel my wife humored me – but soon my friends and even my wife’s family were asking me to help them improve their living conditions.
“Local standards for this kind of work were basic – functional and safe of course, but not of a standard that many of my friends liked. So, I undertook a lot of work myself but realized that really I would be better off training others to work to my standards. I now employ 8 full time local staff – 3 of whom specialize in plumbing, 3 in electrical installations, 1 who is an excellent carpenter and craftsman, and I have a woman who manages my business and accounts.
“I like to say that the business created itself from demand…I just helped it along a little! And whilst my family and I were fortunate to have the chance to retire well from our old life, the new business has given me a new lease of life and it has further raised our standard of living. It has also enabled me to really become a part of the local community and give back in the form of employment and training. I feel that for any foreigner to become part of a new nation’s landscape they have to get actively and directly involved – otherwise what is the point.”
Perhaps the one common thread that you can read into each of our case studies’ stories is that there was a strong desire to make changes to their current life, and that this more than anything drove them to ‘retire’ and begin a whole new chapter abroad. So if you too feel that the time is right for significant changes to be exacted in your life, know that you do not have to wait until you’re 65 and drawing your pension to retire from the life you currently lead. Get out there and redefine retirement on your own terms! What’s stopping you?
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.