Aging With Freedom® Book Club interview with author Travis Luther
More and more American baby boomers conclude Mexico is the retirement side of the wall. (And many Canadians too.) Brainstorming suggests some good potential explanations. Looking to double your income in retirement? Considering downsizing and a new community? Want to escape colder climes for a tropical paradise? Looking for the purpose and adventure that you either miss from work life or that eluded you in a career? Tired of the work-a-day grind and stereotypes of consumerism? Long for a collegial supportive clique? Retirement in Mexico might be for you. But which, if any of these, is the real reason many boomers are deciding Mexico is the retirement side of the wall?
We know someone who surveyed American boomers retired in Mexico to find out why. How are they different from their stay-at-home peers? Why choose Mexico for retirement? For insight, Aging With Freedom® interviewed author Travis Luther and read his book. Luther’s book is The Fun Side of the Wall, Baby Boomer Retirement in Mexico.
Hypothesis: Poor Americans forced to retire in a poor country.
Travis shared his initial expectations. His hypothesis? Poor Americans move to poor Mexico to save money in retirement. What he found through research is far more interesting and complex. It includes extensive organic American ex-pat communities. These communities offer Americans a lifestyle of choice, not necessity. The Americans he found weren’t poor, on average. And the Mexico he discovered isn’t poor either. The Mexican communities these ex-pats live in are modern. Bottom line? These American boomers sought out a Mexico retirement for more than the savings.
The whys and wherefores are the rest of the story.
Wealthier than the average bear
(Use your Yogi Bear voice for the headline.) Surprise! The Mexico retirees, compared to their boomer peers that retire in the United States:
- are more educated,
- wealthier, and
- retire five-years earlier.
So if they’re wealthier, lack of money isn’t the primary motivator to move to Mexico. The other two bullets suggest another answer. Maybe planning how to use that wealth is the answer. Make it last longer. Empower an earlier retirement from the rat race.
The Frugal Wealthy Buying Time and Longevity
The lower-cost of living still matters. Mexico is the retirement side of the wall because wealth lasts longer. Everything from housing to food to healthcare is half the cost or better. The dollar stretches further in Mexico. It’s like doubling your income in retirement. But, wealth and frugality are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are complementary.
That’s confirmed by the data on American boomer ex-pat retirees in Mexico.
The lower cost-of-living empowers early retirement and appeals to planners stretching their wealth. The frugal wealthy. But they stay for something more. Including adventure and a sense of community. Luther’s Fun Side of the Wall explains why. Why Mexico is the retirement side of the wall for these American early retirees.
Aging With Freedom® describes GeoArbitrage in another article. Arbitrage is buying low and selling high. GeoArbitrage is earning money in a high-income location. But living in a low cost-of-living location. For instance, get paid California wages and spend it in Mexico. Jerry Brown Travels is a popular YouTuber that hooked us on the topic. https://agingwithfreedom.com/2018/01/17/geoarbitrage-for-retirement-wealth-2/
The Mazatlán Post in Mexico republished a version of our GeoArbitrage article. https://themazatlanpost.com/2019/07/11/aging-with-freedom/
The Aging With Freedom® lesson? The money always matters. But it’s never the only thing that matters. And for the American (and Canadian) baby boomers choosing retirement in Mexico? The other things that matter include an organic community of like-minded, adventuresome retirees. There’s a clubby environment of mutual support rather than dependency. And the freedom and purpose that challenge and adventure bring.
Travis suggests a couple of trusted resources for Americans considering retirement abroad.
- International Living. This is the go-to source for Americans considering living abroad. And not just Mexico. A subscription is a cheap education to start reading before risking a move. International Living helps narrow down the range of choices. And provides a reality check. There are always trade-offs.
- Numbeo. This website answers key questions around comparative cost-of-living between two locations. It relies upon user-reported data so there’s an essential truth. This is what consumers pay in the real world. Government-only statistics are sometimes twisted by methodology. The running total of Numbeo data? 6,336,050 prices in 9,682 cities entered by 529,152 contributors
Luther’s book grew out of his Master of Sociology thesis. Travis’s entrepreneurial bent attracted him to the American ex-pat community in Mexico. The trend of tech entrepreneurs working from anywhere with a laptop appealed. Many of the American ex-pat boomers in Mexico display that same entrepreneurial inclination.
But the business opportunity was only one of many reasons Americans choose to live in Mexico. (Or other foreign countries.)
Warning. Doing business in Mexico is different than doing business from Mexico. Both types of entrepreneurship showed up in Luther’s survey. But don’t assume local culture and regulations don’t influence business operations in Mexico. Americans in Mexico must play by both the official and cultural rules.
Single Women Choose Mexico
One last interesting tidbit of data? Luther reports: American women retirees outnumber American men ex-pats. And that includes many single women. The opportunities for creative self-actualization are a major attraction. The ex-pat communities have a reputation for safety and an active dating scene. Therefore single women actively and disproportionately choose Mexico.
The Aging With Freedom’s video interview with author Travis Luther is on YouTube. Subscribe to the Aging With Freedom YouTube channel. And like The Fun Side of the Wall video. https://youtu.be/-TN_utWnJSY. It’s an interesting discussion. Author Travis Luther is compelling. And his book offers unique data-driven insights.
Other Retirement Enclaves
Travis’s book was interesting for several reasons. The Fun Side of the Wall is worth the read. The anecdotal stories of Americans retiring to Mexico are credible. The data from Luther’s surveys provide substance to the anecdotes. And Travis’s own journey of entrepreneurial growth and discovery is fun.
It would be interesting to compare the results with other retirement enclaves. Say The Villages in Florida. Or the various Arizona 55-and-over active adult retirement trailer parks and planned communities.
One of Travis’s hypotheses? Mexico Boomers are searching for a sense of community they couldn’t find in the United States.
Finding the Retirement Enclave that Fits
We think it’s not, “couldn’t find.” But didn’t. There are lots of communities offering collegiality, a creative environment, and mutual support. Even low cost of living. In the United States. But they each have their own personality.
Our conclusion? Mexico is the retirement side of the wall for this group of Boomers because of Bill Bishop’s, The Big Sort. Or the mutual attraction and clustering of like-minded Americans into subcommunities. Luther’s data shows a strong political affiliation skew. Most are Democrats. But other retirement enclaves skew Republican. Like The Villages in Florida.
Luther’s Mexico Boomers are primarily well-educated and relatively wealthy urban Democrats. They sought out the Mexico ex-pat communities. And found a strong sense of personal identity, community, and more predictable finances. And safety absent back home. Those same inclinations drive others to choose different retirement-centric communities. Both at home and abroad. The nuance is in the like-minded goal.
What you’re looking for in a retirement enclave for Aging With Freedom? Look for a “fit” to your principles and priorities.
Is Mexico your fun side of retirement?
Travis Luther compared the data from his Mexico Boomer sample. And concluded about 5% of Americans are similar. This is the subset of all Boomers most likely to find Mexico is the retirement side of the wall. Retirement in Mexico fits them. So, who are, or should be, the Mexico Boomer retirees? The psychographic and demographic answers:
- highly educated
- Caucasian (white or European-descent)
- choosing early retirement
- unanchored from relationships or obligations
- disaffected with American consumerism
- willing to learn a new culture and language
- seeking a creative community and individual self-actualization
- rejecting dependency
- desiring the mutual support of like-minded Americans
This is our reading of Travis’s book. He might not concur. There are exceptions to this norm. But if you fit this norm? Mexico will be the fun side of the wall. Whether that wall is an international boundary. Or the next phase of life. Mexico is the retirement side of the wall for you.