Self-Esteem in Retirement
"When you retire to spend more time with your family, make sure you check in with your family first." - Dave Letterman, who has become aging America's new hero.
Self-esteem in retirement gets to the heart of a very good reason to consider Mexico in your retirement plans, especially for those on the scrim between knowing with certainty their retirement will be a secure one and those who don’t.
Studies have shown that self-esteem drops after retirement and while the lowest levels of self-esteem are among young adults, self-esteem tends to peak with age and start declining after 60 (unless you are a Peter Pan).
Not surprisingly, people with higher incomes tend to retain their self-esteem more as they age. Marital status doesn’t seem to have an impact or whether self-esteem declines. Even people in happy relationships experience the same rate of decline.
Many people nearing retirement are single through death, divorce or simply bad luck in relationships. Even as people who retire or are near retirement are experiencing this lower feeling of self-worth, well-meaning, usually coupled, friends are urging them to “get out there.”
Dating sites can be a wonderful tool for people of any age. Recently, an acquaintance of mine got engaged, at 60, to a man she’d met through a dating site. I myself have had good experiences, dating the very first person I ever went out with from a site for six years.
He had a job he loved in a quirky, iconic hardware store for barely over minimum wage. His lack of funds never interfered with our fun though.
One Christmas, we built a cactus Christmas tree (lumber, drywall, and toothpicks) in keeping with the mostly Hispanic neighborhood he lived in. We drove to Pennsylvania to see his parents in his rusted out 1987 Izuzu Pup pick-up truck strung with Christmas lights (Toll booth operators adored us.) He was a great boyfriend (and son, BTW).
I hadn’t dabbled in online dating since, doubting I’d ever repeat so lovely an experience. My friends interpreted my reluctance as “giving up.” Feeling guilty and defensive, I decided to enroll for a month on an online dating site.
I've recently become a fan of Ashton Applewhite's blog, "Yo, Is this Ageist?"
About a week in, after trading a few sentences with someone on the site, the man abruptly writes, “I’m not good enough for you.” Puzzled (we’d barely communicated), I asked him why he thought that.
As it happened, he was waiting to move into subsidized housing. That status had affected his sense of self-worth. He felt he had nothing to offer.
That’s what retiring on modest means in the U.S. can do to a person, how it can make them feel about themselves.
Anyone with any variety of friendships knows how capricious financial success can be. Hard work and sound decision-making are no guarantees that you’ll be comfortable and safe in retirement.
While living in Spain, one of the first lessons I learned as an adult was how well-off you feel depends largely upon context. Urban studies have shown that violence goes up when the poor live in close proximity to the wealthy. It’s not living in the hut that kills a man’s (or woman's) self-esteem, it’s the comparing how he lives, housing particularly, with that of his perceived peers.
The context of living on modest means in a consumer-driven society like the United State’s can make even the most mentally-healthy person doubt their self-worth.
In spite of a lifetime of achievement; raising self-sufficient, happy children, being a former karate champ, or even just being optimistic and creative later in life, income remains one of two factors that most affect self-esteem the most (the other is health).
As I was first considering Mexico and the dangers lurking in our U.S. healthcare system (which causes 53% of all bankruptcies, including those with health insurance), I thought a lot about how I would feel about myself if such an event left me looking for Section 8 housing or spending hours on the phone trying to find social assistance.
Would I be able to rise above it like my former boyfriend? Would I be able to keep my sense of self-worth intact? Or would I spend my days hating myself for past choices that made my life largely a happy one.
I don’t know.
Maybe it’s a question you should ask yourself too.
People can live comfortably and with dignity on their social security alone in Mexico. With a little more, a pension and little savings for example, they can live very well.
I have friends in Mexico who live in homes and neighborhoods that would be considered the middle to upper-middle class in the U.S., and have heard them say, “Here, I feel like I’m in the 1%.” It's how you feel that's most important to self-esteem.
For expats, stretching dollars by living in Mexico seems to enable many of them to avoid the psychic wounds of people like the man I chatted with online, people who after a single social exchange, feel they are not good enough.
Related Links: I haven't read it yet (and plan to), if Ashton Applewhite's book on aging is as good as her Ted Talk, it would be well-worth a read.
Most recent: Get a good, yet painless background on how medical care works in Mexico before you need it with Monica Paxon's book.
Next up: Guadalajara native has produced a beautiful movie in The Shape of Water.
Kerry Baker is the author of "The Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free On-line," a curation of the best free tools on the web, supported by a special page on this website.
The Guide is completely interactive, with direct links to the best free websites and features to learn Spanish from your laptop, tablet or e-reader. I adore studying from my Acer Aspire laptop. It's thin, lightweight and elegant, well worth the investment.
Most recently she wrote, "If Only I Had a Place," the best guide on how to rent in Mexico long-term, with a list of rental concierges in all the favorite expat areas. Learn more that how to rent. Learn the system to rent the very best places year after year in your target Mexican town.