I shook a little as I came out of my CPA’s office in Denver the first year after moving to Mexico, but with relief rather than fear for once.
Marina El Cid, Mazatlán
The judgement from the annual come-to-Jesus-meeting decreed that the move was paying off. Living part of the year in Mexico in the big house on the beach in Los Cerritos, Mazatlán with the Intrepid Elise had cut my living expenses in half.
My taxable income was reduced even further by expenses I had been able to deduct as a writer: a struggling writer living on the beach in one of the nicest parts of Mazatlán.
I looked up from the summary page of my tax return as expressionless as possible, not wanting to lead her. “It’s working,” I ventured. The normally very stoic accountant leveled her gaze without blinking, then smiled. “Yes…...it is.”
I had felt like a raving lunatic over a year ago when I had announced my plan to her, to move to Mexico by myself.
The year before the decision, contracting work had picked up but not nearly enough. Being over 50, I felt the runway far two short to consider training for a new career. Contract work, yes, a steady job at competitive salary, probably not. If you are over 50, maybe you have experienced the same grim job prospects.
My story was even chronicled in the Los Angeles Times, along with women in similar straights.
According to a AARP's report, if you're unemployed over 50 you are likely to be unemployed longer and make less than you did previously when (and if) you find another job.
Even more disconcerting, I had increasingly lost interest to my former career. Salaries in fund raising had plummeted. Perhaps because fund raisers are generalists.
You can extrapolate from this that anyone with humanities and/or liberal arts degrees came out of the Great Recession likely making less. The fact is only 2% of employers even today are looking for liberal arts majors according to Business Insider, and that's even if you're young and ambitious. Add that lack with to age discrimination and what is left for lot of people over 50 is an extended period of unemployment.
Moreover for me, for the last few years I woke up the hating the trends I saw in the fund raising profession. Knowing I would be doing to it for ten more years if I didn't re-pot, I'd be working harder for less money in a profession I'd grown to hate.
According to the same AARP report, a whopping 53% of workers over 50 who found new jobs after the Great Recession found different type work. A majority of new businesses were started by women. I always knew I wasn't special. In fact I am Every Woman.
I was gratified to see in their report that what I had written about anecdotally for several years about my unemployed, educated friends having to reinvent themselves after the Great Recession verified by statistics.
My own reinvention began with learning Spanish and ended with moving to Mexico.
As you expect from the breed, my CPA is a very cautious, conservative woman. I was surprised when she signed off on moving to Mexico as a financial plan after I signed off on it as a life plan.
She might not be much of an adventurer, she's a whiz at numbers. "Give the job search six more months," she said. "If you don't secure anything steady by then, leave."
It was the objective benediction I'd been looking for. She mentioned several other clients were also planning expat exits, but they were couples.
Adversely, I received a long moment of silence when I ran it by my financial planner. I had never realized before that you can actually hear a person's head shake over the phone. He has many older, single female clients who had suffered financial hits similar to mine in the Great Recession.
None had drawn the same conclusion I had, moving to Mexico, which scared me. Why not? What was I missing in my equation?
Why not? I was still asking that question even as I spent the next six months gazing out at the warming Pacific with its sailboats cutting across the sunset.
Looking back on taking the leap, the logistics were pretty easy, a check list really. The fear was hard. Fear of what? Change? The Unknown? Bad water?
But fear about what might happen if I didn't take action drove me fast and hard down every night down a pitch black highway of nightmares about healthcare costs and my future quality of life in the U.S. many more nights than any fear of Mexican cartels did.
I contemplated hundreds of sunrises from my tall windows in downtown Denver while weighing concerns about the cost of health insurance, rents in any neighborhood worth living in, and the wage stagnation I'd already gotten a taste of against what I suspected were unfounded fears about Mexico.
If not for the former fears, the ones based on hard evidence and statistics rather than hysterical second-hand accounts of people who have never even lived in Mexico, I might have continued to live in my comfortable oblivious little bubble.
I pictured the day that would arrive when I had spent most of my Social Security check on healthcare and maybe a good chunk of my retirement savings too. Then they would cart me off to Section 8 housing somewhere with a fist full of food stamps.
That day is no longer my fear. Is it yours?
"Why the Retirement Savings Crisis Is Also a Women's Crisis: - The Washington Post, April 2015
Tax tips by Expat Arrivals
"Moving to Mexico and Becoming the Master of My Fate" - Ventanas Mexico
Next up: Money, divorce and real sojourns.
Most recent: Okay, I admit it. Now and then I like to indulge myself in improving my appearance. In Mexico I can afford to do so with these services.
About the author, Kerry Baker
I'm a partner and writer for Ventanas Mexico and author of Ventanas Mexico Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online, a curation of the best language tools and features on web, organized into lesson plans. Especially written for the potential expat who wishes to learn Spanish on their own economically.
If that's not for you, take a look at 'If Only I Had a Place" my new book on renting luxuriously for less in Mexico, also geared toward the aspiring part-time expat.