I was shaking a little as I left my CPA’s office in Denver, having coming back into town for our annual come-to-Jesus meeting since moving to Mexico the year before. But for once I was shaking with relief rather than fear.
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 at me without blinking, then smiled. “Yes…...it is.”
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 came up with it as a new life plan in 2014. I had been job hunting for over three years.
I had felt like a raving lunatic when I had announced my plan to her, to move to Mexico by myself.
Contract work in Denver 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.
My C.P.A. might not be much of an adventurer, she's a whiz at numbers. "Give the job search six more months," she said after I'd explained my job hunting situation. "If you don't secure anything steady by then, leave."
It was the 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 in Richmond. 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. Certainly none of those staid southern women had taken this step.
Marina El Cid, Mazatlán
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 for those months in half, significantly reducing my tax bill.
My taxable income was also reduced by business 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.
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.
For the last few years I woke up the hating the trends I saw in the fund raising profession. Salaries in fund raising had plummeted. If I didn't come up with a new plan, I'd be working harder for less money in a profession I'd grown to hate.
Salaries had gone down because fund raisers are generalists, often with liberal arts or similar degrees. Only 2% of employers are looking for liberal arts majors according to Business Insider, and that's if you're young.
Add that lack of interest in liberal arts educations with to age discrimination and what is left for many people over 50 with those degrees is an extended period of unemployment.
According to an 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'm a poster person for a huge swath of educated, single women who never got traction again once the recession was over. I am Every Woman.
I was gratified to see that the AARP report confirmed what I had written about anecdotally for several years. My unemployed, educated friends all had to reinvent themselves after the Great Recession. My own reinvention began with learning Spanish and culminated with moving to Mexico (Reinvention is not for sissies).
Nobody else had drawn the same conclusion I had, that my best bet for saving my nest egg was moving to Mexico, which scared me. Why not? I asked. What was I missing in my equation?
View the first year in Mexico
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. I'm still asking it four years later.
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?
The fear about what might happen if I didn't take action drove me fast and hard down down a pitch black highway of nightmares every night.
They were nightmares about healthcare costs and my future quality of life if I didn't put a brake on my rising costs of living. These fears were much more potent than any fear of Mexican cartels.
I contemplated hundreds of sunrises from my tall windows in downtown Denver, as I weighed the concerns about the cost of health insurance, rising rents in any neighborhood worth living in, and the wage stagnation I'd already gotten a taste of. I weighed these fears against what I suspected were unfounded fears about Mexico.
If I hadn't for confronted irrational fears about Mexico with hard evidence and statistics rather than hysterical second-hand accounts by people who'd never lived there, I might have continued to live in my comfortable oblivious little bubble to this day. Added to the insult of running through my savings would be a job I hated that didn't pay the bills either.
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 on it too. Then they would cart me off to Section 8 housing somewhere with a fist full of food stamps. That is no longer my fear.
Which fear is yours?
"Why the Retirement Savings Crisis Is Also a Women's Crisis: - The Washington Post, April 2015
Tax tips by Expat Arrivals
"Five Reasons the Retirement Crisis is Worse for Women Than Men" - The Week
"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.