Back in the day, retirement was the last stage of life as we knew it. Stop working, start fishing. The end.
But nowadays -- with longer lifespans and retirement options like living abroad in places like Ecuador, Panama, Thailand, and many others that can significantly stretch pension, annuity, Social Security, and other funds -- retirement is fast becoming just another transitional phase.
Retirees can now live so long -- and stretch their money so far -- that with the right strategies they can look forward to two or three more fun and productive phases of life after traditional retirement.
For example, we know a lot of "retirees" who moved abroad for the freedom and space to finally do what they always wanted: run a B&B, open an art gallery, build their own stock photo business, write guide books, teach English, start a restaurant.
You name it, there are people out here in the world building new and exciting careers or doing wonderful volunteer work who, 20 or 30 years ago, would have been simply rocking on the porch waiting for the mail in the same home they'd lived in for 40 years or more.
What happens when you've been in one exotic location for a few years and get itchy feet? Today's "retirees" often enjoy such good health -- especially if they live a healthy, active lifestyle in a part of the world with clean food, air, and water -- that they pack up and move again to the next spot that strikes their fancy. If it worked once, there's no reason it can't work again... and again... and even again.
But what happens when these footloose adventurers get the call to go back home? We've seen it happen dozens of times. For example, the kids back home suddenly present the folks with an undeniable draw... a new grandbaby!
We recently got a little present like this ourselves, and we can tell you for a fact that our granddaughter really ups the appeal of trips back to the U.S.
Today's technology makes it easier than ever to keep up with family around the world. Not only can we communicate in real-time video, but we can quickly and easily hop on a plane and be sitting side by side in a matter of a few hours. It's easier than ever to go back home for a visit when you want or need to do so.
And of course, some people do end up going back home for good after their great adventure overseas. We know more than a few former expats who got the urge to be closer to family or Medicare benefits or good old Skippy peanut butter and moved back. And not necessarily to the same place they left -- many of them picked states with low or no state income taxes and low costs of living for their return landings.
And then there are the folks who never land -- they become perpetual travelers. They don't see the point in settling somewhere after their official retirement. After all, they've been settled somewhere all their lives. So they travel the world seeing the places they've always wanted to see. And lots of them write books and blogs about it while they're doing it. They may focus on low-cost travel, or nature adventures, or hopping around between the world's great cities...any travel style that strikes their fancy. Once they pull up their roots, they determine never to put them down again.
A variation of this style of enhanced retirement is the "gap year." We have friends who decided to spend their first year or two after official retirement traveling the world looking for the right place to eventually settle...sort of a "best of both worlds" solution.
With a list of places that piqued their interest, they took their time visiting, living in, and exploring them one by one -- keeping track of expenses, activities, weather, and amenities. When they eventually satisfied their travel itch, they picked the place they wanted to put down new roots based on a year or two of personal experience rather than an educated guess.
After meeting all these active and interesting people, we've come to the conclusion that the new stages of life that now come after traditional retirement are much longer and more varied than anyone could have imagined just a few decades ago. This, in our opinion, is a great example of how things change for the better as you grow older... and they're getting better all the time.