The Economics behind Retiring ...

Many retirees face a dilemma when they stop work and it is usually an economic one. Unless they are supported by a very good private pension fund, they have to make choices. With the reduction of income they are looking at change in lifestyle. Many in Europe and North America think of going abroad to live. Europeans have flocked to countries like Portugal and Spain, but some look further afield. North Americans are more likely to look to Latin America. Many retirees face a future of living in ‘gentile or not so gentile’ poverty. They decide to take a chance and look for a better quality of life elsewhere. Panama and Costa Rica have become popular destinations. Politically, more stable than the other Latin American countries, they also offer a good level of services. With age usually come health problems and these countries can offer medical attention, doctors and carers at much more reasonable prices than the home countries. They also have reputations for being fairly safe, but basically anywhere between the Rio Grande and Tierra del Fuego can be labelled bandit country. So, where to go?

Unfortunately, the term ‘Golden Years’ may not mean shiny and bright. On the other hand, people are living longer and are fitter than they have ever been before. Hitting your sixties isn’t a death sentence anymore. Instead of withering away in constant decline, many see it as a new lease of life. Some just want to avoid dreadful winters and horrendous energy bills. Of course, some are more adventurous than others. Would you want to die of boredom or liven up your last years with a bit of risk? If you are one of those that aren’t willing to give up the ghost gently, there are other places to go. Try one of the dreaded ‘Northern Triangle’ countries, Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras. Living in any one of these will keep you on your toes. All three are competing vigorously to become the top murder capital of the world.

I can recommend Guatemala. Not only does it have the usual high crime figures and rampant corruption, it also has the added attraction of immanent natural disasters. The country is riddled with volcanoes and the Motagua Fault runs through the country, while the Pacific Fault runs close to the south-eastern coastline, which adds earthquakes to the fun.

My house is on the skirts of Volcano Agua and from my terrace I can see two others, Fuego and Acatenango. Agua is supposedly extinct, but it would be better to regard it as dormant. It has destroyed neighbouring Antigua twice. Just down the road, about a thirty minute drive, are Fuego and Acatenango. Acatenango is deemed extinct too. Acatenango last erupted in 1972. Fuego’s last major eruption was in June 2018. There’re thirty-seven volcanoes in Guatemala, but only four are active, Tacana, Santiaguito, Pacaya and Fuego. So, emigrating retirees have a choice of which volcano they prefer to be blown away by. Fuego is very much alive and active. The first thing I do in the morning is check it out. Some days it is quiet and innocent looking, on others it has puffs or wisps of smoke coming out of it. Other times there’s a tall plume of dark and ominous smoke. At night the sight of eruptions and running lava is spectacular. There’s always the question of whether or not it will blow its top off today. Guatemala is also prone to earthquakes. The last major one was in 1976. You don’t need to live anywhere in particular to enjoy them. There has been a constant flow of them since, but nothing too big. There are frequent shakes and tremors. Let’s not forget landslides, during the rainy season there’re storms and hurricanes. Much of Guatemala is mountainous and when the rains saturate the ground there are always mudslides, wiping out roads and sometimes whole villages.

All this adds spice to life. If you rather go out with a bang instead of a whimper, then this is the place to be. So, if you are the adventurous type, come to Guatemala and put yourself at risk with all the other brave, old souls.