Retire Rich and Happy Here

Retire Rich and Happy Here

The first baby boomers will reach retirement age this year. And the number of people retiring will increase each year for the next 19 or so years.  These next 20 years will change our country in ways we can only imagine. Certainly we are in for some change related to the economy, population size, and shifts in spending.

Adding to the difficulties of predicting how retiring baby boomers will affect our future is the strain the current economy is wreaking on everyone’s financial health. At the annual meeting for the American Economic Association, many economists predicted the nation’s gross domestic product would grow by less than 2% a year during the next ten years.


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If history is any indication, those numbers are far less than many have forecasted. Since World War II, most severe economic recessions have been followed by strong recoveries. Based on historical patterns during postwar periods, growth should be more like 6% when recovering from a deep recession like the one we’ve just been through, says Robert Johnson, the associate director of economic analysis at Morningstar, predicting that recovery from this recession is unlikely to follow the sharp V-shape pattern many economists were expecting.

Our own market expert Mark Patricks has predicted similar things in his first communication of the year. So far his predictions are frighteningly close to actual events.

With the economy in ruins and predictions of further doom and gloom, what do retirees have to look forward to? Many may not be able to afford the retirement havens like the Sun and Rust Belt to live a life of golf and shuffleboard playing with the other retirees.  The standard of living and quality of life for many baby boomers who have not planned sufficiently for their golden years will likely drop.

Instead of downgrading their lifestyle some retirees choose to change their location in order to keep their quality of life the same or better. According to the U.S. State Department, some four million Americans live abroad. About a half million Social Security checks are annually sent overseas and the number is growing.

In many foreign countries it is possible to live on somewhere around $20,000 or less (depending on the area and how you live) a year very comfortably. Many people can afford luxuries in developing countries that they couldn’t in the U.S.

The best places to live combine the best of lifestyle, cost of living, climate, economic health, safety, and health care. New Zealand is one of those places that combine warm weather, a lower cost of living, free health care to its residents and a high standard of living.

New Zealand was ranked 5th best place to live on Earth out of 195 countries by International Living magazine this year. It’s been in the top ten for 11 years straight, eight of those years it was in the top five.


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What’s not to like? Crime is virtually non-existent. You are least likely to be shot and killed in New Zealand. In 2005 NZ had the lowest murder rate by firearm in the world. Police also do not usually carry firearms, a testament to the country’s safety.  The Institute for Economics and Peace recently named New Zealand the most peaceful nation in the world out of 144 countries around the globe.

The weather in NZ might be one of the mildest in the world.  With the temperature swing generally less than 20 degrees from season to season. The summers average around 71-75° F and in the winter the temperature generally hovers in the 50’s or low 60’s. And although New Zealand is an island it is not subject to direct hits by tropical hurricanes. It also has its seasons reversed from those in the U.S. So it is possible to constantly live in warm weather if you split your time between the two countries.

New Zealand is well known for its beauty. Most of the landscape and nature shots for the movie The Lord of the Rings were filmed in this pristine country. The landscape varies wildly from region to region.

New Zealand consists mainly of two islands, called North Island and South Island. North Island has slightly warmer temperatures and boasts miles of sandy beaches, forests and volcanoes. South Island is where you’ll find the spectacular mountain views, thick forests and glaciers. No matter where you live in New Zealand you are no more than an hour from the ocean and less than four hours from a ski lodge. Which means you can surf, mountain bike and snowboard all on the same day! Easy access to numerous sporting activities all while enjoying raw nature helps give New Zealand its reputation as one of the most desirable places on Earth to live.

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New Zealand’s economy is also one of its strong points. It emerged from a five-quarter long recession in mid-2009. The New Zealand dollar has remained strong against other currencies. The World Bank recently named New Zealand as the second easiest place to do business.  It is a great choice for people immigrating to start their own business.

The GDP of the nation is strong; this translates into a healthy rate of disposable income for individuals, and a good standard of living for its inhabitants.  The economy is largely dependent on agriculture, but manufacturing and tourism are important and there is also a world-class film industry.

One of the best things about living in New Zealand is that the cost of living is cheaper than in the United States, and your dollar goes farther there. As of press time one US dollar is equal to about $1.38 in New Zealand dollars. The cost of living may not be as cheap as some Central American countries, but at least you don’t have to learn a new language! English is the main language in New Zealand.

The nation has consistently ranked in the top 10 for countries in which expatriates really want to live. It’s beautiful, safe, affordable and economically sound. Plus permanent residents enjoy (mostly) free health care. Two of its cities, its capital Auckland and another city Wellington, were ranked as some of the most affordable places to live by the Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. The only drawback might be leaving. The average flight time from New Zealand to Los Angeles is 12 hours!


Nancy Patterson

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