Rising from the Ashes to Newfound Freedom

What’s a man to do?

Before I had gotten divorced I had bought your books and was near positioning myself and my then wife for a retirement like yours by the time I was 50… and then….. yes, drumroll…. my wife of 23 years and companion of 28 years filed for divorce. The first thing that came out of her mouth was, “I am getting our new house (the one we just built) and taking you for everything you’ve got.

WOW. What a blow. Now. You probably are thinking, “Ok, buddy what did you do that caused this wonderful stay-at-home mom of over 20 years to go such drastic measures.” My answer? NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

I was an honest, dependable, and faithful husband and a good father. I had always provided and gave everything to my wife and family. The only thing I could determine was that people DO change and the person you may have met 28 years ago, will NOT be the same person 28 years later be that good or bad. In my case, it was for the bad.

Change can take us by surprise. It’s up to us to make the most of it.

Divorce pounded retirement savings

So what happened? I think she saw dollar signs. She got greedy. She knew that as a stay-at-home mom with no more than a high school education she could take me to the bank. And take me to the bank she did.

Over the course of our 23 year marriage, we were never rich because we only had one income but through consistent saving and investing I had a net worth of around $500,000 dollars at 46. About $200,000 in home equity and $300,000 in savings and investments. I was debt free until we built our new house but I was on track to pay that off in 4 more years and by the time I was 50. By that time I estimated we would have more than $500,000 in savings and investments and probably more like $750,000.

Where I find myself now

What happened was this. She filed for divorce and it became final at the bottom of the stock and real estate markets. So there went half the net worth.

Of the remaining, to get out of alimony I had to increase the percentage that she walked away with from 50% to 80%. Two lawyers advised me to do that. So I ended up with 20% of the remaining half that was left. Then I was stuck with any debt that was remaining and since I hate debt I took my 20% and paid off that debt.

So… the end result? At 46 I had an accumulated net worth of a half a million dollars and at 47 I had a net worth of zero and was destined to pay child support for at least the next 4 years.

This situations shattered everything I had been working and planning for for 30 YEARS. THIRTY YEARS!

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Now I am 50 and am coming to the end of the child support but, of course, my ex is fighting that by going to the department of child services to try to milk even more out of me. What does she have to complain about?

She took what she got out of our divorce and bought a 20 acre piece of property with 2 houses on it, one that she and her new husband rent out for extra income and one they live in and paid cash for it. Gee. I wonder where she got that from?

Where do I go from here?

Here’s my point. Or rather my question. I am 50. Just now starting to save for retirement AGAIN and am looking at a shaky social security in my future. Whereas in the past I was planning on NOT expecting social security and as you had mentioned for you that it would be gravy.

For me, now, it is not gravy. It will be my primary means of income. And retire early? Yeah right.

I can’t replace 30 years of work just like that.

Happiness is a choice

But I have been trying to remain positive and hopeful. I have even been looking into things like trying to teach English as a second language in some of these countries so I can start living my life one way or the other…. even if I have to keep working in these countries. Do you know anything about these programs?

Beside this working idea, do you have any suggestions for me? What I can do so that I don’t have to wait till I’m half dead to retire? Like at 62 or 65, in  which case I don’t know even know if social security will be there for me or not and if it is if they will cut it down so far that to live on it will put you WAY below the poverty line?

Any suggestions you have will be appreciated.

David

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Moving forward

Hi David,

Billy and I are sorry for your loss and all the pain and shock that had to have put you through. There just aren’t enough words to say to you about this situation, but one thing is for certain: you are here now and want to move forward.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us and to share your circumstances.

We would like to congratulate you on your positive attitude – your self-reliance and your willingness to be flexible to create a future that is workable and rewarding for you.

How retirement appears

Sometimes retirement doesn’t come in a neat package – it can be thrust upon us in the disguise of uncomfortable circumstances. This is what has happened to you and we invite you to look at this as a great opportunity to reinvent yourself.

We have a friend who found himself in similar circumstances and a few short years later, he is the happiest he has ever been. It “seemed” that everything was taken away, but actually, he was given a ticket to his freedom.

You may be in a much better place in only a couple of years, too.

Let’s take a look at some of your questions and some of our suggestions on how to make the most of this state of affairs where you are.

English and math teachers are in high demand

Teaching ESL

You asked about teaching English as a second language.

My personal experience with this was completely volunteer. I taught children of various ages at their school, in my home and in a public restaurant.

However, opportunities to learn English are in high demand as oftentimes men and women in business suits approached me and ask me for lessons. And we hear from our Readers who themselves are teaching English in foreign countries that it is a solid opportunity.

While I have no personal experience in making money teaching English, my understanding is the best places to teach would be in Japan, Taiwan or Korea. Perhaps even China. We know several people who have done this and were able to save quite a bit of money to pay off debt or to put towards retirement. In these cases, they were given lodging and a salary. These days you can make over $100k tax free if you work overseas.

Also, you mentioned in another email that you are a computer programmer of sorts – you might consider teaching math – which is also in great demand. If you don’t want to move overseas, you can teach math online from anywhere by being a digital nomad.

Online tutoring or online jobs

On another track, you might consider online tutoring which would give you the opportunity to be “anywhere” and still keep a commitment to teaching or other sorts of income opportunities such as a variety of online jobs.

Take a look at our Retirement Jobs Page which offers many opportunities to be a consultant, to freelance, work abroad, get paid for volunteering or even offer you the ability to mix adventure and travel with receiving a paycheck. If you are looking to be a Digital Nomad, this could work for you.

Any of these ideas could be a jumping off place for you and once you begin to delve into it, doors will open. This would only the beginning.

Find answers to all your retirement questions, click here

Housing

As we demonstrate in our own lifestyle and share in our books what you pay for housing is one of the biggest capital outlays in any household. You mentioned that you have a 38 foot RV set up at your brother’s that will only cost you $100 a month, so you obviously “get” this part of the equation.

However, if you would like to undertake a journey and see other countries or other States within the U.S. and mix that with being an online employee/entrepreneur you might try house sitting. There are long-term house sits literally all over the world where your lodging would be practically free. Whether you would like to spend time in San Francisco, Tucson, in the wine country of Napa Valley, in a beach town in Costa Rica, in the mountains of Tuscany, Colonial cities in Mexico or Guatemala, in London, Spain or France, house sitting gives you that opportunity to get out of the rut of daily existence and add some spice to your life.

Meet the locals, walk to museums, buy your food at farmer’s markets and neighborhood bakeries – these experiences will open your mind and your life.

Houses and cars take up a lot of retirement funds to maintain

Transportation

Depending on how much travel you want to do in your new life, costs for transportation might be something to consider. If you become car-free this would be just one more monthly expense you can free yourself from. Take a look at our Lifestyle Page and find links to car-fee cities and books on how to live well without owning a car. We have been Car-free since 2009 and don’t miss our vehicle in any way. The money you save on repairs, maintenance, fuel, parking, etc. can be used to hire a taxi or private driver (especially in foreign countries) or take the subway, ride a bike or even do RideShare, Uber, Lyft or rent a car whenever necessary.

Go paperless, get free

In preparation for any of these new changes of travel, adventure and self re-invention, get your communication and methods of paying bills digitalized. Go paperless as soon as possible. This will free you up immeasurably and in ways you might not have considered.

To be honest with you, this could be one of the most exciting times of your life. While the circumstances that brought you here were painful and confusing – perhaps even unjust – what you do with your life from here on end is up to you.

I hope you find these suggestions to be useful. Please feel free to write any time.

We wish you the best of luck.

Akaisha and Billy

Simplify, simplify, simplify

Posted in All Things Financial, Heart Song, Housing, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Having a Plan

Hello Billy and Akaisha,

I wanted to write to you today because I wanted you to know that I have a “plan!” I always tell people that are seeking my advice that if you have a plan you can always change the direction of the plan, but you have to start somewhere.

You have given me the courage to put my plan into action. Each time I read one of your emails that are chocked full of information I become more positive that I am heading in the right direction. My goal is to be in “retirement” mode and living as an expat by early 2013. I may start as a house sitter to explore the place that will suit me the best.

The 1st steps I am taking is to de-clutter my house…years of collectibles have become junk to me and taking up space and collecting dust! I have some great friends that are helping me with this monumental task. I am not a hoarder, but if I keep going this could be reality. I think the hardest thing for me will be to give up my wardrobe and shoes. Deciding to give up those cute Zebra striped shoes with the red bow will be heartbreaking…LOL.

Love at first stripe!

I am excited and nervous at the same time. I have been researching, thinking and planning for this for over six years. I will not be wealthy but I will be ok and living outside the U.S. in some of the places you mentioned will make that possible.

I am so happy the day I ran across your blog, I don’t even remember how that happened, but I have been a faithful reader ever since. Hopefully our paths will cross and I will have the pleasure of meeting you personally.

Elizabeth

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Hi Elizabeth!!

I am so excited for you as well — and am happy to hear that you are moving forward with your retirement plans. We have been traveling the world for over 2 decades and it just keeps getting better.

I remember you saying that you are no stranger to travel yourself, that you have a flexible attitude and that you know another language (Spanish I believe…) These are valuable tools and will serve you greatly when you relocate.

We have discovered the joy and expanding opportunity of house sitting also, and are starting to implement this into our travel style. I think you will love this choice — wonderful homes available to you all over the world, some of them with gardens and pets and lovely neighbors.

House sitting is more affordable than staying in a resort

Thank you for keeping in touch and like you say, perhaps we will meet on the road someday. Wouldn’t that be GREAT?!

By the way, when you give up your Zebra striped shoes with the red bow, I will send you my address! I want those shoes!! 😉

I know that sometimes it is a challenge to move forward into the future and to let go of “things” but those items will be replaced with other fantastic ones.

I think you will do just fine.

Thanks for staying in touch and feel free to write any time.

Best,

Akaisha and Billy

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Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Housing, Q & A From our Readers, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004.  Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns. 

Harry, my 90-year old friend, planned a trip from San Diego to London that included stop-overs and a number of connections. He designed it this way because his cardiologist didn’t want him taking any long, direct, flights. After reading Harry’s itinerary I took a nap.

Harry enjoys planning each leg of his trips. Maybe when I’m Harry’s age I’ll enjoy the process too, but for now the only thing I enjoy is being there.

“You don’t mind airport turmoil and chaos?” I asked.

“I love it,” he answered. “I’m a people watcher and airports are the best place for that.”

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“You don’t hate connecting planes?”

“Nope. It’s exciting.”

Me? I would rather fly one plane directly to Hell, than have to connect planes to Paradise.

“Don’t you find packing exhausting?”

“What’s to pack? I throw in three pairs of slacks, five shirts, underwear and socks.”

That would explain it. In addition to daytime and evening outfits, I need my creature comforts: jewelry, curling iron, makeup, tweezers, pillow, books, extra shirts for when food lands on my chest — which it always does – and four  pairs of shoes: three designer pairs and one orthotic pair for my throbbing bunion.

No matter what airline I select, it’s always furthest from the terminal entrance. And, I’ve never entered and shoved my way down a crowded airplane aisle without resisting the urge to say:

“Mooooo.”

To travel or not to travel?

I watched a man’s slacks drop to his ankles as he placed his luggage in an overhead bin. He stood in his tidy whities, casually speaking to the airline hostess, and it was several minutes before he bothered bending over to retrieve his slacks.

I talk to myself when I’m in the air:

I need to pee, but I don’t want to bother anyone. Maybe I can hold it in for another 3,000 miles. 

Who told him that arm rest was his?

She’s getting up, again? I have to remove everything from my lap and struggle to stand… again?”

I was once stuck sitting next to a man who weighed over 450 pounds. He was wedged into his seat with two seatbelt extensions stretched tightly across his galactic belly.

Individual seats are not always that roomy

I’ve battled weight all my life, so my heart goes out to anyone with an eating disorder. But compassion dissipates when someone the size of a Humvee has you pinned down and held captive. The heat from his gargantuan left arm welded my right arm to my breast. His mammoth hip and thigh rested on mine. My right side went numb.

I couldn’t turn pages of my magazine, and had to eat with my left hand.

I wrote to Continental and requested compensation for having to share my seat with another person. Continental wrote back and said, Thank you for flying Continental.

Today I began planning a Florida vacation, and I’m already hyperventilating. I had to pack a pair of sweats to wear in the pool, because I just discovered that when I wasn’t looking my knees decided to take shelter under a layer of thigh flab. I didn’t see it happening or I would have put a stop to it.

My attempt at making airline reservations was futile. Delta had only one seat available. Continental could get us there at 3:00 AM. United had room in the baggage compartment. Finally, Jet Blue came through but we’ll be traveling on separate planes.

I spent an hour comparing car rental rates. Some offered a $20 bonus for gas. Others offered a $30 coupon for – I never found out what for. One required taking a shuttle to their car pick-up location in a nearby state. I ended up making reservations with three companies, intending to cancel two. I can’t remember which two.

I’m wiped out. I don’t want to wait until my vacation to relax. Bring me a drink with a tiny umbrella. I’ll be in my bathtub.

After all this stress over making travel plans, I’ll be relaxing with an umbrella drink!

Other posts by this author:

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

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Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Mexico Retirement Locations – Comparing San Miguel de Allende to Chapala, Part III

Guest blog post by Kevin Knox

Kevin is a semi-retired coffee taster and buyer, world traveler, gourmand and student of yoga and meditation. He and his wife, Erin, currently spend their time between San Miguel de Allende, and Chapala, Mexico. To follow his writings and musings, click on his blog here

Last week, in the discussion of comparing the popular Mexican Retirement Destinations of Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende, Kevin focused on San Miguel. This week, he will offer you his perspective on comparative Costs of Living.

Relative Costs of Living

Housing

Real estate in central San Miguel starts at about double the price of comparable properties at Lake Chapala, but rents, on an apples-to-apples basis, are the same or less than asking prices at Lake Chapala. One finds a mixture of dollar and peso denominated rents in San Miguel and more opportunities to rent directly from owners rather than paying real estate agency prices.

Utilities

Utility costs are on par, with the important exception of propane or firewood for winter heating in San Miguel, so that’s one additional expense for living there that could add several hundred dollars a year depending on the severity of a given winter’s weather and the size of your home.

Prices for rentals in San Miguel are reasonable

Transport

More than compensating for that expense is that in San Miguel, provided one lives in or near centro rather than out in the countryside, a car is neither wanted nor needed. You can walk everywhere, and unlike Lakeside, which has a relatively poor transportation infrastructure with buses running limited hours and taxis that must be called rather than hailed, San Miguel has 25 peso (less than $2) taxis plying the streets at all hours and an excellent bus system. At Lakeside we (and most other people we know) find a car to be all but essential, especially during the rainy season, but at San Miguel you’ll be far happier without one, as streets are narrow, traffic is heavy and parking either hard to find or expensive.

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Food

Food costs for meat, produce and local Mexican foods from tacos to stews to burritos are lower in San Miguel than at Lakeside, with far more choice, but with a very important caveat: there are many more opportunities to blow your budget on fancy restaurants and international cuisine. Lakeside has relatively few restaurants and arguably none of an international caliber, while San Miguel has everything from Chinese to Thai to French and Italian, plus jazz clubs, flamenco shows and an endless procession of festivals and special events that, as one friend puts it, “can create a giant sucking sound in your wallet without even trying.”

Expansive view of Lake Chapala

Health Care

Health care costs are about on par between Lakeside and San Miguel, but with a couple of important differences. In both places there’s an abundance of bilingual doctors who cater to expats paying out-of-pocket, but Lakeside has no hospital facilities so in the event of anything serious occurring one has to hope to make it by car or one of the two ambulances serving the entire area to one of several world-class hospitals in Guadalajara, 45-60 minutes or more away depending or traffic. San Miguel has excellent hospital facilities right in the city.

Relatively expensive private insurance is available in both places. For those looking to join the Mexican system San Miguel has the great advantage of the Seguro Popular system, with no annual fee, an excellent hospital in the city and none of the discrimination against expats and arbitrary ejections from coverage that continue to plague the IMSS clinic at Lake Chapala.

Which Place is for You?

One thing for sure is there are fantastic expat communities in both of these places, and both are extraordinary places to live. In my opinion, anyone wishing to explore Mexico as a retirement destination would be well advised to come on down and rent for a year in one or the other of these places. Then make it a point to take a deluxe bus to Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende and – for the more adventurous – the city of Oaxaca and the lovely colonial town San Cristobal de las Casas before even thinking about buying property or putting down roots.

 To read Part I, click here

To read Part II, click here

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A Reader’s Comments on Retirement in Tatters

I too read the Joe Nocera article in the New York Times. It was surely bleak, and frightened a great many people.

Your take on the article was quite unusual.

Mr. Nocera saw $100,000 as paltry and near poverty but you see it as a beginning, as capable of bearing fruit, depending on where one lives. I agree.

Guatemala is now on my list of considerations, thanks to you and Billy. (By the way, there is a huge marketing campaign to convince eligible people to delay taking SS benefits. I think this would be a suitable topic for discussion at some point. There are strong points on both sides.)

Best Wishes,

Paul

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Hi Paul

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting us know you appreciated our take on Joe Nocera’s piece.

You mentioned the huge marketing campaign to convince eligible people to delay taking their SS benefits, and I know there are arguments for both sides. What a great idea to have us discuss this and then share with our Readers. Thanks for the suggestion!

When will you take your payments?

Billy has often mentioned that he would take his as soon as he was eligible, whereas I had thought – being the wife — that I would wait until later. In this way, I was hoping to receive a larger payment if I became widowed.

We will probably have to rethink the issue as we become closer to eligibility — things are changing quite fast these days as the government is scrambling to cover these monetary promises. However, since we planned our retirement without the need for Social Security, this money would be gravy on top and if we chose to take it sooner, we would probably just invest it.

For tools and calculators to analyze your monetary situation in all areas of living, click here

I have also noticed how journalists are emphasizing how much we all need the government in order to survive. People are being trained to think in a very dependent manner and we find that disturbing. It’s not working so much for Europe and the Euro and that situation will become our future if we are not careful.

No matter what happens, our position is that there are always opportunities. Billy and I at Retire Early Lifestyle try to present these possibilities as best we are able.

You have more possibilities available to you than you think

Self-reliance is a skill that can be learned and a muscle that needs working in order to become strong. Regardless if people choose differently for themselves, we find that this viewpoint suits our personalities the best.

We wish you all good things,

Akaisha

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Important Steps to Finding Your Trusted House Sitter, Part II

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected“  Laws

Full Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link, so if you click on the link and sign up, we will be compensated.

If you own a home, are new to the house sitting world and don’t know where to start to find the right sitter for your home and pets, read Angela’s post below. 

Many home owners have decided that house sitting is just THE best solution to leaving home and pets safe and secure. I’m a home owner myself who has been house sitting for over five years. I’m sharing my advice on how to get your very own Trustedhousesitter.

In Part I, I spoke about how to list your home, whether or not to have a vehicle available to your sitter and how trust is a priority on both sides when finding your perfect sitter.

These are my tips this week:

Pets 

If the primary reason for engaging a sitter is pet care, be very specific in your listing. This will pay dividends in terms of saving you time.

Your pet might require special care – let your Sitter know

If you have dogs, state the age and breed as all dogs are not equal and some are more labor intensive than others. A Springer in its prime will run in all weather for hours and still want more. On the other hand, even though Great Danes are large dogs, they can’t run like this and they won’t. A Goldie requires huge amounts of grooming for that double coat, where a Labradoodle doesn’t even shed!

A sitter who loves animals but isn’t necessarily that active wouldn’t be suitable for our Springer but would be a perfect match for a Shitzu Princess. Being specific will about the breed and required care will make certain that you will get the right sitter applying. Although breed specific information is important with dogs, it’s less so with cats. But again, the details about age, breed, and whether your pet is indoor or outdoor trained are important.



Horses and farm animals are a very specialized remit and should illicit applications only from those sitters with experience. However, it would be prudent to stress the level of expertise you require and expect. Again, be honest with your requirements and – in fairness- be prepared to offer some financial compensation where necessary.

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If you don’t already know the costs associated with pet/animal care/boarding, check your local services. You’ll then realize just how much financial savings pet sitters provide. And the savings of stress to your pets’ welfare is immeasurable.

How many applications can I expect?

Depending on time of year, location, type of property, length of sit and the skills you require, the number of applications can vary. House sitting is becoming more popular and the number of sitters is increasing. That being said, most home owners say “normal” is to receive between 10 and 20 applicants.

Sorting Applications

All emails will be linked to the sitter’s profile. Some people may write just a couple of lines others will write more. You may decide not to pursue some of the messages, but for others you’ll want to read their full profile. At every stage of the process, please inform the applicants regarding the status of their application. Because the website provides a “Reply” link to emails, notifying each person is simple to do without unnecessary hassle or inconvenience.

Home Owner and House Sitter work together for the perfect fit

It’s worth remembering that you, the home owner, are only dealing with one listing. For some sitters, this is a lifestyle choice and they travel many months a year between countries. In order to give you the very best service they can, planning is a vital part of what they do. Knowing whether they are being considered, short listed or rejected is always appreciated and is extremely helpful.

Local or Long Distance Sitter?

This is really your preference.

I would encourage everyone not to dismiss applications from sitters all around the world. Just because they don’t live in your town, or even your country, doesn’t make them less of a potentially perfect match.

Sitters who choose this lifestyle are passionate about travel and giving the very best service to their clients. Long-haul travel is the norm for them. It’s a way to explore a new country, or revisit an old favorite without staying in an impersonal hotel. Or they may wish to be near (not staying with) a loved one or family member.

Your home may just be the perfect solution for both of you.

Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

Make a short list

TrustedHousesitters has the most concise sitter profile information that I have found. This includes references, photographs and some have amateur video introductions. Compile a short list of your favorites, again making the sitters aware that you’re at this point in the selection process. Your choice is very personal at this stage. Perhaps you’ve not done any due diligence such as the checking of references, telephone, email or Skype contact, so it’s really a theoretical exercise based on the personal information that has been given.

Use that all-important gut feeling. I promise you’ll be drawn to like-minded people and to those with whom you want to communicate. Sometimes, you will note immediately that you already have something in common.

Work the short list, make your choice

Now you’re ready to make direct contact with your selected sitters. It’s just like interviewing potential employees or internet dating, except it’s for your home. You’ll have personal contact details, email, telephone, and perhaps Skype contact. Ask for the contact details of references and for permission to contact them directly – either by email, telephone or both. This is the time to do your due diligence.

In verifying references, ask them if they would like to add anything about your potential sitter. Ask any specific questions that might not already be covered. You may find that after one telephone chat, along with the sitter’s profile information, photographs and possible video that you have enough on which to base your decision.

House sitting opens doors to both Sitter and Owner

I advise you to feel comfortable about your decision. You don’t need to feel pressure but at the same time, don’t take too long. You may miss the sitter you really want because good ones are always in demand.

Win-win

You have finally made your choice. It’s the right one, you’ve made a connection, and it even FEELS right. It’s a WIN-WIN relationship!!

Now wasn’t that easy?

The List – 10 Steps to Prepare for your Sitter

Finalize day and time of arrival/departure.

Prepare an info pack on your home, list contact numbers for neighbors, relatives, for yourself, tradesmen you trust, utility companies, vets and local doctor/hospital.

Note days of garbage collections and any idiosyncrasy associated with your home.

Check Insurance for car, add driver’s details.

Leave your home the way you expect to find it – Clean and Tidy.

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Clean fridge out and leave fresh milk and some basics. No science lab specimens in the fridge or food cupboards,

Clean bathrooms, towels, fresh soap etc. Make space for the sitter’s toiletries.

Supply fresh and clean bed linen. Empty draws and closet, leave a supply of hangers and bath robes, if possible.

Poop scoop garden if necessary, leave all pets bedding clean and smelling sweet.

Stock up on pet food, treats, medications, flea/tick prevention.

Appreciated but not necessary – have a meet and greet with the neighbors the day before your departure. This familiarizes everyone that you will be leaving and that you will have house sitters in your home.

Wave goodbye, have a brilliant holiday knowing all is well in your home world, thanks to your TrustedHouseSitter

 House Sitter Profiles on TrustedHousesitters provide in-depth information including references, experience, availability, location, photographs and even video introductions.

For Finding Your Trusted House Sitter, Part I, click here

Related Articles:

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

House Sitting My Way Around the World

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing, Is It Work or Is It Passion? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mexico Retirement Locations – Comparing San Miguel de Allende to Chapala, Part II

 Guest blog post by Kevin Knox

Kevin is a semi-retired coffee taster and buyer, world traveler, gourmand and student of yoga and meditation. He and his wife, Erin, currently spend their time between San Miguel de Allende, and Chapala, Mexico. To follow his writings and musings, click on his blog here

Last week, in the discussion of comparing the popular Mexican Retirement Destinations of Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende, Kevin focused on Chapala. This week, he will offer you his perspective on San Miguel.

San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende is a small but very cosmopolitan city, not a collection of rural villages, so the feel is very different. Moreover, San Miguel is a famous place within Mexico, with nearly 500 years of cultural heritage and close proximity to towns such as Dolores Hidalgo that were the epicenter of the Mexican revolution.

San Miguel Church

San Miguel is above all a city of and for the arts. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning, among other things, that traffic lights, neon signs and even fire hydrants are forbidden. There are dozens and dozens of world class art galleries and schools and a year-round calendar of jazz, classical music and theater that put many cities of ten times the size to shame.

San Miguel is located at 6400 feet (1400 feet higher than Lake Chapala) in the vast fertile plains known as El Bajio. Climate-wise the feeling is quite high and dry – like Santa Fe, New Mexico but without the snow or harsh winters. Year-round temperatures average about 5 degrees hotter in the summer and 5 degrees colder in the winter than at Lakeside, and in the colder months of January and February you’ll need a down jacket or heavy fleece in  the mornings and will spend some extra money on firewood or propane heat.

Curious about Mexico? Click here

San Miguel is hilly, and while it’s perfectly possible to rent a place that’s a flat walk to centro there are plenty of hills in town that would make a San Franciscan feel right at home. Overall it is certainly not a place for the less than able-bodied. This isn’t to say that Lakeside, with its cobblestoned streets, is an ADA-accessible paradise, but for some the steepness and/or higher altitude of San Miguel will rule it out.

Steep steps and hills in San Miguel

San Miguel isn’t directly on the way to or from anywhere, which also has advantages and disadvantages. Mexico City, with its vast population, is about 4 hours away and has one airport that serves San Miguel, while the industrial city of Léon (1.5 hours) and the hopping hi-technology community of Querétaro (1 hour) have smaller airports with international service to Texas and Los Angeles.

On the plus side, San Miguel is far from any drug trafficking transport corridors and has thus far been spared from that unfortunate part of current Mexican reality. It also attracts a different kind of Mexican visitor than Lakeside, drawing primarily wealthy individuals from Mexico City to Monterrey in search of fine arts and a peaceful respite. For those who drive from the U.S., San Miguel is a far easier haul than Lakeside, with a straight shot and one long day (11 hours or less) from Laredo, all on toll roads.

Culturally and culinarily San Miguel is to Lake Chapala what San Francisco is to a small town in the American Midwest, with an exponentially greater number of choices both of Mexican food and of international cuisines. The same holds true of arts and entertainment.

The Chapala malecon gives a different feel than San Miguel

San Miguel has a wonderful bilingual library called the Biblioteca that houses one of the largest English-language book collections in Latin America, but unlike Lakeside where so much revolves around the Lake Chapala society there is no one central hub of activity in San Miguel. Instead one finds many intersecting groups with special interests, from the visual arts to music, from yoga and meditation to organic produce or foreign films, meeting at a diverse range of venues all over the city. There are at least three lively web forums, most of which are Yahoo groups that are lightly moderated, and the Biblioteca sells several excellent guidebooks written by locals.

The most important local print news resource is a well written bilingual newspaper called Atención that’s published by the aforementioned Biblioteca. The bilingual and bi cultural nature of that paper speaks volumes about the difference in overall vibe between the expat populations in San Miguel vs. Lakeside, with far more gringos in San Miguel making some degree of effort to speak Spanish and engage with local Mexican culture (of course there are exceptions and I also don’t mean to slight the many decades of wonderful charitable volunteer work by many at Lakeside).

To read Part I, click here

For information on cost of living and how to decide which place is for read Part III

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Important Steps to Finding Your Trusted House Sitter, Part I

Guest post by Angela “Sittingperfected“  Laws

If you own a home, are new to the house sitting world and don’t know where to start to find the right sitter for your home and pets, read Angela’s post below. 

Many home owners have decided that house sitting is just THE best solution to leaving home and pets safe and secure. I’m a home owner myself who has been house sitting for over five years. Here’s some advice on how to get your very own Trustedhousesitter.

Listing your home

While it might not always be possible, it is most advantageous to you to post well in advance of your confirmed travel dates. Post your home’s availability on a reputable and high profile web site. In my opinion, TrustedHousesitters.com is far and above the best and most user-friendly, with excellent house sitters situated throughout the world.

Registering is easy, even for the novice internet user. Within 24 hours of joining the site, your listing goes “live” and TrustedHousesitters sends email alerts to their registered house sitters who are looking for assignments in your area. Not sure of when you’ll travel? No problem, you can still go “live” with dates showing “variable.”

House sitting helps both owners and those who want to travel

Listing Content

Be specific about your expectations. Are you a super-proud house keeper? Do you have a high maintenance garden or just a few pots? Do you retain a cleaner or gardener? If you have pets does your house sitter need to be experienced with certain breeds? Do any of your pets have special needs? Are you away from civilization? Is there the opportunity to explore the area perhaps with the occasional overnight away?

List only the important points so sitters can immediately assess your requirements. This is professional courtesy, and in that way no one’s time is wasted.

Housing on the road, RVing, long-term stays, global house exchange, vacation rentals, apart-hotels, hostels.

Home owners

As a home owner, you’ll have access to many sitter profiles which are full of personal information, references and photographs. To attract sitters, it’s very important for you to include some of your own basic personal information along with photographs of you, your pet and your home.

Would you apply to look after a home without a photo?

Location, transport and extras

If you are in a very rural location, you need to consider if sitters have the use of a *car? (see below) Be honest with your expectations. Are you expecting the sitters to take on extra household duties? Do you have rental units you want managed, relatives you’d like visited?

If you are expecting extra services from your sitter, would financial compensation for these duties – which are not considered part of a normal house sit – be offered?

If you live in a remote location, your sitters may need access to a vehicle

* Important Car Facts!! Car rental is very expensive. Yes, sitters are getting “free” accommodation, but if a car is available I would encourage home owners to make it accessible. This may make the difference between getting the sitter of your choice, or not.

You’re trusting the sitters with your MOST prized and precious possessions – your pets and home – so why not the car? In my personal house sitting experience, it’s been the male of the species who gets possessive over the family car. But to me, it’s the least precious of possessions.

This is something a home owner must consider fairly and reasonably in order to give you access to the sitters of your choice.

Want to sell your home? Trade your home? Find walk-able cities in which to retire? Age in place? Click here

Priority is Trust on both sides

House sitting is an arrangement based on trust.

Honesty at every stage by both parties is a paramount. As a homeowner, always keep in mind that a House Sitter is someone who will care for your home and pet, and keep everything safe and secure and just as you left it. House sitters are not free laborers, gardeners, sub contractors or cleaners. They provide an important service to give you Peace of Mind. They are not there to remodel your home or garden. Just as you trust them to live up to their commitment, you have the same responsibility – no more, no less.

Related Articles:

Retirees Find House Sitting Opens the Door to a New World

Moving from Stuck to a World of Yes!

Do House Sitters Really Guarantee “Peace of Mind?” – A Home Owner’s Perspective

Top 10 Reasons To “Sit” through Retirement

House Sitting My Way Around the World

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Mexico Retirement Locations – Comparing San Miguel de Allende to Chapala, Part I

Guest blog post by Kevin Knox

Kevin is a semi-retired coffee taster and buyer, world traveler, gourmand and student of yoga and meditation. He and his wife, Erin, currently spend their time between San Miguel de Allende, and Chapala, Mexico. To follow his writings and musings, click on his blog here

Why I am writing this piece

My wife and I recently moved to San Miguel de Allende after two years of living at Lake Chapala and several more years of exploring small-town retirement hotspots in the U.S. Billy and Akaisha, inspirations and mentors for us as for so many others, have kindly asked me to share a few comments about these two Mexican retirement havens.

While we’ve spent a few months in San Miguel we’re still newcomers and just learning the ropes. Our newbie status notwithstanding, I’m hearing from more and more people who’ve heard about but not visited one or the other of these places asking for information and advice, so at the risk of being presumptuous I thought I’d offer some impressions based on our admittedly limited experience.

San Miguel de Allende from the Mirador

Common Clichés & Stereotypes

Perhaps because they are the two most important expat retirement havens in Mexico, stereotypes and misinformation between the two communities are abundant. When we lived at Lake Chapala we were frequently discouraged from even visiting San Miguel: “It’s too cold, too expensive, too snooty – you’ll hate it!” we were told.

Conversely, when we first visited San Miguel and let it be known we’d lived at Lake Chapala, we heard things along these lines: “Oh, Lake Chapala. Don’t you pretty much have to be 75 years old, ex-military, belong to the American Legion, smoke and drink like crazy and live on a fixed income to fit in there?”

Needless to say both stereotypes are inaccurate, yet arose from tiny kernels of truth.

  Curious about Mexico? Click here

Similarities

Lake Chapala, or “Lakeside” as it’s known among local expats, comprises the town of Chapala and several villages, from San Antonio Tlayacapan to Jocotepec, on the north shore of Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. The cumulative population of these places is around 100,000, which is pretty close to that of San Miguel de Allende, with around 85,000 in the city proper and perhaps 140,000 in the greater metro area.

While both places are well-known as havens for American and Canadian expats, we gringos comprise only about 5-10% of the population, depending on the season. This translates to 5,000-10,000 (a total guesstimate – there simply are no accurate numbers) foreign residents: just enough for there to be an established infrastructure of English-language news, clubs and activities.

Both places are strongly seasonal in their expat occupancy, though this is truer of Lakeside than San Miguel. High season is from roughly November through March, and “high high” season is January and February, in both places, with many expats residing in Mexico seasonally.

Differences

Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala is a beautiful natural setting that’s only 40 minutes away from Guadalajara, the third-largest city in Mexico, with a population approaching 8 million. That proximity has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand you have an excellent international airport only half an hour away, which is great for those who return frequently to the U.S. or Canada, and of course shopping opportunities in such a huge city are limitless.

On the downside, Lake Chapala is inundated with partying weekend visitors from the big city, and increasingly functions as a southern suburb of Guadalajara. Big city crime, including a significant level of activity from the narco cartels, has also made its presence felt at Lakeside in recent years. There’s just one major road into and out of all of Lakeside, so on occasion one can feel a bit trapped, geographically.

Beautiful Lake Chapala has been a retirement favorite for decades

The advantages of Lake Chapala are also numerous, starting with the lake itself, which is beautiful in every season. Being on water moderates temperatures, giving Lakeside one of the best climates in the world, with year-round highs ranging from the low 70’s to high 80’s and comfortable lows in the high 50’s to mid 40’s, with lovely rains in the summer months and a lengthy dry season that stretches from November through May. The climate is significantly gentler than San Miguel’s, as is the vegetation (think Santa Barbara or Italian Riviera for Lakeside vs. a warmer version of Santa Fe for San Miguel).

One has a sense of living in nature at Lakeside, and most homes have covered porches or verandas where locals spend much of their time. The pace is slow, the streets are cobblestoned and opportunities for recreation, from tennis to hiking, are abundant.

  Not interested in Mexico? Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

The epicenter of the expat community at Lakeside is the village of Ajijic and the Lake Chapala Society, a long-established haven for expats. It offers beautiful gardens, an excellent book and DVD library and has a wide range of classes and activities. Local English media includes the Guadalajara Reporter weekly newspaper and a couple of monthly publications with heavy real estate promotion emphasis, the Lake Chapala Review and the Coldwell Banker sponsored Ojo del Lago. The only truly popular web forum for the area, Chapala.com, is also Coldwell Banker-sponsored and is moderated with a heavy hand.

With regard to the Mexican community, there are really two distinctive communities at Lakeside. Historically and even today in large measure this is a rural, agricultural place, and while employment in service industries and construction has boomed in recent decades the lake is still the world headquarters for Driscoll berry farms, while the entire south shore of the lake is primarily used for agriculture and fishing.

Contrasting sharply with the dominant small village agricultural working class are wealthy second home owners from Guadalajara, for whom the lake is a weekend and holiday playground.

For specifics on San Miguel in Mexico Retirement Locations, Part II

To read Part III, click here

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What if Akaisha and Billy Hit the Big Time?

Hi B & A,

I was just reading your article about the woman who was ill prepared to deal with the syrup on the coke bottle at lunch in Guatemala. Very interesting and amusing to read.

It’s been over 4 years since I’ve began following your adventures and it seems to me that you have more products for sale, both to adventure seekers and advertisers alike. Good for you!! Your entrepreneurial spirit lives on!

I’m also impressed on how you have kept up with technology. I’m pushing 59, and since I’ve retired, I confess that I have lost some incentive to learn the latest and greatest in the electronic world.

Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

Then the thought occurred to me, “Suppose B & A hit it big and became niche ‘Trip Advisors?’ with substantial financial rewards.”

Would you continue to live frugally in Mexico and Latin America, or would you move up to 5 star hotels and explore Europe and more expensive places of the earth?

Or would you contribute the excess to the needy in the places where you have visited?

Or would you pick a happy medium?

I may be bordering on “none of your business” territory, and if I am, please accept my apologies.

Have a great day!

Tim

Villages around the world are in need of basic services

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my reply. And just so you know, we really enjoy hearing from our Readers!

We are very happy that you have been following our adventures for over 4 years. It feels wonderful that we have been able to keep your attention with our journeys and our writing for that long a time. And of course, thank you for your good wishes!

Sometimes learning electronic gadgetry has been a personal challenge, but we thrive on having a digital office, being able to do what we love and write about it from anywhere in the world. This keeps our minds sharp, gives us avenues for our creativity and we find it both exciting and fulfilling.

As far as “hitting the big time” and making major money… wouldn’t that be fun?!

I can assure you that we would have a grand time contributing to building sources of clean water for villages where we have visited or finding ways to provide affordable electricity so children can study at night time or so family life can improve. Helping young women become educated and supporting the “Girl Effect” in pueblos, teaching about hygiene so children are healthy, encouraging micro-lending for small business people around the world so they can become self-supporting and donating to organizations who help prevent family violence and abuse, funding literacy programs, building schools, clinics, funding medical research… There are countless projects and ways to contribute that would be fulfilling, challenging and worthwhile.

People are people everywhere

We’d love to have millions of dollars at our disposal for such plans!

Billy and I are not major consumers and we are comfortable with that approach to living life. We might want to celebrate once in a while, but we have no need for yachts, cars or living a lavish lifestyle.

There is nothing wrong with that manner of living and we don’t begrudge anyone who has made that choice. Personally, I think we would be too busy with our projects to keep up with owning a lot of stuff. Sometimes we think our lives are too complicated just as we are living them today!

We would love to return to Europe and plan to do so again, this time visiting Greece and spending more time in Italy. Our style is to spend a year here and a year there… I think we could easily do that, even now (before the millions!)

After 2 decades of travel we appreciate the perspective it has given us on so many different levels. We eat well (and probably too much), we have friends everywhere, have seen gorgeous scenery of so many types, experienced cultures around the world and have developed more self-reliance.

Educating this child could impact his whole village

It’s a sense of personal freedom that we have cultivated and it suits us both very well. It’s also something we wish for anyone who is attracted to this kind of world view.

I hope I have answered your questions and again, thank you for taking the time to write.

Feel free to write any time.

All the best!
Akaisha and Billy

Volunteer. Change a life!

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