By Rodney Brooks | The Washington Post

So much has been written about 401(k)s and other employer-sponsored retirement savings plans that we sometimes forget theses sobering statistics: 50 percent of American workers — 55 million people — have no access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

“The result is a growing American underclass, in which a third of current retirees live almost entirely on Social Security and fully half of future retirees will face reduced standards of living,” according to a  recent New York Times editorial.

Most people have saved very little for retirement, and people without access to company-sponsored plans, such as 401(k) plans, save even less. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, 57 percent of Americans have less than $25,000 saved for retirement, and more than a quarter say they have $1,000 or less.

Legislation to address the issue through an auto-enroll IRA have gone nowhere in Congress. So a patchwork of state programs is cropping up across the nation.

California is the latest with its California Secure Choice Retirement Program. The state’s 6.8 million workers who don’t have an employee plan would be automatically enrolled in the new program, and 2 to 5 percent of their salaries would be automatically deducted from their payroll checks — unless they opt out.

“This is a landmark step towards ensuring that nearly 7 million Californians who have been closed off to retirement savings accounts, get access to a simple way to build their assets and economic security over time,” said Blanca Castro, AARP California Director of Advocacy.

The legislation still needs to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, but that is not expected to be a problem.

Thus California becomes the latest state to pass such a plan. Similar plans have been passed in several states, though they all are different. Connecticut, Illinois and Oregon have passed already passed laws. Altogether, 30 states are at various stages of considering them.



As more and more baby boomers retire, many Americans are heading across the border to Mexico to spend the sunset of their lives. Growing up in Chicago, Susan Curra never dreamed she would live in Mexico. Now she couldn’t see herself living anywhere else.

“We actually read an article in the Chicago Tribune talking about retiring in Mexico on 10 dollars a day, which of course is impossible, but we were intrigued. So we came to Mexico and we absolutely loved the country, the culture, the vitality, the ambience? the weather. It’s cheaper to live here,” Curra said.

It’s not hard to see why she and others have moved here. The U.S. dollar is worth more than 19 times the Mexican peso – making this country a bargain.

“A retiree comes to Mexico to spend less then what they would in the United States. A place with better weather and better services with their pension of 40 to 50-thousand dollars in the U.S., they could not live there with the same quality of life as they could in Mexico.” Representative of Mexican Association of Retirement, Carlos Sandoval said.

While this year Mexico was named by International Living magazine as the third best place to retire.

The central Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende is an example of a thriving community of foreign retirees. Almost 9 percent of the people living here are from abroad.





Picture this: Sunshine and low to mid 80s nearly every day, low humidity, free healthcare and affordable housing that includes a maid and someone to clean the pool. It’s estimated that thousands of Americans and Canadians aren’t just picturing it — they’re living it, in a lakeside town in Mexico just a short drive from Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara. With Mexican immigrants in the United States serving as a political hot potato, the lesser discussed issue is the number of Americans who relocate to Mexico, CBS Detroit reported.

The number of foreign-born residents of Mexico doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to the Huffington Post, with Americans representing three-quarters of the documented foreigners.

WWJ Newsradio report Sandra McNeill caught up with Terry McKinnon, a former Detroiter who retired to Mexico ten years ago.

“I looked at my income,” he said. “I was going to end up on Social Security in a year or two at that time and I would have been in subsidized housing.”

McKinnon said he doesn’t even know how he would have been able to afford insurance for his car.

Then he saw a story on Ajijic. He decided to give it six months. “It was at six months that I got a dog, because I knew that this was home; I’d found it.”

McNeill met many Americans and Canadians on a recent trip to the town with cobblestone streets and buildings that are hundreds of years old. A woman from San Diego told her she couldn’t afford to live in the U.S. anymore. A retired couple from Wisconsin told her they came to Ajijic just to visit, and on the second day they bought a house.

McKinnon said there are no hard government census numbers for the area that surrounds Lake Chapala. “My guess would be 5,000 to 7,000 (expatriates) year-round and as many as 15,000 in the winter.”

The cost to live in the area, McKinnon said, varies depending on how much and where you like to go out, and whether you buy or rent. “People are living here…It can be done, on a tight budget, it can be done on a $1,000 a month,” said McKinnon. “You couldn’t live on $1,000 a month in the Detroit area.”

The town is rustic. It’s not unusual to see someone sauntering down the street on the way home from work on a horse. There are horses grazing on grass at the sides of the roads at every turn.

Healthcare, said McKinnon, is subsidized by the Mexican government for permanent residents. “Many of the doctors are taught in the United States…I think the healthcare system is much better than the United States. When I go in and talk with the doctor, he knows me, we know each other. It’s not in and out in five minutes and on to his next patient to make another $500. He’ll spend a half hour, easily, with me, talking.”

Susan Case of Madison, Wisconsin — who bought the house on the second day — said, “Oddly, I haven’t found anything even slightly difficult. It’s been very, very eye-opening to me that’s been as easy as it has been. We have not had any trouble getting used to anything.”

When McNeill asked what’s the hardest part about being American and living in Mexico, McKinnon found it difficult to fight back the tears.

“The hardest thing to adjust to is actually the quality of the Mexican people….They’re the kindest, gentlest people and they’re so helpful and so friendly. You feel cared about down here. I came here alone, I knew no one. And I have friends, and I feel loved.”


By: Donald Murray |

I haven’t always lived in paradise but these days, I do… And so can you for far less than you might think. And, if you don’t want to live in paradise full time, you may consider investing in a second home.

Cancun hosts a thriving rental market that continues to grow as a significant number of the 5 million annual tourists decide to make Cancun their retirement home; some, like me, preferring to rent rather than buy.

As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk appreciating a remarkable view of gorgeous Nichupte Lagoon. My office is in a spare bedroom of our beachfront penthouse condo here in Cancun, Mexico. With two master suites, modern kitchen, three-bathrooms, living room, laundry room and a private, large rooftop terrace that spans the width of the building, our monthly rent is $1,000. And that’s completely furnished.

The window to my right provides a stunning panorama of the aqua-green lagoon a stone’s throw away. Down the hall to my left a large glass window overlooks the magnificent turquoise-jade water of the Caribbean Sea and sparkling white sand only steps beyond.

Purchase prices on these beachfront, multi-level penthouse condos in the Brisas complex where I live run from $175,000 to $350,000 depending on upgrades and condition. Each penthouse unit is about 1,600 to 1,800 square feet. Smaller units on lower floors sell for $100,000 to $150,000. Each unit is individually owned and rarely commercially advertised. Many owners maintain these residences as their vacation homes, living in Mexico City or even Stateside. There are ample opportunities for rental income, if desired.

My wife, Diane, and I found our place in the traditional manner; by walking through several complexes and jotting down phone numbers of units advertised for sale. Sometimes, an owner will prefer the stability of a long-term tenant in exchange for fewer annual dollars and less management associated with vacation rentals.

One example of a beachfront property that may fit the bill is currently listed for less than $100,000. This adorable like-new and fully furnished studio condo is in a great location, away from the bustle of the popular Hotel Zone and still allows beachfront access in the Puerto Juarez area. Mixing the benefits of a hotel with a condo, you’ll enjoy onsite restaurants, low monthly maintenance fees of only $95 and resort-type amenities. This one looks tough to beat for $99,500.

While Cancun is certainly best known as a beachy, Caribbean vacation destination and tourists rarely make it beyond their resorts or local night spots, the city offers excellent infrastructure and a non-touristy vibe for those living here full time. But you have to move away from the beach to find it. There are hospitals, clinics, doctors and dentists, and more than enough shopping to keep even the most avid shopaholic occupied. An international airport connects to all major hubs worldwide and modern paved roads throughout the area facilitate easy transportation. Should you not wish to drive, the city is awash in taxis, and buses seem to run on all major arteries every couple of minutes.

To live close to the beach, you can find a large and lovely three-bedroom executive home in the upscale Bonfil area. With over 4,300 square feet, you can enjoy a wonderful Caribbean lifestyle in this stunning home for only $288,000. It’s great value and only 12 minutes from the beach.

If you are considering a second home with rental potential when you’re not using it, you definitely want to find something on the beach. Another example of one such unit is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in the Villas Marlin Complex. Located in the desirable Hotel Zone, this two-level corner unit has been remodeled and offers a wraparound terrace which considerably expands your living area. And for only $225,000, this 900-square-foot unit would make a great second residence with excellent potential for rental income.

With year round temperatures almost always in the 80s F, you’ll have plenty of sunshine to enjoy the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea on your doorstep.


By: Mandy Oaklander |

A surprising study suggests that the older you are, the happier

Despite of the physical ravages of age, older people are actually happier than younger adults.

So finds a new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, in which researchers analyzed data collected from a random sample of 1,546 people from ages 21 to 99 in San Diego. After a phone interview, the people in the study filled out a long survey asking about their physical, cognitive and mental health. Question topics included how happy and satisfied with life they were, as well as how depressed, anxious or stressed they were.

“There’s this idea that old age is bad, it’s all gloom and doom and older people are usually depressed, grumpy and unhappy,” says study author Dr. Dilip Jeste, a geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at the University of California, San Diego. Happiness and wellbeing are thought to take a U-shaped curve throughout life, dipping down in middle age before inching up again later in old age.

But that’s not what the surveys said. Older people were physically more disabled and had more cognitive impairment than younger ones—the natural deterioration of aging—but in mental health, the advantage flipped. People in their 20s and 30s reported having the highest levels of depression, anxiety and stress, plus the lowest levels of happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing. Older people, surprisingly, were the happiest.

The study was just a snapshot in time; it didn’t follow people to track how their answers changed throughout their own lives. But taken as a whole, “as they got older, it looks like things started getting better for them,” Jeste says. “It suggests that with age, there’s a progressive improvement in mental health.”

What’s so terribly hard about being young? After the turbulence of adolescence, real life begins, with its many financial, educational, romantic and career-oriented demands, Jeste says. “There is constant peer pressure: you’re looking at others and always feeling bad that you’re not succeeding like some of them, and you feel like you have lots of choices but you’re not really making use of them.”

Older people are much better able to brush off life’s small stressors and accumulate a valuable thing called wisdom: being emotionally stable and compassionate, knowing yourself and being able to make smart social decisions, Jeste says.

Some evidence suggests that life today also really is easier for older folks than it used to be; one study found that depressive symptoms in late life have declined from 1998 to 2008. Other research supports a worsening trend for younger adults, who seem to have more depression and anxiety than youth in recent decades.

Though the reasons why aren’t yet clear, “it is conceivable that the changes in societal functioning because of progressive globalization, technology development, increased competition for higher education and for better paying jobs and changing roles of women in the society are likely to impact young women and men more than they might affect older people,” Jeste says. “Any relatively rapid changes tend to bring in stress for the people most affected.”


By: Mexperience

Independence Day on September 16 is the most widely celebrated of Mexico’s four political national holidays. It’s no wonder this is so as it marks the events that led to the creation of the Mexican Republic following three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.

The other three political holidays: marking the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution (in February); the birth of 19th century president Benito Juárez (in March); and the start of the 1910-1917 Revolution (in November) pale in comparison with the September independence holiday. Those three have all been moved, since 2006, to the nearest Monday, as part of an initiative to create long weekends, similar to Bank Holidays in the UK, which stimulate tourism.

Not so ‘El Grito‘ which is always held on the night of September 15, and followed by a national day-off on the 16th. Legislators considered that the Independence holiday, like the May 1 international Labor Day, was too significant to be tampered with for the sake of convenience or economics.

September 16 competes with other national holidays in a number of ways.

Like Christmas, it’s a time for lighting up public places with decorations in the green, white and red national colors, including images in neon of the country’s Independence heroes: Miguel Hidalgo, the priest who rang the bell on September 16, 1810, in the town of Dolores, and set the independence movement from Spain in motion; and José María Morelos, the priest who continued the revolutionary work of Hidalgo, making a name for himself as one of the most able of Mexico’s military commanders.

Like New Year, it involves people getting together for an evening meal or party, and waiting to 11 p.m. (instead of midnight) when political leaders from the president down to the lowliest mayor re-enact Hidalgo’s call to arms from the balcony of the National Palace, or from countless state and municipal buildings across the nation. These hundreds of simultaneous “gritos” of “Viva México!” are frequently followed by bombardments of fireworks.

These gatherings also have their typical foods, and an Independence Day fiesta is incomplete without pozole, a tasty broth made with white corn, pork or chicken, and served with radishes, oregano, and other spices.

Flags abound, and entertainments include the military parade in Mexico City, with planes flying in formation over the capital (the Mexico City airport is closed to commercial flights for several hours on the 16th).


By: Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher |

Current estimates put the number of U.S. and Canadian citizens living in various places in Mexico at well over one million. Not all are retired, but hundreds of thousands of them are.

This easily makes Mexico the world’s most popular overseas retirement destination for U.S. and Canadian citizens.

Remember, this is the country that one U.S. presidential candidate thinks is so bad that it should be walled off from the rest of North America.

What makes so many North Americans disagree? What makes Mexico the world’s biggest draw for U.S. and Canadian citizens looking outside their own countries for a quality retirement?

We can think of five reasons off the top of our heads.

The Weather — The only place you’ll find snow in Mexico is on the tops of mountains. Otherwise, the weather in the entire country is temperate to hot. Mexico’s Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf Coast beaches are justifiably famous for their warmth and beauty, and in Mexico’s interior highlands, you’ll find dozens of communities where North America retirees enjoy warm days and cool nights all year around. No snow to shovel, ever.

Proximity to U.S. and Canada — Mexico is the nearest neighbor to the U.S. and one country away from Canada. This makes getting back home for any reason quick, simple, and affordable. There are hundreds of direct flights from major airports in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Merida, Cancun, and other Mexican hubs to major U.S. cities every day. (And more are coming. The U.S. and Mexico just signed a treaty to allow even more direct flights between even more cities in the two countries.) And much of Mexico is close enough that many U.S. and Canadian retirees drive to their Mexican winter quarters or second homes.

Great Medical Care — In Mexico’s major metropolitan areas, medical facilities are world class, and medical care costs significantly less than in the U.S. And entrepreneurs in Mexico are fully aware of the draw that good medical care has for U.S. and Canadian retirees. New facilities are being built and older facilities upgraded throughout Mexico to cater to foreign retirees.

Lower Cost of Living — It can cost much less to live in Mexico than it does in the U.S. or Canada. Weather has a lot to do with this. If you live somewhere with mild, year-around weather, utility costs naturally go down. But other costs are lower as well, including health insurance and medical care, rents, and the cost of real estate. (Annual property taxes in Mexico are rarely more than $200.) There are certainly some areas of Mexico very popular with U.S. and Canadian tourists and retirees where prices are on par with those up north, but it doesn’t take much looking once on the ground to find extremely reasonable rents and real estate prices outside the tourist and “gringo” zones. (By the way, the Mexican peso has been trading at close to 18 pesos to the U.S. dollar for some time now, making this the most affordable time in recent memory to be spending dollars in Mexico.)

Wonderful Cultures — Mexico has its own brand identity, and even people who have never been anywhere in the country think they know what Mexico is like. But it’s a big country, and the difference between the culture in Merida and the culture in Puerto Vallarta is as vast as the difference between Virginia Beach and Portland or Montreal and Vancouver. The music, the food, the clothing, the attitudes … there is so much cultural variety that thinking of Mexico as nothing but mariachis and tacos is like thinking of the U.S. as nothing but hip hop and burgers or of Canada as nothing but Celine Dion and poutine. Mexicans are proud of their national heritage, but they are just as likely as other North Americans to think of themselves in terms of their city, region, or state as anything else.

So it’s no surprise to us that North American retirees have made Mexico their #1 destination. We’ve lived in three different communities in Mexico and have visited nearly every Mexican state, so the charms of Mexico are obvious to us.

And let us hasten to add that we have rarely felt unsafe or in danger anywhere we’ve lived or traveled in Mexico.

A number of factors have combined to cause terrible violence in some parts of the country, mostly due to conflicts over control of various aspects of the illegal drug trade. Having the largest and most profitable market on the planet for illegal drugs just across its northern border has not helped Mexico overcome its problems with drug-related crime.

But we are not involved in the production, sale, and distribution of drugs, and neither are the vast majority of expats living and working in Mexico. Statistically, many areas of Mexico are safer than areas of comparable populations in the U.S. and Canada. Those are the areas we’ve lived in, and those are the areas most U.S. and Canadian retirees live in. Safely.

So we guess there are actually six reasons that Mexico is the top destination for U.S. and Canadian citizens looking for a more affordable, high-quality retirement than they can get back home. And remember, Mexico is part of North America. No wall will stop us from doing business with, retiring to, or enjoying the cultural richness and opportunities of our southern partner.