Why I decided to retire early and start living my dream

Overview of the retreat

Jen Barnett and her husband take a walk on Paseo de Montejo in Mérida, Yucatán

Jen Barnett and her husband, Brett Andrews, take a walk on Paseo de Montejo in Mérida, Yucatán

Photo credit: Julio Leal / instagram.com/juliolealphotographer/

  • Last name: Jen B.
  • Location: Birmingham, Alabama
  • Age: 51
  • Retired at: 51
  • Civil status: Married
  • Job: Co-founder of Expatsi.com

After a 30-year career in marketing, Jen went into semi-retirement in 2022. She felt trapped during the pandemic, in her job, her home, and her life. Finding a “happy place” became very important to her. Jen didn’t want to fight young people for jobs in the turmoil culture during The Big Resignation. She also acknowledged that her parents died at 70 and 72, so she didn’t want to wait another 15 years to “start living.” So Jen retired at 51 and started her journey. Part of that included setting up a business and planning a move. We spoke with her about her retirement.

Reality Retreat

Retirement awaits: What does a day at retirement look like to you?

Jeans : My pitbull and co-worker Squiggy and I wake up when the mood picks up and I head to the kitchen for one of my hubby’s delicious triple lattes. I spend the morning writing TikTok scripts or working on our site, then I stop to cook lunch.

During the pandemic, I started growing vegetables and making my own broths, and I love cooking decadent dishes that you eat for days, like chicken pot pie with bacon and leeks or beef vindaloo. Brett works remotely in a home office, so we connect for lunch, which makes my day.

In the afternoon I will be shooting, editing and posting videos, answering questions from other people who want to live abroad and preparing for our move, like listing items we want to sell on eBay or Poshmark.

Your pension plan

Retirement awaits: Did you have a solid plan for your retirement?

Jeans : We did, but I reversed it! We planned to spend 10 years visiting countries we might want to live in, then exploring regions and cities while continuing to save for our retirement. But after our visit to Merida, I didn’t want to wait that long.

We had the idea for a website and an assessment that would help people like us find the best country to move to, so we decided to go for it and started building it this year. It’s called Expatsi. I also use TikTok and blogs to advise people on how to move abroad.

We will be moving to Mérida in April. Because the cost of living is lower, I was able to retire and work on Expatsi now. We will still visit other countries to see if we would like to move again one day. Brett is in his early 40s, and as long as he’s been working, we basically have an unlimited lead to prime Expatsi on.

The best part of retirement

Retirement awaits: What’s the best part of retirement?

Jeans : Freedom! I love the work I do and I love my hobbies. I take improv classes, cook and grow vegetables, and play with my animals. I can read a book for fun. It is an incredible privilege.

Retirement Challenges

Retirement awaits: What is the biggest challenge in retirement?

Jeans : Because we live in Alabama, we already have a low cost of living, so there are many places we can’t afford to move to, especially in the United States. We had to decide what compromises we were going to make to find our best quality. of living at the lowest cost of living. We often see this in people who take The Expatsi test, which is our quiz that recommends countries suitable for your needs. Everyone wants to live on the beach in Western Europe, but they also want it to be affordable. You usually have to choose.

cost of retirement

Retirement awaits: We want people to understand how much retirement really costs. How do you manage your money now? You have a budget, meet regularly with your advisor, etc.

Jeans : Advisors are an essential part of the process. I think there is a preconceived idea that you have to be very rich to use them, but that is not the case. They can help you with any budget.

Because we’re starting this business and still in the US, we have to spend a portion of our savings each month, and we have a strict budget. We also use the money we earn by selling our belongings before the move wisely. Our goal is to make our business profitable by 2024 so that we can curb expenses, but our cost of living in Mexico will also be much lower. Not very cheap – just less.

retirement advice

Retirement awaits: What is the best advice you would give to someone about to retire?

Jeans : I think the younger generations have understood this. You have to work to live, not live to work. I realize that won’t mean much to someone who has to work three jobs to earn rent, but if you can afford to live on less, do it. Enjoy your life without worrying about hoarding goods or following neighbors.

Things that I wish I had known

Retirement awaits: What are a few things you wish someone had told you about retirement/this season of life/transition?

Jeans : The world has changed so much in recent years that I feel like we are charting our own course. I look forward to meeting like-minded retirees in Mexico.

Best Retirement Vacations

Retirement awaits: What is your favorite vacation or vacation spot?

Jeans : Unsurprisingly, I love Mérida. Countless gorgeous beaches, inspiring Mayan heritage sites, incredible cuisine, and the kindest humans. I can’t wait to be one of them.

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