It’s the same in every movie. Captain Kirk battles a psycho who wants to wipe out humanity. His ship could be wrecked. His gun could be stolen. But no matter which ugly alien is breathing down his neck, he never accepts defeat. “I don’t believe in a no-win scenario,” is probably his best-known line.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck describes people like Captain Kirk. They have a “growth” mindset. They don’t accept the status quo. They think outside the box. They keep looking for solutions. They almost always find them.
Many people feel threatened by their own galactic fears. A 2016 Gallup poll says 64 percent of Americans are worried that they’ll fall short of their retirement goals. Wages are rising. But inflation is hitting harder.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, U.S. wages, measured by average hourly earnings, rose 26 percent during the 10-year period ending December 2016. But data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, says the Consumer Price Index increased by 29 percent during the same time period. Health care costs are rising even faster.
Many worry about the strength of Social Security or whether stocks and bonds will pay. But let’s step back. We shouldn’t worry about the things we can’t control. We should, however, take control of what we can. Like Captain Kirk, you don’t have to believe in a no-win scenario.
Most of us can control what we spend. It’s easier to cut back when we track expenses. It works much the same way as tracking what we eat. Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research followed more than 1,700 dieters over a six-month period. The biggest single predictor of whether a participant would lose weight was whether they documented their food intake. It was a better indicator than exercise, age and body mass index.
If we track what we spend, we’ll see what we’re paying for Starbucks coffees, dining out or cell phone bills. When we see what we’re paying, we often end up cutting back. This might allow us to invest more money or pay down debts. Forbes lists 12 free expense-tracking apps that you could download on a smartphone.
With U.S. stocks at an all-time high, you might fear investing. But money in a savings account loses to inflation. In a Certificate of Deposit (CD) it barely treads water. Like Captain Kirk, you’ll need to take some risks. Yes, stocks are trading at an all-time high. But that’s also normal. Since 1970, stocks have hit all-time highs during 30 calendar years.
Years When U.S. Stocks Hit All-Time Highs
|Source: NYU Stern School of Business|
The savvy starship captain would also add another weapon. International stocks are cheap. Investors reduce risk when they build a portfolio that includes global stocks. Such diversification might also juice returns.
If you own a home, how about boosting your income with an in-law suite? You could rent it out. This might pay off the mortgage faster and provide retirement income. My friend Ingrid Smith (I changed her last name to protect her identity) does something similar. She owns a 1,300 square foot home. In the backyard, there’s a former garage that she converted into a cottage. “I rent it out anywhere from $650 a week to $850 a month,” she says.
The universe might also have more options than you think. When you retire, consider moving somewhere cheaper. If you want to compare the cost of living for different cities, check out Numbeo.com.
In 2014, CBS News listed 10 of the most affordable U.S. cities to retire. They included cities “that many retirees might find desirable, including a mix of urban and rural attractions, good weather, easy access to amenities, and quality healthcare options.”
They measured affordability based on the average tax burden, the low cost of living and the median listed home price. I used the Zillow Home Value Index to update home prices to 2017. The median listed home in the United States is priced at about $235,000. The typical home in the cities listed by CBS News is $50,000 cheaper.
Do your retirement options still look tough? The resourceful captain might say you should jump to another planet. He might be able to find a place where the sun always shines, where the food is great and where he won’t be attacked by a high cost of living. You and I don’t have the luxury of broad space travel. But retiring in Mexico might offer the next best thing.
An arsenal of options comes from thinking outside the box.
Ten Affordable U.S. Cities To Retire
|City||Tax Burden*||Cost Of Living Below The National Average**||Median Listed Home Price***|
|Pittsburgh, PA||10.2%||12.8% below||$166,500|
|Indianapolis, Indiana||9.6%||12.8% below||$119,900|
|Omaha, Nebraska||9.7%||11.7% below||$195,000|
|Decatur, Ala.||8.2%||10.8% below||$119,900|
|Tulsa, Okla.||8.7%||11.6% below||$155,000|
|Tampa, Florida||9.3%||7.6% below||$249,900|
|Clarksville, Tenn.||7.7%||7% below||$169,900|
|Corpus Christi/Rockport Texas||7.9%||4.9% below||Corpus Christi: $199,900
*Tax Burden: % of taxpayer’s income that goes to state and local taxes | Source: The Tax Foundation
**Cost of Living: U.S. Consensus Bureau
***House Values: Zillow Home Value Index, updated to included median listed home prices, February 2017
Sources: CBS News; Zillow.com
Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller, Millionaire Teacher and The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat.