The last few days I have been thinking often of San Miguel and what it offers to retirees and others who flock there. As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, in addition to the many retirees who have settled there, there is also a slow, but noticeable group of younger (40-ish) families with kids who have settled in San Miguel and other places in Guanajuato to give their children something that they believe America can no longer provide: a lifestyle that is people and relationship centered (as opposed to work and materially centered).
This morning the Washington Post reports that millions of Americans are overworked and unhappy, and although employers and employees agree that it would be best if Americans worked less (i.e., 40 hours per week), no one is willing to get off the treadmill and say enough is enough. When people do finally slow down, it’s rarely a gradual decline. Instead, they just stop, which can be translated into “wife/mother stays home with the kids.”
How does this lead to the “fast-pace” of retirement in the U.S.? While doing work in San Miguel, most everyone who had elected to retire there said that although their own lives in retirement were much slower paced than their working lives, their working friends and children were too busy to spend time with them, so they spent significant time alone. San Miguel offers something quite different and un-American: a group of people in their late 40s to 90s (and beyond) who are looking for friendship and ways to effectively contribute to society without working 80 hours a week.
The Post article also sheds light on the younger families who abandon the U.S. for a lifestyle change in Mexico: most workers feel like they can’t be the first one to slow down (it looks bad), so they just bail altogether. If they’ve invested wisely, as many of these young families obviously have, then their years of working 60-80 hours per week translate into a comfortable life, and more importantly A LIFESTYLE, in Mexico.
Of course, we could make this choice here in the U.S., and change they way we work and live in the U.S., but as the Post article points out, the incentives to do so are not as strong as the push to keep working.