Helaine Olen


Dear Helaine: During the recession, I lost a great, well-paying job. I lived off my savings for a time and took a series of short-term, not-well-paying gigs before training for a new field. I was offered a very good job in the Middle East. It pays well, with free housing, no bills, summers off and frequent breaks.

I am now 66. I could stay on this job for three more years before mandatory retirement. The problem is, I hate living here! I miss trees, greenery, culture, spring, fall and, most of all, my friends. The issue? I have about $300,000 in savings and an $800-a-month pension, and if I file tomorrow, $2,000 a month in Social Security. It’s probably not enough money, not if I live into my late 80s or early 90s. I’ve always rented, so there is no home waiting for me in the states.

I know I should stay at this job and sock away more money. If I come back, I think I can land some poorly paid seasonal work, maybe adding an extra $15,000. But I want to come home! I am aware I won’t be healthy and vigorous forever. I want to start living in a place where I am happy sooner rather than later. I could live in a modest apartment. What should I do? — In Misery in the Middle East

Dear Misery in the Middle East: When I was younger, I never could understand how and why people retired. Surely, they could put in one more year, right? Or two more years? Or three? But now I am a little bit older, and I totally hear what you are saying. Life can feel like it is slipping away while we are doing things we believe we should do but that make us unhappy.

My advice to you: I would sit down and make a realistic budget of what you believe you would spend monthly back in the states. I would then work out how much you will have — from Social Security, from your pension, from a spend down of your assets, and from the possibility of part-time work. See if it is doable.

If you think the numbers add up to future trouble, don’t think about three years. Think about six months. Or maybe even three months. During that period, save aggressively, then reassess. You might find it’s easier to hold on for, say, another year, if you think about it in small chunks, rather than a long three-year period.

To ask Helaine a question, email her at askhelaine@gmail.com.



(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.