I Retired at 55 and Moved to Mexico

A guest post by M. Elizabeth Blair

I was a marketing professor for 25 years. For much of that time, I saved my money because I had a dream. That dream was to someday retire and become a full time artist. I always wanted to be an artist but was afraid that I would be one of the starving ones. I saved almost $100,000 US dollars, in addition to the required contributions to our state teachers retirement fund.

When I started my job in 1989, the university took a certain amount out of our paycheck and invested it into the state teachers retirement fund. A few years later, they allowed faculty to put the money into a one of several different funds that were approved by the administration. As it turns out, I suspect that the state teachers’ retirement fund did better over those 25 years.

Artist and fashionista Liz Blair at home in San Miguel de Allende.

My colleagues seemed to be shocked when I retired. They had not seen any other professors retire at age 55, and some didn’t even realize it was possible. While I was saving my money, I was also searching the internet for places to retire if you want to be an artist. I had almost decided on moving to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico before I had ever been there.

My only child graduated from high school the same summer that I retired, which worked out really well. Over the next three years I would sell off the house he grew up in and the few rental properties that I owned. My son was able to get nearly free tuition for his four years of nursing school with my retirement benefits. He’s now working for a major university hospital.

I went to visit San Miguel de Allende for the first time during my son’s freshman year of college. I loved it even more than I expected and felt at home almost immediately. That first visit was about five weeks long, and I ended up buying a fixer-upper house. I went home to the USA for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. My family was pretty surprised when I came home and told them that I bought a house in Mexico, but they trust my judgement. I moved back to my new house in Mexico, the first week of January 2016.

I still live in San Miguel de Allende, and plan to continue to live here for the foreseeable future. My pension from the state teachers retirement fund allows me to have a comfortable, middle class life in Mexico. It’s been mostly a fun experience, sometimes like a vacation. So far, I have not been the victim of any crimes and have not felt like I was living in a “dangerous” place. The worst thing that’s happened to me was that I broke my ankle. Thankfully, a lot of people pitched in to help. Some of them were only Facebook friends before, like the retired nurse who helped my get to my doctors appointments. One nice thing about living here is that Americans try to help out other Americans when they can. There are a lot of people like me who came here for the art and great weather, but didn’t know a soul.

My first four years here, I did drawing and/or painting almost every day. I took lessons from several different artists, and spent a lot of time at the local arts complex. When the pandemic hit, I still made art on and off, but decided to try some other things. I spent a lot of time the first part of the quarentine either making or decorating clothes. For some reason, that helped to keep me sane at the time. Since then, I have tried a lot of different things, such as karaoke singing, rock drumming lessons, salsa dancing lessons, nude modeling, and a few other things.

I feel very fortunate to have this life. The weather here is sunny and warm most of the year, and the town I live in is very beautiful. I have met lots of artists, writers and world travelers. I still really like the house that I bought six years ago. I have made a lot of art. I take care of my health and am planning to continue to have a life filled with fun and adventure.

M. Elizabeth Blair is a retired marketing professor from Athens, Ohio. She has been living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico since January 2016.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared Feb. 27, 2022, in Ms. Blair’s blog at https://medium.com/@melizabethblair.

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