How One Couple Plans to Semi-Retire in Mexico
June 20, 2016 | Enjoying Retirement
Pat Buechs and Kim Peregrine are about to reinvent themselves. After careers spanning over 30 years, the married couple is about to retire … but not in the traditional sense. They’re planning to move from their home in Wisconsin and retire in Mexico, where they will open a bakery, café and bed and breakfast. It’s a dream that has been some time in the making.
The couple has spent the last few years planning. They have a road map sketched out; it includes testing potential locations before settling on where they will move. Once they settle, they have a business plan to start the bakery. “We’ve talked about particulars, but we’re a year away from even finding that property,” Buechs said.
Defining Their Retirement Dream
The couple first started talking about retiring in Mexico five years ago. Peregrine had lived and studied there prior to getting married. The moment Buechs saw the country, too, he agreed. “I saw why she loved it so much. I saw the beauty.” It didn’t take much convincing to decide Mexico would be the perfect place for Buechs to turn his passion for food and entertaining into a reality.
Once the decision to head south had been settled, the couple started talking logistics. What would this new adventure look like? Peregrine is older than her husband, and she wants to remain fully retired after the move. “Yes, Kim is fully retired,” Peregrine joked about herself. But Buechs has visions of a bakery, which will generate income. He also has plans to open a bed and breakfast and café. They say they want their future space in Mexico to allow family and friends to stay with them. The couple says they feel they are planning for a great mix of living life with passion and allowing themselves to be free.
The key for the couple is focusing on maximizing financial and enjoyment benefits. Buechs says, “Our friends kept telling us, ‘Yeah, right, you’re moving,’ but with each step along the way they began to realize we were serious. And the more questions they asked, they realized we actually had answers and had thought this through.”
Once the couple moves to Mexico, they say, they want to take six months to scout several cities before selecting an area to permanently settle down. They want to be near an airport, in a city with well-established infrastructure and close to attractions that would draw visitors. Buechs says their goal is to target destination travelers who want to have a better understanding of the country. Peregrine adds, “It’s not that tough [to target these travelers] because it’s people like us that we’re looking for.”
The Countdown Begins
Buechs says, “When I turned 50, Kim was already 60; and I knew my retirement plan through work would allow me to retire at 55.” He told Peregrine what he wanted to do, but he jokes that she didn’t really believe he was serious for about another year. “I can see the big picture—it’s my forte, so planning for this long term didn’t phase me. I knew I could do it.”
The couple took another year to roll out the idea to family and friends, and Peregrine says the most emotional conversations were with their adult children. “They get that the world is a small place. Hopefully they won’t take so long to get to their happy place. They are seeing us make our dream into reality.”
Buechs held back tears, saying, “We’ve told them just to worry about getting time off work to come. Mom and Dad will get the plane tickets.” But he says both of their children have been completely supportive throughout the entire planning process.
The Devil Is in the Financial Details
Buechs says the financial conversations have been difficult during the planning process, including the talk in which they decided to sell the home where they’d raised their children. But they did it. Now the couple is living in a small apartment until it’s time to head south.
The couple has been taking measures over the last few years to stockpile as much money as possible for their retirement. They’ve been setting aside one-third of Buechs’ income, saving money from the sale of things they aren’t taking to Mexico, and keeping tabs on an annuity, 401(k)s and a pension. Peregrine says, “There are emotions involved here. It hasn’t all been easy. How do you decide what to sell? Even though you know things need to go, it’s still a very emotional process.”
The financial planning doesn’t stop at the U.S. side of the border. The couple is working out the details of a tax plan and Medicare for when they retire in Mexico. Peregrine is also eligible for Social Security, but the couple is trying to delay that benefit as long as possible to try to allow for a higher level of payments when they do begin receiving them.
When asked if the extensive planning has taken the fun out of the transition process, both Buechs and Peregrine laugh and say that’s been the fun part, with Buechs adding, “Actually seeing it executed is fantastic.” The couple admits that the path to their retirement dream may not be the traditional one, but they are reveling in the idea that it is perfect for them. And that, they say, is the point.