Reducing Your Second Largest Retirement Expense

After housing, transportation stands as the second most significant expenditure for individuals aged 65 and above in the United States. In 2021, the average spending on transportation for this demographic amounted to $7,160, equivalent to approximately $600 per month, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is worth noting that 2021 was an exceptional year due to the pandemic, resulting in reduced travel compared to normal circumstances.

A Paradigm Shift

Car culture has long been deeply ingrained in American society, with the United States being one of the most car-dependent nations globally, with 831 motor vehicles per 1,000 people. Particularly for older Americans, cars are essential in their daily lives. Around 70% of Americans over 50 reside in suburban or rural areas with limited or nonexistent public transportation.

The reality is, however, that many desirable locations worldwide have embraced alternative lifestyles that minimize or eliminate the need for daily driving. In these places, people rely on efficient and user-friendly public transportation systems or opt for walking as their primary mode of transportation. You can significantly reduce your retirement expenses by considering relocation to one of these car-free destinations. Listed below are three top destinations where you can live without a car and provide an overview of the potential monthly savings in transportation costs.

Please note that the following locations are suitable for long-term retirement for the average American, excluding cities like Singapore or Hong Kong which are renowned for their transport systems but pose challenges from a residency perspective.

Madrid, Spain

Spain boasts an extensive and well-connected public transport network. Second, only to China, Spain possesses one of the most extensive high-speed rail networks worldwide. In the capital city of Madrid, you can enjoy a car-free lifestyle. There are restrictions on driving within Madrid Central, with only electric and hybrid cars allowed.

Madrid is a large city with a spread-out geography, but it offers excellent walkability, with well-maintained pavements and wide sidewalks throughout. Public transportation in Madrid comprises the Metro (a rapid transit system), Cercanías Madrid (a commuter rail service), Metro Ligero (a light rail system), and bus services. By utilizing a combination of these options, you can travel affordably to any destination within the city. A single bus or Metro journey costs approximately 1.50 euros (about $1.62), while a standard 30-day pass amounts to 21.80 euros (around $23.55). This translates to a cost of 95% less than the average transportation expenses of older Americans in 2021.

Moreover, seniors 65 and older with a personal Public Transport Card can access the entire Metro transport network for free. By relocating to Madrid, you could reduce your monthly transportation costs to zero. Even if you use non-public transportation options such as taxis or ride-hailing services like Uber or Cabify, you can still save hundreds of dollars per month.

Medellin, Colombia

Medellin stands out as the most suitable city in Latin America for car-free living, and it is the only Colombian city with a commuter rail system. The Medellin Metro, serving over half a million people daily, is a source of pride for the city and includes the Metrocable. This gondola system reaches previously inaccessible hillside neighborhoods.

The standard fare for the Medellin Metro is 2,880 Colombian pesos (approximately 65 cents), with a slightly reduced fare for seniors at 2,660 pesos (around 60 cents). By relying solely on the Metro and taking it twice or three times a day, your monthly transportation expenses would amount to approximately $45, a remarkable 92% less than the average monthly transportation expenses of Americans 65 and older.

In addition to the Metro, Medellin offers other public transportation for your convenience. These include the Metroplús, a bus transit service, the Ayacucho Tram system, taxis, Cabify, and Uber. The city also features unofficial transport options such as colectivos (shared taxis that operate when the vehicle is full of passengers) and moto-taxis (motorcycle taxis).

Expats in Medellin report spending around $95 per month using a combination of these transportation options, which is still significantly lower than the transportation costs back in their home countries.

Moreover, Medellin promotes eco-conscious living and provides amenities for pedestrians and cyclists. Some neighborhoods are easily navigable on foot, and there are bike lanes and public bicycles, providing alternative means of transportation.

Bangkok, Thailand

Owning a car in Bangkok is unnecessary due to its well-connected and efficient public transport network. Having a car might prove more hindering than beneficial in a city notorious for traffic congestion and limited parking spaces.

Bangkok boasts four rapid transit systems, including the BTS Skytrain (an elevated rapid transit system), the MRT (Metro), the SRT Red Lines (a commuter rail system), and the Airport Rail Link (which connects the city center with Suvarnabhumi Airport). The city’s extensive bus network includes minibusses and converted pickup trucks with passenger benches, known as Song Thaew. Taxis, tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and ride-hailing apps like Grab and Bolt are also available for convenient transportation.

Moreover, Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is an additional transportation option, with water buses and long-tail boats catering to tens of thousands of daily commuters at affordable fares.

While Bangkok may not be primarily known as a walking city, it offers many options for getting around without a car. Expats report spending approximately $120 per month on transportation in Bangkok using a combination of these alternatives, representing an 80% reduction compared to the average expenses of Americans aged 65 and older.

Additional Benefits of Going Car-Free

Adopting a car-free lifestyle offers numerous additional advantages besides the potential cost savings. Many cities, especially those in the Old World, were designed with pedestrians in mind, making them ideal for walking. Others have incorporated dedicated bike lanes, promoting cycling as a mode of transportation.

Embracing non-vehicular means of travel also brings health benefits. Walking and cycling contribute to increased physical activity, burning calories, improving stamina, and enhancing cardiovascular health. Moreover, walking positively affects mental well-being, sharpening cognitive abilities and boosting mood.

Shifting away from car usage also contributes to environmental sustainability, as it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants. Additionally, relying on walking, cycling, and public transportation generally results in safer travel than driving.

By considering the possibilities offered by car-free living in retirement, you can significantly reduce your second-largest expense and enjoy the many advantages associated with alternative modes of transportation.