Is life after retirement better without a car? If you have driven for most of your life, your initial reaction may be “no way!” I felt the same. For most of my life, I couldn’t imagine living without a car. During the week, I had a lengthy commute. On the weekends, I zipped back and forth to the mall, collecting “things” that, in hindsight, I probably didn’t need. Then, in my 60s, something happened that completely changed my perspective on owning a car. I moved to Switzerland.
Getting a new car would have been simple enough. I could have simply traded in my U.S. driver’s license for a local equivalent. But, for some reason, I didn’t. Perhaps I was intimidated by having to speak German at the Swiss version of the DMV. Or, maybe I sensed that giving up my car would be a good thing. Regardless, after about 2 months without a car, I started to notice some important changes in my life.
Now, technically, I’m not “retired.” I still do consulting work – and managing Sixty and Me is a full-time job in and of itself. At the same time, like many true retirees, I am in the position of not having to go to the office every day. As a result, giving up my car was relatively easy.
Here are a few important reasons that life after retirement is better without a car.
It’s almost impossible to get to know your neighbors when you only see them through the protective glass of your windshield. When you ditch your car, your daily activities, from buying groceries to going to the post office, become opportunities for social interaction.
It’s not just about making friends. There is a sense of community and belonging that comes from greeting people on the street. You get to know the local characters and their idiosyncrasies. The teenagers in the neighborhood seem less menacing when you hear their jokes. The adults, young and old, seem more approachable when you aren’t zipping past them at 40 miles per hour.
Social isolation is a major issue for many people in retirement. Part of the problem is that our social circumstances change in our 50s and 60s. The other part of the problem is that many of us tend to isolate ourselves from the world. It’s hard to make friends from a concrete castle or a metal chariot!
Getting in shape after 60 is tough. As our hormones shift, we find that we need to work hard just to maintain our current body shape. And, if you want to lose weight after 60, you have to be prepared for some serious work.
Selling your car gives your body an instant fitness boost. Instead of relying on your vehicle to whisk you from location to location, your legs finally have to do some work. Carrying your groceries back from the store sounds easy – until you actually do it for the first time in decades.
For someone, like me, who spent most of her life at a desk, carrying two bags of food was like a workout at the gym. Of course, it gets easier over time and, after a while, you don’t even notice that your daily activities are giving your body a workout.
Recently, my son convinced me to install a fitness tracking app on my phone and I was surprised to find that I usually walk over 7,000 steps a day, without even trying. I’m sure that this number would be at least half that if I still had my car.
On a related note, here’s an interview that I recently did on losing weight after 60. If you’re looking to get back in shape after 60, it’s a great place to start!
Life after retirement should be all about pursuing your passions and following your dreams. Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves with more dreams than money, after 60. Few choices can make as big of a difference in your financial life as giving up your car.
According to USA Today, the average cost of owning a car in the U.S. is $9,000 per year. Think of what you could do with this money! You could join a gym, take a vacation, buy yourself some new clothes, eat more organic food, support your favorite charity and still have month to spare.
Even if you own your car, you are probably paying hundreds of dollars a month in insurance and gas. There are so many ways that you could use this money to improve your life in retirement.
Most of us, even those of us without grandkids, want to leave the world a better place for the next generation. Giving up your car is a quick way to make a real difference in the world. For starters, living without a car reduces your ecological footprint. Fewer fossil fuels will be burned and less population will be released because of your choice.
Indirectly, choosing to live without a car sends a positive signal to those around you. Driving everywhere is only “normal” because so many people do it. The more people choose to live without a car, the more socially acceptable it will become.
Having a car may feel like a necessity, but, in reality it is a choice. This is especially true when we reach retirement and we have more flexibility in our schedule. I hope that this article has inspired you to at least consider life in the slow lane. I’ve been living without a car for years now and I couldn’t be happier.
Do you think that you could live without a car? Or, do you love your car too much to ever give it up? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.