As I cast about for a suitable subject for this week’s article, I happened to notice the online poll that The Royal Gazette is currently conducting, which asks: “What is the most significant reason for Bermuda residents choosing to leave the island?”
What I find most interesting is the fact that with the publication of this poll, we have moved beyond a discussion of whether a significant number of Bermudians are leaving the island, to the acknowledgement that “leaving Bermuda” is now an option being considered by a significant number of us. But, as far as I am aware, we have yet to begin the discussion of what this means for the future of our island and its residents.
Perhaps a poll like this can get the discussion moving in the right direction. I will say upfront that I am not politically motivated in any direction when I write this article, but I am interested in the evolution of social constructs. By this I mean, I am fascinated by what motivates people to behave as they do, the choices they make, and most of all what it takes to get people to freely decide to make changes to their behaviour and their lives.
So, what does this poll tell us about what is going on in Bermuda right now? Well, at the time of writing it indicates that 77 per cent of respondents believe that people of all ages are leaving the island due to the “cost of living”.
Should any of us be surprised by this? Absolutely not if you have glanced at your most recent electricity bill or purchased even the most basic groceries. The question is, why are so many of us choosing to leave rather than working together to find ways to make life here more economically viable?
On the one hand, I am sure that many individuals have departed for greener pastures, better job opportunities, lower cost of living and healthcare only after exhausting every last idea and resource available to them.
For others, the advent of retirement and the reality of living on a substantially reduced fixed income has made the decision easy to make, if somewhat more problematic to carry out. After all, how many of us actually grew up thinking that after spending 65 years in one place that we would intentionally pull up stakes and leave the only life we have ever known behind?
If you are affluent enough to travel abroad two or three times a year and never have to worry how you will scrape together enough money to relicense your car for another year, or pay your children’s school fees, it is easy to view this as “not my problem”. Easier still to imagine that this could never happen to you; the people leaving must have mismanaged their finances and deserve what they are getting.
But if things continue on their current course, when does this all stop? When do food prices stop increasing? When do housing prices stop rising? How will wages ever keep pace with these increases so that the majority of us can afford to be here?
You may well be insulated from the effects of these things, but what about your children or grandchildren? Are you raising them in an environment that they will ever be able to afford to live in?
I wish I could tell you that I had answers to these questions, but I don’t. Yet I do believe that it is time for us all to think more about the future we want for our island and to start to work together on coming up with some real solutions. After all, what’s the alternative? Is this really an issue that we just shrug our shoulders about and accept?
•Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org