Each year, thousands of Americans make the choice to retire overseas. According to an article published by International Living, the Social Security Administration paid more than $3 billion in benefit payments to U.S. retirees living abroad in 2013.
Homebodies might find the idea of retiring outside the United States – away from family, friends and most that’s familiar – unthinkable, but many others consider the idea the adventure of a lifetime. Here are five reasons why Americans choose to retire abroad.
1. Blue Skies and Perpetual Warm Weather
Goodbye below-freezing temperatures, driveways buried in snow and puffy, shapeless winter coats. Hello sun, golden beaches and breezy vacation wear!
Many Americans who retire overseas are attracted to the promise of a more relaxed lifestyle facilitated by year-round beautiful weather. Ecuador, for example, which is well known for welcoming American retirees, has been named as one of 10 countries with a perfect climate. Belize, which has the added advantage of having English as its official language, has an average temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, you could retire to somewhere freezing, but that's not the fantasy that gets many people packing their boxes.
2. Cheap Living Expenses
Is there any place in the United States where you can live well on $2000 a month? Probably not. However, there are a number of other countries where you can. (For more, see What Does Retirement Abroad Cost?)
In an article for Forbes, International Living Senior Editors and married couple Dan Prescher and Suzan Haskins wrote about living in Ecuador for $1397 per month. They own their property and don’t pay rent.
Speaking of mortgages, in some tropical countries, scenic, lakefront properties on generous lots can cost a fraction of what similar spreads would cost in the States. One such property in Costa Rica was recently listed for $169,900. (For more, see 4 Reasons Why Americans Retire in Costa Rica.)
3. Perks and More Perks
From tax breaks to reduced-price sports tickets, foreign governments are pulling out the stops to lure Americans looking for a new and exotic locale to call home. Panama’s tourism website features (among other things) discounts on dining, airfare, concerts and plays, dental exams, optometry exams and prescription drugs; express lines in banks; 100% exemption from property taxes on any single dwelling and a 75% government subsidy on electricity, water and telephone bills. Whew!
4. The Adventure of a Different Culture
Americans are proud of saying that the United States is the best country in the world, and perhaps in many ways it is. Still, some Americans are thrilled to pursue novel sights, sounds, smells and tastes in a new culture among different people. It's fun, it’s exciting and it provides ample opportunity for learning and personal growth no matter the individual's stage in life.
5. Because They Can
In general, many find the notion of living abroad a lot more attainable today than in times past. International travel is not as expensive or arduous, and the Internet has made it possible for American expatriates to tell the world all about their experiences and feel less isolated when living far from home. This makes moving halfway around the globe remarkably feasible for anyone in reasonably good health with some savings and the desire to do so. (For more, see Where to Retire Abroad? Follow Your Fellow Expats.)
The Bottom Line
The prospect of retiring abroad can be attractive to those with adventurous spirits seeking a dramatically different life from their current situation. In addition to the anticipation of warmer climates, lovely surroundings and a reduced cost of living, individuals who retire abroad can look forward to a manner of financial enticements from some foreign governments hoping to bring in Americans and their American dollars. (For more, see Retirement: U.S. vs. Abroad.) Each country has different policies of course, so research carefully before you narrow down your choices; then try to visit more than once before you move.