There’s a lot of loose talk about people retiring outside the United States. It’s not as romantic a conversation as one might think, because the underlying premise is that most Americans don’t have the resources they’ll need to retire comfortably in the country they’ve helped to build.
Say you have only $1,177 a month to live on. (That’s not unlikely. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration: “The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,177 at the beginning of 2011.” And for 29 percent of Americans, Social Security and modest savings—less than $25,000—is all that will sustain them once they stop cashing a paycheck.)
You might be able to live on that in an efficiency apartment in a rotten part of a crumbling town or in an abandoned shed on the barren plain. (Looking at you, Nebraska.) Or you can move to the Panamanian seaside—the argument goes—where you can eat fresh fruit and bask in the sun while beach-combing masseuses knead your aching muscles.
Given those options, you’d think oldsters would be flocking off-shore. Not true, says U.S. News and World Report: “The growth of foreign recipients of Social Security payments was less than 7.5 percent during 2009 and 2010.”
The number of ex-pat retirees has grown substantially over the past decade. At the end of 2010, roughly 548,000 monthly payments were sent to people outside the United States. (That’s up from 396,000 in 2000.) The biggest destination was Canada, which now receives a bit over 108,000 checks a month. Yes, that means 108,000 people went north in retirement. (We suspect it’s to take advantage of their drugs.)
Mexico was second, with almost 51,000. (Ditto?) Just 15 percent of the old rovers (82,000 checks) were in Italy, Greece, Portugal and France combined.
None of that alters the fact that your money will go further in another country. Your lifestyle might not be as extravagant…and your carbon footprint might drop a few sizes…but you’ll be living with folks in similar circumstances, so you’ll be fine with it. So if you’re looking at imminent retirement on limited resources, check out the magazine’s list of affordable retirement havens.
Photo, “Cruise ship Strathaird leaving port” by George Jackman via Wikimedia Commons