Moving Somewhere To Retire? Don’t Kid Yourself!

The Internet is open to all but is also home to many cozy bubbles that distort reality.  It is easy to extrapolate a very specialized, rare thing to a much broader population just because you spend a lot of time within a small group who believes in that thing, talks about it a lot, plans to do it and even has stories to regale you about people who are living that thing.   Put another way, we often fall victim to our own closeted thinking.  What we spend a lot of time on and the people we associate with define much of reality for us.

Retiring abroad is one such example.  Even moving someplace cheaper or warmer within the same country is an example as well.

Ain’t Nobody Movin’

The New York Times published an article, like many others in recent times, about the “best places” for retirement.   In it was an interesting paragraph citing an analysis by William Frey of the Brookings Institution using census data:

Only six-tenths of 1 percent of Americans over age 55 moved across a state line in 2015, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. (The population he looked at includes people who are still working.) And those who do move generally are not following the more creative, and sometimes chilly, recommendations found in many surveys. The top five destinations between 2010 and 2015 were all in the Sunbelt: Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada, followed by Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

You are not goin’ anywhere, punk.

Six-tenths of 1 percent!  Only a tiny 0.6% will even cross their state border for their retirement.   The National Council of Aging says there are 33 million Americans aged 55 and over, most still working but are at an age where they must at least be thinking about retirement.   Out of that, 99.4% of them, that is 32.8 million people will stay put within the same state where they are living currently.  Of the remaining 0.6%, a large majority will move to the sunbelt destinations above so hardly a few will venture abroad. 

Yet, the dream lives on among magazines and blogs that romanticize this extremely rare event of a happy retirement abroad.   Like the millions of salmon that return home after migrating thousands of miles to discover new places, even people who have had ‘peripatetic’ careers like me dream of retiring to a place that we have some roots in, a place that we can call home during the twilight years of our lives.  

If the few who have worked all over the world yearn to return ‘home’ to retire, what about the many millions who have never left even their state, leave alone their country, during their entire working lives?  

So, let’s get real.  There ain’t nobody movin’….

Victim of Closeted Thinking

In an article about learning from a legendary investment Oracle, I gave this example:

I give invited lectures to a few leading universities.  I cherish these opportunities because I get to interact with bright, young minds and also learn from them how to see the world through new ways and understand what catches their fancy these days.   I also find some disappointing trends.  The world of specialized online forums and targeted social media have created ‘online cocoons’ inside which many people stay and remain comfortable.  With distance no longer an issue, it is possible for esoteric interests across the world to congregate and ignore all others outside their interests.

For example, a chameleon patterned Mohawk hair style enthusiast from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil can connect with a person with the exact same interest in Osaka, Japan who connects with a similar dude in Reno, Nevada who has a YouTube video series on how to keep the chameleon looking lively on that Mohawk.  Maybe only 200 people in the world like the same thing but you can bet they are all passionate about it and have an online forum to connect and remain closeted within.

This phenomenon explains why many in the personal finance community and their readers think that moving someplace cheaper is a real option.  Because that’s what we read about often and discuss online. 

Are you part of the 0.6%?

Think your paradise abroad awaits you?  NOT!

The net is awash with stories of retiring abroad with testimonials.   I wrote an article from personal experience debunking the myth of an easy retirement in a cheap, overseas destination.  

The things you take for granted in your home country aren’t so easy in your new retirement paradise.   I specifically covered the mundane issues new retirees are likely to face in cheaper locales.  They include:

  • Unreliable Power
  • Spotty Water Supply
  • Poor Civic Infrastructure
  • Unreliable Services
  • Healthcare – Outcome can be great, but facilities will match what you pay for.
  • Foreigner Tax
  • Lack of Emergency Support

You can read about the above specific points in detail:  The full article is here.   Thankfully, I am not alone in thinking the euphoria around retirement abroad is hogwash.  

I find it fascinating that some people who never moved a 1000 miles for work in their younger days are planning to move to an alien land far from home having different culture, unfamiliar food, odd customs, different living standards, new people to befriend and handle additional paperwork to live there – all for the promise of living under $1500 a month!  Yes, the average Social Security check can finance your retirement in those places with little else required by way of savings, so I can understand the attraction.  

But the facts, as mentioned in the study above, say otherwise.  It ain’t gonna happen.  So, don’t kid yourself.

So, move over, top 1%.  There is an even more exclusive club in town!  

Will you be part of the 0.6% ‘club’ of Americans who dare to cross your state border or your country for your retirement?  Share your comments below.

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11 comments on “Moving Somewhere To Retire? Don’t Kid Yourself!”

  1. By ZJ Thorne

    It is such an odd idea. I never see the folks claiming they’ll do this mention speaking another language or facility with creating deep ties among new people. Communities take years to build, even with commonalities. Remove the commonalities of language and culture and history, and what do you have? The idea that you can show up in a place and not be a part of the community is anathema to me. Can you know that your language skills are good enough that they will serve you in a natural or man-made emergency? My friend was just traveling when the Turkish coup happened. She was extra terrified by seeing tanks in the streets, because she did not understand the commands being issued.
    ZJ Thorne recently posted…Net Worth Week 74 – Fall is Coming EditionMy Profile

  2. By Karishma Gaur

    Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here.Well, got a good knowledge.

  3. By Erith

    I think the reason people are really likely to move, is to be near family. e.g. my parents moved from Ireland to Scotland to be near their grandchildren. My grandmother moved from Ireland to South Africa to be near her daughter / granddaughter and their families (and to be warm!)

    Apart from that, yes, I think people will talk about it, may even try it out, but ultimately won’t venture too far. It’s the dreaming about it that’s nice!

    Now my son lives in New Zealand, I live in Scotland, my other son lives in London, so could I see us moving to be a bit closer to one of them? Yes – If they needed help with young families, but that’s a while in the future…

    • By TFRadmin

      Thanks for your comment Erith. With a globally spread family like that, you can call many places ‘home’!

  4. By Amber tree

    Well, I think I will not move. Would I wanted to move, I would already pursued an expat career… I actually made the opposite decision 7 years ago. The reason: my roots and social network… Both of us are introverts…

    I prefer to make my COL as low a possible in Belgium and then travel a lot, maybe earning a little with AIRBNB… The daughters can be the hosts!

  5. By Mrs ThreeRoundGroup

    You are right. It is not for everybody and it needs to be said. I get irritated when travelers complain about infrastructure and food choices instead of just going with the flow—these people make me question why they even bothered to travel there in the first place? People who are good travelers know the difference between having a first world income while living in a third world country versus being a citizen in a third world country. There is a huge difference.

  6. By Dads Dollars Debts

    I suspect I will stay put where I am or move back to New Orleans. Not a foreign land but somewhere where I have connections and enjoy the town. On that note, traveling in retirement sounds sweet and with a endless amount of time can be done cheaper then we currently do. Great post. 0.6% is surprising for sure.

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