Help for the Retirement-Challenged

There’s a huge gap between many Americans’ perceptions of what life in retirement will be and the practicalities of what their finances will allow. The former is often a time of limited work, relaxation, and enjoying the twilight years of life while the latter forces decisions about working longer, relying more on relatives, and doing without past pleasures and purchases. This gap exists for good reason — it’s expensive to retire in the United States. The amount of savings needed to support today’s retiree, who can be expected to live a couple decades or so longer, is mind-blowing and, for many, unattainable.

So what’s a retiree to do? It boils down to the old two-choice formula for improving your financial picture, increase income or decrease expenses.

It’s usually difficult to increase income, but there is a viable alternative that can substantially decrease living costs in retirement: move to a foreign country. Consider the following:

“Suppose you can find a place where the cost of living is about 75% of the cost in the United States — some beach town north of Puerto Vallarta or south of Manzanillo. What happens to your standard of living when you move to Mexico? It rises to the equivalent of about $42,400 in the U.S.”

Yes, there are health care issues, family issues, cultural issues, and so on. But when you’re in a desperate financial situation, as many retirees will be, sometimes a highly unusual move is called for. As such, “Adios, America” becomes a viable retirement option.

Retirees make a run for the border [MSN Money]

(Photo: saramarie)


Edit Your Comment

  1. That70sHeidi says:

    There was a very interesting article on MSN a while ago about retiring in Nicaragua, the tax breaks you’d receive should you start a little business (B&B, boat tours, etc.), and so on. Pft, I was sold and I’m a good 40 years from retiring ;)

  2. K-Bo says:

    Not a finance major here, but wouldn’t the falling value of the dollar make your money worth less overseas? I know that it might still go further than it does here, but it looks like the difference would be much smaller now than a year ago.

  3. pestie says:

    @That70sHeidi: Is this it? Sounds pretty sweet!

  4. sduane says:

    @K-Bo: That would certainly be true if you’re planning on retiring to the south of France but less economically developed countries aren’t experiencing such a significant swing. The exchange rate from USD to Mexican Pesos is still roughly 1:11 as it’s been for a while. I think the biggest draw back from trying to retire to Puerto Vallarta is that foreigners are not allowed to own property within 100 km of any border or within 50 km of any coastline. You’d have to go through a bank trust called a fideicomiso. Anecdotally, I’ve heard these things can be a real crap shoot. The real estate industry is not regulated in Mexico so it’s definitely a “buyer beware” situation.

  5. iamme99 says:

    Two out of three middle class families on shaky financial ground:

    Doesn’t matter where you go if you don’t have any money….

  6. alice_bunnie says:

    $42,000 I assume includes housing? Because, I currently have a family of 6 that I maintain on far less that that not including housing. If I can’t live on less than that after I retire, I’m really doing something wrong. I plan on having my house paid for and not having mortgage or rent when I retire.

  7. Snarkysnake says:

    This article (like most pop-candy/plastic banana financial “advice”) is bullshit.

    Now let me get this straight- You have jerked off financially for ,what – 60 years, and haven’t saved enough for a pack of Certs and you’re gonna move to ANOTHER COUNTRY and take your chances that the smartest amigos in town aren’t going to screw you on everything from light bulbs to “taxes” “fees” (bribes”) and utilities,medical care ,auto registration…
    Sweet Jesus,are you that stupid ? Are you people really willing to move from a country that respects contracts,the rule of law and individual rights (like the right to own a big ‘ol handgun)because you want to have a maid and a house that you can finally afford ? I hope that when you sneak across THEIR border you ask anybody that you bump into sneaking INTO this country what is a good cure for unpotable water borne diseases,how to mail a letter home without it being stolen or what pain reliever they use for the bone jarring ride into town on their washboard dirt roads.

    How about plan B ? Why don’t you tear yourself away from that idiot box that you are glued to every night between 5 P.M. and midnite (EST) and spend a few minutes saving,investing and not planning your next purchase of useless shit that you can’t afford ? Seems a hell of a lot less trouble than packing up and moving to another country …

  8. Eilonwynn says:

    What about kids taking care of their parents? Maybe I’m living in the wrong century here, but I grew up with a full expectation that at some point, I will be supporting my mother, with her living in my house. She’s never stated it, and i’ve only recently started reminding her that i *expect* to be able to take care of her, and that while having money for retirement is nice, she will NEVER, whether I am alive or dead (she’s in my will) have to worry about having a roof over her head as long as I do. She took care of me for my first 20 years, I take care of her for her last.

  9. XTC46 says:

    @Eilonwynn: Thats what I grew up thinking too, and I still think that way. Im only 22 now, but at no point will my mom or dad not have a roof over their head as long as I have one over mine. I have my mom listed as my beneficiary as well. Who better to handle my money then the person who taught me how to handle it to begin with. She will give it to my Significant other if she thinks its fitting, and make sure she is taken care of, so I don’t worry.

  10. Beerad says:

    @Snarkysnake: Uh, I hope you don’t use that spiel to counsel the elderly about their retirement planning. Just a thought. It was kinda amusing, though, to imagine you pacing back in forth in an office, with two kindly grandparent types meekly listening, as you chastise them.

  11. marqlet says:

    That is what my parents are planning. They have about 15 acres in Guatemala and a few other properties there. The cost of living down there is so much less than here. I am also planning on retiring there in 20-30 years. I think that if you plan it well and know the language (one place where English isn’t the default) you can live more comfortably there.

  12. JessiesMind says:

    Retirement?!? Most of my friends are barely getting by at 29. They have decent paying jobs but are still ridiculously in debt. Instead of attampting to pay down their debt or put anything away for their futures, they’re more interested in buying a Wii and/or PS3. I thank all that is holy that I married a frugal man.

  13. That70sHeidi says:

    @pestie: That’s the one!

    As an aside, a coworker from Mexico said that for a vacation, you could vacation like a millionaire for $1,000 in Mexico. I haven’t asked what it would be like to transplant there…

  14. SpdRacer says:

    Two words – Costa Rica.