More People Are Retiring Overseas. Here’s Why.

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Why retire overseas or live abroad
More and more people are deciding to retire overseas.

Long vacations are no longer enough. According to a recent report by International Living, a growing number of people are deciding to retire overseas or travel full time in retirement. The report cited three growing retirement trends: More people want to take advantage of medical tourism abroad; more Baby Boomers are trading the occasional vacation for a full-time, travel-filled retirement abroad; and more independent retirees are embarking on solo travel overseas.

TREND 1: Medical Tourism—Baby Boomers Are Increasingly Seek Out High-Quality, Low-Cost Care Overseas

As retirees in the United States face rising healthcare costs, they’re turning more to healthcare abroad. In certain destinations, they’re able to access high quality care at a fraction of the cost back home. A growing number of them are opting to take advantage of a phenomenon called “medical tourism.”

“For elective procedures that range from hip replacement to hernia surgery to dental implants or teeth cleanings, retirees are finding the costs to be often less than half what they’d pay in the States,” says Stevens.

“It turns out it can be cheaper to fly abroad, have the procedure done, take a vacation for a week or two, and then fly home than it is to simply pay for the procedure alone in the United States.”

Take Ron Howze, who got a diagnosis of a double hernia. He needed to attend to it—as soon as possible. But the price tag from his insurance company for the surgery was sky high.

“I had a PPO, which meant a co-pay of $10,000 to $14,000,” says Texas native Ron, 72. “And knowing insurance companies, it was probably going to be closer to $14,000.”

That’s when he started looking at alternatives abroad.

Many Baby Boomers have chosen to retire in Costa Rica.
Many Baby Boomers have chosen to retire in Costa Rica.

Retire in Costa Rica

“I read about a gentleman who had the same sort of surgery in Costa Rica and was absolutely thrilled,” says Ron. So, he called the overseas physician’s office to inquire.

Within 10 days of that call, Ron was headed to Costa Rica for the operation. The total cost came to less than $7,000—travel included. (The surgery, doctor’s fees, and hospital stay added up to $5,400. The remaining $1,600 covered his flights and travel expenses. All told—half what he’d have paid at home.

Ron is one of the increasing number of Americans looking abroad to find lower-cost, but still high-quality medical care.  It’s not uncommon for medical tourists to save tens of thousands of dollars on dental treatments. Dawn Morgan of Hernando Beach, Florida, explained that she and her husband Johnny saved thousands by going to Ecuador to have extensive work done on his teeth.

“On our first tourist trip to Ecuador, we planned on having my husband get extensive dental work done,” Dawn says. “It was a success. Johnny had a permanent partial bridge made for six teeth. He had about six extractions and about 18 fillings and a teeth cleaning. The process took about six weeks.

“We had a quote for $770 but it ended up costing only $700. He has been back a couple of times for slight adjustments. He is extremely happy with the result. This would have easily cost over $17,000 in the U.S. The savings easily covered our airfares and accommodation rental.”

TREND 2: Baby Boomers Trade Occasional Vacations for Long-Term, Travel-Filled Retirement Overseas

More and more Baby Boomers are trading an idle retirement at home, punctuated by the occasional vacation, into months at a time spent overseas. They’re embracing a roving retirement, thus minimizing visa hurdles and reducing their expenses by visiting countries where the cost of living is lower than in the U.S.

Just like Mary Holt from Pennsylvania. “My husband, Jeff, and I started a new life as roving retirees,” says Mary. “We are not looking for a permanent home just yet, but are spending several months at a time in dream locations full of local colors and flavor.

“We exchanged two households of belongings for a carry-on bag each and grabbed our passports. The charities in receipt of our goods thanked us, but we owe them a debt.”

Since giving up their home and belongings almost two years ago to travel the world, the Holts have experienced many adventures.

Mexico is a good option for many retirees.
Mexico is a good option for many retirees.

Traveling Full Time in Retirement

“Isla Mujeres, Mexico, provided us a refuge from winter,” says Mary. “A 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, Playa Norte’s white sand drew us like seabirds. Never having been to the Dominican Republic, we decided to experience it this spring. We’ve been in Ireland for a month, and the sun goes down at 11 p.m. and returns at three in the morning. Locals taught us céilí dancing, played folk music, and invited us to backyard barbecues. And our travels took us to Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.”

Modern conveniences and the internet make it easier than ever for retirees to embrace this roving lifestyle—booking accommodations, researching countries, managing financial affairs, and keeping in touch with the friends made along the way is all simpler and faster than it ever has been before.

“I am living what is called a ‘roving retirement,’” says Diana L. Davis. “In my case, this translates to living in places around the world that cost less than living in the States. These are extended stays for me, usually a minimum of three months…with two suitcases in tow.

“Living this lifestyle does require managing details. The internet makes life much easier now compared to those who began this lifestyle many years ago. Having the internet, means I can communicate with family and friends anytime, and manage my financial life and any other details that arise.”

TREND 3: Solo Travel Overseas on the Rise Among Baby Boomers

“Three years ago, I decided to shake up my baby-boomer life a bit.  I now solo travel abroad once a year, three months at a time, scouting retirement spots,” says Carol Barron, who lives in Florida. “I’m not ready to go ‘full-in’ and live overseas full time.”

But she isn’t afraid to head out on her own. The foreign-based editors at International Living report they’re seeing an increasing number of retirees choosing to travel—and ultimately, retire—alone overseas. Solo travel is growing. These single Boomers say they’re drawn by the adventure and empowerment traveling and even living alone overseas provides.

“Since most European countries allow 90-day stays on a tourist visa (though you must have a passport), I max my stay for the whole 90 days,” says Carol. “I also get to enjoy grocery and restaurant discounts since their customers in off season are mostly locals.

“My lifestyle is jam-packed with adventure, new friends, and exploration. It’s funny but since I’m traveling alone, I tend to interact more with friendly locals and easily befriend expats.  I’m really glad I decided to not wait to do it tomorrow but to do it now because I’m having a blast!

“Of course, my friends always say when I get home, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that!’ to which I always reply, ‘You can!’”

David Brych, originally of Virginia, worked for over 40 years in the hectic Washington, D.C. metro area.  But when he contemplated retirement, he says he imagined a destination full of wonder and adventure. And that’s what he found—in Sancerre, France—where he’s retired as a single Baby Boomer.

“After much thinking, I was convinced that, wherever I went, I wanted a little ‘unknown’ and a little ‘wow…how interesting’ in a destination.” With those thoughts in mind, David began to focus on France. “After all, I never spent any time there, didn’t speak the language, and knew that the wine was definitely a ‘wow,’” he says.

Sancerre, a town of around 1,600 people tucked away in the rolling hills of France’s Loire Valley, produces world-class wines. The vineyards that stretch to the horizon define the landscape and drew David to the area.

And it provides excellent outdoor activities. “There is barge-boating on the Loire River canal, horseback riding, kayak and canoe trips on the river, and plenty of walking paths and trails,” says David. “The scenery is spectacular.”

Sancerre also offers life at a much more affordable cost. “Most everything is cheaper in Sancerre,” says David. “The variety of artisanal cheeses is phenomenal, at prices that are dramatically lower than in the U.S.”