Dear Money & Crisis Reader,
In the Panamanian mountain town of Boquete, there’s this sports bar called Mike’s Global Grill.
It’s a pretty typical sports bar, owned by this guy from Chicago.
Mike. A die-hard Cubs fan.
This is the kind of place where you can watch the game with a cold North American beer… chow down on a Midwestern style chili… and, for a moment, forget that you’re halfway up a volcano in the middle of Central America.
You’ll find these kinds of places all over the world.
In sleepy Caribbean beach towns. In bustling Asian cities where little-to-no English is spoken. Even among the cobblestone streets and renaissance architecture of old Europe.
Little slices of Americana, havens where homesick U.S. expats go to top up on that feeling of Being an American.
But why do these places exist?
Surely, the American explorer who ups sticks and moves their entire life overseas is there to experience the local culture, right?
They should be drinking wine on lonely verandas or sucking up bowls of spicy noodles in the bustling night markets. Or whatever people like to do when they live halfway up a volcano that could erupt at any moment.
Well, the sad reality is: many of these folks would rather be back home in the States… And it has everything to do with the U.S. retirement crisis we discussed in yesterday’s issue.
Exit, Pursued by Bill Clinton
There are many factors that can drive folks to move overseas.
Adventure. Weather. A bad president.
Heck. In my travels, I’ve met people from both sides of the aisle who all moved overseas because of one of the last three administrations.
Some of these people have been living in a Caribbean beach town for the last 20 years because of Bill Clinton.
One time, I met a woman in South America who claimed to be on the run from a crime syndicate… and had her name published in the Panama Papers.
I checked. It was there.
But most folks living abroad aren’t on the run from the law. These days, a surprising amount of folks who live overseas are either retirees or working seniors.
It’s hard to nail down the exact figures. The State Department says there are more than half a million U.S. retirees drawing Social Security overseas. But not everyone qualifies for or draws from Social Security, so the actual numbers are probably much higher.
The big question is: what’s pushing all these retirees overseas?
The Cost of Living vs. The Price of Survival
Overwhelmingly, almost every expat retiree I’ve met, moved overseas so they could enjoy a better quality of life for less money.
Many of these folks simply underestimated how much they needed to save for retirement. And with the rapidly increasing cost of living in the States, they were looking at a dramatic dip in their quality of life.
But many of these seniors are much worse off than that. All told, they have zero savings or secondary income to supplement their social security.
And they’re left with a simple choice: retire overseas where your social security check will go further… or live out your golden years in poverty.
“I mean, it’s hardly a choice when you think about,” one expat living in Vietnam told me over a couple of glasses of beer. “Sure, I love my country and I wish I could see the grandkids more.
“But it’s too expensive, I can’t live like that,” he said before sinking a glass of chilled rice wine. “Here, I can afford to actually enjoy life. Not just survive.”
Own Your Golden Years
Look, I like to travel. And have lived overseas for many years myself. And I probably will again sometime in the future.
But nobody should ever feel like they have to move away from the country they love or fear living in poverty. And unfortunately, that’s what will happen if you’re depending on others, especially the government, to take care of you when you’re older.
Make sure you don’t fall through the cracks. Build an emergency fund. Save. Grow your wealth.
And if you really want to… move overseas.
There’s nothing wrong with frosty margaritas and white-sand beaches. But do it on your own terms.
Have you ever lived overseas or considered making the move? Where did you want to go and why? Would you like to hear more about some of the cities and towns expats are moving to? If so, click here to email me and let me know all about it.
All the best,
Editor, Money & Crisis
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