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More retirees than ever drawing Social Security benefits overseas

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More than $3 billion in Social Security checks was paid to retirees overseas in 2013, the latest year for which data is available, according to

Citing the latest figures from the U.S. Social Security Administration, the provider of information and services on global retirement and relocation opportunities reveals that U.S. retirees received $160 million more in Social Security benefits in 2013 than in 2012.

American retirees can receive Social Security benefit checks in almost every country worldwide. Statistics reveal that Europe is home to the most U.S. retirees drawing their benefits abroad (154,238), followed by Canada and Mexico (95,767), and Asia (70,586). 

The number of retirees receiving Social Security benefits overseas increased to 373,224 from 248,012 between 2003 and 2013. Increases are significant in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Panama and Ecuador — all countries on’s retirement-haven beat. Living overseas in countries where the cost of living is lower than in the U.S. (like it is in these countries) allows retirees to stretch the value of their Social Security benefits and improve their quality of life.

Generally, benefits will not be taxed by the U.S. if they are a retiree’s sole source of income. The process of drawing Social Security benefits from abroad is straightforward.

“You can either maintain your U.S. banking relationship and have your Social Security payments deposited ‘back home,’ just as you would if you were living there, drawing funds as needed from ATM’s in your new home overseas. Or you can set up a local account and have your monthly check deposited there,” says Edd Staton,’s Cuenca correspondent, who retired to Ecuador five years ago. 

The number of American retirees living abroad is likely higher than what the Social Security Administration statistics reflect. As Staton suggests, many retirees choose to keep their U.S. bank accounts when living overseas and continue to bank in the U.S even though they may not be physically present there year-round.

See the infographic with all the Social Security Administration statistics on the next page.

Carol Barron is an associate editor at