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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Many Americans Want to Retire Early, Move Out of U.S.: Survey

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Costa Rica is known for its stable democracy, peace-loving culture and tropical climate. (Photo: Shutterstock)

More Americans appear to be interested in moving abroad, a trend that International Living, which provides retirees information on transitioning overseas, has observed up close.

“At International Living in recent weeks, we’ve watched the volume of [web] search traffic surge around the subject of moving outside the U.S.,” Jennifer StevensIL’s executive editor, said in a statement.

“The uncertainty surrounding the election, the pandemic and the economy seem to be driving people in greater numbers to seek alternatives for the future,” Stevens explained.

IL noted that it had seen a 1,600% increase in search volume around the term “move out of the U.S.” since May, with 20% of survey respondents citing more interest in moving overseas because of the pandemic.

The publication recently polled its 9,000-plus readers — both before the pandemic struck and then again a few months into it — to get a better sense of their motivations for investigating their overseas options.

Nearly half of respondents said they were interested in retiring earlier than age 65 and overseas in places that offer good value, something that is more possible than it is in the United States.

Cost Savings is Key

For 45% of survey participants, the greatest motivator for exploring overseas options was the potential cost savings.

In best-value countries, IL said, costs are much lower than in the United States — for health care and more — which can allow people to retire not only better, but years earlier, than they could in the U.S.

“In the States today, retirement itself is becoming the prerogative of the wealthy alone,” Stevens said. “But in the right places overseas, a modest income — even a Social Security check alone — can bankroll a truly comfortable life.”

Respondents indicated other motivations for looking to retire abroad: 13% sought a better climate, 10% wanted a new cultural experience and 8% wanted to get away from politics at home.

About two in five reported that they had lived abroad before.

Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said they would like to rove around in retirement rather than have a single home base, slowly traveling from place to place, exploring one or many countries, or even the world. With the low cost of travel these days, that is certainly possible, IL said.

When asked how they planned to fund their retirement, 75% said Social Security and/or savings and investments would fund their retirement abroad. Forty-six percent said they would rely on a pension, and 27% said they intended to augment their funds by freelancing or consulting.

Pandemic Effects

A lot of planning and preparation go into moving overseas. But 63% of those polled revealed that they wanted to move overseas, split equally between those who would be full-timers and part-timers.

Both are good options, IL said. Full-time expats can fully immerse themselves in a new country and culture, while part-timers can enjoy the best of both worlds — friends and family at home, and agreeable winter weather and lower costs in an overseas haven.

The survey found that a chief motivation for IL readers to move abroad was to seek high-quality health care at lower cost, which is available in many countries. Many respondents considered the U.S. medical system broken.

Then came the pandemic. Seventy-two percent of respondents said the country had not handled it well.

A similar percentage said that other countries had done a better job, naming Costa Rica, Ireland, New Zealand and South Korea as examples.

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