Why Are Americans Moving Abroad to Retire?

 As the number of retired people in America keeps growing, more and more of these people choose to live abroad. While these people still comprise a relatively small percentage compared with the overall number of retirees, it’s still a substantial amount. Many of these people move to areas that are tropical and have a low […]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

February 20, 2024

 As the number of retired people in America keeps growing, more and more of these people choose to live abroad. While these people still comprise a relatively small percentage compared with the overall number of retirees, it’s still a substantial amount. Many of these people move to areas that are tropical and have a low cost of living, such as Brazil, Mexico, or Spain. And while some may choose to move permanently, most remain US citizens, especially if they are receiving social security money. For these people, there are a few legalities and technicalities to overcome when facing this choice. For example, people moving to Brazil may need immigration assistance to acquire a Brazil retirement visa.

If you have been wondering if moving abroad is a good choice for you, and why people choose to take this big step, you aren’t alone. And while there are many factors that go into this very personal decision, there are some common ones that nearly every expat retiree mentions.

Cost of Living

Many countries offer a lower cost of living than the United States, which can make retirement more affordable. In fact, the cost of living can be so much lower in other countries that many people can have a better quality of life on their fixed income than they did while they were still working in the United States. The cost of living is probably the primary motivator for people who initially consider moving to another country during their retirement. Incidentally, the cost of living is also contributing to people moving to other states after retirement. However, the effect is usually more dramatic when people move to other countries. 

One reason that the cost of living can be much less in other countries is because of the strength of the American dollar in relation to foreign currencies. In addition, the cost of basic amenities like housing can be much cheaper in other places. Some expenses, though, especially those of typical American food staples such as milk, can be more expensive. In many cases, this is because these foods aren’t produced locally in these areas and have to be exported. Perishable foods can also be more expensive in some areas because they cost more to ship and store.  

Expats need to carefully consider their needs, the kind of lifestyle they want to live, and how willing they are to modify their eating, lifestyle, and entertainment habits before they choose to move abroad. Most expats willingly adopt the foods and customs of their new country, but not all people find this as easy as they expect.

Quality of Life

Some countries offer a higher quality of life than the United States, with better infrastructure, cleaner environments, and less stress. In addition, many people are seeking the laid-back lifestyle and ease that can be found in other countries, especially in small towns. Retirees can often rent a house in a small town and walk or use public transportation for all their needs. Because they are away from the hustle and bustle of city life they feel more relaxed and are more active. 

In addition, the lower costs of living in other countries can contribute to this greater quality of life because they can afford to do things, such as eating out, visiting museums, and traveling, that they couldn’t afford when they lived in the US. This includes having the ability to use their extra income to travel back to see family and friends in the US. 


Some countries have excellent healthcare systems that are more affordable than those in the United States. In some cases, this is because healthcare is paid for by the government. In others, it is because the costs are just low. Many retirees choose to use the local healthcare systems for most of their needs and pay out of pocket. Routine healthcare can be very inexpensive in many places. 

However, retirees must carefully consider the healthcare quality and costs when considering relocating. While your social security income can be used in another country, your Medicaid and insurance probably cannot. For some retirees, this means they return to the US for regular healthcare visits. For others, local healthcare becomes their primary system. Some people do both: Use local healthcare options when needed, and return to the US for regular health checkups, eye exams, and dental visits.


Many Americans choose to retire abroad in countries with warm, sunny climates. After spending years in areas with cold, snowy, or cloudy climates, many people are ready to avoid winter and live out the rest of their lives under palm trees and sunny skies. Just like the snowbirds who choose to stay in the United States but spend their winters in the sunny south, these expat retirees rate a tropical or Mediterranean climate as one of the things they are looking for when they choose a country to move to.


Retiring abroad can be a great adventure and a chance to explore new cultures and ways of life. Many retirees who move to other countries were the same people who enjoyed traveling and experiencing other cultures and areas throughout their life. Retiring to another country is just another way to continue this adventure. Many of these people are active well into their retirement years and continue to enjoy the activities they did when they were younger, such as hiking, traveling, and making new friends.

Not only do these retirees stay active, but the social environment in many countries allows them to get out and spend time in the community each day, shopping, walking to cafes and restaurants, and going to the market for food.


While every person is a unique individual with their own personality and needs, the reasons that many retirees give for choosing to move abroad are often similar. Of course, some people have special reasons of their own, such as moving to live near family or because they have a heritage in that area. However, for the most part, people are choosing to move abroad for similar reasons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized