Makin' Money

The romance of retiring abroad

Chris Farrell Mar 16, 2011

Imagine retiring along the white sand beaches of Bocas Del Toro in Panama, settling into a colonial house in Nicaragua, or calling the melting pot of Kuala Lumpur home? Immigration may be a contentious issue in the U.S., but a handful of emerging markets have put out the welcome mat for silver-haired emigrants from the advanced industrial countries. It’s a safe bet that the competition for retirees and their dollars will increase in coming years.

The lure is a combination of adventure and a higher standard of living. Aging Northern Europeans started moving to southern Europe countries in the 1950s. Costa Rica began attracting Americans with tax incentives built into its Pensionado Program established in 1971 and, although the tax breaks are long gone, the Central American nation is home to more Americans per capita than anywhere else outside the U.S. Mexico has seen a large influx of American and Canadian retirees, especially in established expatriate retiree communities like Chapala, Los Cabos, and San Miquel de Allende.

Smart Money brings the retirement life as an expat to life in Retire Abroad: Golden Years Go Global. The article focuses on one country, Panama. It’s a good choice since Panama is luring thousands and thousands of pensioners with the most extensive and generous package of discounts and other special benefits for foreign retirees available anywhere in the world.

Lately, it appears that Mexico and Costa Rico are falling out of favor, the former a victim of the drug wars and the latter a sense that its crowded and expensive.

Other nations besides Panama are working at bringing in more outside money. Nicaragua overhauled its residency requirements and retirement laws to attract more foreign retirees. Belize is another hot spot. The Asian country that is making a concerted effort at building up a large foreign presence is Malaysia.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population 65 and older will more than double between 2000 and 2030. It’s likely that a good number of them end retiring overseas.

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