More Retirees Are Leaving the U.S.

NJ Spotlight News | January 3, 2017
Those who choose to retire outside of the United States cite cheaper cost of living and lower health care costs.

By Brenda Flanagan

“I kind of didn’t like the way things were heading in America,” said Virgil Simons.

Former Hackensack resident Simons says he wearied of the frigid weather and toxic politics here. When it came time to retire six years ago, he wanted out.

“We looked at the taxes increasing — the real estate taxes, income taxes — the cost of having a very good standard of living is becoming increasingly higher,” Simons said.

So Simons moved 3,825 miles to Barcelona, Spain where his monthly Social Security payments cover housing and food costs and he has “the ability to have a very good quality of life for a lot less money.”

“I really don’t miss New Jersey,” said Don Case.

After Don Case got laid off 14 years ago, he and wife Diana moved 1,500 miles from New Jersey to Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic where they manage vacation rentals. They couldn’t afford Metuchen.

“It was over $1,000 a month to carry health insurance and then you have your internet, your television, your garbage, your water. We said, ‘Oh, my goodness,'” Diana said.

“We decided to not do like the Joneses, you know? Leave the system — say farewell to the system, to the taxes and conveniences of living in New Jersey and America,” Don said.

“Retiring outside the U.S. is becoming quite a common phenomenon, including for New Jerseyites,” said Olivia Mitchell, executive director of the Pension Research Council at the University of Pennsylvania. “Some of the most popular countries head the list with Panama, Ecuador, even Peru.”

Mitchell says retiring baby boomers trying to stretch their average $16,000 annual Social Security checks may jump the border and join more than 627,000 U.S. retirees already living abroad, according to government estimates. Living in DR can be cheap, Diana figures.

“Maybe $2,000 a month in dollars, maybe a little more, if you really want to be comfortable,” she said.

And health care can cost considerably less. In New Jersey, Simons paid $663 a month for health insurance, but pays $200 a month in Barcelona for what he says is high-quality care.

“And that’s 100 percent coverage. There’s no deductible, there’s no co-pay. If I’d stayed in the States, there’s no way I’d be able to have the lifestyle we enjoyed here and the lifestyle that I enjoy now,” he said.

“This is not paradise because things are not always that easy,” Don said.

Don warns barriers can include language, culture and more.

“You know, we don’t pay any taxes here — hardly any taxes — so don’t expect to get the same type of services that you would expect from living in a city or state in America,” he said.

“It may be that you get there and the electricity goes off and the water goes off and there is not good Wi-Fi,” Mitchell said.

“It seems like a combination of a push and pull. Figure out what’s important. People retiring are getting less than before. Stretch your dollars or be closer to your family,” said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Experts advise anyone considering retiring abroad to spend six months there, first — try it out. Especially, ask yourself will you want to live a little closer to the grandkids when they come along?

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