"Would you say this is a trend... and that it is growing?" the reporter who interviewed me yesterday wondered.
"That is," she continued, "are more Americans considering this idea of retiring overseas now than in the past?"
"Yes... yes... and yes," I replied.
I've been covering this beat for almost 30 years. When I started out writing about retiring overseas, I was considered part of the fringe element. Three decades ago, Americans weren't thinking about retiring to different countries. Three decades ago, this was a crazy idea, and any American considering retiring anywhere other than where he'd happened to be living until that point was looking at Florida or Arizona... not Ecuador or Thailand.
Two important things have happened in the intervening years.
First, it's possible today to be anywhere in the world and remain in real-time, full-time contact with anyone, anywhere, in the world. With email and Skype, you can communicate daily with family, friends, business colleagues, financial advisors and your banker no matter where in the world you happen to be hanging your hat at the moment. You can access cash from a bank account in one country (say the United States) through an ATM in any other. You can scan documents, share photos on social media, download reading material from Kindle and have packages delivered to you anywhere you roam with the help of a mail-forwarding service. You can file your tax return electronically and stay in touch with your broker with regular video chats.
Our electronic age means it's possible to remain connected with an old life while pursuing a new one anywhere in the world. It also means it's easier than ever and ever-easier to identify and explore the possibilities for what that new life might look like. Anyone today who wakes up to the realization that maybe his or her retirement life could be better, richer, fuller and cheaper lived someplace else needs only go online to connect with loads of recommendations for where and how that fantasy idea could be made real. Google "retire overseas" and you are presented with hundreds of thousands of resources standing by to help you do just that. Retirees 30 years ago and even 10 years ago had a much tougher time finding out about their options and an even tougher time building any infrastructure of support required to pursue them.
Meanwhile, current-day would-be retirees are worried they don't have enough retirement nest egg to carry them through retirement. They're not confident in the security net of Social Security, as their parents may have been. They probably don't have guaranteed pensions, as their parents may have had. And their retirement investment accounts may not be worth what they were planning for them to be worth.
Today's retiree is concerned about how much he's got and how much he's going to get from Social Security while looking ahead to many years, often, of retirement living. He's also better educated and better traveled than his parents may have been, so, when he begins to take stock of his prospects, his mind is more open than that of any retirement generation that has preceded him. My chances of enjoying a full, fun retirement living where I'm living and how I've been living are risky, he thinks to himself. I wonder what they'd be like living somewhere else...
He goes online to Google, types in "retire overseas," and he's on his way.
"Is it mostly people who've been retired for some time or people who are just coming up to retirement age who are making this kind of move?" the reporter yesterday also wondered.
I met a gentleman at a conference a few years ago who was considering retiring to Belize. He was 91 years old.
"I was with the U.S. Navy my entire life," Joe told me. "I had many adventures with them. Now I think I have one more adventure in me. I'd like to have it in Belize."
At our live and retire overseas conferences, I meet thousands of people each year who are planning for new lives in new countries. Some of these folks are long retired, like John. Increasingly, though, they're also younger, 50, 40, even 30-somethings who are exploring their options for reinventing their lives overseas. Why?
Money is a primary motivator, of course. More Americans than ever are realizing that they could reinvent their lives entirely and live how they want, making their own schedules, running their own shows, even from early ages, even with small nest eggs, by relocating to particular places abroad. Some folks are opting out of the corporate world and choosing to live frugally on very little. Some are taking whatever they've got and investing it in a business of their own. Some are going on walkabouts, as I think of it, to find out where the world might lead them if they give it a chance.
Couples with young children, single moms, single dads, women on their own, men and women post-divorce, men and women in mid-life... over the years, I've encountered probably every demographic possibility imaginable. The common denominator is that all of these many thousands of people were keen to start over. Maybe to reduce their cost of living, but, as well, to increase their quality of life.
We Americans are wanderers. We like to climb the next mountain and ford the next river, and we're always intrigued by what might lie just around the next corner. Our parents considered what retirement might be like in Naples, Florida or Scottsdale, Arizona. We're considering what retirement might be like in Cuenca, Ecuador or Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Yes, it's a trend.