06/05/2013 06:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Baby Boomers Aren't Planning to Spend Retirement on Their Couch


Photo Courtesy of (c) Anabel Pose

If you were born after Second World War, in a quiet suburban neighborhood where the stress of city life couldn't find its way among the positivity about the future that reigned in yours and your neighbors' families, then you definitely belong to that group of people that has been defined as the "Golden Generation" of American society.

You were most likely lucky enough to enjoy the Nixon-Kennedy debate from a real TV and you experienced the birth of Rock n' Roll along with the first man setting foot on the moon. Nowadays, you're probably planning to retire and you're considering the different options out there for you to choose.

Are you familiar with a current phenomenon that seems to be expanding, if not at the same rate as that baby boom that happened about 60 years ago, definitely still very quickly? Apparently, an incredible number of Baby Boomers are planning to or have already retired abroad. I'm talking about an average of 3.3 million "boomers" who are, right now, finding ways to relish the rest of their lives in a country that is as far as possible from their home base in the United States. Why is it happening? Why would retirees give up the world as they know it just to land in some exotic but unknown destination?

You Can't Buy Happiness, but You Can Buy a Plane Ticket

If it's true that the time to live is now, Baby Boomers seem to be on a mission to make the best out of what is left of their time. After years of intense work and having traveled to paced places where they could relax for a week or two, they've now decided that adventure is part of their plan to be happy. An innate curiosity and a genuine hunger for discovery push them to constantly enlarge their horizons towards places they hadn't necessarily considered before, for holidays. Lands like Panama or Ecuador are becoming more and more a reality for those people whom not only feel inspired to travel, but have the desire to establish a new kind of existence elsewhere, far from what reminds them of the daily stress they've encountered during life.

Vacation Can Be What You Want It to Be

Baby Boomers are often going back to destinations where they've been before, just to explore the real nature of such places. Tired of being spectators, they actually want to be part of the cultural scenario they're going to embrace. They might do it by themselves or with their grandchildren, what's important is the quality of the time they spend abroad. If they're only away for a trip, then that trip will have to represent a deep and rich kind of adventurous journey. They're going to try all the different aspects of it. It's not a case that tourism industry has created special targeted advertisements in order to attract Baby Boomers. That really shouldn't come as a surprise: The Pew Research Center calculates Baby Boomers to be more than a quarter of the American population.

Living Abroad Can Enrich Your Soul...And Your Wallet

According to Park Wilson, expat and creator of website Viva Tropical, factors like healthcare are fundamental when it comes to people's choice of retiring abroad. Speaking of Panama, Park Wilson says, "It's not uncommon for a Panamanian doctor to spend 30 minutes to an hour with you in his office." When comparing the actual costs of healthcare, it's not unusual to find out that many countries have rates, even for private healthcare, that are sensibly cheaper than what is paid for insurances in the United States. Again, in Panama "a visit to a specialist costs about $50. A trip to the ER runs around $100, which is less than a U.S. co-payment for the same visit. Procedures such as MRI's are a mere $500, and a facelift can be performed for only about $1,700."

All in all, the daily lifestyle that retirees can enjoy abroad appears to be more affordable and relaxing than what it would be in the United States. Modern technologies, such as Skype, make it easier for distances to shorten and to keep in touch with family and friends retirees leave behind. Finally, Baby Boomers are often able to enjoy care-free lives overseas: by changing their habits and adjusting to the local customs they become prone to find that peacefulness of mind that should come with retirement.

So, where will you go for your next trip? And could that destination become what you will call home?