Does expat retirement live up to expectations

Published:  25 Jul at 6 PM
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A new survey has asked the question most often ignored by polls involving expat retirees – how does the reality compare with your dreams?

For most expats, dreams of retiring overseas conjure up visions of glorious weather, dramatic sunsets over warm oceans, fascinating cultures, great food and many new friends. Plus of course, a favourably cheap cost of living. However, a new survey has identified quality of life issues as one of the most important triggers for leaving one’s country of origin. The results of the poll make interesting reading as regards met and unmet expectations.

The survey involved USA expats living in three Central American countries popular with American retirees, although the results could easily be transferred to popular UK and European destinations. Panama, Nicaragua and Belize were the chosen countries, with the vast majority of respondents claiming satisfaction with their decisions to emigrate.

Obviously, cost of living was the most important concern when choosing a retirement retreat. However, quality of life issues such as less stress, a more meaningful lifestyle and even similarities to the USA they grew up in rather than what it’s become were almost as important as the money issue.

As to leaving one’s country of origin and attempting to recreate a more pleasing, more old-fashioned version in another place, retirees’ motivation for this isn’t just confined to US expats – it’s common throughout all retired expat havens. Even going back to the land after a career in technology or suchlike is a common motivation for retirement overseas.

Unsurprisingly, the poll revealed retirees who bought local foods and avoided imported products lived far more cheaply than those still addicted to US manufactured and shipped products. Retirees who responded to the survey tended to identify their new countries of residence as ‘third world’, quoting the lack of urgency in providing services as a stress-provoking issue.

The most positive finding was that over 60 per cent of respondents described their new lives as more meaningful and less materialistic, although far more women than men fitted into this category. The majority of expat retirees who’d emigrated in search of a simpler, more fulfilling lifestyle seemed to have found what they were searching for, with very few regretting their move.
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