Why in the world would any American choose to leave the relative comfort and prosperity of the United States to retire to what many would consider to be a third world country. I mean, after all, America is the land of the free… the hope for prosperity. Immigrants from across the globe have gone to extremes to leave their homeland just for the opportunity to move to the prosperity and relative safety of the United States. So I ask again, why in the world would an American ever choose to live out their retirement in anywhere other than the United States.
I understand this question. I really do. Despite the fact that I have chosen to live in 6 different countries over the years and even before that I traveled the world as a freelance underwater photographer. I still hear this question fairly often from families that choose to participate in our frequent Dominican North Coast Discovery Tours. I will share some of my thoughts below, but I think the answer is individual to the person asking the question. There are some people that in their wildest dreams could not imagine living anywhere except the United States. On the other hand, I meet plenty of people that believe that living offshore offers adventure and romanticism that they cannot imagine ever discovering back home in the States. There is no right or wrong answer. It is what works best for you and your family. But I will share 7 of the most common benefits to retiring offshore on a tropical island, like the Dominican Republic, that I have seen and heard from others choosing to make the move offshore.
So what are my top 7 reasons Americans choose to retire offshore…..
1. Economics: Not so much romantic but simply practical. In short, many retirees find that their dollars go much further when they retire offshore. I have even met retirees that claim that they can live a very comfortable life here on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic for not much more than they were paying for just the property taxes and heating oil bills they left behind up in the States. Most expats living here find that they can save a bunch on utilities due to the year-round temperate climate and trade winds. Locally grown foods tend to be less expensive, fresher and typically grown without pesticides and other chemicals. Rents tend to be lower and real estate prices can be much lower comparatively, depending on where you are from. Perhaps the biggest cost savings, and an important one these days, is healh care costs. Full coverage health insurance is cheap, and some expats even go without insurance for their health because the prices for care are so much less expensive here than in the States. Of course, for the $800+ per year that I pay for full family coverage here, I would always recommend electing the insurance.
Some of our expats and tour participants tell me it is very difficult for them to live a good life in the States on their limited Social Security and occasional pensions. They tell me that they can live here in relative luxury, with a maid and gardener and all they want to do for so much less than just a bare survival lifestyle back home. Why live like a pauper in an inner city at home when you can live like a prince on a tropical island overlooking the ocean for less money.
2. Adventure and Exploration: Some people, after a long productive life on the job and living in the same place, just want a change. They want to explore new places. Meet people from different walks of life and different cultures. They want to form new friendships and perhaps establish tighter bonds with others that are on the same path of discovery. There is something about living in a new country that stimulates all the senses in a way that is difficult to duplicate at home. There are so many new things to discover and learn when you set out to retire in a new country. Language. Differences in culture and background. Sights and attractions. A renewed sense of adventure that helps keep you feeling younger.
3. Post Retirement Mission: There are an impressive number of retirees that want to get involved with a community and really help out. Now that they have some free time from work, they want to use the skills and knowledge they honed over the years to help other people that may be less fortunate. Living in a “third world” country offers plenty of opportunities to get involved and help out the less fortunate. And I am not talking about beggars and welfare dependents. I find the locals to be proud, self sufficient people. They can benefit from your knowledge and experiences to better their own lives and better their communities.
4. Warmer Climate: Some of the people we meet, especially from the northern states in the US and from Canada are ready to say goodbye to cold, snowy winters once and for all and are looking south so they can enjoy more of their years in the sunny outdoors. Swapping their snow shovels for snorkles. Why not live close enough to a tropical beach to see the waves and hangout at the beach anytime you want? Take for example the North Coast of the Dominican where oceanview real estate is still affordable, you will never pay another dime for heating oil and if you live on the hillside with the trade winds you can get by without airconditioning too. Most retirees find that they end up spending far more time outside breathing the fresh air than they do inside. For many of them this is a real change in lifestyle that they appreciate.
5. Fullfilment of a Lifelong Dream: Have you ever gone on a Caribbean cruise, taken an island vacation or been glued to the TV watching House Hunters International? Have you ever allowed yourself the luxury of just dreaming what it would be like to be able to retire to one of those tropical islands? Did you dream of the lazy days on the beach or perhaps a deep sea fishing adventure, or travel through the tropical jungles to see the sights? Most people are under the mistaken impression that you have to be a millionaire to live your retirement years relaxing on a tropical beach or live on a Caribbean island. Well if you are one of those that believed that, you are wrong. It is still very affordable to own a home on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic where there is no shortage of uncrowded, unspoiled beaches just waiting for you. As they say, “life is short”, why not take a shot at living your dream, even if all you have is just your social security.
6. Scratch an Entrepreneural Itch: After retiring from their normal job or profession, some retirees are not ready to completely hang business life up. They still want to dabble in their own business, hopefully without so much red tape and government meddling. One place to look for that outlet is offshore. I like to say… “think of island life like Mayberry with internet”. There is a crying need for various kinds of business to service both expats and locals alike. The great part about opening a small business in some place like on the North Coast is that there is virtually no government intervention or red tape. And due to the temperate weather, many business are able to operate open-aire without costly air conditioning and heating. Add to that that local labor rates are very, very low by US standards and facility rents can be quite low. All of this combines to make this one of the least expensive places to get a business started. Some retirees recognize that opportunity and head down here for their second career as a business owner.
7. Pure Diversification: There are more than a few retirees that are not exactly pleased with the way the politicians are spending their home country into oblivion. They are not happy with the continued loss of freedoms and an uneasy sense of pending doom. They are looking for a fall-back position or Plan B base of operations. They may or may not end up living offshore full time, but they take comfort in knowing that they have a place to escape to if they ever should need it. They figure that they might as well hedge their bets on a tropical island and perhaps build up some appreciation and asset equity that is a bit out of reach from their home politicians.
Summary: I am sure there are dozens of other reasons that logical thinking Americans, Canadians and Europeans choose to leave the relative security of their own home nations to settle down for a retirement on a tropical island like we have on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic.
Come visit us on one of our North Coast Discovery Tours so that we can give you a little taste of what island life is really like.