It is interesting to watch how US Presidential elections trigger cycles in expatriation interest. We started noticing this repeating cycle with the election of the first Bush and it seems to be growing with the election of every new president. The level of post-election immigration interest has grown exponentially since Bush-juniors reelection. I assume people have been happy or sad following every election since George Washington, but as more and more people travel offshore there is an increasing awareness that there really can be a high quality life outside of the home country. Trigger events like hotly contended elections seem to agitate people up off the sofa and into action in ever increasing numbers.
A 2007 survey by New Global Initiatives, in conjunction with Zogby International, found that more than 3 million U.S. citizens have decided to relocate outside of the United States in the coming years, and another 17 million were seriously considering making the move. According to US government 2014 statistics, there are already approximately 9 million non-military Americans living offshore and the trend is heading higher. It is estimated that over 82,000 Americans have already moved to the Dominican Republic.
But why do people wake up to alternatives after contentious elections? I believe it is largely because large groups of people in the US increasingly feel disinfranchised. Politics, like so many other aspects of US society has become quite bipolar. The left vs. the right. The haves vs. the have nots. The whites vs. the minorities. The rural vs. the urbanites. The insured vs. the uninsured. The employed vs. the unemployed. The gay vs. the straight. The natural born citizens vs. the immigrants. Everything seems bipolar with less and less opportunity for compromise in the middle.
Contentious elections like the most recent Trump vs. Clinton presidential election serve up a constant reminder that US society is bipolar on many fronts. Candidates and their parties have spent billions of dollars to indoctrinate their followers and to alienate them against the “other half” of the country. It is understandable that some citizens will wake up the day after the election and begin to realize that maybe life would be better somewhere else.
This phenomena happens after every recent US presidental election cycle…..
Some of the expatriation facilitators have observed a temporary 10% to 15% spike in requests in the first 6 months following these elections. Others may have seen even higher levels of interest. I predict that this latest election may trigger one of the higher spikes in expatriation interest.
I guess it is always good that Americans finally wake up to the many opportunities open to them outside their home country, but is a highly charged presidential election REALLY a good reason to urgently jump ship? Probably not. Despite the many promises of change and threats of “disruption” of the status quo, the US government tends to move a a glacial pace. Sure there will be change, but for most US citizens those changes will be measured and methodical.
Yes, you can use the presidential election, or the changes in the healtcare system, or the impending financial crisis or anything else as your wake up call. That is smart and never too early. But think through your options before jumping.
Many of the factors we considered so many years ago as we planned our exits from the US and Canada still apply today… maybe even more so. Maybe our experience can help some of you now struggling with your decisions.
After traveling to over 100 countries as a freelance underwater photographer, and after living in 6 countries we set out to find our perfect permanent home away from the US and Canada. Our search led us ultimately to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Some of the things we focused on in our search included:
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, for example ours is just over $900 per year for full family coverage here. Many of my friends in the US are paying almost that much each month.
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.
Post First-World Mission: There are an impressive number of retirees and adventuresome couples that want to get involved with a community and really help out. Now that they have some free time from a traditional workday, they want to use the skills and knowledge they honed over the years to help other people or to start their own new business. Living in a third world country offers plenty of opportunities for both. I find the locals to be proud, self sufficient people and there is a growing opportunity to share your knowledge and business experience to better the community.
Warmer Climate: We originally came from Canada, the land of the cold. Many 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? On the North Coast of the Dominican oceanview real estate is still affordable. Not another dime wasted on heating oil and if you live on the hillside with the trade winds you can even get by without airconditioning too. We find that we spend far more time outside breathing the fresh air than we do inside.
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? We did. 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? And you don’t have to be a millionaire to live live on a Caribbean island. We found that you can live well on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, even if all you have is a Social Security pension. Try that in the US.
Scratch an Entrepreneural Itch: Some expats are ready to dabble in their own business, hopefully without so much red tape and government meddling. This works for many active retires too. One place to look for that outlet is offshore. We tend to think of island life in Cabrera like Mayberry with internet. There plenty of business opportunities 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 too. All of this combines to make this one of the least expensive places to get a business started.
Pure Diversification: There are plenty of Americans and Canadians that are not 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.
These were just a few of the reasons that we ended up offshore. These reasons may make sense for you no matter which side of a political election you end up on. Most of the expats that settle here are not running from anything… they are running toward a better way of life.
If you think you would like to explore these options for you and for your family, be sure and take us up on one of our free Discovery Tours of the North Coast of the Dominican Republic.