- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
Los Angeles – Despite what many Americans may believe about the dangers of Mexico, there are a few “brave” souls who would argue that the Mexico they know is not only safe, but safer than the U.S., and has maintained the core values America lost years ago.
Thousands of Americans annually retire to various Mexican cities, making up a good chunk of the estimated 1 million U.S. citizens that call Mexico home.
Pam Salzman and her husband Brian retired 12 years ago. They say they were vacationing in Mexico so much that at one point they decided to try living there full-time and see how it felt.
In 2013 the Salzmans sold their house in Alpine, a rural neighborhood in the San Diego County of California, and promptly plunked down $500k in cash for a 3,700 square foot oceanfront property and never looked back.
They fell hard for the Baja California Peninsula area.
“We live in a gated community. My wife drives to her bridge games alone and she feels safe,” Brian Salzman told FNL.
Aside from the obvious financial benefits of living in Mexico, many of the retirees say they’re happy to be away from the America they think is in dire straits.
“We’ve got too many social programs. We’ve taken away the incentives of working hard. And immigrants come to the U.S. and they get everything for free — free housing and free medical,” Brian Salzman said.
“We love Mexico. People here are generous, hard-working and happy. It’s like living in the 1950s or 60s,” Pam Salzman told FNL.
Herb Kinsey moved to Rosarito 14 years ago following his retirement. “After 9/11 everyone hated the U.S. and I found Mexico to be like the North County (Carlsbad, CA) I fell in love with 40 years ago — before it became a circus,” Kinsey told FNL.
“I moved for the climate, the culture and the cuisine. I love the food, the people, and I wanted out of a place with ridiculous traffic and crime,” he said. “It’s mellow down here.”
“An increasing number of Americans are moving here to escape their government's policies and the costs of living. They find a higher standard of living and a greater degree of freedom,” Kinsey said in an interview with New York Times in 2003.
He says he stands by this statement today, 12 years later.
“I retired for a decade to the Caribbean. I’ve met a lot of ex-pats, and I can count on one hand those who ever want to come back to the U.S. once they’ve left,” he told FNL.
Kinsey sells real estate in Baja and says the new demographic buying in the area is younger. “Many are empty nesters who work from home,” he said. “They want to be near the border to easily cross, and since the Internet is now working well, there’s nothing stopping people,” Kinsey added.
More than anything, the retirees complain that the America they once loved doesn’t exist. They cite mass school shootings (although almost all of those who spoke with FNL insisted on an American’s right to bear arms and stand behind the NRA), too many rules and too much government regulation.
Kinsey talks about a day recently when he crossed into the U.S. with his accountant. “We stopped at the border and the agent asked for my passport. I hold a Canadian passport so I handed it to the guy. My accountant handed his Mexican passport to the agent and we knew there was trouble when the guy accuses my friend of having a fake passport. My friend asked ‘Why do you think it’s a fake?’ The agent says, ‘This passport says you were born in Chula Vista — a neighborhood in the southern-most area of San Diego, CA. You know that city is in the U.S.’ My accountant says, ‘Yes, I was born in the U.S., but I renounced my citizenship to be a Mexican citizen.’ The agent was shocked,” says Kinsey.
There are also those retirees who live in assisted living facilities in Mexico -- another financial incentive for senior Americans for whom the same care they’d receive in the States would cost vastly more. Assisted care in the U.S. averages about $3,800 a month, and nursing homes can cost upwards of $7,000.
In Mexico, the cost would range more like $1,400-$2,000 a month for meals, cleaning, laundry and more.
Lake Chapala, in central Mexico, has been called the “world's largest foreign retirement community,” with up to 16,000 or more U.S. and Canadian retirees in residence.
With all of the chatter of immigration as the 2016 election year approaches, it’s worth noting that according to the Department of Treasury, the names of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated long-term U.S. residency is up, with 576 for the first quarter and 1,577 in the second quarter of 2014.
In 2013, a record was set with 2,999 people renouncing their U.S. citizenship.
If these retirees are any indication, the numbers of Americans flocking across the border could continue to rise in the coming decades.