The warmer weather. The beaches. The lower cost of living. The many options for health care coverage. And the proximity to the United States.
Those are among the top reasons that Americans increasingly are looking south of the border to retire, or for those not yet ready to comb gray hair, to start a new mid-life chapter. Latin American destinations are particularly appealing during the winter months, when large swaths of the country are dealing with nasty snow storms and sub-zero temperatures.
Top destinations include Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia, according to organizations that follow such trends.
Social security records also show an uptick in American expats in Mexico, the Caribbean and South America, among other places.
Americans getting Social Security checks in Panama rose 112 percent from 2005, 32 percent in Costa Rica, 87 percent in Colombia and 47 percent in Ecuador, for just a few examples.
Region-wise, U.S. Social Security checks sent to Central America and the Caribbean went up 26 percent since 2005, and to South America, 48 percent, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Ecuador is becoming, dare we say, super hot as far as Golden Years desitinations go.
It snatched the No. 1 slot in a ranking of best countries in the world – yes, world – to retire. International Living’s Annual Global Index 2015, released just this month, said: “Expats are drawn by the low cost of living, perfect climate, the beautiful and diverse landscapes and the favorable retiree benefits. The country gets top scores in the Buying and Renting and Climate categories and scores high across-the-board in all other categories.”
Panama and Mexico round out the top three in the list of 10, which includes other Spanish-speaking countries.
Ecuador has also been generating more and more of a buzz among vacationers, and the South American country of fewer than 16 million people is building on that attention.
Ecuador is said to be the first foreign country that is buying a 30-second ad, costing $3.8 million, during this Sunday’s Super Bowl game, telling Americans to go and discover Ecuador.
Dan Prescher, senior editor of International Living and a former Nebraskan who has lived in the mountain town of Cotacachi, Ecuador with his wife, Susan Haskins, for the last six years says a retiree can live in Ecuador for about half what it costs in the United States.
“The cost of living is a major draw,” Prescher said, “and weather is an incredibly important category” in ranking retirement places around the world.
“If you’re going to move somewhere, you should move somewhere where it’s beautiful weather.”
He and his wife live in a condominium unit where they have a view of two extinct volcanoes and a green valley.
They don’t have a car because, Prescher said, Ecuador’s public transportation suffices.
And they’re close enough to the United States, he said, “So that you can have breakfast in Quito and brunch in Atlanta.”
But there are drawbacks, of course.
“We’ve seen some U.S. expats come here thinking it’s going to be just like the United States, only at half cost,” he said.
It becomes important to learn at least functional Spanish, and things take longer, in general, to get done, he said.
“It’s a more laid-back culture, it’s just difference. Type A personalities who are used to getting things done right away get disappointed.”
When it comes to the ‘Benefits and Discounts for Retirees’ category of the Index, Panama has always ranked at the top with a perfect score of 100. Simply put, no other country in the Index does more for retirees, both local and foreign, offering a host of discounts with its Pensionado visa program.”
And Mexico gets a nod because of its proximity, for one thing.
“Established expat havens in communities such as Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende ease the integration process, while excellent property can still be found for far less than you’d pay in the States.”