The Crisis Ahead: The U.S. Is No Country for Older Men and Women

Yves here. I imagine many readers are acutely aware of the problems outlined in this article, if not beset by them already. By any rational standard, I should move now to a much cheaper country that will have me. I know individuals who live most of the year in third-world and near-third world countries, but they have very cheap ways of still having a toehold in the US and not (yet or maybe ever) getting a long-term residence visa. Ecuador is very accommodating regarding retirement visas, and a Social Security level income goes far there, but yours truly isn’t retiring any time soon. And another barrier to an international move (which recall I did once, so I have some appreciation for what it takes), is that one ought to check out possible destinations…but if you are already time and money and energy stressed, how do you muster the resources to do that at all, let alone properly?

Aside from the potential to greatly reduce fixed costs, a second impetus for me is Medicare. I know for most people, getting on Medicare is a big plus. I have a very rare good, very old insurance policy. When you include the cost of drug plans, Medicare is no cheaper than what I have now, and considerably narrows my network. Moreover, I expect it to be thoroughly crapified by ten years from now (when I am 70), which argues for getting out of Dodge sooner rather than later.

And that’s before you get to another wee problem…Lambert points out that I would probably not be happy in a third world or high end second world country. But the only bargain “world city” I know of is Montreal. I’m not sure it would represent enough of an all-in cost saving to justify the hassle of an international move and the attendant tax compliance burdens….and that charitably assumes I could even find a way to get permanent residence. Ugh.

By Alex Henderson, who has written for the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson. Originally published at Alternet

Millions can no longer afford to retire, and may never be able when the GOP passes its tax bill.

The news is not good for millions of aging Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in the United States who are moving closer to retirement age. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual report on retirement preparedness for 2017, only 18 percent of U.S.-based workers feel “very confident” about their ability to retire comfortably; Craig Copeland, senior research associate for EBRI and the report’s co-author, cited “debt, lack of a retirement plan at work, and low savings” as “key factors” in workers’ retirement-related anxiety. The Insured Retirement Institute finds a mere 23 percent of Baby Boomers and 24 percent of Gen Xers are confident that their savings will last in retirement. To make matters worse, more than 40 percent of Boomers and over 30 percent of Gen Xers report having no retirement savings whatsoever.

The U.S. has a retirement crisis on its hands, and with the far right controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, as well as dozens of state governments, things promise to grow immeasurably worse.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Past progressive presidents, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, took important steps to make life more comfortable for aging Americans. FDR signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law as part of his New Deal, and when LBJ passed Medicare in 1965, he established a universal health care program for those 65 and older. But the country has embraced a neoliberal economic model since the election of Ronald Reagan, and all too often, older Americans have been quick to vote for far-right Republicans antagonistic to the social safety net.

In the 2016 presidential election, 55 percent of voters 50 and older cast their ballots for Donald Trump against just 44 percent for Hillary Clinton. (This was especially true of older white voters; 90 percent of black voters 45 and older, as well as 67 percent of Latino voters in the same age range voted Democratic.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) economic proposals may have been wildly popular with millennials, but no demographic has a greater incentive to vote progressive than Americans facing retirement. According to research conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons, the three greatest concerns of Americans 50 and older are Social Security, health care costs and caregiving for loved ones—all areas that have been targeted by Republicans.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a devotee of social Darwinist Ayn Rand, has made no secret of his desire to privatize Social Security and replace traditional Medicare with a voucher program. Had George W. Bush had his way and turned Social Security over to Wall Street, the economic crash of September 2008 might have left millions of senior citizens homeless.

Since then, Ryan has doubled down on his delusion that the banking sector can manage Social Security and Medicare more effectively than the federal government. Republican attacks on Medicare have become a growing concern: according to EBRI, only 38 percent of workers are confident the program will continue to provide the level of benefits it currently does.

The GOP’s obsession with abolishing the Affordable Care Act is the most glaring example of its disdain for aging Americans. Yet Obamacare has been a blessing for Boomers and Gen Xers who have preexisting conditions. The ACA’s guaranteed issue plans make no distinction between a 52-year-old American with diabetes, heart disease or asthma and a 52-year-old who has never had any of those illnesses. And AARP notes that under the ACA, the uninsured rate for Americans 50 and older decreased from 15 percent in 2013 to 9 percent in 2016.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the replacement bills Donald Trump hoped to ram through Congress this year would have resulted in staggering premium hikes for Americans over 50. The CBO’s analysis of the American Health Care Act, one of the earlier versions of Trumpcare, showed that a 64-year-old American making $26,500 per year could have gone from paying $1,700 annually in premiums to just over $16,000. The CBO also estimated that the GOP’s American Health Care Act would have deprived 23 million Americans of health insurance by 2026.

As 2017 winds down, Americans with health problems are still in the GOP’s crosshairs—this time because of so-called tax reform. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (both the House and Senate versions) includes provisions that would undermine Obamacare and cause higher health insurance premiums for older Americans. According to AARP, “Older adults ages 50-64 would be at particularly high risk under the proposal, facing average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019 as a result of the bill.”

The CBO estimates that the bill will cause premiums to spike an average of 10 percent overall, with average premiums increasing $890 per year for a 50-year-old, $1,100 per year for a 55-year-old, $1,350 per year for a 60-year-old and $1,490 per year for a 64-year-old. Premium increases, according to the CBO, would vary from state to state; in Maine, average premiums for a 64-year-old would rise as much as $1,750 per year.

Countless Americans who are unable to afford those steep premiums would lose their insurance. The CBO estimates that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would cause the number of uninsured under 65 to increase 4 million by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The bill would also imperil Americans 65 and over by cutting $25 billion from Medicare.

As morally reprehensible as the GOP’s tax legislation may be, it is merely an acceleration of the redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top that America has undergone since the mid-1970s. (President Richard Nixon may have been a paranoid right-winger with authoritarian tendencies, but he expanded Medicare and supported universal health care.) Between the decline of labor unions, age discrimination, stagnant wages, an ever-rising cost of living, low interest rates, and a shortage of retirement accounts, millions of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers may never be able to retire.

Traditional defined-benefit pensions were once a mainstay of American labor, especially among unionized workers. But according to Pew Charitable Trusts, only 13 percent of Baby Boomers still have them (among millennials, the number falls to 6 percent). In recent decades, 401(k) plans have become much more prominent, yet a majority of American workers don’t have them either.

Analyzing W2 tax records in 2012, U.S. Census Bureau researchers Michael Gideon and Joshua Mitchell found that only 14 percent of private-sector employers in the U.S. were offering a 401(k) or similar retirement packages to their workers. That figure was thought to be closer to 40 percent, but Gideon and Mitchell discovered the actual number was considerably lower when smaller businesses were carefully analyzed, and that larger companies were more likely to offer 401(k) plans than smaller ones.

Today, millions of Americans work in the gig economy who don’t have full-time jobs or receive W2s, but instead receive 1099s for freelance work. Tax-deferred SEP-IRAs were once a great, low-risk way for freelancers to save for retirement without relying exclusively on Social Security, but times have changed since the 1980s and ’90s when interest rates were considerably higher for certificates of deposit and savings accounts. According to, average rates for one-year CDs dropped from 11.27 percent in 1984 to 8.1 percent in 1990 to 5.22 percent in 1995 to under 1 percent in 2010, where it currently remains.

The combination of stagnant wages and an increasingly high cost of living have been especially hellish for Americans who are trying to save for retirement. The United States’ national minimum wage, a mere $7.25 per hour, doesn’t begin to cover the cost of housing at a time when rents have soared nationwide. Never mind the astronomical prices in New York City, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Median rents for one-bedroom apartments are as high as $1,010 per month in Atlanta, $960 per month in Baltimore, $860 per month in Jacksonville and $750 per month in Omaha, according to

That so many older Americans are renting at all is ominous in its own right. FDR made home ownership a primary goal of the New Deal, considering it a key component of a thriving middle class. But last year, the Urban Institute found that 19 million Americans who previously owned a home are now renting, 31 percent between the ages of 36 and 45. Laurie Goodman, one of the study’s authors, contends the Great Recession has “permanently raised the number of renters,” and that the explosion of foreclosures has hit Gen Xers especially hard.

The severity of the U.S. retirement crisis is further addressed in journalist Jessica Bruder’s new book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century,” which follows Americans in their 50s, 60s and even 70s living in RVs or vans, barely eking out a living doing physically demanding, seasonal temp work from harvesting sugar beets to cleaning toilets at campgrounds. Several had high-paying jobs before their lives were blown apart by the layoffs, foreclosures and corporate downsizing of the Great Recession. Bruder speaks with former college professors and software professionals who now find themselves destitute, teetering on the brink of homelessness and forced to do backbreaking work for next to nothing. Unlike the big banks, they never received a bailout.

These neo-nomads recall the transients of the 1930s, themselves victims of Wall Street’s recklessness. But whereas FDR won in a landslide in 1932 and aggressively pursued a program of progressive economic reforms, Republicans in Congress have set out to shred what little remains of the social safety net, giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. The older voters who swept Trump into office may have signed their own death warrants.

If aging Americans are going to be saved from this dystopian future, the U.S. will have to forge a new Great Society. Programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will need to be strengthened, universal health care must become a reality and age discrimination in the workplace will have to be punished as a civil rights violation like racial and gender-based discrimination. If not, millions of Gen Xers and Boomers will spend their golden years scraping for pennies.

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  1. Expat

    I certainly will never go back to the States for these and other reasons. I have a friend, also an American citizen, who travels frequently back to California to visit his son. He is truly worried about getting sick or having an accident when he is there since he knows it might bankrupt him. As he jokes, he would be happy to have another heart attack here in France since it’s free!

    For those of you who have traveled the world and talked to people, you probably know that most foreigners are perplexed by America’s attitude to health care and social services. The richest nation in the world thinks that health and social security (in the larger sense of not being forced into the street) are not rights at all. Europeans scratch their heads at this.

    The only solution is education and information, but they are appalling in America. America remains the most ignorant and worst educated of the developed nations and is probably beaten by many developing nations. It is this ignorance and stupidity that gets Americans to vote for the likes of Trump or any of the other rapacious millionaires they send to office every year.

    A first step would be for Americans to insist that Congress eliminate its incredibly generous and life-long healthcare plans for elected officials. They should have to do what the rest of Americans do. Of course, since about 95% of Congress are millionaires, it might not be effective. But it’s a start.

    1. vidimi

      France has its share of problems, but boy do they pale next to the problems in America or even Canada. Life here is overall quite pleasant and I have no desire to go back to N.A.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Was in Yellowknife a couple of years ago. The First Nations people have a rough life. From what I’ve read, such extends across the country.

        2. vidimi

          yeah, Canada has a neoliberal infestation that is somewhere between the US and the UK. France has got one too, but it is less advanced. I’ll enjoy my great healthcare, public transportation, and generous paid time off while I can.

          1. JEHR

            The newest neoliberal effort in Canada was put forward by our Minister of Finance (a millionaire) who is touting a bill that will get rid of defined benefit pension plans given to public employees for so-called target benefit pension plans. The risk for target plans is taken by the recipient. Morneau’s former firm promotes target benefit pension plans and the change could benefit Morneau himself as he did not put his assets from his firm in a blind trust. At the very least, he has a conflict of interest and should probably resign.

            There is always an insidious group of wealthy people here who would like to re-make the world in their own image. I fear for the future.

        3. Roland

          Canada is as neoliberal as almost anywhere else in the Anglo developed world. You can think of us as being just like the USA or UK, but about a decade behind in the adoption of dumb and cruel ideas. In the Anglo neoliberal family, Canada is the slightly retarded little sibling.

          The cost of living is high in Canadian cities. In Vancouver and Toronto, the cost of living has soared out of any sort of proportion to employment incomes. Affordable rental housing is often infested with bedbugs or other vermin (Vancouver alleyways are strewn with stained mattresses and other abandoned furniture). Beggars are seen everywhere, while the Teslas and Lexuses roll past. Not a day goes by that I don’t see elderly persons climbing in and out of dumpsters. Permanent shantytowns have arisen on the outskirts. We got almost the same opiates problem as the USA.

          The province of Quebec used to be more social-democratic in orientation than other parts of Canada. But even the Quebecois seem to have caught the mental and spiritual diseases of the globalist bourgeoisie. I recently spent a month in Montreal, and was aghast to see the staircases of downtown Metro stations rendered almost impassable by the large numbers of homeless men and women trying to sleep there.

          My younger relatives look at me very sceptically, when I tell them that as late as 1990, a beggar was an unusual sight in Vancouver. Of course, people born since that time would think that what you see today is normal.

      1. Wukchumni

        We were at a commercial hot springs somewhere in France about 15 years ago, and it cost around $5 to go in, and before entering, there was a doctor and nurse that checked your blood pressure, etc., for no extra charge. It was so over the top in terms of anything compared to here, in a delightful way.

          1. artiste-de-decrottage

            In France, doctors make a lot less than in the US, particularly general practitioners. The GP doctors make on the order of what a senior manager or engineer makes.

            There are good reasons for that (among them free education for doctors and a totally different societal attitude towards healthcare, based on SOLIDARITY – whose outcome is a more reasonable cost and coverage. Yes, they also do use that word a lot in general public discourse, in many European countries. Have you heard the word SOLIDARITY in the US in public discourse, ever?).

            A good summary of that and meaningful comparisons with other nations’ healthcare systems is provided in the book ‘The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care’ by T. R. Reid.

    2. Larry

      Don’t worry, Marcon and Merkel are accelerating the crapification of France and the wider EU. The next generation will get to experience the joys of economic and health insecurity in abundance.

      1. vidimi

        the main project now is to gut the public pensions. the PIIGS countries have already had to slash theirs, so the plan now is to bring the rest of Europe to Canadian levels (retirement age at 67 or higher with a minimal state component).

        1. kukuzel

          By the way, it is not widely known for example that the retirement age in Russia is 60.

          And, judging by the tens of thousands of healthy and active Russian retirees (these are teachers and professional workers, “middle class” people, not oligarchs – those go to Monaco and Switzerland of course) living on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria (mild winters, culturally and geographically close, inexpensive by developed world standards, gateway to the EU), their pensions cannot be that bad.

          And no, they don’t look like they are about to die at 65.

          So, take that, dear future US retirees (myself in that number).

          1. Robert McGregor

            Wikipedia says the retirement age in Russia is 60 for men, and 55 for women !!! My personal family practice physician is a Russian immigrant and pre-GFC she claimed, “Most Russian men die before 60. (Wikipedia now says 70.91) Next time I see her I may ask her about Russian retirement, and life expectancy etc. Another topic is the prevailing attitude of Russian immigrants when they came to America. They really expected to clean up! I’d be interested in what other NC readers think about this. Certainly I can imagine the distress of Russian immigrants who through a lot to move to the US only to find by age 60–55 for women–they might have been better off being back in Russia.

          2. OIFVet

            Indeed, the Black Sea coast is overran by Russkies, younger ones as well. The countryside is where the Brits move to to feel like country squires on the cheap. And Americans are concentrated in Sofia, doing the heavy lifting of pretending to be civilising the natives while securing staging areas for the future war against Russia. It’s all one big happy international family :) Can’t wait to move back there permanently in 30 months.

    3. Dita

      Europeans may scratch their heads, but they should recall their own histories and the long struggle to the universal benefits now enjoyed.

      Americans are far too complacent. This mildness is viewed by predators as weakness and the attacks will continue.

      1. jefemt

        We really should be able to turn this around, and have an obligation to ourselves and our ‘nation state’ , IF there were a group of folks running on a fairness, one-for-all, all-for-one platform. That sure isn’t the present two-sides-of-the-same-coin Democraps and Republicrunts.
        Not sure if many of the readers here watch non-cable national broadcast news, but Pete Peterson and his foundation are as everpresent an advertiser as the pharma industry.
        Peterson is the strongest , best organized advocate for gutting social services, social security, and sending every last penny out of the tax-mule consumer’s pocket toward wall street. The guy needs an equivalent counterpoint enemy.
        Check it out, and be vigilant in dispelling his message and mission.
        Thanks for running this article.
        Running away: the almost-haves run to another nation state, the uber-wealthy want to leave the earth, or live in their private Idaho in the Rockies or on the Ocean.
        What’s left for the least among us? Whatever we create?

      2. Scramjett

        I think pathologically optimistic is a better term than complacent. Every time someone dumps on them, their response is usually along the lines of “Don’t worry, it’ll get better,” “Everything works itself out in the end,” “maybe we’ll win the lottery,” my personal favorite “things will get better, just give it time” (honestly it’s been 40 years of this neoliberal bullcrap, how much more time are we supposed to give it?), “this is just a phase” or “we can always bring it back later and better than ever.” The last one is most troubling because after 20 years of witnessing things in the public sphere disappearing, I’ve yet to see a single thing return in any form at all.

        I’m not sure where this annoying optimism came from but I sure wish it would go away.

        1. sierra7

          The “optimism” comes from having a lack of historical memory. So many social protections that we have/had is seen as somehow coming out of the ether benevolently given without any social struggles. The lack of historical education on this subject in particular is appalling. Now, most would probably look for an “APP” on their “dumbphones” to solve the problem.
          The social advantages that we still enjoy were fought in the streets, and on the “bricks” flowing with the participants blood. 8 hr. day; women’s right to vote; ability and right for groups of laborers to organize; worker safety laws…..and so many others.
          There is no historical memory on how those rights were achieved. We are slowly slipping into an oligarchy greased by the idea that the physical possession of material things is all that matters.
          Sheeple, yes.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      WOW! You must have been outside the U.S. for a long time. Your comment seems to suggest we still have some kind of democracy here. We don’t get to pick which rapacious millionaires we get to vote for and it doesn’t matter any way since whichever one we pick from the sad offerings ends up with policies dictated from elsewhere.

      1. Expat

        Mmm, I think American voters get what they want in the end. They want their politicians because they believe the lies. 19% of Americans believe they are in the top 1% of wealth. A huge percentage of poor people believe they or their kids will (not can, but will) become wealthy. Most Americans can’t find France on a map.

        So, yes, you DO get to pick your rapacious millionaire. You send the same scumbags back to Washington every year because it’s not him, it the other guys who are the problem. One third of Americans support Trump! Really, really support him. They think he is Jesus, MacArthur and Adam Smith all rolled up into one.

        I may have been gone for about thirty years, but that has only sharpened my insights into America. It’s very hard to see just how flawed America is from the inside but when you step outside and have some perspective, it’s frightening.

        1. IsotopeC14

          The voting machines are rigged. Take a look at Stein-Baraka numbers in Madison Wisconsin. No way did they get below 2% in the People’s Republic of Madison…

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          I doubt that I harbor many more illusions about the American voting and non-voting public than you. I am suggesting you may have illusions about democracy in America. I think is unkind to place so much blame on the victims — the American voting and non-voting public.

  2. Disturbed Voter

    The Democrat party isn’t a reform party. Thinking it is so, is because of the “No Other Choice” meme. Not saying that the Republican party works in my favor. They don’t. Political reform goes deeper than reforming either main party. It means going to a European plurality system (with its own downside). That way growing Third parties will be viable, if they have popular, as opposed to millionaire, support. I don’t see this happening, because of Citizens United, but if all you have is hope, then you have to go with that.

    1. Carolinian

      Had George W. Bush had his way and turned Social Security over to Wall Street, the economic crash of September 2008 might have left millions of senior citizens homeless.

      Substitute Bill Clinton for George Bush in that sentence and it works just as well. Neoliberalism is a bipartisan project.

      And many of the potential and actual horrors described above arise from the price distortions of the US medical system with Democratic acquiescence in said system making things worse. The above article reads like a DNC press release.

      And finally while Washington politicians of both parties have been threatening Social Security for years that doesn’t mean its third rail status has been repealed. The populist tremors of the last election–which have caused our elites to lose their collective mind–could be a mere prelude to what will happen in the event of a full scale assault on the safety net.

      1. KYrocky

        Substitute Obama’s quest for a Grand Bargain as well.

        Our government, beginning with Reagan, turned its back on promoting the general welfare. The wealthy soon learned that their best return on investment was the “purchase” of politicians willing to pass the legislation they put in their hands. Much of their investment included creating the right wing media apparatus.

        The Class War is real. It has been going on for 40 years, with the Conservative army facing virtually no resistance. Conservatives welcome Russia’s help. Conservatives welcome barriers to people voting. Conservatives welcome a populace that believes lies that benefit them. Conservatives welcome the social and financial decline of the entire middle class and poor as long as it profits the rich financially, and by extension enhances their power politically.

        If retirees flee our country that will certainly please the Conservatives as that will be fewer critics (enemies). Also less need or demand for social programs.

        1. Kokuanani

          I think many retirees would like to flee the US, but it’s increasingly difficult to find any place that will allow them in. Really. Check out Canada, Ireland, UK, Australia. Their immigration policies are strict, and they enforce them. They don’t want the “health-shopping” Americans fleeing their horrid “homeland.”

          1. Lambert Strether

            And then of course there’s FATCA, which makes it very hard to have non-US bank accounts, ostensibly designed to prevent money laundering but naturally screwing the little guy instead. (The only Senator fighting FATCA is Ron Paul, amazingly enough.)

            They make it impossible for you to stay, and then they punish you if you leave.

            1. Colin

              screwing the little guy instead
              Indeed. According to a recent NYT article, US multinationals have nearly three trillion dollars in offshore accounts, facilitated by tax havens like the Netherlands (the most important one for US companies) and Ireland. The new tax bill would allow the companies to repatriate this money (a “tax holiday”) at a reduced tax rate of 12% instead of a usual 35% corporate rate, a give-away of something like half a trillion. Meanwhile FATCA rules make life difficult for maybe ten thousand Americans living abroad with taxable assets of an estimated $1 billion. The lack of proportionality staggers belief.

              1. Alex V

                You’re forgetting more than 5 million American citizens…. their assets or income may not be taxed outright, but the stress of FATCA compliance is a huge cost, emotionally.

      2. rps

        “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery” Thomas Jefferson. Rights of British America, 1774 ME 1:193, Papers 1:125

    2. tegnost

      yes, my problem with the post as well,completely ignores democrat complicity…the part where someone with a 26k salary will pay 16k in insurance? No they won’t, the system would collapse in that case which will be fine with me.

    1. Anon

      Somewhere in the commentariat is an expat living in Uruguay (I believe). I’m intrigued with that location. However, using Medicare benefits in a non-US territory is problematic. May be worth the hassle, though.

        1. David Carl Grimes

          They should allow Medicare to be used outside the US, especially for low cost countries in the Third World. They are cheaper and just as good as the US for many medical services – maybe not for transplants but for heart bypasses, dialysis, etc., they are ok.

      1. annie

        correct: medicare cannot be used outside the u.s.
        we are retirees living abroad much of the year. our secondary insurance (which we are lucky enough to have from former teaching job) becomes our primary insurance. we submit bills to them and they pay (reimburse) fairly well.
        we use local doctors and clinics at much lower rates than in the u.s.
        emergency medical care in europe is nearly always free or all but free.

    2. gardener1

      We’ve been to Ecuador twice in the last 4 years exploring retirement there – and decided against it. For a combination of reasons.

      1. In spite of what gets touted in the retirement media, for the most part Ecuador is a third world country with everything that entails.

      2. The much ballyhood Cuenca is in an Andes plateau at 8,000 ft. elevation. Not a fan, and it’s isolated, if you want to get out of Cuenca there’s a lot of nowhere to go. Cuenca has been haggling with airlines to get some service providers since TAME cancelled its routes, that’s been a constant and ongoing problem.

      3. I liked Quito, It’s at 9,000 ft. I really couldn’t take it.

      4. The coast is a very narrow strip of land at the bottom of the mountains, and outside of a couple of areas it’s a backwater. Little infrastructure, few services, dirt poor. The north coast of Ecuador (we call it the mosquito zone) shook down in a 7.8 earthquake in 2016 that wrecked everything from Manta to the Colombian border.

      5. Ecuador completely overhauled its visa laws in February of this year making it much more difficult to get any kind of permanent residency permit, and requiring all visa applicants to provide proof of personal health insurance to qualify for a visa.

      6. Ecuador isn’t cheap. They levy enormous taxes on almost everything that’s imported, which is just about everything but food. Impossible to get packages and mail in or out.

      ‘Studies’ have shown that the majority of pensioners who retire there, leave and go back home or somewhere else within 5 years.

  3. Marco

    “President Richard Nixon may have been a paranoid right-winger with authoritarian tendencies, but he expanded Medicare and supported universal health care.”

    “Gimme that old time Republican!”

    One of the reasons I love NC is that most political economic analysis is often more harsh on the Democrats than the Repubs so I am a bit dismayed how this article is way too easy on Team D. How many little (and not so little) knives in the back from Clinton and Obama? Is a knife in the chest that much worse?

    1. Marco

      Adding…the Expat option is not feasible for other non-monetary reasons. We love our extended families (and aging elders) who need us within reasonable proximity. Blood ties are important…even when they are a Trump voters.

      1. jrs

        Yes but blood ties aren’t supposed to be important to Americans either of course. Remember we are *individuals*, we aren’t supposed to have any wider circles or ties even immediate ones.

        1. LifelongLib

          American individualism is a recent myth. I remember how my grandmother who grew up in rural Montana a century ago could rattle off the names of various second cousins, to say nothing of all the family stories. Life then was rugged but it was not individualistic.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That’s a key consideration for me.

        Friends and relatives.

        Perhaps one can acquire new pals at the age of 70, as as not to be a lonely old man/woman.

        Or are you just a Yankee with money?

        And hopefully the new country is so subdued by the super power that there is no need to liberate it. For example, Libya, a few years ago, would not have been a good choice, in this respect.

    2. Wukchumni

      Our Congressman is the insipid Kevin McCarthy, who has weaseled his way into the upper echelon of the reign of error, and his henchman come to town occasionally to listen to his constituency complain, and then ignore everything they say.

      I spoke up against the lessening of the EPA, and told said lackeys that we shouldn’t be dismantling it, as it was a Republican named Nixon that enacted it way back when.

      My father, who loathed Nixon, would’ve disowned me if he was still around, ha!

  4. jackiebass

    If you choose traditional medicare instead of a medicare advantage plan , I don’t understand how it would narrow your network. Traditional medicare is universal in the US and accepted by most providers. I’ve been on traditional medicare for16 years and haven’t had a provider that doesn’t accept traditional medicare.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A lot of doctors do not accept Medicare. My current MD does not. I think that is even more true of specialists.

      And I am not in a network. I have an old-fashioned indemnity plan. I can see any doctor, anywhere in the world. I submitted claims for 2 years from Australia, and have also submitted claims from the UK and Thailand.

      1. doug

        I wonder if that is regional. Where I live(south), I never see a problem with that.

        My PCP when I asked him as I approached 65, replied, that of course he accepted medicare, that there was little difference between it and other insurance, and that folks who did not accept medicare were immoral in his view.

        1. pretzelattack

          it happens around this southern city . scary stuff, my first world problems may turn into third world problems. trying to imagine being 70, living in a van, queing up for a chance at a valuable temp gig in an amazon warehouse.

      2. Rhondda

        I would have thought so, too. Certainly the media I have read has lead me to believe that many doctors don’t accept Medicare. I wondered what the percentages were so I did a search. Surprising to me. More nuance than one might think in the results — seems you can “accept” at finer-grained levels than one might assume in a Federal program. Here’s what seems to be a reasonably objective and recent appraisal:

      3. Left in Wisconsin

        I think out here in flyover it is less common for doctors to not take Medicare patients. My elderly father moved out here 1.5 years ago and has made considerable use of the excellent resources of the UW health system. His secondary private insurance covers very little since he is out-of-network but Medicare has covered virtually everything and no expert has refused to see him (urology, throat/swallowing, dementia, macular degeneration, etc.) due to being Medicare insured. I am pretty sure the entire Mayo Clinic operation takes Medicare patients also.

        It may be that independent docs are refusing Medicare patients but there are fewer and fewer of those out here.

        1. GF

          Anecdotal reply from the few doctors I have seen: They state they accept Medicare because it pays them quickly and there is less paperwork than with most insurance companies, which results in less office overhead. Even with the lower payments from Medicare for many procedures, the doctors do OK when the big picture is examined.

        2. baldski

          If any doctor refuses Medicare patients, then please return the cost of your residency because Medicare funded it.

      4. Jack G

        One of my docs accepts no insurance. But he will file the Medicare claim. I pay him and Medicare sends me a check. It’s a little unwieldy but he’s a good doc (in my completely unprofessional opinion) so I put up with it. Others don’t and go to other docs.

      5. Jer Bear

        Physicians in private practice often do not accept Medicare or Medicaid do to billing issues. These are usually older doctors with established practices. Younger physicians often end up working as employees of large chain hospitals to stay solvent, and they will accept any form of payment.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Only some doctors accept Medicare where I am, too, and the ones that do set quotas. One clinic wanted me to “apply”, as if it were an elite school. I decided that was highly inappropriate and handed back the form.

      So far, I’ve been lucky and found doctor(s) – was unhappy with the first clinic that took me, switched to another when room opened up. FWIW, my dissatisfaction was mainly that the first one was disorganized and didn’t have enough people to answer the phone. Disturbing, when you can’t get through to your doctor.

      There are other pitfalls with Medicare, like co-insurance, which cost me $1500 on hernia surgery. OTOH, that’s cheap hernia surgery (bi-lateral), but it was unexpected. But it’s still a great deal better than the American Plan: don’t get sick, which we were on for 20 years.

      1. ambrit

        I’ll be on the ‘American Plan’ for another four years. Due to my recent experiences with medical care affordability, I’m beginning to appreciate the expansion of the “Opioid Plan.” In other words, if you cannot get the problem fixed, sedate it until you can. I’m wondering how much of the opioid epidemic stems from such a “slow down until you die” neo-liberal medical prescription. Many overdose deaths are simple mistakes. As a friend who was ‘hooked’ described it; “You get so zonked out, you forget how much you’ve already taken. Eventually, you take that one too many. Then it’s lights out.”

  5. Tinky

    I now live in Portugal. The quality of life is high, and cost of living quite low (though Lisbon has become pricey in terms of property).

    A few months ago I sustained a cut that wasn’t healing well, and decided to visit a private walk-in clinic. It was clean, modern, and there was virtually no wait. The nurse took care of me, as no doctor was required. She spent about twenty minutes cleaning and dressing the wound, and gave me some extra waterproof bandages to take home.

    The cost? Six Euros. You read that correctly: Six Euros.

    1. RabidGandhi

      To the issue of cost of living, I was in Portugal last week and had a myocardial infarction upon seeing petrol prices at 1.55€/litre. Good thing is not only are there excellent public hospitals for such MIs, but the extremely relaxed recreational pharmaceuticals policy makes for good prevention as well.

      1. Tinky

        Petrol is expensive throughout Europe, but who really needs a car? Public transport in Portugal is largely excellent, and cheap.

        1. RabidGandhi

          I had clients to see in Sevilla and Moura. How long would that have taken me on public transport?

          Adding: the trick was to refuel in Spain: paid 1.23€/litre.

      2. Alex V

        That’s greatly under-priced, if one actually factored in the true cost of fossil fueled transportation on the environment and society.

      3. Carolinian

        Where I live a liter is about .48 euro if I have my conversion right. So retirees here do catch some breaks. Also there’s no VAT although we do of course have sales tax. And finally many US retirees fully own their homes whereas in, say, Germany almost everybody rents. Indeed I’d say that so far the US elderly have it easy compared to the millenials who are the ones really getting screwed. Just reading an article the other day about the record number of millenials living with their parents or, undoubtedly, their grandparents.

        And finally I’ve read Nomadland and should be said that many of those older people wandering around the country do so by choice. RVs are not cheap. A new one can cost as much as a house. Amazon prefers to hire these people for their work ethic and because they bring their own housing with them which is handy for a temporary workforce. Amazon even tries to sugarcoat the exploitation by making a kind of club out of it called CamperForce.

          1. Pinhead

            Home ownership in Germany is 52% and it is below 45% in Switzerland. It is 65-75% in almost all other rich countries including the US. It is actually around 85% in Russia and 90% in Cuba although the amenities are not quite the same.

            1. jCandlish

              As a Swiss I can say that it does not pay to own your house outright. The way our taxes are structured you are cash ahead to carry your mortgage in perpetuity. It is a nice gift for our banks.

              1. Anon

                Many ‘Mericans say they own their home, but actually the bank (mortgage) owns the home. They’re simply trying to improve their equity (and freedom to paint it whatever color they please) in the home.

                I’ve owned (completely mortgage free) several homes, and between crazy neighbors, time involved in upkeep, and property tax the best hope is to sell them to a greater fool. (Price appreciation.) Spending over half of one’s income on a home mortgage and hoping the next generation will buy it when it’s time to move on is more risky than many other “investments”.

                  1. ambrit

                    Plumberman here.
                    Stay on top of the workers. Unless, of course, you know the contractor well. If you’re doing your own labour, good for you!
                    A well done piece of work is worthy of extended contemplation.
                    Bodhidharma Construction.

      4. oliverks

        I was in Italy this year, in a remote part where you really needed a car to get around. The diesel prices were shocking, but the small car efficiency actually balanced out the price. I don’t think I spent any more per mile than I did in the US. For reference, I drive a 4 cylinder Toyota which is not exactly a gas guzzler here.

    2. Wukchumni

      My mom gave me her checkbook register from mid 1961-62 a few years ago, and for a family of 6, there was a total of $88 paid to Dr. Evers, our family physician. My coming out party was $190.

      The checks were mostly $6 and $7, with one $14 whopper.

      I asked my mom if we had health insurance, and she told me that aside from a few that had Kaiser, nobody had health insurance back in those days.

      1. cojo

        Health insurance was not as critical in those days. The low prices you quote for day to day purchases could also be found in the healthcare of the day. Not the inflated prices we have now. Same with education. I recall seeing old tuition receipts from my university that maxed out at a few hundred dollars per semester in the 1950’s.

      2. Eclair

        My dad’s brother was a physician, an old-fashioned family doctor whose office was in his home and who made house calls. This was in the 1940’s and 50’s. Many of his patients paid ‘in kind;’ although he lived in the city, people still had large gardens or lived on outlying small farms, and in August and September especially, my aunt would routinely find boxes of fresh fruits and veggies on their porch. She joked that she was kept busy canning and preserving for at least three months of the year.

      1. Tinky

        Actually, there are some avenues available for some, depending on ancestry, but work is required.

        My father was born in Europe, and, after three years and the help of an inexpensive lawyer, I was able to gain a second citizenship. That, in turn, allowed me to live in Europe.

        I believe that Ireland has fairly liberal rules along these lines, but it is worth checking into it no matter what foreign country one’s parents were born.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Won’t even remotely work for me. I’m from old and undistinguished stock. All my grandparents were born in the US and three of my four grandparents have gene pools that go back to before the Revolution (two English, one bizarrely Hungarian).

          1. vlade

            If you could speak Hungarian (which would be a feat… ), you could apply for Hungarian passport by ancestry (assuming you can track your Hungarian roots with sufficient documentation). That would open all of EU, and I think you might like Berlin

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, my Hungarian ancestors have supposedly been here over 200 years, plus my mother was terrified of both her parents, in particular her Hungarian father, who was estranged from the rest of his family, and so she knows nothing about his ancestors. The claim was they came to help fight in the Revolutionary War and stayed. That’s likely family urban legend, but my mother is pretty sure his parents were born here too.

              1. vlade

                As far as I understand, the law doesn’t care how far your Hungarian ancestry goes – it more or less assumes that if you have any Hungarian blood and can speak Hungarian, you are Hungarian.

                There’s background to that – Hungary wantes to be able to give passports to the large Hungarian minorities in surrounding states, and thus create “they are our citizens, of course it’s our concern” backdrop for dealing with Slovakia, Romania, Croatia and Serbia. So they came with the loosest definition possible.

                TBH given how hard Hungarian is, and the closest languages are spoken by tribes in Ural region (Finnish is closest in Europe – and they can’t understand each other at all. Someone once said that yes, they are similar – as French is to Russian [being the same Indo-European languages family]), the requirement to have good Hungarian is pretty prohibitive.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Ireland allows you to claim citizenship if you have an Irish grandparent (with some caveats). Many US and Canadians use this to work/settle in the EU. A Chicago friend who was working in London and HK got her Irish passport without ever bothering to visit Ireland.

        3. mtnwoman


          In the interest of keeping my options open, might you have the contact info for that lawyer? My father was born in France (came to USA after the war). I understand I am “due” a French passport if I can prove his and his parents French birth.


      2. Wukchumni

        True dat.

        We were looking into getting NZ citizenship about a decade ago, and qualified as far as points needed, but were on the cusp age-wise, and have since been disqualified on account of age discrimination.

      3. PlutoniumKun

        Easy enough within the EU of course – there are huge numbers of northern European retirees living on the Med and in Portugal. But plenty of Britons are finding out to their horror they are very vulnerable to both Brexit and a weakening sterling.

        I’ve not looked into the visa side of things, but some Asian countries target retirees as a source of investment in rural areas. I don’t know if it still does, but Taiwan used to market itself to Japanese retirees as a cheap place to move with your yen pensions. There are a lot of retirement developments in Thailand and elsewhere, marketed on cheap property and good quality health systems. They seem to aim mostly at Europeans and Japanese.

      4. FreeMarketApologist

        Mexico. I have friends (gay, married; a retired nurse and retired librarian), who moved there full-time 3 years ago after 30+ years in NYC, and nearly 15 years of periodic vacations all over Mexico, to consider possible locations. They moved to a medium-sized city about 3 hours by bus from Mexico City, somewhat off the beaten path of the usual expat communities. Very affordable, and permanent residency is not a problem. Mexico City is very affordable, very good subway system, and has lots of things to do if you’re retired and need to fill up a day. Over their years of visits, they built up a network of friends and connections, and have found good local doctors and dentists. One is fluent in Spanish, the other not so much.

  6. Alex V

    To me, another thing that makes the US horrible and expensive for older people (among other groups) is the virtual requirement for a car. Outside of a few major metro areas you’re basically screwed without one. Part of why I encourage my mother to move back to Germany after my father passed away (even though she drives now and has a car) she can get basically anywhere in Europe without needing to get behind the wheel.

    Yves, Sweden might take you, if you can take the winters… the requirements for self-employed residence permits aren’t too harsh. So far they’ve managed to not overdo it on neoliberalism, although there are forces that sure try to make it happen.

        1. Mark Alexander

          Thanks for the link. These bits from “Requirements for obtaining a residence permit as a self-employed” do seem a bit daunting, though: “show that you have established customer contacts and/or a network in Sweden”, and “show that the business’ services or goods are sold and/or produced in Sweden”. This would be tough for us, since our main business now is fiber arts (weaving, etc.) and farming, all very local things. I do some part-time programming but that’s also quite local.

          Fifteen years ago, I qualified for NZ immigration, just barely. Now I’m too old (their points system penalizes you on age). Sad, really, since I spent a year in NZ as a child, went to school there, went on camping trips and adored the landscape, etc. I still consider it my first home.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            When Bush got appointed the second time in 2005 we made the move to Australia and boy are we glad we did.
            The concerns about family and friends cited here are real but we have adjusted and Aussies are very easy and welcoming as new friends.

            We recently dropped our “private health coverage” which is essentially an American-style system that sits atop the existing public system. So when my son recently had a non-serious health problem we were really astonished when, at 2 hours’ notice, a doctor showed up at our house to treat him. Bill? Zero. All of the health care we’ve received here has been top-notch.

            Not mentioned in the article is that many countries, especially in Asia, are not ageist. Employers actually value and respect the experience and wisdom older workers bring.

            But my view is that the only hope is to hijack the politics of everything in the U.S., the richest country on Earth has more than enough money to solve its woes. So pick a single issue, a simple one that everybody can understand, one that is so destructive and hateful and wasteful that everybody can get behind it, and organize. Can I suggest Permanent War? Maybe mention the $21 trillion that went missing at the Pentagon in the last decade? Maybe help people understand that the enemy (Osama, ISIS) is dead? Show them a quick chart and ask them to pick which one they want to buy, an electronic gun that can shoot Middle Eastern goat herders from space, or 25 new hospitals.

            Stop the War. It’s what worked in the 60’s, and it can work again. A New Peace Dividend…that can be spent on the things people are crying out for like retirement and health care. Leave out all of the other divisive stuff like gender and race and abortions and green energy and net neutrality. The party platform has one item on it: Stop The War. Peace, Bread, and Land.

      1. Paleobotanist

        Hi Yves

        Think seriously about Montreal. It’s one of the world’s great cities. Great public transport. We don’t own a car. Life is good here.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Yes, the trick is getting to Canada and Quebec at my advanced age. I know the provinces have job categories where they are seeking workers, otherwise my impression is it’s by points, and I fail on that. The only way in might be if I got some sort of teaching post at one of the unis for something where my background would add something they couldn’t get locally.

          1. Paleobotanist

            I speak French. The spousal unit is learning. The cats picked it up quickly ;^) They are quite happy being “minous”, rather than kitties.
            Actually in Montreal you can get by fine with English only in the West Island. I have anglophone colleagues who only speak English.

    1. vidimi

      this is so true. 2 or more cars per household, and the ridiculous quantities of meat in their diet, are probably the two main reasons why americans consume more than twice as much as the EU average.

      1. kukuzel

        A side point, on the topic of cars in the US:

        I recently shopped for a (used) family car. My wife is a timid driver (does not like to drive big vehicles), and my current car is too old and too small to accommodate a family of 4. I gave myself a budget of $15k (market is coastal California). I needed:
        – under 15k
        – not too old, with good safety features
        – big enough for comfortable seating for 4 or 5
        – big enough for lots of trunk space that is easy to access
        – small enough to get reasonable fuel economy and for my wife to be confident to drive it
        – fun to drive… (if possible)

        Reasonable, no?

        I found that something like this is incredibly hard to find here. In Europe, my ideal car would be a VW Passat (Im familiar with it from my European life). VW stopped selling Passat wagons here around 2011 and there are precious few of them anyway in the US. Then small minivans here (like Mazda 5) actually have default seating of 4, and if you want to seat 6, you lose the cargo space. Wtf. Priuses and Subarus cost over 20k almost at any age and mileage, let alone hybrids. So any car that had most of my desired features was either 1) a sports car like VW GTI which is too small or 2) a stupid, ugly and costly GIANT minivan with horrible economy that is hard to park in a crammed rental complex lot.

        So after giving it some thought, I realized:
        in the US, they want to you to own at least 2 cars: one for fun and errands, and one for “the family”. They want to you think you are taking care of your family by buying stupid ugly costly gas guzzlers.

        So I ended up buying a nice clean 2006 Saab 9-3 SportsCombi, with 84k miles, for 1/3 of my budget. It will be our only family car. It’s got everything we need.
        Need I say they don’t make Saabs anymore, and why?


        Sorry for the rant – but I am pretty sure my thesis is true.

        1. cnchal

          Americans are called consumers instead of discerning customers for many reasons.

          A recent Honda Accord would do you just as good, available with a stick, great cars that don’t eat your wallet.

        2. I like beans

          I would have suggested 2 unloved but quality cars that meet all your qualifications : Ford fusion and Mazda 6. Meet all your needs and are fun (especially the Mazda)

    2. el_tel

      I lived in Sweden for 6 months (as an EU citizen). There is indeed a lot going for it but there are a lot of issues too that don’t get media attention. As a Professor in Uppsala I was warned by a friendly local that “even if you were a Stockholm-based immigrant to here you’d find it difficult to integrate”. This was not due to any latent racism or anything like that – merely that Swedes have quite an ingrained way of “putting down roots” (compared to, say, Denmark). So I was warned that socialising means many many weeks of doing the coffee and cakes thing, then, if things go well, you may get invited out for a drink in a bar, then again, if weeks of that work you may get an invite for a home visit.

      It’s tough – and I was someone who (unlike many anglos) was keen to learn the language so as to fit in better – though (of course) Swedes typically have brilliant English you can’t expect them all to speak it exclusively in a social context just to accommodate you. So I witnessed Europeans (central, southern and western) tended not to integrate well and instead formed their own groups. Furthermore Swedish healthcare, although overall cheap and good, does not do well on the “integrated care” front – IIRC (don’t have reference to hand) some “official” comparisons of industrialised countries bear this out and its ranking dropped several places due to this issue.

      It was incredibly difficult (even with employer sponsorship) to get Aussie permanent residency….but the “final hurdle” of citizenship was a cinch (given that most of the “benefit” is accrued through PR, not citizenship)….I don’t think any non-North American industrialised country is unequivocally “better” – you decide what you want most and what you’ll compromise on and take your choice. I’m probably going to get citizenship of a 3rd country (Ireland – not cheap but I’m entitled to it via Irish mother and Irish paternal grandfather) to hedge my bets if my company stays afloat but I have enough relatives there to know it has its own set of issues.

      1. Alex V

        Agree on the integration part, but if you know this going in I think it’s a bit more manageable (you learn not to take it personally, that’s just the way Swedes are, and it’s definitely not universal). It also helps to join activity groups – they’re into that in a major way.

        1. rusti

          There are also large ex-pat communities in towns and cities of virtually any size. My circle of friends and acquaintances is a Sesame Street-like cast of people from all over Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia who have all moved here to study and work. Many of us speak Swedish with full professional fluency, hold dual-citizenship and regularly consume Swedish media but have found other transplants to be among the most welcoming and have gravitated towards each other for that reason.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, this is an entrepreneurial visa. That’s; how I got into Oz but they shut that down.

      They typically require that you show sufficient net worth to fund a business and you need to generate a certain level of domestic revenues and/or employment to stay.

      1. Alex V

        The way “in Sweden” is tacked on at the end regarding where you make money makes it a little vague as to which part of the and/or it applies to. I think they also do a reasonable job of looking at the whole case and would understand someone making a living online or remotely. They just want you to pay tax here. If you haven’t done the conversion already, 200,000 SEK is around 25,000 USD at today’s rate, which I think is pretty modest from my vague knowledge of this type of visa in other parts of the world.

        But like I said, in my experience Migrationverket is quite polite, professional and even welcoming when you deal with them, so it de worth contacting them if you’re interested.

        And yes, I’m a bit of a shill for my adopted home…

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Aaw, that’s really kind! And I am 1/4 Swedish if that at all helps, although my grandmother was born here (her father came over and then had kids here after he got established).

          1. Alex V

            Saw that you would be up for teaching or working for someone else as well – in that case check the other options for immigrating as an employee. The universities and companies here are extremely international, so if you can find a job that might be another option. After 5 years here you get automatic permanent residence and can apply for citizenship. The requirements for the work permit are also not that harsh, in my opinion:


            Regarding Swedish background, I don’t believe they care… I think the attitude is that they welcome anyone that pays taxes and drinks massive amounts of coffee. As someone else has commented, solidarity is still a word in some places.

            My only worry is NC would lose its edge if you left the epicenter of our current woes!

          2. Alex V

            Also, absolutely feel free to e-mail me directly if you want any advice or help with anything on moving here.

    4. Matt

      I emailed one of our corporate attorneys today, he’s been with the company since the early 1990s, and Outlook told me he resigned on 12/8. I asked someone about it, and they said, yeah, he’s moving to Sweden. I’m dying to find out why, and what he’s going to do.

  7. Sam Adams

    It’s the tax and treasury account compliance that stops many and causes more to renounce US citizenship combined with many European banks refusing to do business with Americans that make expatriating very difficult. It’s a feature and not a bug as Lambert would say…

    1. visitor

      FATCA has been a source of unending critical trouble for expatriates from the USA but also bureaucratic hassle for non-US citizens who have strictly nothing to do with the USA.

  8. Christine

    I live 2 miles outside of San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. It’s been voted the best tourist city in the world by several magazines…a little Paris. Settling here was tough, and ultimately I had to become functional in Spanish to get the 13 year lease at $500/mo for a 4 bedroom 3 1/2 bath, needs work house, on 2 acres, since my landlord doesn’t speak English. But I live far and away better than I could in the US, on 1/3d to 1/2 of the cost. I am living in the only sustainable place of my life…pretty friendly, pretty clean, awfully nice…a veritable garden of fireflies, butterflies, bird life, decent animal husbandry, up against the mountains, much in nature reserve. There is excellent medical care at reasonable prices. I am 8 hours from the US border if I have serious Medicare needs. Town offers wonderful food, luxuries, entertainment if I want to go in. Down here we say, thank god people in the US are afraid and ignorant of Mexico. It keeps them away.

    1. Joel

      There is a lot of hand wringing in the Mexican press about how American and Canadian retirees have gentrified and de-Mexicanized San Miguel de Allende. If the shit ever hits the fan, at the very least I would want my immigration papers in order, but really I just would rather not be there.

      Plus, quality major healthcare (the kind that a 65+ person may need suddenly at any time) is not cheap in Mexico and the Mexican government has made it much harder for new arrivals to get onto the Institute of Medicine and Social Security.

      When you add in the very high levels of xenophobia in Mexico (just look at how the Central Americans and even Mexican Americans are treated) and deteriorating security situation in more and more states it is a risky proposition. I would not want my mom to move there.

      1. Lee

        We take their low wage huddled masses and they get our gentry who benefited from paying low wages. It’s win win! Or a stupid circle jerk. Not sure which.

        1. Joel

          Unfortunately given escalating healthcare costs in Mexico, plus the same xenophobia as ever, they’re much less keen on taking our huddled masses. Plus they have a big problem now with American retirees who are trying to live on less than $1000 a month in US social security, well under the approx $2500 month required to get a retiree visa, who can no longer return to the US for healthcare or family visits because they can’t even afford the bus ticket and might not be let back into Mexico because of their massive immigration violations.

        2. vidimi

          I think that’s part of the problem. America is more and more reluctant to take in the huddled Mexican masses which means that these huddled Mexican masses may begrudge more and more the privileged gringos who make the trip down south.

    2. LaGringa

      I also live near San Miguel de Allende in a small, agricultural Mexican community perched on the side of an extinct volcano. I pretty much avoid the expat scene, shop in the mercados, hang with Mexican friends and am thoroughly enjoying soaking in this wonderful way of life. I made this move at age 70.

      Certainly, this required a major adjustment. It’s not like moving from Boston to Tucson. It’s more like moving to a different universe. But if a person is open, hangs loose and finds someone to help work through the ins and outs of the immigration process, it’s not all that difficult.

      My health insurance is free because of my age and health care here puts the emphasis on *care*. An acquaintance had a knee replacement and the total out-of-pocket cost to her was 3300 pesos – about 170 usd. The entire surgical team came into her room and introduced themselves before the procedure. The surgeon was top notch and she is fully functional with no pain for the first time in years.

      I’ve taken road trips from Chihuahua to Oaxaca alone with my dogs and have never felt unsafe. There are certain roads in Guerrero, certain parts of Mexico City, etc that I avoid because it’s just common sense. I did the same in parts of NYC and Albuquerque.

      It was clear to me that I would outlast my savings if I’d stayed in the US. Here, I can afford to live here modestly but comfortably. I have a Spanish tutor and I can get by. I am obviously a gringa but when Mexicans speak English to me and I answer in Spanish, they smile and everything changes. People here are kind, polite and, if you don’t behave like the proverbial “ugly American” (some expats do, unfortunately), you may find yourself treated like family. And the way of life, the quality of the food, so many things have had a hugely positive effect on my health. My borderline hypertension has given way to BP numbers I haven’t seen since I was in my 20s – and I take no pharmaceuticals.

      I lived all over the US before moving here. I have no intention of going back. I’m eligible to become a Mexican citizen soon and I will do so. Whether I renounce my US citizenship remains to be seen. I haven’t been back to the US since moving here so….

      1. Joel

        I speak Spanish at a near-native level (started learning as a child and lived years in Latin America).

        My sincere advice is don’t learn much more, if you’re happy now, just keep being happy. If you’re able to understand better the world around you, the glow will rub off and you’ll likely find that you are not in fact being treated as family but as a guest. I once spent a year in South East Asia and made a conscious decision not to get too involved, and loved it. I pretty much had the same experience you’re having in Mexico. When I’m in Mexico the feeling is of constantly hitting my head against a glass ceiling and biting my tongue.

        The wonderful thing about not speaking the language is it’s an automatic filter. Only people who like foreigners talk with you and you are constantly in the position of wonderful people helping you out, because you need help.

        But for the love of God, stay on the beaten tourist path (SMA-Oaxaca City-Cholula etc.). Don’t go into Guerrero except maybe Taxco. I was just in Chilpancingo for a professional event, taking every precaution, and the stories you hear first hand are horrifying. The security situation in Mexico is deteriorating badly.

        Even states like Puebla that used to be safe are seeing kidnappings and other extreme crime. If you speak Spanish, the issue of security it is utterly unavoidable, it creeps into many conversations and dominates the local news.

        1. LaGringa

          Thanks for your well intentioned advice but…common sense is called for in Mexico, not fear. Avoiding the Heroin Highway in Guerrero’s Tierra Caliente is common sense. Avoiding Guerrero in general is fear and wholly unnecessary.

          I’ve spent chunks of time in 16 of Mexico’s 31 Estados so far, most recently in the mountains in Puebla, traveling with my dogs, staying in modest accommodations and even auto hotels in a pinch. I shop weekly in the mercados of Celaya, a city with blatantly corrupt police and one of the highest levels of violence in the country but I avoid certain parts of it just as I did in Albuquerque with its gang violence and lawless police. Common sense.

          About Spanish. I’ve learned from nearly a lifetime of traveling solo around this planet and assiduously avoiding tourist meccas that awareness, intuition and, most of all, attitude are what’s important. That said, Mexico is my home. I’ve chosen it to be. As such, not being reasonably fluent in Spanish is not only impractical but rude. In addition, I value my independence. I won’t helplessly wait around for someone to “help me out”. I’ll do what needs doing myself.

          We each make choices in how we live. I cherish the Mexican friends I’ve made here who invite me to their homes to celebrate things such as their children’s birthdays and do, indeed, treat me like family just as I do them. There is no “glass ceiling” with these people. We’ve gotten past the “politeness” barrier. It’s Real. I never would have met them had I spent my time here cowering in expat enclaves which, incidentally, are targets for theft and various well organized scams.

          We each choose how we live our lives. My way is to live it as fully as I can and not just go through the motions. Thank heavens we’re each different.

          Thanks again. Best wishes. Saludos.

    1. Alex V

      Understand the sentiment, but if capital can cross borders to get the best return on investment, why shouldn’t labor?

      1. jrs

        because there isn’t a lot of evidence most labor gets a very good return for crossing borders (like maybe all the low paid mexican immigrant laborers with no rights for example?). Well yes and maybe it’s better for them than staying put, but it isn’t any kind of good life. Most labor, even most skilled labor, is a lot closer to that “dime a dozen” bucket than any kind of name your own price bucket. As individuals labor just doesn’t have much power, now maybe labor movements need to cross borders … have all the workers at whole companies emigrate even.

        1. Alex V

          Yes, I agree that in many cases labor doesn’t necessarily win by moving in the real world. My comment was more on philosophical level – and somewhat a spin on the NC concept of “because markets” – in an ideal world countries would compete on attracting labor by what they offer in concrete material benefits.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That can be done if one can stay where one is, but elect to send taxes to which nation one chooses, in return for certain transportable services.

  9. Jim Haygood

    ‘According to Pew Charitable Trusts, only 13 percent of Baby Boomers still have [defined benefit pensions].’

    This 13 percent remnant overwhelmingly consists of government employees, whose defined benefit pensions are uniformly underfunded (and even understated as to HOW underfunded they are).

    On the back side of Bubble III, as pension sponsors’ equity-heavy assets shrink like an ice cream cone in the Sacramento sun, a hue and cry will arise for massive tax increases on the hapless public to bail out public employees’ rich pensions. (Not that they aren’t already happening — two towns near me just hiked their sales tax by 1 percent to bail out police and firefighter pensions.)

    ‘Pension envy’ will be the defining cultural war of the 2020s. Got ammo?

    1. Lee

      I have a defined benefit pension plan from a mutual insurance company. I think they have since been discontinued for more recent hirees in favor of defined contribution plans. All have 401k plans.

    2. PrairieRose

      “Pension envy” has been around for a long time, Jim. I’m in my late 50s and grew up in one of the reddest states in the country (North Dakota). For forty years I’ve heard many snarky remarks about public pensioners, not to mention those gawdawful Unions (AFL-CIO, et al.). It never occurred to these people to demand the same treatment from THEIR private employers instead of complaining about collectively bargained for benefits. Much easier to beggar thy neighbor, apparently. Sigh.

      1. jrs

        yes just unionize and get a pension from your private employer – not all of which are big employers btw which might be the only plausible shot at a private sector pension -however most people work for small to mid-size companies. And then people wonder why people think public sector employees are clueless about reality when it’s all “let them eat cake” all the time.

        I say let’s NOT pay much higher taxes to fund the public pensions but INSTEAD pay much higher taxes to fund expanded and improved SOCIAL SECURITY for all. It’s only equitable, it’s only just, there shouldn’t be favored types of retirees, whoever we work for, we all get old if we live long enough. Btw those same private sector unions have often sold out younger employees and accepted tiered wages etc.. I’m not anti-union, I’m skeptical of non-radical unions being sufficient.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          For me, it’s about merging all plans into one universal pension – Social Security, and defend it as hard as, or harder, as pension plans are defended now.

    3. Left in Wisconsin

      government employees, whose defined benefit pensions are uniformly underfunded

      They are not uniformly underfunded. The Wisconsin state and local employee pension system is fully funded. Even Scott Walker hasn’t been able to undo that.

  10. Whoa Molly!

    The only way I could figure out how to retire in the US was to find a house in a semi rural community that is a 45 minute drive past gentrification.

    Start by buying a lot (bare land) then put a cheap RV on it, later a manufactured home if possible. Or find a lot with an older decrepit— but still livable single wide trailer. Buy it for a roof and grandfathered utilities.

    Medicare, plus low price house, plus low-status address. We also looked for a county with a high percentage of over-65 residents and rudimentary senior services.

    Still not optimal but workable. northern California is where we landed because of family. Look for cheap towns with collapsed logging, farming or fishing industries.

    Investigate by taking vacations in community.

    Downsides include car-dependent culture, dependence on Medicare system, poor public transit, 2 hour drive to land of decent coffee shops.

    Canada was a serious thought experiment until I realized they dont want old people unless they bring large bags of money along.

    1. Wukchumni

      That’s similar to what we’ve done, and we’re an hour away from ‘civilization’. Our difference being that we’re still years away-Medicare wise.

      Our plan mostly revolves around the idea of not getting sick, a common way to avoid costly medical bills, combined with ACA (for the time being) and costly deductibles that will put the hurt on us financially, but not devastate us, should push>meet<shove.

    2. Joel

      I dont want to be Pollyanna, but could you set up an informal coffee shop and maybe a hostel (just start with Airbnb) and attract people from outside to visit? That kind of place sounds fascinating. An affordable patch of Nocal!!

      1. Whoa Molly!

        Too busy with yoga and writing to set up hostel. We do host traveling yoga teachers who come through periodically to teach at county yoga studios.

        The second part of the scheme outlined above is to bring a low cost avocation that gives your life meaning and connects you with others. For me it was photography, writing, travel, and yoga. As years go by travel and photography are diminishing, yoga and writing expanding.

        1. Wukchumni

          I traveled like the dickens when I was younger, and am content now to hang out and do stuff that costs a pittance, most of which doesn’t involve a computer in any capacity, aside from this here ball & chain.

    3. Inode_buddha

      Try doing any of that in NY state… you’ll be so tied up in red tape and fees that it’ll never happen. Yeah I looked into it.

    4. Lambert Strether

      Collapsing in place…

      I see the logic, which is powerful, but I’m not sure I want to be stuck way, way out in the boonies. I am an INTJ’s INTJ, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like people around; I do, so long as I don’t have to talk to them unless I want to. (A country where I don’t understand the language is just fine with even, even Quebec; the yammer doesn’t invade by mind…).

      1. ambrit

        The logic is reasonable, but how many people have the resources to afford that minimal civilized existence? That’s the real horror of poverty, when coupled with sentience; the absolute lack of socio-economic agency. “Collapsing in place…” It’s the collapse part that controls. The place part but ameliorates…

      2. Wukchumni

        The further I am away from polite society, the nicer the people.

        Collapsing in place makes sense if you adore your surroundings…

    5. LaGringa

      I did that for 5 years in the mountains of New Mexico 35 miles away from even a convenience store. Yes, it was cheaper, I was off the radar and I loved the solitude, but it was the way in which business is conducted in the States that finally nudged me out. Here in Mexico, it’s a cash economy. Instead of a relentless stream of monthly bills I pay for electric every couple of months in cash at the local convenience store, internet yearly in cash by meeting my provider for coffee at the edge of town, cash for propane on demand, etc. When I deposit my rent at my landlord’s bank, I hand them the cash and a slip of paper with the name and account number. In the US, I had to present a photo ID with a check. And while it was a little daunting to carry around 30,000 pesos (1600 usd) in my wallet to pay my mechanic for parts and labor for major car repairs, I liked the anonymity of it. I never use a credit card any more and rarely a debit card, and that’s for the atm or online purchases.

      Here, business voicemail menus are just about nonexistent, real people answer the phones and they quickly get answers to questions. Road rage is rare tho’ drunken driving on a Saturday night keeps me on my toes. People are unfailingly polite and the manner of dress is respectful and self-respectful. Even my experiences with Immigration, Customs and the equivalent of the DMV have been pleasant if a little unpredictable. Because of my age, national health insurance premiums drop to zero and the quality of medical care is excellent.

      I live in a modest, well built adobe home in a quiet, safe agricultural town with a killer view of a lake and the Sierra Madre Oriental. My neighbors are all Mexican and great people. My rent is what it was for the same sized house outside of Seattle more than a decade ago. There are two cities just far enough away from me with everything I need.

      Sure there are downsides – as there are to everything. But it wasn’t until I moved here that I saw just how broken and unfree the US truly is.

      Best wishes to you.

  11. Lee

    Yves, have you checked to see if you qualify for Canadian permanent residency? I did and don’t qualify. I’m retired with a good income from pension, social security, and interest from retirement savings. If I sold my house I’d nearly be a millionaire, which around here isn’t that big a deal. It’s also not enough for the Canadians, which makes sense, given that I’ve never paid into their health system and my medical expenses are likely to increase as I age. My understanding is that, given I am not going to proved the Canadian economy with a scarce skill, I would have to invest $2 million in a business in Canada that created jobs for Canadians.

    I had a work colleague from Sweden. She had been a school teacher there and came to the U.S. to sell financial products, make a lot of money and avoid Swedish taxes. I asked her if she were going to become a U.S. citizen. She looked at me like I was crazy, laughed and said, “Hell no, I would never wish to be old in America.”

  12. The Rev Kev

    I’m laying this one down at the door of social Darwinism at work. If you’re poor then you deserve nothing and if you are rich then obviously you deserve everything. That is why someone like Peter Thiel can waltz into New Zealand and buy himself citizenship in less that a fortnight there. Not everybody can get themselves into the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India. And that mention of Ayn Rand and her influence on American life through people like Paul Ryan?
    Well, if so may Congressmen want to investigate Russian influence in American politics then I present you with Ayn Rand as proof positive. In spite of all her malignant opinions, it should be noted that it did not stop her from claiming Medicare and Social Security when she got old. She did not want to be bankrupted by illness in old age so registered under her married name.
    From my perch, if any Americans want to make the move, I would say over the next decade before that door closes. The regulations are already tightening up such as making sure that you owe no taxes or the like before you leave. More Americans are now renouncing their citizenship as America still want to tax them even when they have moved away. After this decade, I regret to say, that America will be no country for old people.

    1. Wukchumni

      In the most excellent book “I Will Bear Witness” diarist Victor Klemperer is often writing about German-Jewish friends that are leaving the 3rd Reich for other shores, subject to a “25% Reich Flight Tax”, and in reality it was more like a 50-75% tax.

      What’s our going rate?

          1. Alex V

            Ironic historical tidbit – the US concept of citizenship based taxation is a consequence of the Civil War.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I think that 23.8% is on any paper gains, and not total net worth (presumably the case of Vaterland).

  13. Lee

    I had another friend, a real gem of a man. From privilege, a Harvard graduate, progressive activist, who worked for low pay in the non-profit sector. He described his future retirement plan as “homeless in Honduras.”

  14. Joel

    Sorry, I was triggered by the introduction. I am an American in my late 30s and I’ve lived a large chunk of my adult life outside the US, Latin America mostly and East Asia. Already now I’m hoping not to live long-term outside the country again.

    I just made a short trip to Mexico and thought dear God I’m too old for this.

    If you speak the local language and are hooked into local issues, you quickly realize that there is an unbelievable (for urban Americans who are used to a mosaic international society) amount of xenophobia in almost every other country. Being an outsider everywhere I go, with all the constant microagressions (and ocasional more major aggressions) wears on me the way Lambert says that inequality wears on the body.

    And if you don’t speak the local language and try to isolate yourself among other retirees—why even be alive at that point? I don’t imagine commenters on this site of all people sitting at a bar all day arguing US and UK politics in English with some other retirees far away from the action.

    And speaking of inequality, most countries have far worse inequality than the US and it is savage and painful to watch when your security guard finishes a 12 hour shift and then starts another 12 hour shift across the street.

    By the way don’t get me started on the cost of healthcare. It’s cheap until you run into a major complication. I had surgery in Peru for something minor and the total bill was over $5000 USD. Imagine if it were heart surgery. My expat insurance paid it but you can’t get that if you’re over a certain age.

    1. JBird

      And speaking of inequality, most countries have far worse inequality than the US and it is savage and painful to watch when your security guard finishes a 12 hour shift and then starts another 12 hour shift across the street.

      The obvious in your face OMFG inequality is often worse, but the absolute inequality in America is among the greatest in the world. Most countries, outside Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa specifically, have better income equality. We are one step up from El Salvador. I’ve been to El Salvador, and no offense to them, we really should be doing much, much better than that small, oppressed, corrupt, dirt poor country. Granted, we are overwhelmingly wealthier, so being poor here is often not as bad as there, but still.

      With that rant done, the GINI coefficient, which is a quick dirty way of measuring inequality, and therefore the economic/social/political well being of a country with 1.0 meaning one person owns everything and 0.0 complete income equality. The figures change some depending on whose doing the figuring, but the GINI for income in the American paradise is around .47 compared to Mexico’s 0.48 with the Swedish hellhole at 0.24. If you are counting wealth instead of income, the United States is 0.8. Also, our lowest, therefore our most equal GINI was 0.36 in 1968. A study was done showing Rome’s GINI (income) was 0.44.

      I really should check again, but I recall reading nobody, anywhere who did not have revolution, uprising, something bad once 0.59 was reached.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve worked in six continents. I also moved all the time as a kid and so am used to being an outsider. I’ve managed to get accepted repeatedly as a quasi insider in cultures normally hostile to that. So the adapting part doesn’t daunt me. It’s the actually having the time and $ to find a place, the visa hurdles, the horrible double tax reporting (US and there) and FACTA.

      Having said that, some cultures are remarkably unwelcoming. I found the Brits, at least the OxBridge types, to be much worse than the Japanese.

      1. Expat

        Most Americans have no clue about the abject poverty of millions of their fellow citizens. They believe that only lazy people and drug addicts are poor. They also think that poor people all have flat screen tv’s and iPhones.

        On the other end of the spectrum are the uber-rich. Most Americans cannot even begin to fathom how rich the 1% are, let alone the 0.01%. People can’t understand what a million is. How can they possible understand what a billion means? And, of course, they believe that most of these billionaires made their money through hard work and honest toil despite the government interfering and taxing them. LOL. Ask Bill Gates how he got rich. Or Trump.

        But Americans still believe in Horatio Alger when in fact they would be better off packing up and moving to “communist” countries like Sweden or France where socio-economic mobility is much higher than in the US.

        America, the Land of Delusion.

  15. Robert Kavanagh

    I have acquired my Irish citizenship and passport. I have told my wife that if it wasn’t for family here in the US, I would seriously consider moving.

  16. Eppur si muove

    Come to Bangkok. The medical care here is superb.. very reasonably priced…and absolutely state of the art. Yes, we pay out of pocket, but only for what we need. There’s competition between health care providers and one can get a quote from multiple sources for any surgical procedure. The US, with its ever increasing costs which now are something like 17% of GDP, is on an unsustainable path. Combined with the pending pension crisis I am concerned about the future for my US colleagues.

    After my first annual physical here my Dr. said, bluntly, no pills but lose 25 lbs and exercise daily and come back in 6 months. An honest answer to our metabolic issues.

    The lifestyle is fantastic, food is superb, cheap direct flights to anywhere in the world, world class beaches and vineyards,which make a halfway decent red wine, with wonderful restaurants, are just two hours away. The occasional coup keeps everything interesting. I can honestly say my lifestyle has improved in my retirement by leaving the US.

  17. Grumpy Engineer

    The U.S. Is No Country for Older Men and Women“?

    Indeed, it isn’t. But increasingly, it’s no place for younger people either. The stagnant wages, rising housing costs, and rising medical costs impact younger people just like they do older people. And yes, I know that younger people’s medical expenses tend to be lower that they are for older people, but today’s youth are being socked with educational expenses that seem to know no bound:

    Is the solution really to “strengthen” programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or would it be better to tackle the monopolies and rent-seeking behavior that results in the need for ever more dollars to be supplied? Bob Hertz had some excellent ideas regarding medical costs in I think this would be a better solution than to simply promise more money for the money-hungry beasts out there to consume on the behalf of seniors. Tackling rising costs at the source would benefit everybody.

    1. Lil’D


      But strengthening social services can be done and will help many people.

      Fixing root causes looks politically impossible (today) and will be strongly opposed by powerful interests. I doubt anyone here would object… but we are not in charge…

      1. jrs

        Yes, makes some sense. Fixing root causes would include things like fixing ever rising rents etc. (although sometimes seniors can get it cheaper). However, the reality is living on social security is hard at this point even for those who own a home, just because the old age benefits are so much less than almost any other industrialized country on earth. So just increasing those would help a lot.

  18. Louis Fyne

    the loss of the family network is an important thing to consider for many.

    Someone from our family always goes with my aunt to her hours-long chemo sessions and doctor appointments.

    In the waiting rooms, I see all these other solo cancer patients. They often look sodden. Maybe they’re always going to chemo alone?

    The last thing you want when battling illness is also battling a sense of isolation.

  19. Jeff N

    Seriously, all the centrists act like the US should welcome people from all over the world, while Canada hardly lets ANYONE in.

    Also, I just got the aforementioned “Nomadland” book from my library, which I’ll start on as soon as I finish “The Big Rig” which is (so far) a fantastic book about the way the trucking industry screws its workers.

  20. Siggy

    My friend Max, the neurosurgeon left the US several years ago for Switzerland. His son Peter had a serious brain tumor and went to Switzerland for treatment. Max bankrolled the treatment with a $2 million gift. Max’s son is now cancer free and is now working at CERN and is also in the process of immigrating. Max and his son at beneficiaries of a very substantial trust fund that is sited in Nevada. Max renounced his US passport and it cost 30% of his assets. Max’s son is facing a similar cost. It was easy for Max and his son, both are extremely wealthy and Max’s parents were Swiss. Lesson: portable skills that enjoy strong demand and loads of income.

  21. freedeomny

    I’ve often thought of moving abroad but see myself more as living in a different country for only part of the year. I’d love to hear more from those who are ex-pats.

  22. Pinhead

    Home ownership in Germany is 52% and it is below 45% in Switzerland. It is 65-75% in almost all other rich countries including the US. It is actually around 85% in Russia and 90% in Cuba although the amenities are not quite the same.

  23. Altandmain

    I think that it has become increasingly apparent that the rich have no sense of noblesse oblige. They are in it for themselves and nobody else.

    I’d be very interested to see if they believe their own propaganda on things like Ayn Rand and Social Darwinism. I know that many libertarian types can be, but the more extreme Ayn Rand types? Or is this just a coping mechanism?

    It may be like oil executives who for years publicly denied global warming, but knew the truth. I think that deep inside, many wealthy people know exactly how worthless they are to society and insecure. They will never admit the truth though in public.

    But the only bargain “world city” I know of is Montreal.

    Canadian here. Montreal has it’s pros and cons. I have talked with a few people who are fed up with that city and left.

    + Cheap rent (especially compared to any other large city)
    + Very cultured city, for lack of a better term (night life, arts, exotic places to eat that you can actually afford, that sort of thing)
    + For a while it was Canada’s job creation capital due to our weak dollar
    + Cheap tuition for students compared to rest of Canada
    + Cheap hydro! Car insurance is also much cheaper.
    + Considered the best city in North America for cycling ( There’s also lots of parks and green spaces.
    + Apart from NYC and if you live in the middle of the city, Montreal is one of the few North American cities where you probably don’t need a car

    – Becoming increasingly unillingual (French), which is one of the reasons why one of my colleagues left Montreal
    – Buddy of mine says healthcare is not very good by Canadian standards and being an English speaker will be a big disadvantage (the government is actively trying to get people to be French) and I believe there is mandatory French schooling for parents of English origin
    – Quality of roads is pretty awful in Quebec I find and drivers can be aggressive. Infrastructure as a whole is aging.
    – Winter isn’t that cold (By Canadian standards mind you), but Montreal does get quite a bit of snow.
    – Outside of the boom periods, it can be hard to find a good job or frankly, a job
    – Wages in many jobs isn’t as good (although often the lower cost of living makes up for it, so net you may not be that much worse off, and in some cases, even better off)
    – Some of the worst traffic congestion in Canada
    – Quebec separatism politics
    – There are cultural issues you should be aware of:
    – A lot of consumer goods aren’t as available in Canada, although you can rent a US mailbox or use Kinek at the border (Expensive because our dollar is weaker and you have to pay for import taxes, US taxes, along with the mailbox fees). On the other hand, there are some items in Canada and especially Quebec that are not as available in the US.

    On the fence:
    – If you own a home, I have been told that many parts of Montreal are a “Buyers market” now so if you ever want to move out
    – There are government services like affordable childcare, but they do have long waitlists. That said, child care is cheaper than in the rest of Canada as this still does drive the costs of the private sector down.
    – The US is making it harder for Americans to renounce their US citizenship for those moving from the US (
    – Taxes are higher, but the majority of payers (especially those not in the six figures and with children) will find themselves better off I’d say in Quebec due to the better services.
    – A lot of folks in Quebec say that Montreal is expensive compared to the rest of the province, although for a city its size, it is fairly affordable

    The big challenge though is that Canada’s immigration system is pretty restrictive, and yes older immigrants are at a drawback (the purpose is to attract immigrants that are likely to pay more in the system over their life than take out).

    The other big issue with Canada is that neoliberalism, although not as bad as the US, has very strong backers and I fear could get worse. We seem to be following the dark path the US has undergone. I just hope that a genuine left can come out, not this neoliberal identity politics stuff that really serves the rich.

  24. Rates

    It’s really not that hard to move to a third world country. It’s practically a lateral move.
    1. Bad public transport. Check.
    2. Corrupt government. Check.
    3. High wealth inequality. Check.
    4. Increasingly bad infrastructure. Check.

    I am sure there are plenty of areas where the US is ahead, but plenty where it’s behind like affordable healthcare. But really at the end of the day, moving is not easy because of : language, and for active people scratching that itch to be productive.

  25. tagio

    Yves, the US is also no place for young people. My wife and I have been visiting South America checking out possible retirement locations. In Ecuador, we found a young Swiss man (late 20s) with his Ecuadorian girlfriend who were running the Hacienda we stayed in near Cotacachi. The 80-year old owner had been in a car crash and had to have someone take over operations right away. The owner’s daughter was friends with the young Swiss man and recommended him to her father. In the United States you would never see someone his age given this much responsibility. He had trained in the hospitality field and came to Ecuador a couple of years earlier because he would actually have the opportunity to own and operate his own business, which he considered an impossibility in Western Europe. He told us his Swiss parents were also seriously considering re-locating to Ecuador for a better quality of life in retirement (and presumably – my guess – to be near the eventual grandchildren). They were not wealthy but had sufficient funds to provide relatively small seed capital for their son’s business in Ecuador.

    In Montevideo, we met a young woman in her early thirties from Montana and her French husband, a chef, who had just opened the café we had stopped in for postres and tea some 8 months earlier. They left the U.S. about 6 or 8 years ago (can’t recall exactly) because they concluded they had no opportunities there, and came to Montevideo after a friend recommended it. They now have two daughters in school there.

    I spoke with a prominent immigration attorney in Montevideo who told me that it’s not just Americans, many Western Europeans were also emigrating to Uruguay “because of social issues.” I didn’t press for an explanation.

    It’s a mistake – and implicitly demeaning to the country – to think of these places as retirement havens. A North American or European young adult might actually be able to build a life for themselves in these places because the capital investment hurdles are low, and there are opportunities.

  26. anonn

    Every time I talk to my Boomer father he wonders how I could be so irresponsible as to not, like him, have “saved for retirement.” He’s got an Air Force pension, a local government pension, a pension from a private employer, and social security. There’s a 0% chance I’ll ever be able to pay off my student loans. I have less take-home money after 20 ostensibly successful years in my profession than I did when I was 15 years old and working in a deli.

    For most people in my generation, our retirement plans are to hope to win the lottery, and if not, suicide.

    1. jrs

      They often did have to pay out of their salaries into those pensions as well, so he has a tiny bit of a point, it wasn’t all free money. But they were of course much better deals than the 401ks on offer now, that we are lucky to even be able to have purely for the tax benefits, which most employers aren’t even contributing to.

      1. HotFlash

        I remember my friend’s mother, an RNA (Cdn equiv of an LPN) who religiously contributed to her voluntary pension plan. It was hard for her, single mother in the 50’s and 60’s, but she considered it the responsible thing to do. When she came to retire in the mid 70’s she was disappointed (understatement) to find that the pension she had sacrificed to contribute to for all those years paid her a whopping $17 per month.

        When I was planning for my retirement, in the 70’s and 80’s, I was looking at interest rates of 7 to 10 % — truly! It is no accident that interest rates are now less than the rate of inflation, unless you are paying out, of course. We are being robbed in every possible way.

  27. sharonsj

    I’m pre-baby boomer, with no pension because of the industry I worked in. But I do own my own home in rural Pennsylvania…for how long, I’m not sure. 20% of my modest income goes to school and property taxes. I recently let a handicapped friend live in my other building; he gets $700 a month and $85 in food stamps. Currently both of us are struggling to deal with paying to heat our homes, so the last time he was bitching to me I said: “Why else do you think old people are living in trailers in the Arizona desert?”

    I considered not only Arizona but Cuba. I know enough Spanish to get by. But I decided that I would stay in the U.S. I think everyone needs to downsize and simplify because, unless the American people wake up and revolt, things aren’t going to get any better.

    P.S. I tried to research bankruptcy and mortgage foreclosure rates in Pennsylvania. Nothing current, but I found that the rates continually increased every year, and this was well before the 2008 implosion. So I assume that the situation is probably dire by now.

  28. Kate

    What’s a second world country? And Montreal is inexpensive?

    Anyway thinking from a young person’s perspective it’s even worse. Employment prospects are crap everywhere especially Europe where there is some inkling of a social safety net.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As I said, it’s an inexpensive world city. You missed that. It’s even been rated that way. Rent is cheap. My costs would be 40% or so lower than in NYC.

      1. Inode_buddha

        Yeah, but that’s not a very high hurdle: almost *anything* is cheaper than NYC in particular, and NYS in general. Not to mention less stressful. I tend to recommend Buffalo and outlying suburbs/rural areas, but then again I’m biased, being a native of the area. Real estate differences can be dramatic even within NYS: I routinely compare prices and taxes in Erie county vs Wyoming county. Its a real eye-opener, especially compared to anything near Albany or NYC.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It looks like you didn’t read my preamble with any care.

          Lambert pointed out he didn’t think I would be happy in anything other than a major city and a first world one at that. Hence Montreal.

          I said I thought I had to leave the US due to the certain crapification of Medicare. Medical care out of pocket pretty much anywhere else is likely to be a better deal by the time I am 70. Hence not the US if I can find somewhere abroad.

  29. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    This entire thread is simply heartbreaking, Americans have had their money, their freedom, their privacy, their health, and sometimes their very lives taken away from them by the State. But the heartbreaking part is that they feel they are powerless to do anything at all about it so are just trying to leave.


    “People should not fear the government; the government should fear the people”

    1. tagio

      It’s more than a feeling, HAL.
      Link to the academic paper embedded in article.

      As your quote appears to imply, it’s not a problem that can be solved by voting which, let’s not forget, is nothing more than expressing an opinion. I am not sticking around just to find out if economically-crushed, opiod-, entertainment-, social media-addled Americans are actually capable of rolling out tumbrils for trips to the guillotines in the city squares. I strongly suspect not. This is the country where, after the banks crushed the economy in 2008, caused tens of thousands to lose their jobs, and then got huge bailouts, the people couldn’t even be bothered to take their money out of the big banks and put it elsewhere. Because, you know, convenience! Expressing an opinion, or mobilizing others to express an opinion, or educating or proselytizing others about what opinion to have, is about the limit of what they are willing, or know how to do.

  30. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I apologize if I missed them, but so far, no votes for

    1. retiring to North Korea.

    2. retiring to anywhere along the New Silk Road.

    1. ambrit

      Number One gives rise to fears of the dreaded “Soylent Red.”
      Number Two evokes, “Marco Polo, If You Can.”

    2. Adam Eran

      South Korea has excellent public transportation, a robust public realm, and plenty of entertainment (Korea is one of the Asian “Hollywoods”). I know at least one pensioner who wants to retire their (this year will be her third extended visit).

  31. Kk

    100M US citizens in 1945; 200M in 1976; 320M in 2016. Population up and resources down. The politicians would give you anything to get a vote, the reason they don’t is that the money is not there. Everything goes up in price and wages stagnant because that’s how economies adjust to less resources to share. Canada and Australia and Europe are going the same way as the US, not because of nefarious politicians or greedy rich people, although they certainly exist, but because the sums don’t add up any more. MMT is just one example of grasping at straws. I wonder what part of ‘you are doomed’ old people don’t understand? Apart from the last 80 years or so, people got old and died; now they get old, get sick long term, go bankrupt and then die.

    1. Adam Eran

      I keep wondering whether the gods forbid the kind of awakening MMT requires until sustainability becomes a priority in economic policy

  32. mtnwoman

    I have a very rare good, very old insurance policy.

    I sure hope you can hold onto it Yves. I also had a really good private BCBS NC policy. This year they killed it and threw me onto ACA which is horribly expensive and crappy if you are single and make > $48200. 5 years to Medicare….if it’s still there.

    I have also lived internationally in my late 30’s. It takes huge effort to liquidate here and to move. I believe it’s risky to be an alien in a country if there is unrest — and unrest is coming imo.

    I’m scouting Panama this Feb but I also just read the central america will be ground zero for climate change and they are already having droughts.

    Canada or NZ are likely the best choices for immigration if that were even possible.

  33. Wukchumni

    My mom is a lapsed Canadian that became a Yanqui in the 1950’s, and i’ve got oodles of relatives up over in the Gulag Hockeypelago…

    No real desire to relocate there, but am curious as to how easy/hard it would be to do it, based on my bonafides?

  34. homeroid

    I live in Alaska. Can in no way think of living somewhere else. At sixty years of being. My body is a bit worn hard and put away wet. I have no property,no retirement,no substantial savings. What i do have is knowledge.
    Now driving a cab for cash in a small city on the coast. I make furniture as my backup income. Was a cabinetmaker at a time. In fact i count on making furniture till i cannot.
    Expecting to have SS is not something i count on. I know all the wild plants to forage,wild game to be had-small game. Fish of course, living on the coast. But when i cannot pay rent i will have to rely on the generosity of friends to let me put up a shack on their property to get by, or squat on land. The woman who lets me live with her for the last twentytwo years will be able for retirement next year. We will set her up with something simple in town. I shall head for the woods. Am building a foot powered wood lathe. You may find me one day on the side of the road turning simple items for pittance + beer.

  35. judy sixbey

    Getting a little tired of this leave the country stuff. Heard it from my dad in the 60’s (Australia). Heard it from my husband this morning (Canada). I am 66 years old and intend to fight it out on this line, like Grant, until they carry me out of here in the funeral home van. This is my country, major f–ked as it presently stands.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I actually did try to leave the country. I spend two years in Australia, on my own, which is vastly harder than a corporate-sponsored move.

      As Talleyrand said: “I never abandoned a party until the party had abandoned itself.”

  36. Attila the Hun

    Bravo judysixby! All these comments seem to be from people who want to flee adversity. The country wasn’t founded by people who ran away from the problems they faced. Movements already exist to change the path the country is presently on. The Sanders movement is an example of a vehicle for change. The defeat of Roy Moore is an example of how what seemed to be preordained can be reversed. Giving up and running away is not the answer. It’s your country. Don’t let a hand full of fascist oligarchs steal it from you.

      1. Gerard Pierce

        There were a lot of reasons historically, but the one I believe is that the Piilgrims were such a collection of a-holes that they were run out of Europe. I further remember that a lot of them were run out of the US for the same reason and went back to Europe, Some people never learn.

    1. Kk

      The US was founded by economic losers and religious lunatics from Europe; Australia was founded by felons transported in prison ships from England. Immigrants are by definition losers in one place seeking better conditions in another surely?

      1. Alex V

        I’d disagree somewhat on Australia… yes, most were felons, but convicted of incredibly trivial crimes in one of the harshest judicial periods in the Empire’s history. “The Fatal Shore” by Robert Hughes is an excellent book on the tragic beginnings of the country.

  37. Whoa Molly!

    When a longtime friend of mine was about to retire he got on Amtrak and spent three months visiting every major metro area in the US before settling in Portland Oregon. He told me he would rather live in a single room in a terrible neighborhood in a cosmopolitan center than live anywhere in flyover country. Thats exactly what happened. He lives on social security in a remt controlled room. He knows where all the soup kitchens are, and their hours. 10 years later he has absolutely no regrets.

    This is a very ineresting thread. Kind of a ‘flash nonfiction book’.

  38. Edward E

    I’ve noticed quite a few old people driving big rigs, even old couples. Learning a ten speed standard transmission (my favorite was 18) is not necessary, they’re being replaced by jellyfish automatic tranny. In another 5-10 years the trucks will begin to drive themselves and you can become the riding jellyfish. The pay may get cut or you’ll have to ride day and night eventually, but that’s probably a decade or so away.

    1. whoa molly!

      I tremble in fear at the idea of looking in the rear view mirror and seeing a 100,000 pound behemoth closing rapidly, knowing it is piloted by someone with the reflexes of a mid-70’s or 80’s person.

      1. Edward E

        Have seen some that age, not that many but some really amazing old timers now and then. They still seemed to be enjoying it. Who knows, I could go another twenty, enjoying it fades in and out.

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