Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Why are so many baby boomers retiring in Central America?
Bill Dorgan, a former management consultant with a bit of a wandering soul, gave up on his first attempt at retirement in Fort Lauderdale to move to Panama to seek new adventure.
And adventure he found.
“I drove out to Lake Gatun to visit the Embera Indians,” Dorgan recalls with a flicker in his eye. “They picked me up in a dugout canoe and took me across the lake to spend the day in their community, where I danced with bare-chested women. That was an adventure!”
Back in the capital city, Dorgan lives a more urbane lifestyle with his partner Raymond in a spacious and elegantly remodeled 12th-floor apartment overlooking the shimmering glass towers of Panama City’s oceanfront banking district.
Here he has found more modest adventure in daily tasks such as learning to speak Spanish, opening a bank account in a foreign country, making new friends and buying and remodeling an apartment.
Dorgan, like thousands of other North American retirees from his generation, has taken moving south for retirement to new latitudes.
A 2007 survey by New Global Initiatives, in conjunction with the Zogby International, found that more than 3 million U.S. citizens have decided to relocate outside of the United States, and another 17 million were considering making the move. The survey showed that Central America ranked second behind Europe among 55 to 69 year-olds who plan to retire abroad.
That was before the financial crisis hit like a tsunami at the end of the decade, wiping out millions of retirement funds and stock portfolios. Now Central America’s relatively low costs, adjusted property prices and promising economic recovery makes it an even more attractive destination for folks who need to make their retirement dollars stretch further than previously planned.
And within Central America, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama have positioned themselves as the top three picks for retirement – each with its own unique set of pros and cons.
With 73 million U.S. baby boomers set to retire over the next 10 years, this region’s broad offering has something for almost everyone.
Ryan Piercy, head of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR), says Central America is sitting pretty when it comes to attracting the baby boomers, whose retirement wave officially started in 2011.
“Central America and Latin America are going to receive at least 250,000 American retirees over the next 15 years. And of all the options in the region, the majority, in my opinion, will go to Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua,” Piercy told The Nica Times in an interview in his office in downtown San José, Costa Rica.
Piercy says that Mexico, once considered the preferred Latin American retirement destination for North Americans, has become too dangerous with all the drug violence – a similar plague afflicting Guatemala and, more recently, Honduras.
And while several South American options such as Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have become attractive, they are half a world away from the U.S. Cuba remains a Caribbean wildcard, but the baby boomer generation might have already come and gone by the time the communist island opens fully.
In other parts of the world, Europe has become too expensive for many bargain hunters, and places such as the Philippines and Thailand, with their different time zones and cultural differences, might be “too foreign” for many U.S. retirees.
While (thankfully) not all baby boomers seeking warming weather will settle on Central America, if even a small percentage come it will have an enormous impact on small countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.
“If we get 100,000 new retirees in a small country like this, it would be huge,” Piercy said, noting that Costa Rica, despite its advanced “gringoification,” only has somewhere between 25,000 to 50,000 North American residents at the moment.
Posted by news at 9:14 PM