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What Countries Do U.S. Expats Move to?

Category: International Retirement

February 26, 2020 — There is a small, but significant, number of Americans who decide to move to another country for retirement. Facts on how many do that and the countries they move to are in short supply, so we were happy to see the results from the 2019 Expat Insider Survey (which has a wealth of interesting information). The New York Times was able to get a breakdown of that survey showing the most popular countries by age groups: Millennials, Professionals, Families, and Retirees. Some of the results were very surprising, especially the number one country where retirees move to, Ecuador. Here are their top 10 for retirees:

  • Ecuador
  • Costa Rica
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Portugal
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Bulgaria
  • Spain
  • France

We would have guessed that Mexico was number 1, and would never have put Bulgaria in the top 10. Note that these are the most popular countries, not necessarily the best. Overall, the 5 highest rated countries (for all age groups) were: Taiwan, Vietnam, Portugal, Mexico, and Spain.

Amphitheater in San Jose, Costa Rica

Several other surveys came up with slightly different results. One of those studied the 400,000 American expats who receive Social Security benefits outside of the U.S. In that survey the most frequent countries for U.S. expats were Canada, Japan, and Mexico. A third survey by Investopedia named these 5 countries the most popular for expat retirement: Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, and Malaysia.

Bottom Line: Proximity to the U.S. and family ties, often related to prior military service in those countries, are two reasons why some countries have so many retired expats. Americans also retire to a different country for economic reasons, trying to stretch their Social Security benefits and savings. Some move for a better climate or a different lifestyle. To get a better idea of the facts on what retirement is like in over 25 countries, see the link to our State and Country mini-retirement guides below.

The Isle of Mull in Scotland

For further reading:

Comments? If you were thinking about an international retirement, what country(s) would you consider? To start things off, your editor thinks Ireland, Scotland, or France. Costa Rica are very appealing.

Posted by Admin on February 25th, 2020


  1. That was interesting, all 100+ pages of it. There were over 20,000 respondents from 182 countries and they were living all over the world. I’m not sure how closely the US expats adhere to the statistics. (It’s just an assumption, perhaps erroneous, that most participants here are North Americans.) I was wondering why Internations conducted this study, that maybe they are a relocation specialist. That doesn’t appear to be the case.I didn’t have time to poke around much, but looks like a pretty interesting site.

    by Kathy — May 18, 2020

  2. After reading an article today in Rolling Stone about the marginalization of seniors in this Covid crisis, I’m starting to think I’d like to move to a country where seniors are respected a little more instead of considered expendable. I’m disappointed that even the governor of my state initially said that younger folks should be prioritized for ventilators. I have worked or attended school for my entire life and now I’m at the point where it’s my time. I have absolutely no intention of going quietly off into the night so that the economy can recover and so that the government no longer has to pay me social security. So that’s my next research project. I understand that the elderly are respected (and even revered?) in Asian societies, but my heart is in Europe, so if I can find a country there where people don’t think seniors should just sacrifice themselves to Covid so that businesses can reopen, I’ll start planning my next move and learning a new language. I do, however, hope that my research ends up pointing me to France!

    by Joann C — May 21, 2020

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