Will Social Media change the way retiring abroad works?

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As the cost of healthcare skyrockets, and fewer people are able to stow away nest eggs after home values and businesses were decimated by recession and a stock market crash, retirees have been leaving the US in droves in search of a lower cost of living, more temperate climate, and a little adventure after a long career.

However, many overseas retirees fail to consider one aspect of moving abroad and getting away:  staying in touch with those they love most.

Currently 350,000 Americans are receiving social security benefits outside of the US, according to the Social Security Administration. Although data is self reported, so there may be quite a few Americans living abroad who are not accepting Social Security.

However, many expect this number to swell to 3.3 million people and beyond as millions of baby boomers retire over the course of the next decade. One of the major issues is that most baby boomers will not have enough money to pay for their health care. Between 2002 and 2012, medical costs have increased by 50%. Additionally, as rates of chronic illness continue to rise and American financial problems persist, these costs are likely to continue to increase.

A Thirst for Adventure and Financial Security

The most popular spots for overseas retirement are Europe, Canada or Mexico; those countries that offer a number of public services and are relatively similar to the US. However, more exotic locales from Ecuador to Malaysia report diasporas of retired Americans growing in their beach towns and city suburbs.

The primary reasons many are choosing to retire abroad is the state of their personal finance. Currently, only 14% of Americans are confident they saved enough money saved to retire comfortably. In most overseas retirement destinations, the cost of living is only a fraction of the cost in the US. For example, prices in Chang Ma, Thailand are only 41% of those on the East Coast.

Staying Connected to Home

While the idea of a cheap, beachside villa in a place where there is sun 300 days a year sounds like a dream, for some retirees, moving away from their family can be a nightmare. Many of those who are planning to leave will have families that they are not keen to leave behind – and many of them will have just become grandparents.

However, as technology improves, it is increasingly possible to stay connected to friends and family back home using a litany of free, social media sites from Facebook to Google+, many of which have developed a video chat feature. While it may not be possible to be there for a grandchild’s first steps, it would be easy to set up the computer and watch him walk.

Smartphones also make staying in touch easier – and cheaper. Springing for an unlimited data plan will be wise choice as it will be possible to avoid fees for overseas calls by using the network to use free services like Skype or Google Voice.

While these outlets do exist, when moving abroad it will be important to consider whether or not the destination will have high-speed Internet access. Most large cities and towns that have universities in them will have more Internet coverage than smaller towns with fewer people and coverage is increasing extremely rapidly. Over the last few years Internet coverage in Latin America increasing by more than 1,300%. However, though it is increasing, in many countries high-speed wireless Internet is extremely expensive to have in a home, or simply does not exist. Though this is expected to change, in the meantime there are Internet cafes in almost every town that allow users to access the Internet for a nominal fee.

So rest assured, seeking lower living costs and beach time does not sentence adventurous retirees to spending their twilight years cut off from long-time friends and your family. Using social media, it will be possible to have some face-to-face conversations and watch your grandchildren grow up.

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