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  5. A boomer couple that was 'watching every single penny' they spent in the US moved to Portugal 2 years ago — and money isn't a concern for them in retirement anymore

A boomer couple that was 'watching every single penny' they spent in the US moved to Portugal 2 years ago — and money isn't a concern for them in retirement anymore

Ayelet Sheffey   

A boomer couple that was 'watching every single penny' they spent in the US moved to Portugal 2 years ago — and money isn't a concern for them in retirement anymore
  • Ann, 67, moved with her husband to Portugal for their retirement.
  • She said expenses were much higher when they were living in Arizona.

Moving around is nothing new for Ann.

Ann, who requested to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy, told Business Insider that throughout her life, she's traveled to and lived in Belize, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Hawaii, and lived in Arizona during her last four years in the US.

But Ann, 67, said she and her husband were not living the life they had hoped to live in Scottsdale. Although they were each earning sufficient incomes, they found themselves "working nonstop" to afford their basic monthly expenses, and they couldn't enjoy their lives given the financial strains they faced.

"We've always tried to not have debt, and it just felt like as fast as we were earning money, out the door it went on increasing costs over there," Ann said. "And we talked about it over time and said, 'We're never going to be able to retire.'"

That's when they knew it was time to make a change. After researching affordable places to live in retirement, Ann and her husband settled on Portugal. They had traveled there before and were already familiar with the area, so they decided to give it a shot — they sold their condo in Arizona, used the equity in the condo to buy an apartment in Portugal, and they've lived there happily for just over two years.

"Our quality of life is so much nicer because we're not worried about money like we were in the States," Ann said. "We were just watching every single penny."

According to documents reviewed by BI, Ann and her husband spend about $82 each month on a bundle for TV, cellphones, and internet, about $21 each month on water, sewer, and trash, and around $55 each month on electricity. Ann said the Social Security they receive is just over $3,000 a month, which allows them to cover all of their basic expenses with money left over.

Since they do not have to worry about rent or mortgage payments, other major expenses they consistently deal with include health insurance, which Ann said costs about $275 a month.

While Ann was able to live comfortably in retirement abroad, many older adults in the US are struggling. The Census Bureau's Current Population Survey found that just over half of Americans over 65 make $30,000 or less annually. The Social Security program will no longer be able to pay out full benefits in 2035, per the latest trustees report, meaning that unless Congress intervenes, Americans might not be able to rely on the benefits they were hoping for.

Ann said she knows that moving abroad isn't the perfect solution. There are lots of bureaucratic hurdles in Portugal, she said, not only with obtaining a residency visa — ex-pats have to get a new driver's license and car insurance, and they'll have to register with the tax authorities and health agencies.

It's not easy at the outset, but once Ann and her husband got through the initial moving challenges, they found that spending their retirement in Portugal was one of the best decisions they could've made.

"It's just nice to relax and have things to do and places to explore, and even our Social Security is enough to live on and travel a bit," Ann said. "Our life here is just way better than it could have ever been would we had stayed in the US."

'The United States is a very difficult country to retire in'

With high inflation and interest rates, it's not easy for many people to live in the US right now, and it's forcing some older adults to push back their retirements to continue earning paychecks.

BI previously spoke to Diane Senffner, a 63-year-old who lost her job during the pandemic and depleted her savings. Now, she's not sure she'll ever be able to retire. "I was somebody who did really well, and it's very disheartening because I have no idea what's going to happen with retirement," she said.

While certain cities offer cheaper retirement options than others, the US is still an expensive country, which is why moving abroad was so appealing for Ann and other ex-pats.

"We understand how hard it is to try to accumulate enough money to retire and stay in the United States," Ann said. "And for us, it was basically impossible."

"The United States is a very difficult country to retire in," she said.

While their life isn't perfect in Portugal, Ann said that she and her husband have truly enjoyed the warm weather, outdoor activities, and the ability to easily travel to nearby cities. With their expenses being so low, they have the freedom to spend money on things they enjoy doing in retirement, and they don't have plans to leave Portugal anytime soon.

"Every morning when we're off on our walk, we have a beach that we walk to, and there's a castle there and beautiful cliffs, and we have a whole beach to ourselves," Ann said. "And every single morning, we say, 'Oh my gosh, it's so beautiful. Aren't you glad we live here? '"

Did you move abroad or do something unconventional in retirement? Share your story with this reporter at asheffey@businessinsider.com.


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