America is undeniably great, but far from cheap. Upon exiting the workforce, some retirees are realizing how far the U.S. dollar can stretch in other countries and are considering their golden years abroad as a result.
“It’s a way to essentially upgrade your retirement,” Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living, said in a statement. “Why suffer on a budget that would require skimping and sacrifice at home, when you could—in the best-value locales overseas—take those funds and watch them expand? So you could live quite comfortably, enjoying perks like regular meals out and travel that you could never afford at home.”
But before making the leap, participants may go to plan sponsors—who might then look to their advisor—for the answer to a common question: can American retirees collect Social Security benefits if living in another country? In short, the answer is yes.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), U.S. citizens who qualify to receive benefits can collect Social Security checks while residing outside the country “as long as you are eligible for payment and you are in a country where we can send payments.”
Countries to which payment cannot be sent include Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Additional caveats exist, to be sure, but for the most part, collecting benefits anywhere else is a breeze. Retirees can request their funds to be direct-deposited into a personal account at a local bank in a qualifying country, or simply maintain an account with a U.S. bank, have funds deposited there, and withdraw the money using a bank card or ATM wherever they currently reside.
As a heads up, certain countries may require a resident visa to open a local bank account. Still, other foreign banks aren’t qualified to accept U.S. government benefits. Before opening an account with the intention of direct-depositing Social Security funds there, check with the SSA to be sure that the bank is eligible.
If requested, the SSA will mail paper checks to beneficiaries living in other countries, but it is highly suggested ex-pats sign up for electronic direct deposits instead to avoid lost, missing or stolen payments. If waiting on snail mail isn’t enough of a deterrent—paper checks can take up to three weeks longer to be delivered—direct-deposited funds have the added perk of avoiding check cashing and currency conversion fees.
“As nest eggs get smaller and the buying power of a Social Security check declines, living for less in a good-value locale overseas looks smarter and smarter,” added Stevens.