I was recently perusing some survey results which had been posted online (here and here.) The surveys are fairly outdated (2006) but I think they still shed some light on trends that we can see among U.S. retirees coming to Mexico.
These are some of the interesting numbers I pulled out:
Top activities which retirees say draw them to living on the Mexican coast are, according to one survey:
• Walking on the beach – 75%
• Relaxation – 65%
• Fishing – 30%
• Boating – 21%
• Birdwatching – 15%
• Golf – 14%
• Conservation – 11%
If we look at these activities, some common themes are the waterfront (important in 3 of the 4 top activities), nature (5 of the 7), and relaxation, which is listed as an item itself, but probably counts for a central part of the top 5 items.
Charity and Volunteering
Almost 70% percent of U.S. retirees in Mexico say they are part of a non-profit organization. As for problems which expats are concerned about in their community, poverty & the environment dominate the top issues.
While it’s difficult to say which issue is most important to retirees, 2 points can probably be observed safely:
• poverty is the greatest concern, followed closely by the environment
• most U.S. Retirees in Mexico feel some responsibility to address these issues
It seems that both active participation and financial support are very common.
As Kathleen Peddicord of the Huffington Post recently pointed out, it is virtually impossible to offer a reasonable estimate of how many expats are in Mexico; likewise with the number of U.S. retirees in this country, and exactly where those retirees are.
In these 2006 surveys, they come up with 600,000 as a total, which they admit is “highly speculative.
1 million is a number that gets thrown around often for the total of U.S. expats in Mexico, based on data from the U.S. consular offices; however, besides being well over a decade ago, as Kathleen points out, that data is skewed by the fact that most expats usually don’t register, while Mexicans who were only born in the U.S., but lived their entire life in Mexico thereafter, usually do.
People always say things like, “Well, on the streets of Puerto Vallarta, you’re more likely to see Americans than Mexicans.” These visual impressions are likewise entirely unreliable since they could be based on tourists (who we’re much more likely to see out on the streets) and the impression of numbers is directly effected by the total size of the Mexican community. For examples, 100 expats would seem like a large community in a village of 500, but would hardly go noticed in a city like Morelia.
However, the visual impression is probably more important for new expat retirees than “real numbers” since it’s the visual impression of how many other U.S. retirees are around that will determine their comfort level with a given location.
In any case, it seems that the most important locations for U.S. retirees are as follows (order from north-west to south-east):
• Baja California Norte (Rosarito, Ensenada)
• Baja California Sur (Los Cabos, La Paz
• Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit
• Lake Chapala
• San Miguel de Allende
• Cancun & Riviera Maya
• Merida & Yucatan Coast
The top reasons for choosing Mexico as a retirement destination were:
• lifestyle – 79%
• cost of living -75%
• weather – 69%
• proximity -63%
(As is clear by the numbers, each person who answered the survey chose multiple answers.)
What’s clear from these numbers is that people basically choose Mexico for a combination of 3 reasons:
• they can live better
• it costs less
• and it’s right next door
Someone could probably also live very comfortably on less money in southeast Asia, but do they really want to be an 18 hour flight with 2 stops and a $3000 ticket away? Besides that, while Mexico is certainly different, it is a more “accessible” and familiar culture.
Good numbers for stats on retirees and other expats in Mexico would be hard to gather, and even harder to find. However, some surveys kicking around out there give us a glimpse of what’s going on.