Posted on May 20, 2015

Homeland Beckons Immigrants as Retirement Nears

Alina Tugend, New York Times, May 15, 2015

They came to America from all over the world for many reasons–to make money, to marry, to live in peace. But now, as they face their retirement years, many of these longtime immigrants want to go home.

“There is always a hankering for your roots,” said Conrado Rigor Jr., editor of The Filipino-American Bulletin, a newspaper based in Washington State. “After all is said and done, after you’ve been here for 25 to 30 years, you want to go home.”

No overall statistics are available for how many people return to their native countries to retire, but consultants, real estate agents and others who help immigrants make the journey say the numbers are increasing.

They leave for many reasons: They worked in menial jobs in the United States and can afford a much higher standard of living in their native countries; they want to be around their relatives as they age for emotional and practical reasons; the spouses they immigrated with or married in the United States have died or they have divorced.


On an income that can barely sustain one person in New York, “you can live like a king in Ecuador,” Mr. Padilla said.

That is because people not only have the money they have saved, but if they have paid into the Social Security system while working in the United States, they can continue to receive payments abroad. But some exceptions apply, so it is wise to check the Social Security website.

While Social Security is portable, those returning to their home country will not be eligible for Medicare, which can be a major disadvantage, Mr. Rigor said. Medicare is generally not available outside the United States and its territories, even for American citizens who have paid into the system.


Laurel Montecel, 68, is planning to move back to Guayaquil, Ecuador, this month after more than 40 years in New York, where she was a home aide. She is an American citizen. She votes in elections.

But her mother, who lives in Ecuador, is 91 and needs help, and Ms. Montecel’s brothers have asked her to return. Because she is single and without children, they feel she is in a better position to provide the care, she said.

“It’s my turn to take care of my mother,” she said.

She has returned every year to Guayaquil to visit, but knows that is not the same as living there.

“It’s my country, it’s my city, but it’s new–like when I came here for the first time,” Ms. Montecel said. “For me it’s very confused. I love my country, but I love New York.”