Post-Pandemic Migration and Immigration
by Mike Cobb
In a time of social distancing and mandated lockdowns, businesses around the world are forced to adapt. At the onset of the pandemic, employees and managers alike feared a challenging time working productively amid domestic distractions. Uneasy as the workplace initially was, COVID has ushered in a new era of confidence in tech-enabled remote work.
Employment No Longer Depends Upon Physical Location
The average white-collar workplace has migrated from downtown to the home office, leaving workers happier and more productive than ever before.
Freed from location, workers can now call home any place with an internet connection and still earn an income. It makes you wonder: Why wait to retire? If someone can work from home in Los Angeles, surely they can work from home in Phoenix.
The trend is already being measured inside of the United States. Gay Cororaton, research economist with NAR, reports that in a recent survey of members, “Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that, compared to January 2020, they have more clients who live in the city who want to purchase a property in the suburb.” The growth was roughly 10% in 2020.
Why Digital Nomads Live and Work Abroad
If someone can work from home in Phoenix, they can also work from home in Greece, Portugal, Belize, Costa Rica, or Panama. But what is it exactly that drives modern, remote workers overseas?
In most cases, workers relocate overseas to find a moderate climate. Views of the Mediterranean, a warm Caribbean island, or the perpetual spring feeling of the tropical highlands draw millions of people because the weather is pleasant year-round.
Another major draw of life overseas is the lower cost of living. Carla Rayman, NAR’s global coordinator to North America, Central America, and the Caribbean says, “I’ve been approached by people from northern states (East and Midwest) who can work anywhere. Instead of living with the cold and snow, they’ve decided it is time to spend their winter elsewhere. Some are finding the rates or availability in Florida to be too expensive, so they’re considering other options where they can easily travel like Mexico, Costa Rica, or Panama.”
In these times of fear and financial uncertainty, cutting living expenses by one third or more is meaningful. Data comparing the cost of living in purchasing power can be found at the site: https://www.worlddata.info/cost-of-living.php. Panama and Costa Rica cost 25% less than the U.S. Ecuador and Colombia come in at half price. Living overseas is a way to make precious dollars stretch further and add to the funds available at retirement. Adding significantly to the savings basket for the time when retirement happens is empowering and liberating.
Gill Phelan, an ex-pat developer in Costa Rica, knows firsthand that affordability is a major reason people are looking south of the border. “The cost of living on the Caribbean side of the country is much lower than the Central Valley, yet we enjoy new hospitals and fiber optic internet that enable us to perform our work remotely in this new virtual world.”
But cutting costs doesn’t mean sacrificing lifestyle in many places overseas – not at all. In fact, in most cases, a higher quality of life is paired with a lower cost of living. It’s paradoxical, isn’t it? Here’s how.
How Lower Cost of Living Comes with a Higher Standard of Living Overseas
Eating organic fruits and vegetables and hormone-free meats and cheeses is expensive in North America. Abroad, eating such food is easy and inexpensive when shopping at local markets.
Similarly, going out to dinner or the movies is a fraction of the cost it would be back home. A massage is often $20 or less. Medical care in the major metropolitan areas is excellent, and out-of-pocket costs extremely affordable. For example, an X-ray is about $30, an ultrasound under $100, and a night in the hospital less than $200. Dental cleanings usually run for about $30.
Most ex-pats also enjoy full-time domestic help. The significant extra time every day when released from daily chores around the house is liberating in ways only before considered post-retirement. As little as $200 per month can free someone from the burden of daily household chores.
Add in the time not stuck in traffic commuting, and there is plenty of room for more fun in life. Time to go to the movies, take up a hobby, and get those 10,000 steps a day in on the beach or along a mountain trail through a coffee plantation. All these factors add up to a higher quality of life for far less than an average life back home.
Is a Life Abroad for You?
You may wonder if a life overseas is right for you. There are some great tools out there including a two-minute quiz called the “Am I Ready to Live Overseas Quiz.” It will give you a good idea if you’ll adapt well to a life abroad.
Society is rapidly shifting and adjusting to a new reality of tech-enabled remote work, and these changes are only just beginning. Headlines in major publications now ponder a mass exodus from the cities. True or overblown, the data shows it’s already happening.
The awareness of location independence in society is a powerful understanding. Where we live is not particularly relevant to “where” we work. If we can work from anywhere and everywhere, why not exactly where we want?
The world is a big place with a cornucopia of geographic and lifestyle options to suit all tastes. Freed from the chains of location, people can choose a home based on the climate and activities they enjoy most and living costs they can afford rather than where the boss wants them to be every day.
Where do you want to live-work-play? The world is your oyster.
Mike Cobb is CEO of ECI Development.