The benefits of being an American do not stop at the border, which is excellent news for retirees looking to live abroad. In particular, expatriates are free to collect their Social Security benefits while living abroad in an adopted country. (See also: 13 Financial Steps to Take Before Retiring Abroad)
While Uncle Sam will forward your Social Security benefit checks to whatever sunny beach on a foreign shore that you choose to retire to, it is important for you to understand just what you’ll have to do to make sure the claiming process goes smoothly. Here’s everything you need to know about claiming your Social Security benefits while living the retired life abroad.
You can’t take Medicare with you
Let’s start with the bad news: Medicare does not pay for any care you receive abroad. That’s because Medicare coverage is specific to American medical providers and does not cover service outside of the United States.
Many retirees living abroad may still choose to enroll in Medicare so that they can return to America in case of a serious medical issue. There are severe financial penalties for enrolling in Medicare after the initial enrollment period (the three months before, the month of, and the three months after you turn 65), which means it may be worth your while to enroll in Medicare if there is any possibility you will return to the U.S.
That being said, it’s quite possible that you will be eligible for low-cost, high-quality health care coverage in your adopted home. Many countries extend their health care services to foreign residents, and one of the potential benefits of retiring abroad is the possibility of cheaper and better health care. (See also: 4 Affordable Retirement Spots With World-Class Health Care)
But Social Security benefits are pretty portable
All Social Security recipients are now required to accept their benefits electronically, which is quite a boon to retirees living abroad. This means you can either have your benefits directly deposited into a foreign bank account based in your new home, or you can have the money deposited into an American bank account that you have maintained while abroad.
Some countries require foreign residents to open a local bank account and have a regular direct deposit into that account. Social Security benefits offer an ideal method for fulfilling this obligation.
If you live in a country without such a requirement, you may choose to simply maintain your U.S. based bank, in…