Covid-19 Pandemic Puts Overseas Retirement on Hold for Many Expats

The pandemic is forcing some to put expat life on hold or return home years earlier than they had initially planned.

When the borders between the United States and Mexico closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hernán Drobny and Ann Barden decided to remain — at least for now — in their San Miguel de Allende home rather than return to Michigan.

Drobny, a retired physician, asked local doctors if they would provide care should the couple come down with COVID-19. He looked into home delivery of oxygen tanks, purchased hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin and made inquiries about in-home nursing.

More than two months later, Drobny is convinced it was the right call.

“We have some sadness in feeling constrained, not seeing family and friends, and feel a bit stranded,” he told the Washington Post. But had they returned to their second home in Michigan the situation would have been the same, just colder, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many American expats to weigh their financial situations, access to health care, and the prospect that cross-border movement could be limited to essential travel — cutting them off from loved ones.

About 1.4 million American retirees receive Social Security payments abroad, though that figure may not include those who split their time between another country and the United States.

Until the pandemic brought vacation life to a grinding halt, the number of Americans choosing to retire to other countries had been climbing over the last few years, said David Kuenzi, a partner at Thun Financial Advisors in Madison, Wis., which has more than 500 Americans abroad as clients.