Medellin, the new paradise for American retirees

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Medellin, the new paradise for American retirees

Nancy Kiernan used to live in the State of Maine. She is a Health Administrator and upon retiring, she traveled to Medellin on May 2012.

By: Armando Neira

March 25, 2018, 02:05 a.m.

For some time now, The El Poblado 10th street has new passers-by with a unique style: men wearing T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops, and women in patterned light-fabric dresses. Joyfully sun-bathe to the morning shine.  Contrary to the flock of young people that, at night, use that same road to Lleras Park.

Nancy Kiernan, ciudadana estadounidense

They are retired United States citizens who chose Medellin as their enjoyment epicenterThe same city who saw its name stolen to name a powerful and ruthless crime organization, is now a long-awaited Garden of Eden At the beginning of the 90s, the capital of the Antioquia region had a homicide rate higher than 300 for every 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world at that moment. Additionally, about 282,000 people survived in extreme poverty.

Today, idyllic images of its parks and surroundings illustrate the websites for retired and about financial information. ‘Medellin, the city that tamed violence’ summarized Forbes while covering this drastic change “From Murder Capital to Retiree Heaven” was a title in the Miami Herald, an influential newspaper in Florida, were the US retirees compete for a place to stay.

In 2017, the U.S. Social Security Administration sent 6,704 retirement checks to Colombia — an 85 percent increase compared to 2010 and more checks than are sent to any other country in Latin America or the Caribbean except Mexico”, it could be read in the newspaper. “

“While that figure doesn’t tell the whole story — it excludes those who are retired but too young to receive Social Security and those who have their checks deposited in U.S. bank accounts — it does provide a window into the country’s growing popularity”, explained the journalist Jim Wyss, author of the story.

Brad Hinkelman is a Canadian investor who came to Colombia a decade ago because he saw an open window for opportunities. Five years ago, he founded Casacol, a firm that facilitates foreign investments in Colombian Real Estate. Which areas of the Colombian geography are attractive for US retirees? “In the first place, Medellin” he replies. “Then, the Coffee Belt, and lately Santa Marta. These are the three most popular destinations for foreign retirees”, he says. “In fact, Colombia, after Mexico has more Americans registered with Social Security than any other Latin American country, he says. But why? “This country has the perfect recipe for the foreign retiree”, says Hinkelman. “Medellin in particular, and Antioquia in general have a mild climate, a high-quality health system and financially accessible. Additionally, Colombia is showing a high development in quality of life markers such as gastronomy, cultural offer and ecotourism”.


With statistics sourced from his company, he stresses that this emerging migration wave is not exclusively of Americans. “We have here people from other parts of the world, specially Canadians, French and Dutch” he says. He also explains that here, the popular phrase that the trees do not allow to see the forest becomes effective. He also explains that for most, the mountains, the flowers and the sunshine are habitual elements of the landscape; retirees see in this ensemble, a blessing “Many here do not realize how hard it is to endure winter in the northern countries”, he says. The Winter season is ideal for postcards, but not to cope with it day in and day out; much less when the physical strength is declining. Here, on the contrary, that saying that this is the city of eternal spring becomes true.

Heaven is here

Nancy Kiernan is an American. She used to live on the State of Maine, which she changed for Medellin on May 2012. She is a Health Administrator, retired, and the Colombia Correspondent for the International Living Magazine “For the last few years more Americans have decided to live outside the United States after retiring, and Medellin has many of the things they want” she explains. Every year, her magazine prepares a classification list of the countries to live in. “In 2018, Colombia classified as number six globally as a country for retirement’”, she said.

The Miami Herald got the opinion of Cindy Crawford Thomas, while she sipped a cappuccino in a buzzing café on a tree-lined street in Medellin “Deciding to leave Florida was easy,” said the former Coral Springs high school teacher. “It was too hectic.  You seldom knew your neighbors. It was all these people but no community.”

On the contrary, she said to the reporter, in Medellin, she and her husband, David, have found a friendly, cosmopolitan city where rent is cheap, the weather is fine, and the health care is first class.” And in many ways, she said, they feel safer here than back home in Florida.

At the Medellin Municipality, there is great satisfaction about this new reality. Throughout of its history, Medellin has shown a great ability to overcome obstacles, carry on, and transform itself. Juliana Cardona Quiroz, Undersecretary of Tourism explains: “The massive arrival of visitors reflects a reality in the city much different to what it was twenty years ago. Today, people fall in love with our people’s joy and warmth “.

According to DANE (National Administrative Department of Statistics), Medellin has today 2,508.452 people, and even though there is no exact data as to how many foreigners there are, the perception is that the number is growing According to the figures presented by  the System of Tourist Indicators of Medellín and Antioquia SITUR, in 2017 came to Medellin 735,570 visitors; about 368,350 of which were from abroad.In 2017, 92 international events were held that left about 17.6 million dollars to the city. Ten years ago, only 15 events of that size were held. This is a 500% increase. Con los brazos abiertos (With open arms) Mayor Federico Gutierrez thinks that “the retirees, especially those coming from the United States, find in Medellin a welcoming city that receives them with open arms”.

The Mayor stresses the word ‘life’ For us is very important to guarantee the wellbeing and the people’s quality of life; we like them living well” he assured.

However, this picture shows hurdles:  English, for example, it is still very deficient. Kieman says that this prevents many people from coming. “In my case, I learned Spanish because I wanted to live here. At the beginning it was difficult to do essential things such as opening bank accounts or scheduling doctors’ visits”

Hinkelman mentions a tax fact that discourages many potential retirees who are considering where to live. “Foreigners are concerned about spending more than 183 days a year here because, by doing it, automatically they become fiscal residents, and all their assets become taxable”, he explains “In that sense, Panama and Ecuador are much friendlier than Colombia”. That is why, in his opinion, the majority come to Colombia to spend time that usually coincides with the coldest days of winter or the hottest days of summer in the United States They come to enjoy the pleasant and eternal greenery of spring. Then, they go back to their countries of origin.

Anyway, the fact that Medellin and its surroundings is becoming a magnet for the elderly from other countries, after those disturbing years of violence, is an act of poetic justice.

Twitter: @armandoneira



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