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Written by: Byron Edgington
Date: December 15, 2015

Grandparents with baby

Grandparents. Photo: Jill M/Flickr

During his travels in America in 1842, Charles Dickens practiced the craft of travel writing. When he returned to England, people asked for his impressions of America. Mr. Dickens said he was amazed at how well parents obeyed their children. Not much has changed in the intervening years. We still seem to dedicate a great deal of energy, time and resources to our kids and the kids of our kids. This focus on the young has a direct impact on our plans for retirement, and all else we do in the third third of life.

As some of you who have read my previous blog posts may know, my wife and I are giving serious thought to relocating/retiring to Panama. Mostly because of the more temperate climate there, partly because of the natural beauty of it as well and the economic benefits offered, the hills of western Panama fit all our requirements. We’ve not met a lot of resistance from family on this endeavor, but there have been a few inquiries as to our distance from grandkids, difficult travel, remoteness etc. and the implications of that.

Here are some of the financial facts about what I’ll refer to as the grandeconomy: According to the website ‘,‘ ‘There are 56 million grandparents in the United States. On average $27.5 billion is spent nationwide on grandchildren per year.’ A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money, as Senator Everett Dirksen may or may not have said. So what do we do with that info?

Specifically, what does this mean for potential expat grandparents? Good question. As a survival kit, when sons and daughters say ‘you’re moving where?’, (between the lines, they’re saying how can you abandon your dear, sweet, cuddly, lovable grandkids this way?) here’s a list of responses that may come in handy:

Mention the disposable income that living as an expat provides, cash that may be used for little Stevie’s braces, Sweet Susie’s summer camp in the Catskills or Marvelous Johnny’s 529(C)3 that may or may not put him through one of the Ivies. Grandparents are notorious for spoiling grandkids rotten, either in revenge mode or to buy their love & affection, so here’s an alternative to that.

Mention the possibility of flying the grandkids to you, be it in Panama, Portugal or Piccadilly, and the free time that might give their overworked and exhausted parents.

Show the grandkids what it means to really plan for and execute a decent, workable retirement income stream, and give them a sense of agency about that for themselves, even at a tender age. The latest data from show that an average American’s retirement income is roughly $31,000.

Depending on ones cash position, that’s not a lot of money. What a gift to our grandkids to show them the need to be proactive in securing financial freedom for themselves. Not to mention the optics of it, that is, allowing them to see us enjoying our third third free of financial worry.

So if, like us, you’re contemplating a relocation to expat-land, these are a few considerations for when adult children say ‘you’re moving where?’