[COLUMN] Is the new American dream leaving America?

Mike Huryn, a former Las Vegas resident co-hosts the YouTube channel “Mike’s Philippine Retirement” with his live-in Filipina girlfriend, Janet. Contributed photo

Americans opting to retire in the Philippines cite lower cost of living and better quality of life

After more than 50 years in America, my father retired permanently in the Philippines in late 2020.

“I’ve lived in the States for a long time already,” he told me a few days before his flight to Manila. “It’s time for me to go back home.”

His decision to go back to the Philippines surprised me and my sister and mother, even though deep down we probably knew it was coming. My father started having mobility problems about five years earlier, in his late 70s. My mother was his primary caregiver, until they had to move to assisted living.

Although he was fairly healthy and didn’t need additional services outside of the standard care, the monthly cost was staggering. In-home care wasn’t much better. Besides, we already ruled out that option, as my mother hated having strangers in her home, let alone living there.

We suspected the costs of his health care played a major role in my father’s decision to go back to the Philippines. He had worked hard and saved all his life here, and didn’t want to spend a good chunk of his life savings just on health costs, as many Americans have had to.

My family was the quintessential example of the American dream come true: my parents’ careers as engineers, then business owners and homeowners. My sister and I graduated from top universities, and embarked on fulfilling careers ourselves.

Back in the Philippines, my father still had his ancestral home in Pateros Rizal, about 30 miles outside Metro Manila. He has a live-in caregiver and a maid; both at a fraction of the cost of his care in the U.S. More importantly, his house is surrounded by other homes in the compound, or “looban,” occupied by family members, including his only surviving brother.

I will admit, that greatly helped assuage the guilt of not being able to personally care for him, or even visit more often when he was still living here.

“This country is not a good place for elderly people,” said Joseph*, a Filipino American attorney based in Los Angeles.” It’s too expensive, and too lonely and sad. I see my own parents dealing with the challenges of growing old, and the pervasive loneliness of aging here is inescapable.”

On a recent trip to the Philippines, Joseph said he met with his 94 year-old uncle who is personally cared for by his cousins, “almost no caregiver.”

“He looks wonderful!” said Joseph. “He has youthful skin, bright smile. It’s because he gets all the care and attention he needs and deserves, attention that we can’t give with our American lifestyles here.”

According to the U.S. State Department, about 10 million Americans live abroad permanently; over 300,000 Americans live in the Philippines, excluding military personnel. The numbers are only growing. Expats cite lower cost of living and better quality of life in the Philippines, versus the U.S. With a majority of the population speaking English and familiarity with western and American culture also rank high as reasons why Americans are choosing the Philippines.

Do a search for “retiring in the Philippines” on YouTube, and over 800,000 videos on the topic immediately pop up, making “Vloggers” (video bloggers) on the Philippines among the highest rated and viewed of its kind on the platform.

One of the popular channels is “Mike’s Philippine Retirement,” hosted by former Las Vegas resident, Michael Huryn. After much research, including watching numerous YouTube videos on the Philippines, Huryn moved to the Philippines in February 2022.

“After watching other YouTube’rs, I was convinced that I could live in the Philippines and have a better life than in Las Vegas,” explained Huryn, 69. “Las Vegas was becoming unaffordable. I was paying $1,300/month for a two-bedroom apartment. I was worried my pension wouldn’t be enough.”

With inflation and rising cost of housing and homeownership, that sentiment is echoed by many other Americans, including Lydia*, a Filipino American who has lived in Las Vegas for over 25 years.

Lydia, a retired nurse, was preparing to sell her 2-story home and buy a single story home. After looking at several homes, she was shocked at the prices as well as high interest rates. “I’m going to sell my home here and not buy anymore. I’m going to buy a house in the Philippines!”

Housing costs weren’t the only reasons for leaving America. For Huryn, the perpetual rat race driven by financial concerns had taken its toll on his health as well as mental well being. It was enough for the self-proclaimed “blue collar guy” to leave America for good.

“In the US, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol,” said Huryn, who lived on the beach in Bohol during his first two months before settling in Dumagete in Negros, Philippines. “I walked on the beach every day, I was able to decompress. My blood pressure issue is gone; I no longer take medications, and I’m a more calm individual.

In one of his episodes, Huryn disclosed an itemized breakdown of his monthly budget of about $1,500 in the Philippines. “Money isn’t an issue anymore!”

Another major attraction for retiring in the Philippines is the culture of respect for its seniors, explained Huryn. “What I love about the Philippines is that there is so much respect for the elders!”

Philippine senior citizens also get 20 percent discount on almost everything, including restaurants, movies, and other personal services.

“That discount is a really huge factor,” said Joseph. “Can you imagine that being the same case here in the U.S.? People would be ecstatic!”

“Mike’s Philippine Retirement” boasts a subscriber base of over 16,000. Huryn admits that his slower, easy-going style isn’t as “flashy as the younger guys,” but it appeals to his viewers who tune in daily to learn about daily life in the Philippines.

“You can have a great life here in the Philippines, but I want my viewers to be prepared when they come, especially when it comes to finances and health. They need to know their own health limitations,” he said.

Huryn co-hosts the channel with his live-in girlfriend, Janet, a 32 year-old Filipina and her 11 year-old son. They are planning to get married later this year.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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If you retired to the Philippines, planning to, or even just thinking about it, I’d like to hear from you! Send your story to [email protected]

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Corin Ramos Lujan was born in Manila and immigrated to the U.S. at five years old. A former journalist and graduate of UC Berkeley, Corin received her Philippine dual citizenship in May 2023. She currently lives in Las Vegas where she is a real estate agent, and also an accredited Marketing Partner in Nevada for Ayala Land, Inc., the largest real estate developer in the Philippines.

 

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