A boomer sold all of her belongings, retired early, and moved to Turkey — and her expenses are so low that she's able to live 'totally' on her Social Security

A boomer sold all of her belongings, retired early, and moved to Turkey — and her expenses are so low that she's able to live 'totally' on her Social Security
  • Debra Crockett decided to retire early eight years ago and moved from the US to Turkey.

  • Her Social Security checks are enough to cover her basic monthly expenses given the strength of the US dollar.

  • She said moving abroad was the best financial decision she made for her retirement.

Eight years ago, Debra Crockett decided it was time for a change.

She and her then-husband were doing well in the US. They were earning decent wages, owned a home, and had a couple of cars, but after working her whole life — most recently as a director of retail sales — she decided she was ready to see the world.

To make that happen, Crockett retired a few years ahead of schedule, collected early Social Security, and sold her house, cars, and most of her other valuable belongings. Using the housesitting platform Trusted Housesitters, Crockett could live in local homes in her desired travel destinations without having to pay for housing.

Debra Crockett
Debra Crockett sailed on the Mediterranean Sea during her travels abroad.Debra Crockett

When her 90-day visa expired in Europe, Crockett set her sights on Turkey, and she's been there ever since.

"I live here for next to nothing," Crockett told Business Insider.

BI reviewed documents verifying Crockett's expenses. When converted to US dollars, her rent is $463 a month, her electric bills are $25 a month, her water bill is just over $1 a month, and her internet is just over $11 a month.

Even with the nearly $200 it takes to renew her residency in Turkey each year, her Social Security check is $2,929 a month, verified by BI, which is more than enough to cover her basic expenses.

"It's ridiculous to think that you have to have millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank to survive. I live totally on my Social Security," she said. "I have other funds, but I use those mainly for traveling expenses. I don't have any bills. I paid everything off when I left the US, and I keep a daily report of everything I spend."

By keeping daily notes of her expenses, Crockett can easily detect if she goes over her budget one month, allowing her to adjust her spending for the next month. She also said that one of her biggest expenses in the US was her healthcare — something that she has found is also much more affordable in Turkey.

Crockett is among many Americans who became expats over the past few years, moving from the US to a location abroad with the hopes of living a better, cheaper life. Older Americans, in particular, are benefitting from more affordable bills as the US faces a looming retirement crisis, and many boomers feel like they do not have sufficient savings to retire on time — or at all.

Of course, moving abroad has its challenges, requiring funds to travel and the ability to leave friends and relatives behind. But Crockett said it was important to her that she didn't spend the entire second half of her life working, and it's allowed her to make the most out of her retirement.

"We work all our lives from high-powered jobs to blue-collar jobs. It really doesn't matter. We all work hard and we get maybe a few years of retirement," Crockett said. "That just doesn't seem like it's worth it. So if you can, just sell it all. It's only things, and you can replace it with beautiful memories in the future."

'I'm living a great life on limited expenditures'

Crockett rents her apartment to allow her the freedom to get up and move if she choose, but for now she plans to remain in Turkey. Notably, the Turkish economy is struggling — in March, the country hiked interest rates to 50% to fight "higher than expected" inflation that has burdened Turkish citizens.

American expats don't feel the same financial pressures, though, because the Turkish Lira has weakened against the US dollar, allowing American cash to go much further.

"I'm living a great life on limited expenditures," Crockett said.

"There is a huge expat community here, so there's never a language issue at all," she continued. "You can go down to the beach and just sit with a glass of wine and look at the beautiful scenery, or you can be more adventuresome. There's walking groups, there's jogging groups, there's knitting groups, there's yoga, there's something for everyone here."

BI has previously spoken to retirees in the US who are facing severe financial strains. One 63-year-old said that she doesn't see her Social Security keeping her afloat due to the lingering impacts of the pandemic, which caused her to lose her job and run through her savings.

"I know so many people my age that just don't know what they're going to do," she said. "Other countries take care of their older people, and we should be able to do it, too."

Crockett said that living in Turkey has given her so much financial relief that she doesn't see money being an issue for her as long as she remains abroad. She contributes to the community financially through donations as often as she can, and she said she's grateful for the welcoming atmosphere that greeted her upon her arrival.

"It's eye-opening," she said. "It's an amazing, fulfilling experience to wake up in a country where you know absolutely no one, and you have to rely on your skills of communication, intuition, your skills of just being able to survive. And it's so fulfilling and so rewarding."

Are you living abroad? Did moving improve your quality of life or do you want to return to the US? Share your story with this reporter at asheffey@businessinsider.com.

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