Top Tips For Retiring Abroad

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Are you considering retiring abroad?  It seems to be a topic that’s getting more attention lately.  Whether it’s to stretch your retirement dollar or to enjoy the allure of living in a foreign land, there are many folks currently considering (or already living) a retirement life abroad.

Today, we bring you Top Tips For Retiring Abroad, a guest post from my friend Ross, a man who’s living this lifestyle firsthand.  Ross relocated to Nicaragua last year from the USA and is loving his life as an Expat.  He also works in the import/export area, so he knows a lot about how to move things around the world.

In the interest of providing a variety of topics to you, I’m sharing this post to give you some insight into considerations for retiring abroad, from one who knows what he’s talking about.  If any of you are currently retired abroad, or seriously considering it, please join in with your comments on your firsthand experience to add to the conversation.

Top Tips for Retiring Abroad

There is simply something very alluring about spending the retirement years living abroad. No matter where you are planning a move, living abroad can change your life.

Retirement, for many people, is the perfect opportunity for fulfilling a lifetime desire for adventure, romance or just a simple life with less stress.  The world is yours,  whether it’s living in a coastal paradise, a winter ski haven or an exotic jungle where you can be surrounded by lush flowers, woodland animals, and majestic waterfalls.

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Besides the necessity of knowing where you want to spend your retirement days, you also need to determine whether you will bring along personal property from your home, including a decision on whether or not to ship your personal vehicle.  Take the required time to research requirements such as the steps you must take to obtain the correct visa for your move, if required. With a little determination and some careful planning, you can help ensure that your retirement move goes smoothly.

Here are some of the top tips for retiring abroad.

Healthcare

Before heading off on a plane to the tropical woods of the Brazilian rainforest or to spend your days skiing in New Zealand, be sure to check with your health insurance provider to make sure you will be covered when you move. If your insurance will not be valid in the new country, it is wise to check and see about the healthcare laws in the country.

In retirement, healthcare is an important factor to consider and you should know what basic care, emergency care, and other services will cost. Medicare does not cover services that are not in the U.S.

You should check into obtaining overseas healthcare even if you never get sick. Accidents do happen and people do get sick when least expected. Being able to get quality treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

Cost of Living

One of the appeals of retiring abroad is the lower cost of living in many countries, which helps to stretch your limited retirement income while maintaining a higher quality of life.  If you plan to live on a retirement pension or social security retirement funds, it is imperative to check the cost of living in the area you’re interested in before you finalize your move. You will want to be able to live within your budget now that you are not working.

Check rental rates but also check into what dining out will cost as well as groceries, clothing and other necessary supplies. It is not wise to live beyond your means when you make a move abroad, especially if you have a budget that must be adhered to.

The Human Connection

A big part of retirement is the ability to have a strong social life. Whether this means taking time to scour the new area for local restaurants or popular night spots or even places where you can meet and mingle with new friends in the great outdoors, it is time for you to start digging into information about the local area so you know what to expect.

You should also make sure your cell phone or tablet or computer will be able to access the internet so you can stay in touch with friends and family back home. Living abroad will be a fun adventure, but to combat homesickness, finding a way to stay in touch with those you leave behind will be very important.

Money Matters

Many people fail to consider taxes when they retire to a new country. You should seek advice from a financial advisor before moving abroad to see if you need to pay taxes to the country you are moving to.

It is also important to see if you will be able to set up a bank account in the country you are moving to. You will need a way to manage your money and some countries even require you to make a hefty deposit to a local bank account before approving your stay in the country.

Online Expat Groups

Checking into expat groups online ahead of your move can really help you learn more about the country. For instance, you may have a list of restaurants from a brochure, but without seeking information from others, you may not realize that you need to dress a certain way to be served.

Expat groups are also a great way to meet others who are in the country who have retired or started anew and are seeking friends. Having a friend when you move can be very beneficial, especially if you are moving alone and would enjoy having a cup of coffee with someone. It’s also a great way to get advice on homes, things to do and much more.

Vacation

Planning a vacation ahead of a retirement move abroad is a critically important thing to do. A few months before the planned move, you should plan a multi-week vacation so you can spend time in the country you want to relocate to.  Pay attention to what things cost, and get a sense of the area.  This isn’t a “vacation” like you’ve taken during your working years.  Rather, this is a first-hand look at the country you’re considering moving to.  Make it a priority to do your homework before you finalize your move.

Check out local neighborhoods, hire a realtor, check out housing opportunities and really get a feel for the area you will live in. It also gives you a chance to cement your decision to move, or even to start considering another location entirely. Moving abroad needs to be something that you are certain of, and if you are having any doubts, a vacation ahead of time will allow you the time to gain a better understanding of the country and all that may change in your life when you move.

Conclusion

Retiring abroad in beautiful places can seem like a very exciting thing to do, and overall, it may just be the best experience you have ever had. To ensure your move is all that you want it to be, however, you need to do your homework and really understand what living abroad will be like.  If you’re excited about the prospect of living overseas for a portion of your retirement, give it a shot!  You’ll have no regrets, and you’ll add some spice to your life!

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25 comments

  1. Such a tricky thing. With our little ones just starting school, we feel a bit more anchored to our lovely community in Minnesota. Part of me wants to explore Costa Rica for when they’re out of school, out of the house. We’ll see. Great post – good list of things to consider, especially on the health care front.

    1. I can relate, Cubert. We’re “empty nesters”, except for our 4 dogs! Afraid they’d put a dent in any plans to do anything long-term on a global basis. If we can talk my daughter into watching them for a month or so, we may do a 1-month AirBNB rental in a country of interest (New Zealand?), taking the “slow travel” approach. Costa Rica’s always appealed to me, as well. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. All excellent points. I think the lure of living abroad is great, but we do need to remember that there are a lot of legal considerations to living abroad. Healthcare (like you mentioned), taxes, and voting are things to keep in mind.

    1. Your right, things can be very tricky when living abroad, especially if you don’t speak the language. Private health care is always worth looking at as well.

  3. We lived a year abroad in Buenos Aires and it was amazing. Don’t wait until retirement if you do not have to. Having a home base to travel from is pretty incredible. As for the list above…I could not agree any more.

    I would add that you should search out how things are paid in the country you live. Is cash king? Then you should join a bank that will return all international ATM withdrawal fees. Are credit cards accepted most places? Which ones?

    Also understanding the crime in the city you will be living in is important. Some of that can be figured out when you are actually there, but for choosing housing it becomes important.

    1. Argentina!? Wow, very cool. I’ve heard B.A. is a great city, awesome that you had an opportunity to live here for a year! Great point about not having to wait until retirement, as well as researching the “payment” norms in the country you’re considering.

    2. I had a friend that lived in BA for a few years working on a mining project. He loved the steaks and wine! I would agree that it is always a good time to look at becoming an expat and you shouldn’t wait until you retire.

    3. Good for you on checking out Buenos Aires. I really want to visit. I still get hit with transaction fees and I am working on that.

  4. My wife and I lived in Germany for 6 years and have traveled internationally quite extensively as you have Fritz. While we are not interested in “Retiring Abroad” we are looking into spending weeks in specific countries at a time and linking 2 or 3 countries together for a 6 or 8 week international trip. The idea about connecting with “Expat Groups” is a really good one and would be very beneficial to learn from them so we make sure we hit the highlights of each of the countries we plan to visit. There’s nothing like getting first hand information from someone who’s not selling you something. Thanks for the post!!

  5. If you do plan on moving abroad, make sure you understand how it will impact your investments accounts. Virtually all us based brokerages such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Schwab, etc.. will not open up new accounts to American Expats. Once you are living overseas, your residence is considered to be overseas, even if you maintain a US address or have one you can use. If you have current accounts, many expats choose not to update their brokerage platforms of their new overseas address. If you choose to do this, the brokerage may put some “limitations” on your account activity. For those going overseas to live, Interactive Brokers works fine and you can use them for IRA and non-retirement investment accounts. However, you can only hold ETF’s there – not mutual funds. So, if you want to move your investments over, you would have to sell your mutual fund holdings. This can generate capital gains that should be considered. Andrew Hallam’s website has good information for people considering a change like this. He also authored the book the Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing.

  6. For a myriad of reasons, I am more apt to “vacation snowbird” for several months in winter months during retirement than retire abroad altogether. Many of the issues discussed here—finances, healthcare, family—would give me pause when considering a full-time international retirement.

    Regarding Costa Rica, we visited Nosara on the Guanacaste Peninsula a few years back and found a large and thriving expat community of Americans and Canadians. It was a beautiful place to visit, but I’m sure living there would have presented quite a few challenges.

  7. Great article.
    My wife and I travel overseas 2 months each year, but we do it 10 days at the time. We are looking forward to slow traveling for a longer time starting next year. At least half the year.

    1. Thanks! glad you enjoyed it an hope you enjoy your travels. Maybe one day you will find a place that you will want to call home.

  8. For me the key things are
    1) try before you buy! Take several months in the place you want to relocate to, in the least hospitable time of year (hotter, colder, wetter than you are used to. Rent an apartment in the area you think you will move to, find out what it is really like to live like a local, rather than a tourist. Consider the community. Will there be someone to talk to? Any social things to do etc. Will you have to learn a new language?
    2) the comments above about tax and bank accounts are very important. The country you are moving to may have restrictions on opening accounts, and the country you are leaving may have restrictions on keeping your accounts open. Will you have fluctuations in exchange rates to deal with, which might change the amount you gave to live on?
    3) local health provision. Even with health insurance, you still need a hospital to go to, so if there isn’t one close by, could you get to one in an emergency?
    It takes a certain mindset to change countries, particularly if you have no family in the area. Moving for a better climate, a better lifestyle is great, but bear in mind you have to build anew friend base.
    I love going somewhere different for a month or two each year (as I write this, I am in Madrid for 5 weeks), but I really think I would only move country for family reasons.

    1. Agreed! Your right you should always try before you buy. 1 year is a pretty good time to get to know a location and get to know if you can adapt to the language etc.

  9. I think about retiring abroad all the time. Well, at least living abroad. I would like to do a Fulbright before my career is over and then deeply look into getting a place somewhere. I would love to live in Iceland or Europe, but that might be too expensive (I am a cold weather person). However, I also love the idea of buying a property in Mexico or another place to rejuvenate my Spanish language skills. So many choices. So many places to go.

    1. Jason,

      If you are a cold weather person you might want to check out the mountain areas in Costa Rica! Beautiful and also cold but not too cold.

  10. Thanks Ross. Great checklist for anyone looking to live abroad. If things really deteriorate here, I’m open to leaving. But right now I’m with commenter Erith. Give me five weeks in Spain every year and I’ll be one happy camper.

    1. Your welcome! glad you enjoyed it! If you’re ever not happy with your surroundings then you should change them. I don’t understand people that stay in places they hate when they don’t have to.

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