How to Retire Overseas

Retirement can be an adventure if you're open to the possibility of moving abroad. Your retirement income may go further if you spend your golden years in a foreign land than if you stay put in your hometown. And, you'll have the chance to experience a different culture. But before you ship off to Fiji, here are a few financial tips to get you started planning for your golden years.

 

Profile Yourself Carefully Before Choosing a Location

Before you start country shopping, think hard about your personal preferences — what you love, what you hate and what you can't live without. Even the most popular overseas retirement destinations for Americans do not offer all the amenities of an American lifestyle.

 

Ask yourself a few basic questions: Will you take to a beachside retirement village if you've lived your entire life in Manhattan? Will you enjoy hot weather all the time? Are you comfortable in any language other than English? The more you hone in on who you really are and what lifestyle works best for you, the better chance you'll have of building a new life in another country.

 

Calculate Your Retirement Income

Add up your retirement income and that of your spouse, if you're married. The money you have coming in every month may go far enough in some countries, but not in others. Even within a particular country, living costs can vary greatly between areas.

 

Forty percent of retirees can live on just $1,000 a month in some places, such as Veraguas, Panama, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. If you have $1,500 a month, consider Carcassonne, France, or Mendoza, Argentina. You can live almost anywhere you like outside of the U.S. if your monthly retirement income totals $3,000 or more.

 

Look Into Residency Requirements and Health Coverage

Not every country opens its doors to retiring Americans, so check your options carefully. Some, like Panama, only offer residency to seniors who prove they have a monthly retirement check of at least $1,000. In other countries, you can acquire residency by investing in real estate or a local business.

 

Residency is less critical if you only plan to "retire" part-time, returning to the U.S. for part of every year. Remember to find out about health care, since Medicare does not cover you outside the U.S., and other U.S. health insurance may not travel with you, either.

 

Wade in Slowly When Choosing a Location

The idea of retiring in a foreign land is exciting but living abroad is nothing like being on vacation. So do yourself a favor, and wade in slowly. Don't sell your stateside home and buy something in a new country right away. Rent for a few months off-season, during the sweltering summer or the rainy winter, so you can truly experience a region when the weather is less than perfect. The difference between a vacation attitude and a residency attitude is vast, and a place that's great for holidays may not appeal to you year-round.

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