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12 Questions You Need to Answer Before Retiring Overseas

The allure of retiring to another country can be tempting, but proceed with caution.
The allure of retiring to another country can be tempting, but proceed with caution.

If you have traveled internationally, you have probably visited charming, exciting places and thought about how great it would be to retire there. You may be motivated to stretch your retirement dollars in a place with lower cost of living and cheaper health care. Maybe you want to enjoy your leisure years in a locale with a warmer climate and breathtaking natural beauty. Perhaps you are ready for a new adventure and the opportunity to discover new lands and experience new cultures. Or maybe you are formulating an escape plan in the event your least favorite candidate makes it into the White House.

Whatever your motivations are, if you are considering retiring to another country, here are twelve factors to research and consider before you start packing.

1. What are the immigration requirements?

Not all countries roll out the welcome mat for retirees. The immigration process is often lengthy, tedious, and expensive. In some cases, you need to move while you are still working or below a certain age in order to obtain a residency visa. Some countries allow non-citizens to remain in the country for up to 180 days, so a partial-year living arrangement may be possible.

2. How can you participate in that country’s health care system?

You can find world-class health care at considerably lower costs in many overseas retirement havens. But since you have not paid into the system during your working years, you will probably need to purchase health insurance or pay out of pocket. This may still be more affordable than health care in the U.S.

3. Do you speak the language, or are you willing to learn?

If you hope to truly enjoy the culture and people in your new home, you really should learn the language. If you move to an English-speaking expat community, you may never fully engage with the local community. In places where English is widely spoken as a second language, the locals may speak English with you out of necessity but you may find it difficult to become integrated into their social circles.

4. How often will you want to return home?

You will probably want to return occasionally for holidays or significant events such as weddings or funerals. Travel expenses could significantly offset the savings you are expecting to realize by moving to a place where the cost of living and health care is lower.

5. How much are you willing to leave behind?

Shipping a lot of possessions to another country can be expensive. You will probably live in a smaller domicile than you reside in now. Most long-term expats sell everything and either rent a furnished apartment or buy what they need once they get there.

6. What cultural, entertainment, and recreational amenities will you have to do without?

If you enjoy American TV shows, theatre, movies, concerts, and sporting events, most of them will not be available in your overseas destination. Of course, every place has its own cultural, entertainment, and recreational amenities, and if you are willing to discover and embrace what’s available in your new home, you’ll be happier.

7. Can you adjust to the differences in shopping and dining options?

If you are accustomed to large shopping malls, grocery stores with a wide selection, big box retailers of all types, and a plethora of restaurants offering a wide variety of world cuisines, your shopping and dining options will be more limited If you retire to a smaller town in a smaller country. On the other hand, the food you buy from marketplace vendors will be fresher and more delicious, and the food in the local restaurants will be wonderfully authentic.

8. How is the pace of life different, and will you enjoy that?

In most other places in the world, the pace of life is slower than in the United States, particularly in larger cities. This may be just what you want, but you may find the more leisurely service you get from waiters, repair people, and government agencies to be frustrating.

9. What is the weather like year-round?

If you have visited your potential destination only during their tourist season, you should experience or at least research what it’s like during their rainy season and how hot and cold it gets throughout the year. Also find out if the area is prone to hurricanes or other undesirable weather phenomena.

10. How stable is the government?

Learn everything you can about the local system of government, the laws, and the country's political history. Consider current events in Brazil and the Philippines, and assess whether conditions exist in your new country for political upheaval and how comfortable you would feel if your new country experiences turmoil.

11. Will you be accepted?

Talk to locals, read local news sources, and search for expat blogs to gain insight into how foreigners and minorities are accepted by the local people outside of the tourist zones. Will your religion, race, or sexual orientation be an issue?

12. How well do you adjust to new surroundings and tolerate loneliness?

Even veteran expats and seasoned world travelers experience culture shock and homesickness. Most people who move overseas question their choice at one point or another. Are you willing to endure these periods of uncertainty until you become better adjusted to your new surroundings?

Try to list everything in your life that will change, including simple day-to-day things.
Try to list everything in your life that will change, including simple day-to-day things.

You and your spouse (if you have one) would do well to make a list of everything in your life that will change when you move to your new country. List what things are most important to you in your day-to-day life, and determine what you will want to move with you, what you can replace in your new home and what you will do without. Think about what you will do to become socialized in your new country.

Most important, give your new location a trial run for a year. Rent a home in your new locale. Don’t sell your house and your possessions until you have experienced your prospective new home during all four seasons and you’re sure you are going to like it.

Have you entertained thoughts of retiring overseas? If so, where?

What are the most important considerations for you?

Please share in the comments (below)!

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Reprinted from my blog on U.S. News - On Retirement.

© 2016 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Beziers Cathedral of Saint Nazaire: Steve Taylor. Some rights reserved.
Lists: Kim Jones. Some rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “12 Questions You Need to Answer Before Retiring Overseas

  1. William DeyErmand

    My grandparents came from France, (De'Armond) so I have checked out living VS visiting there. Visiting won out. All of the above but the first 3 questions are things people should ask even before moving to another State. I believe number 12 is VERY important.

    Reply
    1. Dave Hughes

      I agree. There have been many places that I have visited and been impressed with, and then I researched actually living there. I come to the same conclusion every time - it's better to visit there than to live there.

      Reply

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