Road to Retirement Overseas – One man´s odyssey
I’m a US baby boomer. By creativity and serendipity I was fortunate enough to escape the rat race in my 40’s. I traveled the world extensively in my 20s and 30s and have been to over 40 countries. This vastly broadened my perspective on how I see the world. My modus operendi was to see as much as I could with the time and money I had. Now that I have a bit more time and money to spare I have slowed things down and have the luxury of smelling the roses so to speak.
My goal was to find the perfect place to set down roots. I knew I wanted someplace overseas. The US has advantages but there are a lot of disadvantages also. I wanted someplace fresh and new. I lived in the US my whole life and had the ‘been there done that syndrome’. I wanted to do, what a lot of people call “retire”. I’m not sure what that means really. I have visions of old people sitting in rocking chairs staring into space. I don’t think anyone wants to do that unless they must, being constrained by illness. I have talked to a lot of people that retire from jobs thinking that having a lot of spare time will be great. They soon find out that they are bored and go looking for something constructive to fill their day.
The place I was looking for had pretty lofty criteria to fill.
It needed to have:
A mild climate
It needed to be safe, mafia and gang free
The cost of living must be low
It must have good healthcare readily available
It had to have good infrastructure like roads and electrical grid
Modern conveniences like internet, cable TV and cell phone service were crucial
Recreation and entertainment needed to be close by
The government needed to be relatively stable
The general area needed to be away from potential military flashpoints
The society needed to free of religious and political extremists
The language and cultural barrier needed to be reasonable
It needed to have potential social and economic opportunities
It needed to have favorable residency and dual citizenship programs
I did several years of due diligence searching for a short list of places to do a recon mission and scout out my new home. In the information age with the internet it was amazing how many places I could check off the list without doing much research. There is vast number of first hand information resources on blogs, websites, eBooks and various other places on the internet.
What I found mostly was that all the convenient popular good spots were already discovered and ruined. Things like overdevelopment, crime, skyrocketed real estate and high cost of living ruled out places like Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. The rest of Central America appears to be infested with gangs or scary governments. Resentment by locals has become a problem in some areas because the influx of gringos has driven up prices making it hard for locals to get by. The infrastructure in these countries turned me off also as well.
Ecuador seems the be the darling of the moment but recent radical left wing political developments have given me reasons for concern. I think it will get worse before it gets better in Ecuador. Columbia has come along way from the 80’s cocaine wars. Foreigners are beginning to come back but it still has problems to work out before Columbia would be attractive to me.
I have traveled Asia extensively and like it, but it has too many drawbacks. The language and cultural barrier is a problem. Australia and New Zealand are too expensive and the residency requirements are restrictive. Europe is not an option because of the weak dollar. Africa is underdeveloped, dangerous and unstable. The former Soviet Union is expensive and dangerous. I even considered places like Samoa. I think I would get island fever and bored quickly.
After all the research that I did I narrowed it down to 3 countries, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. All of these countries passed my criteria test. It was time to do actually put the shoe leather express in motion. Chile was first on my list. I went into Santiago and found a modern clean city. I knew I didn’t want to live in an urban environment. I had visions of a nice bit of acreage on the outskirts of a small to medium sized town. I rented a car and set out to see Chile and found the Pacific coast as nice as California where I lived for 15 years. The people were friendly and I quickly determined this was no third world backwater.
I did my couple of weeks hitting the high spots on my itinerary and crossed over into Argentina. This was a stunning trip as I crossed the mountains near the highest point in the Andes Mountains. Mt Aconcagua is over 22,000 ft. After the beautiful drive up the Chile side I went down the Argentina side that was even more impressive. The first major city I hit was Mendoza. This is world class city of about a million inhabitants. I was immediately struck by how clean it was. It’s very European with its sidewalk cafes and tree lined streets. This is the Argentine wine country and the prosperity was evident.
I spent the next couple of weeks traveling Argentina from its tropical north to Ushuaia that is known as the southern most city in the world. The part I liked best was the wine country of Mendoza province. The prices for virtually everything went down about a third in Argentina compared to Chile. I really liked Chile but it seemed to me that Argentina was very similar but far less expensive.
I eventually made my way to Buenos Aires and took in the sites. It is a great bustling metropolis rivaling the capitals of Europe. I had some of the best steak I’ve ever eaten and it was unbelievably cheap. This was really just a stopping off point for my examination of Uruguay as I had no intention of living in Buenos Aires but wanted to see it just the same. Uruguay for me seemed to be a really off the wall type of destination as I knew little about it. My research turned up some positives so I decided to check it out because it was close to where I knew I would eventually end up.
I took the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay across the Rio Plata River. The mouth of the river is about 10 miles wide. When I set foot in Uruguay there was a noticeably different vibe. The hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires changed into a tranquil sophistication. Colonia is a UNESCO world heritage site and walking around was enchanting. I liked Uruguay from the get go. Uruguay is a small country and pretty much any place is a day trip away. I decided to blow through Montevideo on my way up the Atlantic coast. It was like Buenos Aires but with a noticeable softer edge to it. I traveled up to Punte Del Este that is touted in all the travel sites for Uruguay. It didn’t disappoint. It was one of the first tourist towns I actually liked and I’ve been to a lot of them. I didn’t check out the interior of Uruguay as I was told that once you see the coast you wouldn’t want to go back to the interior.
I was shocked that in Uruguay cars are absurdly expensive as well as $7 a gallon fuel. There were a few tax issues that concerned me also.
I settled back and crunched all I had seen and done over the month of my 3 country recon mission and decided to go back to the Argentine wine country. It fulfilled every category on my checklist. I found a town in the Mendoza Province and rented a month to month apartment to really see if this was THE place. I was pleasantly surprised. I found that:
The kids don’t do drugs because its ‘uncool’
The weather is some of the best in the world, average 340 days of sun a year
Cost of living is extremely low:
Nice table wine 80 cents a liter
Porterhouse steak $1.75 lb
Bread 30 cents a loaf
Utilities electric, gas, water cheap
Real estate very cheap, property taxes almost nothing
Emergency Room visit $25
Internet, Direct TV, cell service cheap
No religious extremist
Away from military flashpoints
Committed democracy, smooth elections
European style culture
Easy straight forward residency program
Of all the places I’ve traveled I found that Argentina is the best place in the world to retire. It has so many things going for it. I am almost reluctant to have this article published for fear that Argentina be ruined like other ‘gringoized’ countries. The fact is that Argentina is vast compared to the Central American countries. A large influx of foreigners won’t have the same impact. Argentines know that foreign capital is vital to their economy. That is why the dollar is so strong here and they encourage immigration.
Looking for property in Mendoza, Argentina? There is no better place to start than looking on the real estate in Argentina section of EscapeArtist.com.
Here are two that we particularly like and are well suited to a comfortable retirement lifestyle.
Three Houses on Three Acres – Farmhouse, Retirement Cottage and a Guest Cabin. – A retirement location with potential rental income