EFAM | Escape From America Magazine

How to Retire Abroad – 7 Key Considerations

7 key criteria to help you make the move comfortably and securely

Making the decision to retire overseas is one thing; actually putting the practical steps in place to facilitate your relocation is quite another.  Today we’re going to focus on a practical action plan to turn your dream of moving abroad to live in retirement into reality.

We’re going to take it as read that you’re certain about the decision to go – however, if you do require some guidance and advice relating to whether the decision to emigrate is right for you, we have many resources to help you elsewhere on EscapeArtist.com.

An increasing number of global citizens are making the decision to become internationally mobile in retirement, because they’re aware that they can access a better quality of more affordable life abroad for example.

The Internet has certainly assisted many retirees with their plans because it allows everyone access to information, advice, opinions and even the personal experiences of those who have made the move to a given nation already.  However, what the Internet cannot do is give you a personal feeling of what life will be like abroad for you.

As a result, it’s imperative that you spend some time in your chosen retirement destination getting to know it up close and personal before you up sticks and relocate there permanently.  Additionally, in order to be able to retire abroad you need to actively consider the following 7 key criteria in order to be able to make the move comfortably and securely.

  • 1 – Where Will You Live? – Having decided upon a chosen nation it will be very important to give consideration to where within that nation you plan to set up home.  You are likely to be able to make this choice a more informed one if you heed the above advice and actually spend some time getting to know your chosen retirement destination ahead of your ultimate relocation.

    If you look at where you’re living currently in relation to other areas, towns and cities in your current nation you will be able to see why it is important for you to actively consider where you set up home abroad…

    In your current nation there are likely to be highly expensive and unaffordable neighbourhoods, areas riddled with crime and poverty, industrialised sectors and some places too rural to possibly call home.  In other words, those who are happiest have planned where they are living, with the planning based on what constituted a good environment for the individual at the time.  You therefore need to spend time looking at your chosen retirement destination in order to find out where you could and where you would feel most at home.

    Consideration should be given to aspects such as crime, the local economy, locally available amenities and facilities, whether there is an expatriate community, (which is desirable for some but not all relocating retirees), affordability, the quality of real estate, and even the local microclimate.

    In order to be able to set up a new home abroad you need to ensure you get your location right.

    • 2 – What Will You Live On? – Many retirees are fortunate in that they can live on income from investments and plans such as a 401k, however even those who have worked hard to ensure they have a strong retirement income need to be sure that their money will go far enough abroad to allow them the quality of life they dream of in retirement.

      Consideration has to be given to the cost of living locally, incorporating housing costs as well as day-to-day grocery costs – with taxation another important factor to include.  All too often would-be expatriates return from a holiday overseas having spent far less than they thought in the local bars and restaurants, and this gives them the false sense that it will be very cheap for them to live permanently in this nation.

      However, as we all know, it’s the likes of taxation, utility bills, fuel and insurances that ratchet up the cost of living – and this is also true for all countries globally.  Do careful research to assess how much you will need to live on, and then ensure that your retirement income will be strong enough for you to afford to live abroad.

      • 3 – How Will You Make Friends? – John Donne wrote “no man is an island entire of itself” and we should never forget this.  However, in the excitement that builds surrounding a relocation overseas, it seems inevitable that all too often one can forget the friends that are being left behind, and the incredibly central and important role they play in our lives.

        Perhaps we only realize how much we value our friends when we’re alone – and any would-be expatriate who fails to consider how they will create new friendships in their new environment will suffer the double pain of having left old friends behind and having no known way of filling that void now that they’re retired in a strange land abroad.

        Are you contemplating retiring to a nation where other expatriates have already made a home?  Or are you planning on being a pioneer?  Perhaps you have no desire to make friends with fellow compatriots currently – or you’re convinced the locals will love you.  Whatever thoughts you have about connecting with new friends abroad, you should spend time and effort looking at your real options for making friends when you move overseas.  The sooner you establish friendships the sooner you will be able to enjoy life more.

        Without friendships you risk feeling lonely and isolated – so please don’t overlook the importance of this consideration.

        • 4 – How Will You Integrate? – As you make friends so you may find integration easier, particularly if those friendships are forged with central figures in your local community.  However, language, culture, history and religion also play a part when it comes to integration.

          How much research have you done into your new nation and its people in a bid to understand them?  You will not be in a position to change the majority, so you need to ensure you can fit in with the majority when you emigrate.  In order to do so it may be a requirement for you to learn a new language, observe new codes of conduct, laws, morals or just national holidays and traditions.

          Others who retire abroad are determined that integration will not be a requirement as they will remain in an expat enclave – yet there is great risk associated with having such an attitude.  Whilst it may require less effort to live amongst one’s own, it limits your opportunities for enjoying your new life abroad and your new nation at best.  At worst it could mean you run the risk of isolation which could result in you finding life very difficult if ever you do have to step outside your small community for medical, legal or just social assistance for example.

            The good news is that in many nations both health insurance and treatment are cheaper than in America for example – but the bad news is that affording to look after your health may eat into the amount of money you have to live on each month.

            Another consideration to bear in mind is that medical facilities may not be superior or even adequate in your new nation, medical professionals may not speak English, and if you become long-term sick you may find it wholly unaffordable to remain living abroad.

            Very serious research, consideration and planning has to go into this aspect of your relocation in retirement to ensure you can afford to remain healthy and resident overseas.  You may find you wish to retain access to Medicare with regular payments, you may decide to take out an international insurance policy, you may decide to keep money in the bank for a healthcare emergency.  You do have positive options, but you need to weigh up everything before you can make the right decision.

            • 6 – How Will You Stay In Touch? – As mentioned above, in the haste to embrace the exciting decision to retire abroad, old friends can be temporarily forgotten about.  It quickly becomes apparent how much these friendships are worth however, when one begins the slow and sometimes difficult process of full integration abroad.  It’s at this point that re-establishing contact becomes critical.

              However, if you’re still in the planning stages of emigration you can plan for how you will keep in touch with friends and family before you actually move…and this is much more advantageous for all parties concerned.

              You can fix dates when friends and family can visit you, when you might return to reconnect with them, or when you can perhaps all meet up at a third destination that’s geographically in the middle of your old and new home locations.

              You can ensure you have a spare room or the space to accommodate visitors when looking for a new home abroad – and you can keep an open invitation out there to welcome all your old friends and your close family to your new home.

              Additional factors you might like to think about are affordability – and ensuring you set aside money and save cash funds so that regular visits can be maintained.  You might also like to consider inviting and sponsoring your close family to join you abroad once you’ve made the move and settled into your new life?

              Finally, with the likes of VOIP (voice over internet protocol) and solutions such as SKYPE it’s very easy to hook up and chat to friends and family no matter where in the world you all are.  Instant messaging and email allow you to keep in touch in written form too – and cell phones of course enable us to keep in touch on the move.

              • 7 – How Will You Get the Most from Your New Life Overseas? – Your reasons for wanting to retire abroad will be personal to you – however, they may relate to affordability, climate or quality of life for example…and seldom does one move abroad purely for one reason alone.  As complex as your reasons for wanting to retire abroad are, you need to remember that you’re embarking upon an adventure.

                You have the opportunity to travel, explore, broaden your horizons and experiences just from the very fact that you’re setting up home in a new nation.  So, think about how you can get the most out of your relocation – plan to travel, learn the local language, visit heritage and historical sites as well as the beaches and mountains.  Research the rich opportunities that will present themselves to you when you become resident abroad in retirement.  In so doing you will ensure you never tire of your decision to relocate, and you will continue to feel the excitement you’re currently feeling towards your impending move.

                Some expatriates fall into the trap of disappointment with their new nation – this often comes about because they are so thrilled to be relocating that the reality of their new life can never quite live up to their huge expectations!  Day to day aspects of life remain the same, with bills to pay and red tape to navigate – this can come as a crushing blow to expats who hope that everything will change when they move.

                Be prepared for your new life to challenge you on many levels – but at the same time, work out how you will get the very most out of it so that you can cope with the boring minutiae of everyday life and contrast it with the highs of embracing the very best opportunities available in your new nation.

                About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com.  She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005.  She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home. [ send her an email ]

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                5 Comments

                1. Sam July 15, 2011 at 12:47 am

                  Since when does “staying healthy” have much to do with medical care? We Americans are probably the stupidest and most hysterical nation on earth when the topic is health. We eat like pigs, we eat junk food, we eat tons of sugar, we eat fast food, and expect to be “healthy.” There are dozens of superb sites on the web that teach you how to live in a way that prolongs the normal state of health. It has zero to do with “health care.” Health care is for people who have failed to live according to good sense and good information, with the exception of unfortunates who are the victims of accidents or genetic anomalies. There is absolutely no reason–apart from a genetic anomaly–to be a victim of any of the maladies that kill most people in our modern cultures: the metabolic syndrome of hypertension, fatty liver, diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, strokes, kidney disease. And cancer. These diseases are almost unknown or simply unknown in human populations who have not been the victims of the modern Western diet. Add to that the idiotic, deeply narcissistic consumerist mentality, the “entitled” mentality that has to live high on the hog or they feel miserable, and so on, and on, and you have the recipe for mental illness and stress. Add to that, dysfunctional families because the parents are too damn selfish to dedicate the proper time, energy and intelligence to properly raise children–more problems. Add to that, indifference to one’s elderly parents, left to fend for themselves. And so it goes. All of it disease-causing. None of it solvable with “health care.”

                  • Richard Paddle November 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

                    Nicely said Sam!

                2. wayne batte July 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

                  I am planning on the Philippines
                  A wonderful culture with good organic foods
                  Good help for your home and lower prices all around
                  About a 25 per cost of living compared with Canada

                3. Susan Klopfer June 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm

                  Good list!! We are retiring to Cuenca, Ecuador and plan to take Spanish lessons ASAP. It’s also important to work at contributing to the culture, with R E S P E C T.

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