Retiring Abroad a Major Life Decision

by | Nov 28, 2016 | *Financial Awakenings, Retirement Planning, Travel and Dining, Weekly Column

central-am-mapThe recent presidential election was the most contentious and polarizing in modern history. In the past it hasn’t been unusual to hear people say, “If _________ is elected I am leaving the country,” but I’ve rarely seen anyone actually act on that threat. I have a hunch that since this election more people than ever will seriously consider the option of leaving the US. In fact, according to InternationalLiving.com, there was a 160% surge in searches for terms like “move overseas” and “expats overseas” the day after the election. Canada’s immigration website reportedly crashed on election night.

This new impetus to leave the US aside, the trend to retire overseas was already underway. The Social Security Administration already sends over 660,000 checks to US citizens living outside our borders. Retirees are looking to foreign locales for lower cost of living, especially more affordable health care, and warmer weather.

If living abroad appeals to you, the editors at International Living recommend five retirement havens that you may want to seriously consider.

Mexico is a great place to live when it comes to stretching your dollar, as the exchange rate today is 20.07 pesos to $1. Combine that with already low costs for real estate, food, restaurants, entertainment, and transportation, and a retired couple has the spending power to live very well on around $1,800 a month. Many expats choose to live in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands. Three popular towns in the region are San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro, and Guanajuato.

Costa Rica offers a choice of climates from beaches to rain forests to cool mountains. It also provides a low cost of living, excellent healthcare, modern telecommunications, arts, and fine dining. More than 50,000 expats already live here in a variety of established expat communities.

Panama offers a comfortable lifestyle, in part because the nation is much more modern and developed than most visitors expect. In Panama City, all of the amenities of a world-class city are readily available. Yet expats can still find haircuts or taxi rides for only a couple of dollars, and dinner and a bottle of wine for two at one of the finest restaurants in Panama City is only about $40.

Belize offers some big advantages—affordable living, economic stability, a strong retiree program, and a wonderful climate if you like the tropics. Fans of fishing, sailing, swimming, and snorkeling will appreciate its beautiful beaches and coastline. Moreover, it is an English-speaking country. For expats who are ready to move abroad but are daunted by the idea of learning a new language, Belize could be the ideal place.

In considering retirement destinations, Peru probably isn’t the first county to come to mind. We associate it mostly with llamas, mountains, and the amazing Machu Picchu. But after a recent visit, InternationalLiving.com editor Jason Holland described it as “one of the world’s best kept secrets.” He wrote: “Food is cheap—and very tasty. Rents are affordable even for those on super-low budgets—$200 to $400 gets you a nice place in a great neighborhood. The climate is comfortable…the people friendly…there are modern services…and the vibrant mix of music, festivals, indigenous culture, and colonial history is evident everywhere you turn.”

Before you decide to move outside of the US, do thorough research. Find out about tax laws and residency requirements in both the US and your possible destinations. Live in your chosen country for a several-month trial period. Most important, consider carefully the emotional and practical ramifications of moving away from family and your familiar surroundings. Retiring abroad may be the right choice for you, but it is not a decision to make lightly.

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