Retiring Abroad Part 2: Serious Consideration

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico by Luz Y Oscuro

If you've done some initial investigating , and did not immediately say “That's crazy! No way would I move overseas for retirement!”, if it appealed to you at all, then you may want to move on to more serious consideration of the idea. This entails honest self analysis. Moving to another country should not be taken lightly!

So ask yourself these questions and be honest in your answers without judging or dismissing them...after all it's just you thinking thoughts at this point.

Why do I want to consider a move abroad? What is my motivation? What are the possible benefits?

There are as many reasons people consider an international move as there are people doing the considering, but these are some common ones.
  • Financial aspects: Quite simply, many retirees and near retirees find too many sacrifices are needed to live on their budget at home, and there are many places in the world where one can get more for their money. We discussed affording retirement here.

  • Quality of life: Less stress, more leisure time, and more opportunities to be active and involved are very appealing, as most people want to actually enjoy their retirement

  • Adventure and Learning: Moving to another country with a different culture will absolutely include many new and educational experiences

Am I flexible and adaptable in general or is very difficult for me to accept change?

Some people are able to abandon the old and embrace the new seemingly without effort or doubt. Some have little to lose and everything to gain, so when faced with even huge change, the choice is clear. Others need more time to say goodbye to their previous lives and adjust to their new ones, but manage to do so without undue stress. And some find it very difficult to let go of the familiar and adapt to new surroundings or ways of doing things. It's all, again, very individual.

How do you feel about moving far away from friends and family? Is international travel for visits going to be enough time with them? How do you feel about communicating with people with a different native language, or even having to rely on translators for various transactions and functions (e.g. filling out forms)? Will you try to learn the local language, or stay close to ex-pat communities where people know and speak English? How about cultural differences, do you find them interesting to explore or bewildering? How do you approach new experiences like unfamiliar food? Can you live with lower incidence of modern amenities and less stable infrastructure?

The idea of retiring abroad is to improve your life. Stress, regret, and even depression do not further this goal at all.

What are the significant risks/areas of concern

For retirees especially, inaccessibility to adequate health care should definitely be included in this answer. Health care costs and the quality of facilities vary greatly. This should be a major topic of intense research.

Some countries offer universal health care and some do not. Some allow non-citizens to participate in the universal system. Some do not.
Also, in some countries, the standard of health care is not as high as it is in other countries. This deficiency in the standard of care could apply in general, or it could apply to localized areas of the population. For example, in some countries there is a large discrepancy between good and bad hospitals. If you have the money, often care is of a very high standard. The opposite is also true, unfortunately.

Although healthy individuals may feel fine paying cash when they see that a doctors visit is $25 or a hospital stay $30 a day, you should still look into a safety net for major illnesses, because good health now does not mean you won't get sick later. You also may want to research coverage for emergency evacuations and air transport to your home country in the case of a catastrophic injury or illness. There are International health insurance companies as well as local insurers who work with familiar multinational corporations, so knowing all of your options will help you make an informed decision.

Lack of general safety from crime is another risk that should be explored. While the news stories we hear about violent crime in other countries are often exaggerated or misleading, there are definitely places where the safety of travelers and ex-pats is a serious concern. Ex-Pat forums and blogs are good a resource to learn from people who are there, “on the ground”, and the US State Department offers quite a lot of country specific information. It should be noted that the US is considered very violent and unsafe to many people in the world, so consider the source and limited perspectives when looking at advisories and crime statistics.

Additionally, you might want to know about the working relationship between your home country and the new country you plan to live in. What, if anything, would your country of citizenship do to help ex-pats and travelers in an emergency such as natural disaster or war? Is there an embassy? What are the repatriation regulations? Can you get legal help if needed?

Below are some perspectives about the crime in Mexico as it relates to PuertoVallarta, home to about 50,000 ex-pats. There are similar stories about another favorite for Canadian and American retirees, Merida. Some are writing off the whole, beautiful, close, inexpensive country as unsafe, when in fact most areas are as safe as similarly sized cities in the US.

As when you are considering any major, life changing event, make a list of pros and cons, gather the best information you can, and explore your own motivations before making the leap. You may not want to stall out on this step, however. The more retirees that move to a country, the higher the prices there tend to go. What was a very low cost country to retire in a decade ago is now not affordable to many people.

Here is a small sample of books available on Amazon:

This is not a paid endorsement of any service or site mentioned. Your Office People has not received anything of value in exchange for this post. The Amazon link, however, will result in a commission to us if you click on it and make a purchase.


Retiring Abroad Part 1: Initial Investigation

Galapagos Islands Sunset by Fran Hogan
One increasingly popular way to stretch limited retirement funds is moving to a country with a lower cost of living. Enter "Overseas Retirement" or similar into your favorite search engine and you will find numerous articles, websites, books, forums, and blogs. From MSN Money to AARP Magazine to USNews Money to The Huffington Post and more, mainstream sources run frequent articles on the best places to retire on a budget, and things to take into consideration when contemplating a move abroad.

You may notice seeing the same names cited repeatedly. To help you go straight to these sources, two of the best known, and most prolific,  are:
These and other similar resources offer worthwhile free information via email and  their sites, and often give away special reports for subscribing to their newsletters, Following them on Twitter, or Liking them on Facebook. The freebies usually encourage readers to purchase subscriptions, more in depth reports, or to sign up for live seminars and even tours of different countries. Initially, use the free information to get an idea of where and how expat retirees are living and which countries appeal to you, and then you can decide if you want to invest more. Also you can wait for the extra special offers you will periodically receive for full subscriptions.

These types of businesses have been criticized by some for misleading people about the costs and lifestyles abroad, and of sugar coating the challenges. As with any important, life altering decision making, thoroughly investigate from as many angles as possible.

A good way to get real information, good and bad, is to hear it from actual expats living in the country or city that has piqued your interest. There are a multitude of blogs, expat forums, books, and thanks to self publishing on Kindle, low cost eBooks available.
Most blogs and many forums are country or city specific, so simply search for "Retire in City/Country blog/forum"

Search Term Tip: There are expat communities focused on International dating and nightlife and other adult oriented experiences. If you are not interested in these aspects, be sure to include words such as retire, retiring, or family in any searches 

During this exploratory phase:
  • Decide not to decide yet: You are just seeing what's out there and exploring your own interests. 
  • Take any claims such as "Live in luxury for 600 a month" for what they are, enticements to get you to buy something.
  • Read information from those "on the ground" to see if their lifestyle abroad is one you might enjoy. Just because some place is very inexpensive, or highly recommended by others, doesn't mean you will like living there!
  • Use the free services such as mainstream publications, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, The US State Department, and free email newsletters to familiarize yourself with the options.

Here is a small sample of books available on Amazon:

This is not a paid endorsement of any service or site mentioned. Your Office People has not received anything of value in exchange for this post. The Amazon link, however, will result in a commission to us if you click on it and make a purchase.


Affording Retirement

If you are anxious about financing your retirement, you are not alone as can be seen by the many news stories, reports, blog articles, and campaign talking points related to the topic.

A fortunate few are in great shape to retire when they want and how they want. Some at or near retirement age may only need to delay retirement a few years, make minor spending adjustments, or modify some plans a bit to make retirement comfortable. Unfortunately, many others are crunching the numbers and finding an untenable budget due to the decrement of their investments, equity, and/or savings by the economy, being forced to use their savings for living expenses because of a layoff, having to cover rising medical costs, and/or supporting aging parents and adult children.

We are not focusing on these causes of financial hardship. There is quite a lot of excellent information available, and, if you are experiencing it, you know your own circumstances better than anyone. Also, we are not financial advisers, and you are urged to seek the services of a professional to help you analyze your unique situation and identify viable options if you feel it is needed,. We are happy to help you with location and vetting of qualified professionals if you choose this route.

What we will be sharing is some of the information we've collected for clients considering more extreme solutions to the retirement budget problem.

If you would like to see what we've come up with, please read our series over the next few weeks starting with Retiring Abroad.

photo credit: kenteegardin via photo pin cc


My Other Backyard is a State Park

Malibu Creek State Park, CA Susánica Tam

My family frequents our nearby state park for the lovely picnic grounds with lake swimming area, informative and fun nature center, and miles of multi-use trails including paved bike paths. As the roads in our neighborhodd are not safe for newly bicycling children, the latter has been especially welcome. On a recent visit we got a bumper sticker that said “My Other Backyard is a State Park” and that was so apt for us! Our recent vacation to Florida was almost entirely planned through the Florida State Park website, which has the best campsite reservation system I have found through an excellent resource Reserve America.

Many Americans have a State Park in their own backyard, and with tight vacation budgets, staycations are becoming more popular and even necessary. Exploring close to home can be rewarding, educational, and save a ton of money! Additionally with states looking to cut services and spending, their parks are often on the chopping block, so you can help support them by paying the usually small day use fees, or camping fees. 

Even if you choose to travel out of your own backyard, America’s State Parks offer low cost accomodations-camping, cabins, cottages, and even hotels- and either free or very low cost activities such as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, swimming, bicycling, museums and historical sites, and ranger led educational programs.There really is something for everyone.

We have added Pins for each State’s Parks system to our Pinterest board This Land is Your Land and, as always, please contact us for personalized assistance with planning your vacation.

Further Reading and Resources

Links and apps!

This is not a paid endorsement of any State Park or of the America's State Parks site. Your Office People has not received anything of value in exchange for this post. The Amazon link, however, will result in a commission to us if you click on it and make a purchase.