Retire Overseas In Two Easy Steps

March 29, 2011, Panama City, Panama: The first step to identifying the best place for you to think about living or retiring overseas is to get to know yourself. The second step is to take out a map.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Here's how to retire overseas:

Step #1: Get To Know Yourself

There are a dozen good reasons, at least, to think about living or retiring overseas. Your challenge is to make sure you're moving for your reasons. Be honest with yourself...and with your significant other. What's most important? Cost of living? The weather? Accessibility to your home country so you can visit your grandkids on holidays? A reliable Internet connection so you can manage your stock portfolio? Health care (if you have an ongoing health concern)? The local school system (if you're moving with children)? The language (are you willing to learn a new one?).

What are you looking for? And, critically, what are you willing to give up or to live without?

Here are 12 factors to take into account as you work through the process of shopping for a new country to call home. I list these things in no particular order and leave it to you to prioritize according to your preferences and interests:

  • Cost of Living
  • Cost of Real Estate
  • Health Care
  • Infrastructure
  • Accessibility To Your Home Country
  • Language
  • Taxes
  • Safety
  • Special Benefits (or lack thereof) For Foreign Residents
  • Education And Schools (if you're moving with children)
  • Climate
  • Culture, Recreation, And Entertainment

Step #2: Take Out A Map

Once you've taken inventory of your priorities and agendas, you're ready to consider the geographic possibilities.

There are about 200 countries in the world. Some are cheap...many are beautiful...some have sandy coastlines...others boast interesting histories...

But not all of them are places you'd want to live. Here, then, are 20 countries worth considering right now:

  • Argentina
  • Belize
  • Chile
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • India
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Uruguay
  • Vietnam

The trick is to connect the dots.

Good health care...affordable cost of living...lots of sunshine...favorable tax legislation for foreign residents...leads you...where?

I can't consider all 20 of the countries on our shortlist of The World's Top Retirement Havens in detail here (we'll do that for you over time...keep reading). However, I can offer some Cliff Notes, to help prompt your thinking.

For example:

*** World's Cheapest Retirement Havens

India is by far the cheapest place in the world to think about retiring right now. Intrepid Correspondent Paul Terhorst reports that a couple could live in this country for as little as US$735 per month, including rent. (We recommend against buying a home in this country, at least for now, because of political and legal problems related to getting and keeping clean title).

However, we realize that India is not everyone's idea of an ideal retirement haven.

Our second choice for the world's cheapest place to retire right now? Ecuador. You could live in this beautiful, safe country on as little a $660 per month if you own your own home or on as little as US$1,240 if you rent.

Next most affordable is Thailand, where you could retire on a budget of as little as US$765 per month if you invest in a condo or apartment...or on a budget of US$1,055 per month if you rent.

Also temptingly affordable right now (as well as beautiful and, yes, safe) is Nicaragua. Live well in the second-oldest city in the Americas, Leon, a beautiful, historic city within 20 minutes of the beach, on as little as US$954 per month if you invest in one of the city's grand old colonial haciendas for yourself...or on as little as US$1,300 per month if you rent.

Another highly affordable option is Uruguay, where you could live comfortably on US$1,038 per month if you purchase a home, on US$1,555 if you choose instead to rent one.

Plus: France. Yes, France. Not Paris...and not Provence. But in the southwest of the country, north of Spain. This region serves up the best of French country life...and is far more affordable a place to live than you might ever imagine. Take a look.

*** Luxury Living on a Budget

You aren't going to live a "luxury" lifestyle in Belize, no matter how much money you have. Belize isn't the place to go for fine dining, great shopping, or haute-couture.

In other words, luxe living has as much to do with opportunity as it does with income. Where could you enjoy the good things in life on a budget of, say, US$2,500 to US$3,000 per month?

  • Buenos Aires
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Panama City
  • Paris

I'll qualify my Paris pick a little. First, I'm assuming you're not paying rent (or a mortgage). That is, you own an apartment. In that case, take my word for it: Living in Paris is as luxe as it gets...and can be more affordable than you might imagine. A couple could have a hard time spending US$3,000 per month in this city (again, assuming no rent). Many of Paris' finest offerings come gratis, or nearly so, and transportation, too, is almost free (1.20 euro to get from one end of the city to the other on the Metro).

Telephone, cable, and Internet are a bargain. And, outside the tourist zones, everyday things (haircuts, groceries) can be very affordable.

*** Kid-friendly

If you're moving with children, you're looking at city, probably capital city living. That's where you'll find the international schools you need. Right now, consider:

  • Montevideo
  • Paris
  • Panama City
  • Wellington

*** Entrepreneurs Welcome

Don't move to France to start a business. Instead, consider:

  • Panama
  • Malaysia

*** Best Health Care

If health care is an important consideration for you, you'll want to choose a big city, probably a capital city. Consider:

  • Paris, France (probably the best medical care in the world)
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Panama City, Panama

*** Eternal Spring

Don't like it too hot...or too cold? Here are three places where the weather is just right, all year-round:

  • Medellin, Colombia
  • Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Boquete, Panama

*** They Speak English

Don't want to learn a new language? Consider:

  • Belize
  • New Zealand

*** You're Connected

Can't get through a day without high-speed Internet? Your best bets are:

  • Paris, France
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Panama City, Panama

*** Part-time Paradise

Don't want to leave the kids, the grandkids, or your old life behind entirely? Think about seasonal living in:

  • Argentina
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Chile
  • New Zealand
  • Uruguay

*** Quick Escape

Want to know you could return anytime to the States or Canada, quick and easy? Choose:

  • Belize
  • Mexico (you could even drive back and forth)
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama

*** Super Tax-friendly

Keen to mitigate your tax burden by moving abroad? Choose a country that taxes you only on the money you earn or remit locally:

  • Belize
  • Malaysia
  • Panama
  • Uruguay

Kathleen Peddicord

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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