Here in Panama, where we've been living now for more than six years, as in Ireland and in Paris, we've put down roots. We have friends, our son is in school, and we're building a house on the beach at Los Islotes that is part of our long-term plan. We're in Panama for the long haul...but we'll never be Panamanian. No...we're American, from our accents to our Levi's. And in less obvious ways, too. When I sit down in a business meeting anywhere in the world, I'm the American at the table. I could be negotiating the cost of an apartment for sale in Buenos Aires, Argentina...considering a new business idea in Panama City, Panama...meeting with a new writer in Paris, France...or discussing residency visa options with an attorney in Medellin, Colombia. On the other end of the conversation is an Argentine, a Panamanian, a Frenchman, a Colombian...what have you. I'm the American. And to the table I bring the American perspective. The longer I'm outside the States, the greater has grown my appreciation for what a unique thing that is. The rest of the world doesn't think like we Americans think. That's neither good nor bad. It just is. And it creates an opportunity. I have the chance, every time I engage with some non-American anywhere in the world, to learn from his non-American ways...and to put my American ways to good use. We Americans are the world's optimists. We believe in ourselves and in our collective ability to figure things out...to make things better...to make things work. We're dreamers...and wanderers. We value hard work, we like efficiency, and we pride ourselves on our willingness to act on opportunity when we perceive one. What's over the next hill? Let's go find out. What could we do tomorrow that we didn't do today? Let's get up early in the morning and figure that out. How can we make this thing, this idea, this effort better? Let's roll up our sleeves and see where a little elbow grease leads us... Those are American sentiments. Wherever we travel in the world, whoever we encounter, personally or in business, these are the attitudes that we bring to the table. So, yes, living overseas I feel more American than ever. In a good way. Kathleen Peddicord
In Asia, Malaysia offers its version of a pensionado program, called Malaysia My Second Home. In this part of the world, Thailand is the other country that offers a formal retiree residency option. Note that, while permanent legal residency can have its benefits, especially if you establish it as a pensionado, you could avoid the whole residency visa question by retiring overseas not full time but only part of the year. Enjoy summers back home with the kids and grandkids...and winters somewhere tropical, returning "home" before your tourist visa runs out. Or retire overseas not to one destination but several, moving around among them and never remaining in any one place longer, again, than your tourist status allows. If, though, you're interested in full-time retirement somewhere beautiful, affordable, welcoming, and adventure-filled, here are seven countries where full-time retiree residency is not only possible but easy and, in some cases, full of perks. Belize Minimum monthly income requirement: US$2,000 Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$750 Minimum age to qualify: 45 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: Yes, but you pay 12.5% sales tax Minimum time required in the country every year: 30 days Special discounts: No Colombia Minimum monthly income requirement: Three times the monthly minimum wage; currently US$1,035 Additional income requirement for each dependent: None Minimum age to qualify: 18 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: No Minimum time required in the country every year: Must visit at least every six months Special discounts: No Ecuador Minimum monthly income requirement: US$800 Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$100 Minimum age to qualify: 18 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: Vehicle tax is discounted Minimum time required in the country every year: Can't leave for more than 90 days in each of the first two years of pensionado residency, after which you can't leave for more than 18 continuous months Special discounts: Yes Malaysia Minimum monthly income requirement: 10,000 ringgits (currently US$3,125) plus other minimum investment in a local CD Additional income requirement for each dependent: None for unmarried children under 21 Minimum age to qualify: Over-50s have lower investment requirement Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: Yes Minimum time required in the country every year: None Special discounts: No Nicaragua Minimum monthly income requirement: US$600 Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$150 Minimum age to qualify: 45 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: Up to US$20,000; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: Yes (value up to US$25,000; if you sell the vehicle after five years, you pay no sales tax) Minimum time required in the country every year: Six months Special discounts: Yes Panama Minimum monthly income requirement: US$1,000 Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$250 Minimum age to qualify: 18 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: Yes, but you still pay 7% sales tax Minimum time required in the country every year: Must make at least one visit every two years Special discounts: Yes Philippines Minimum monthly income requirement: US$800 plus a deposit or investment of US$10,000 or more, depending on age, pension status, and number of dependents Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$200 Minimum age to qualify: 50 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only Can you import a car duty-free: No Minimum time required in the country every year: No requirement Special discounts: No Thailand Minimum monthly income requirement: 65,000 Thai baht (currently US$2,100) Additional income requirement for each dependent: None Minimum age to qualify: 50 Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: None Can you import a car duty-free: No Minimum time required in the country every year: No requirement Special discounts: No Kathleen Peddicord Editor's Note: Yesterday was the deadline for purchasing the complete set of audio recordings from this year's Retire Overseas Conference at the pre-release discount, saving you more than 65%. This is the most comprehensive and complete retire-overseas resource that we'll produce this year. I'd like to make sure that you are able to purchase at the discounted price. Therefore, I'm making the executive decision to extend the deadline for the pre-release price by an additional 24 hours. You have one more chance, right now, to purchase your collection of the nearly 60 recordings from last week's live event. Do that here now. As of tomorrow, this all-inclusive bundle of resources will be available at full price only.
"My wife Julie and I were ready for a big change,” Lee continues. “We wanted an adventure, to take ourselves as far outside our comfort zones as possible. So, when this chance came along to retire well ahead of the timeline I'd had in mind, I jumped at it." Lee and Julie considered many options for where to retire overseas. Finally, they settled on Ecuador. It seemed to offer everything they were hoping for. "Sometimes people who've retired to other countries boast that their lives in their new countries are hardly different from the lives they left behind back in the States," Lee says. "That's not the case with Ecuador. Living in Ecuador, you never forget that you're in a foreign country. For Julie and me, this was one of the biggest attractions." However, the most important reason that Lee and Julie chose Ecuador as the place to reinvent their lives at this stage was the cost of living. "As we made our plan for where to go," Lee remembers, "the reality of what we were doing began to settle in. I was only 49 years old, for crying out loud. What if we ran out of money? I began to worry about being back in the States at age 75 looking for work." Lee spent a lot of time running the numbers and, finally, he and Julie found the courage to make the leap. "We satisfied ourselves," Lee explains, "that, in Cuenca, Ecuador, the city we'd focused on, my pension would allow us to live very comfortably." Lee and Julie were pioneers. Two of the original Cuenca retirees, in 2001 they received Visa 1 and Visa 2 from the New York consulate when they applied for legal Ecuadorean residency. "We lived in Cuenca for nine months before meeting another English-speaking couple," Lee says. "We didn't mind. We were having so much fun taking advantage of all we discovered that Cuenca had to offer. This is a very cultural city, with free symphony events, museums, and annual art shows. "The best news, though, during those early months," Lee continues, "was the realization I had that the cost of living was even lower than I'd estimated. Cuenca enjoys great mountain weather year-round. This means no heat and no air conditioning. I had underestimated the effect of the climate on our overall budget." The cost of living in Cuenca has increased steadily in the dozen years since Lee and Julie first took up residence. Still, this remains one of the most affordable options in the Americas. You can rent an apartment for as little as US$300 per month. More typical is US$500 monthly. Figure a total budget of US$1,600 per month if you rent; US$1,200 per month if you own your own home. And you may, indeed, decide to invest in a place of your own. The cost of real estate in this city is one of the greatest bargains in all of Latin America, cheaper than in Montevideo, Uruguay; Medellin, Colombia; Fortaleza, Brazil; Panama City; or most any other Central or South American destination you might consider. You could buy a small city condo for less than US$50,000. Gas, too, is cheap, and Ecuador is a great place for exploring by car. Lee says that he invested in a car soon after making the move, because he and Julie so enjoyed motoring around the country. He advises figuring an additional US$150 per month if you own a car. One thing to remember about Ecuador is that this country uses the U.S. dollar. For an American retiree, this means it's easier to understand what things really cost; it's easier to keep track of what you're really spending, month to month; and, very important, you don't have any currency-exchange risk. You may still have local inflation to contend with, but you won't have to worry about that being compounded when the exchange rate goes against you. Given his extended personal experience living and investing in this country, we’re delighted that Lee has agreed to act as host for our upcoming Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Guayaquil next month. The Early Bird Discount for this event remains in effect through Sept. 26. Details on the program we’ve put together with Lee’s help are here. Kathleen Peddicord
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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.
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