As a friend who has been retired in Asia for many years puts it, "Everywhere in Asia is more affordable than the cheapest places in Latin America right now." That may be a stretch, but pockets of Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, and India, for example, can be absurdly cheap. You could live a modest but comfortable life in this part of the world on a budget of $700 or $800 a month, even less.
Living on this side of the planet, you'd also have access to some of the world's most beautiful beaches. Your life would be full of adventure, the exotic, and the unexpected. That is to say, the culture shock would be significant. For some, this reality is thrilling and invigorating...for others, it's intimidating, even terrifying.
In Asia, as well, you have an added challenge related to residency. Typically (an exception is Malaysia), you aren't going to be able to arrange to stay on indefinitely (legally) as a foreigner. You'll have to make regular border runs, which can grow tiresome and expensive (not to mention being illegal).
The easier alternative is not to approach Asia as a full-time choice but, instead, to create a where-to-retire-overseas plan for yourself that allows you to enjoy the benefits of Asia (super cheap and super exotic) part-time. Don't worry about trying to qualify for permanent residency. Stay as long as you can as a tourist and then move on.
How about three months on the coast of Thailand, where your retirement budget would stretch far indeed, followed by a few months in the south of France, say, or Tuscany?
Which brings us to the Continent. Not everyone is cut out for life in the developing world. If you're less interested in an exotic retirement than you are in a fully appointed one, your best options for where to retire in the world could lie in Europe. Most would-be retirees abroad dismiss this part of the world as too expensive, but that isn't necessarily the case, and, if it's a Continental lifestyle you dream about, I urge you not to write it off too quickly. Sure, a retiree on a modest budget probably can't afford Paris or Florence, but have you considered southwestern France, where life is quintessentially French but, as well, surprisingly affordable, or Pisa, about an hour from Michelangelo's hometown but dramatically less costly?
One of the big advantages of Europe, compared with other regional retire-overseas options, is the opportunity it affords for what might be referred to as "high culture." Every country in the world has local culture, but not everywhere has world-class museums, opera, and live theater, for example. If you're interested in a life that includes what are conventionally recognized as cultural offerings of the high-brow variety, you should be looking to France or Italy, Spain or Portugal.
This is not to say it's impossible to enjoy an Old World Continental lifestyle anywhere else. Some cities in South America offer a fair imitation, including, for example, Buenos Aires, and Medellin, Colombia. Both are cities of open-air cafes, classic-style museums and theaters, art galleries and antique shops.
And both, you'll note, are in South America, not Central America. The differences between these two regions, even between Panama and Colombia, next-door neighbors, can be striking. I'm speaking generally and you could find exceptions to every point, but, again, generally speaking, South America offers what I'd call more polished retirement options and is a good place to look if what you want is culture on the cheap.
Central America, by contrast, is, everywhere, rough around the edges. These are small, developing countries, struggling (let's be honest) to keep the lights on and the highways paved. They don't have money to invest in things like art museums. This can make for a way of life that is, for some, charming. Romantics (like me) in Central America see the potential for what could be rather than the reality of what sometimes is. Others find Central America frustrating, disappointing, even appalling.
On the other hand, this sun-blessed region can be but a quick plane hop away and a user-friendly place to establish foreign residency if you'd like to settle in full-time.
Pluses and minuses...give and take.
Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:
Image credit: Toksave
Aug. 3, 2011:
"Would you like the same table as yesterday?" the maître d' asked as I entered the dining room this morning.
"Black tea with milk?" the waitress asked as I sat down.
"Two eggs scrambled?" confirmed the omelet guy behind the buffet.
The Hotel Park 10, where I'm staying this week in Medellin, is a charming boutique hotel with a pleasant courtyard and comfortable, well-appointed suites. But you can get those things at lots of places. What is very hard to come by is the level of service one enjoys as a guest at the Park 10.
I'm in the city to get the renovation of our recently acquired apartment in El Poblado off the ground. As I said to Marion, my assistant, who is here with me, translating and otherwise facilitating, "It's hard work spending money in a flurry like this."
The truth is, we're not spending that much money. Many things, we're discovering, from parquet floors to hand-painted tiles, are an absolute bargain.
Other things--anything imported--can be crazy expensive. I don't understand, given my experience in the five appliance stores we've visited to date, how the average guy can afford to buy an oven in this town.
Carlos, my general contractor, says he knows another place...where the prices are much better. We're headed there this afternoon. Meantime, the apartment has been reduced to a concrete shell with great piles of rubble in many of the rooms. If I didn't have faith in Carlos and the plan for what comes next, I might well be fully panicked...
"Kathleen, I am very interested in your info and Belize Starter Kit, but I noticed you didn't mention such real-life challenges (problems) as tropical insects, diseases, and, especially, hurricanes. I prefer someone to be up-front about everything and not to gloss over real concerns just for your marketing purposes!
"What about this? Is hurricane insurance available?
"Keep it real!
"What are the odds of this showing up with your saccharine-gushing customer comments?
"I really am interested, though, but I need to be totally informed."
-- John E., United States
Yes, sir...Belize has hurricanes, insects, snakes, and tropical diseases...as elsewhere in the Caribbean...and as suggested here: Belize Warts And All.
Yes, you can insure against the hurricanes. Not, though, against the bugs or the snakes.
"Kathleen, could you please tell me what Tricare medical care is, how you get it, and roughly what it costs? This is the first I have heard of it. Is it accepted in Mexico,particularly around Guadalajara and the lake communities?
"After a recent visit, I believe that I will give the area around the lake near Guadalajara a try. Are there other private medical insurances accepted in Mexico, instead of the state-run insurance? Thanks so much."
-- Jim F., United States
Tricare is the U.S. health care program serving active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members, military retirees and their families, and certain former spouses worldwide. To be eligible for Tricare benefits, you must be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Several different medical plans are available if you're eligible. You can find out more here:www.tricare.mil.
If you don't qualify for Tricare coverage in Mexico, several other good health insurance options are available in this country, including both Mexico-based insurance policies (what we call "local policies") and international insurance policies (for example, Bupa, www.bupa.com).
Our complete guide to medical insurance around the world is available here.
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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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