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12 Steps To Choosing Your Overseas Retirement Haven

Choosing An Overseas Retirement Haven Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

“My wife and I are looking for a place to retire outside the States, in relative luxury, on a retirement income of $2,900 per month. Is that a possibility in Nicaragua?”

“We are older, 62 and 58, raising six kids ages 4 to 16. We like the kicked-back beach lifestyle. Where is the most economical place to live? And how difficult is it to retire overseas with kids?”

“I am 57, single, and retired. I have been researching the idea of living outside the United States for 11 years. The recent increases in the costs of housing, gas, food, etc., have made me think about this idea more seriously. I’ve considered Costa Rica and Mexico in the past but today am more interested in Panama, Brazil, and Argentina. Can you give me some idea how to make this decision? Are there steps I could take to help me select a country?”

In fact, dear reader, there are. Twelve of them. Think of it as 12 Steps to a New Life in Paradise.

Step #1: 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 and to live without?

One reader, whose recent question I shared with you above, is looking to retire “in relative luxury.” Can he do that in Nicaragua, he’s wondering? That depends on his idea of “luxury.”

In Nicaragua, on a budget of $2,900 per month, you could live in a big, comfortable home, employ a full-time maid, a gardener, a driver…you could eat dinner out two or three nights a week…you could travel around the country exploring…entertain friends regularly…

All with, for example, a long view of the crashing Pacific from your bedroom window…

On the other hand, in Nicaragua, your options for cultural evenings out, five-star meals, and high-end shopping are limited.

Could you retire in luxury to Nicaragua? I’ll leave it to you to make your own judgments.

Meantime, 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, again, leave it to you to prioritize according to your own 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 personal 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 15 countries worth considering right now:

Argentina

Belize

Costa Rica

Croatia

Dominican Republic

Ecuador

France

Italy

New Zealand

Nicaragua

Malaysia

Mexico

Panama

Thailand

Uruguay

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 15 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 shortcut your research. For example:

*** World’s Cheapest Retirement Havens

Ecuador is the world’s cheapest place to retire. You could live in this beautiful, safe country on as little as $660 per month if you own your own home or on as little as $1,240 per month if you rent.

World’s second-cheapest place to retire overseas? Nicaragua. Live well in the second-oldest city in the Americas, Leon, on as little as $954 per month if you invest in one of the city’s grand old colonial haciendas for yourself…or on as little as $1,300 per month if you rent.

Also remarkably, enticingly affordable is Uruguay, where you could live comfortably on $1,038 per month if you purchase a home, on $1,555 if you choose instead to rent one.

See detailed monthly budgets for living in each of these countries here.

*** Luxury Living on a Budget

You aren’t going to live a “luxury” lifestyle in Belize, no matter how much money you have. Even in Belize City, there’s no fine dining, no great shopping, no 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, $3,000 per month or less?

 Buenos Aires, Argentina

 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 Panama City, Panama

 Paris, France

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 far more affordable than you might ever imagine. A couple could have a hard time spending $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 (1.10 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, Uruguay

 Paris, France

 Panama City, Panama

 Wellington, New Zealand

*** Entrepreneurs Welcome

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

 Argentina

 Dominican Republic

 Ecuador

 Panama

 Thailand

*** 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 (the World Health Organization says France has the best health care in the world…and I’d agree)

 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 Managua, Nicaragua (correspondent in that country Lori Estrada told you about Managua’s new world-class hospital facilities last week

 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:

Mountains of Costa Rica

Ecuador

Mountains of Panama

*** They Speak English

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

 Belize

 New Zealand

 *** You’re Connected

Don’t want to go 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

 Costa Rica

 Mexico

 Panama

 New Zealand

 Uruguay

*** Quick Escape

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

 Belize

 Costa Rica

 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

Next week: Steps #3 through #12…

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. The sun is bright, and the days are warm and long here in Paris. We’re savoring every one of them, as we count down to Panama. Saturday, we walked along the river and ended up at the Eiffel Tower…Sunday, we wandered the Ile St. Louis…both things we haven’t taken time for in years. Funny the things you don’t do when you know you could do them anytime. Now, after four years in the City of Light, we find ourselves cramming sightseeing experiences into a final few weeks…

 

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