Selling everything you own, packing your bags, and leaving your home, your family, and your friends may seem bold, intimidating, even ridiculous. Perhaps you don’t want to sell your house. Maybe you don’t want to be a plane ride away from your grandchildren all year long. Maybe you have business or family responsibilities in the United States that would make it inconvenient to reside overseas, at least 12 months a year.
Or perhaps you’ve just had it with winter. You’re not looking to “leave home,” as it were, only to avoid shoveling the driveway or scraping ice off the windshield four or five months every season.
These are all good reasons to retire overseas part-time. Another is budget. If your retirement nest egg has taken a beating recently (whose hasn’t?), your prospects for retirement living in the United States may seem grim right now. On the other hand, if you spend half the year some place where the cost of living is significantly reduced and rent out your U.S. home while you’re away, your retirement funds could expand accordingly during the months you’re Stateside. Retirement could go from a source of concern to a cause for excitement.
Lief and I haven’t been able to settle on one retirement locale. We like to travel, and we enjoy change and contrast. Plus, we’ve made friends and established roots in several places around the world. Our ultimate retirement plan, therefore, is to move among these places where we’ve developed connections and where we feel at home, following the seasons–spring in Paris; summer in Istria, Croatia; fall in Buenos Aires (where our fall is their spring); and winter on the Pacific coast of Panama.
That may seem overly ambitious to you. More sensible and far more manageable is the idea of spending half the year in the States and half the year down south, for example.
This Snowbird approach to retirement isn’t new. Retirees from upstate New York and the Dakotas have been migrating south for decades. The difference today is that they’re migrating farther south. Panama has become the new Florida, the top choice among Americans looking to escape winter back home by spending that season in far sunnier climes. Other top Snowbird destinations now include Mexico and Nicaragua.
Also good part-time retirement havens are Argentina and Uruguay, where the seasons are the reverse of those in North America. These aren’t tropical getaways but offer more cosmopolitan wintertime escape options.
Other places that make sense as part-time retirement choices are those where establishing full-time residency is a hassle or, perhaps, impossible. You’ll have your work cut out for you trying to organize full-time legal residency as a retiree in Croatia, for example. And, many foreigners remain indefinitely in Thailand without formalizing their stays, making regular “visa runs,” as they’re called, every few months to refresh their tourist papers. I don’t recommend this, of course. Easier and safer simply not to limit your visit so that you don’t overstay your tourist visa, making Thailand another good part-time option.
These, then, are my Top 5 Part-Time Overseas Retirement Havens:
- Mendoza, Argentina–Where vines grow, the living is good. In Mendoza, vines grow…and produce grapes that are stomped into vintages increasingly recognized among the world’s most quaffable. Good wine, great steaks, beautiful landscapes, comfortable weather, friendly people, safe streets, workable infrastructure, and, yes, a highly affordable cost of living. In Mendoza, Argentina–specifically San Rafael–the good life can be enjoyed on a budget of as little as US$1,000 per month…
- Istria, Croatia–Europe’s Secret Riviera is a magical land that’s also one of the most affordable places to live the good life on the Continent…
- Morelia, Mexico–This beautiful colonial city in the highlands enjoys a comfortable, moderate climate year-round. Lonely Planet calls it “the coolest place in Mexico you’ve never heard of.” It’s also blissfully tourist-free…a place to come to enjoy the real Mexico…
- La Barra, Uruguay–A top choice for a sophisticated part-time retirement by the sea. Come to Uruguay to soak up its summer while it’s winter up north…
- Chiang Mai, Thailand–Thailand is arguably the cheapest place on earth to live well right now. Intrepid Correspondents Paul and Vicki Terhorst, on and off residents of the country for many years, have been teasing and tempting me with tales of US$1 Pad Thai lunches and US$11-a-night hotels (including breakfast and free wi-fi).
Paul and Vicki have gotten my attention, not only because I feel like I want to go to see this US$11-a-night comfortable and pleasant hotel for myself, but also because the way of life they describe sounds both exotic and idyllic…full of adventure and discovery and, at the same time, completely at peace…
“Kathleen, I first was introduced to you by a friend who forwarded your daily letters when you were living in Paris. Having lived in France off and on since childhood, those
e-mails were always the first read when they appeared. Then you left Paris and moved to Central America, which I found fascinating, and I have enjoyed reading about your current and ongoing adventures in that part of the world, as well.
“I took to heart the encouraging words you published about moving abroad, not waiting, life flies by, don’t delay! And it is with a sense of relief and great pride that I give you the news: My husband, 15-year-old daughter, and I have moved to Paris. We made the move on July 8, 2009.
“We are living in my old neighborhood, the 15th. School just started for Davis. She attends the Ecole Active Bilingue on rue du Theatre. My husband is taking French lessons, and I am pinching myself at our good fortune. From my sunroom office, I have a view of the Eiffel Tower.
“I’m busy now setting up vacation rentals for chefs, winemakers, and foodies. All come with fabulously equipped kitchens and great views. Look for us soon: ‘Kitchen With A View.’ Shop, cook, eat!
“I wish you all the best and thank you for your (unbeknownst to you) encouragement a distance.”
— Marie J., France
Congratulations on your move, your new life, and your fresh start, dear reader. You should feel very proud, indeed. Savor the experience. And please keep in touch. We’ll all stand by to hear more about your adventures.
P.S. My daughter Kaitlin also attended the Ecole Active Bilingue on rue du Theatre!