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Why Retire Overseas?

Why Did I Do This In The First Place?

When my boss at the time came to me to explain that the U.S. publishing company where I’d been working for 13 years was interested in setting up a new base in Ireland and to ask if I’d be interested in making the move to open that office for him, I jumped at the chance. I was 34 years old, ready for a change, and eager for an adventure.

I’d been covering this live, retire, and invest overseas beat for a long time, but I realized that that was not the same as living it. This was my chance to find out for myself what it’d really be like to be an American abroad.

My second international move was from Ireland to France. This relocation, seven years later, was to make it possible for my then 14-year-old daughter to realize a dream she’d had of studying in Paris. Rather than shipping her off to high school in the City of Light on her own, the family tagged along to discover ensemble what life in Paris would be like.

Four years later, we were planning our third international move, this one for more practical reasons. Our daughter had finished her high school-level studies in France and moved on to university in the States. I’d left the U.S. publishing company where I’d worked, by that point, for 23 years, thinking it was time to stretch my entrepreneurial wings. Lief was looking for a big real estate development opportunity, a chance to put his dozen years of accumulated experience to good use.

We considered the world map. Where to go to start a business…to undertake a long-term land project…and to continue raising our then 8-year-old son?

It didn’t take us long to settle on Panama.

A reporter for Kiplinger magazine, interviewing me last week for an article she’s writing on Americans retiring overseas, asked why I think this idea is gaining such momentum right now.

Why are so many more Americans, especially, considering the idea of a new life or retirement abroad, she wondered?

We discussed the current motivations. There are many, and some are critical. Many would-be retirees Stateside are worried how they’re ever going to be able to afford to quit working…now that their retirement nest eggs have been diminished, maybe dramatically, by market events of the past couple of years and the equity they were counting on in their homes has disappeared. Americans are worried about health care “reform.” They’re worried about tax law changes. They’re thinking their futures, personal and financial, are increasingly beyond their own control.

They’re looking for options. They’re so eager, even desperate for options that they’re beginning to look farther afield than they otherwise might have considered.

They’re looking overseas for appealing retirement choices.

All that’s true. But it’s hardly the whole story, and to reduce the idea of living or retiring in another country to that level is to miss something important.

I figure you’re reading these dispatches because you’re interested in the idea of spending time someplace else. You’re looking to relocate, in retirement or otherwise, full-time or maybe only part of the year. You have your own reasons and motivations.

My point today is to remember among them the unpractical and the irrational. The romantic and the sexy.

I’m hearing every day from readers looking to make a change because they feel trapped by their current circumstances.

And, yes, I understand, times can seem tough. But tough times are the best time to get going.

As you move ahead with your own plans to take back control of your own life, don’t forget that, beyond the real and practical advantages to do with lowering your cost of living, reducing your cost of health care, and cutting your tax bill, for example, are other advantages that, as I like to say, can’t be plugged into a spreadsheet.

There’s a big upside to a new life in a new place, an upside for your financial life, sure, but for your personal life and your family life, too.

The world is a different place from when I took my first step overseas. And the current reasons for pursuing these live, retire, invest overseas opportunities may seem a little harder-edged than they did to me when I set off on the adventure.

But here’s the important thing to keep in mind: The upside is as big as it ever was. And the real benefits are completely unpredictable.

Move to a place where you won’t have to worry about outliving your retirement nest egg. Relocate to a jurisdiction where you’ll be able to keep more of the money you earn. Redeploy your assets so they’re not at the mercy of a single market or currency.

Take one step. The next one will be easier. The one after that easier still.

And, before you know it, you’ll be on the other side. You’ll have crossed over to a life that isn’t ruled by cable news reports of stock market plunges or currency tumbles.

When my family and I left the States, did I ever imagine that, 13 years later, I’d be sitting in Casco Viejo, Panama, one Sunday morning, writing to you to suggest that you get serious about your plans to do the same thing?

Not hardly.

How’d I get from there to here? One day at a time, each one leading to new opportunities.

I look forward to tomorrow. And I urge you to come discover it with me.

Kathleen Peddicord

Your New Life In Panama

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