11 Things You Should Know Before You Retire Overseas

Category: International Retirement

By Kathleen Peddicord

Here are 11 things I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks after three international moves across three continents with two kids, a dog, a turtle, a husband, and two businesses:

1. The first step to any move abroad is to set your priorities and to be honest in the process. What matters to you most? Evenings at the theater? Friends whose company you can enjoy in English? Cost of living? A reliable Internet connection? Don’t kid yourself. If you can’t imagine life without a Maytag washer and dryer, for example, you may need to rethink the entire proposition.

2. Make all decisions jointly with whomever you will make the move. Your spouse’s ideas about what he or she wants may shock you…and vice versa. Better to get them on the table sooner rather than later.

3. Recognize that no place is perfect. No climate is ideal. No city is 100% crime-free. Manage your expectations.

4. Understand that no other country on earth is as comfortable or as convenient as the United States of America. In many places, shops, banks, dry cleaners, and government offices close for lunch and call it quits for the day by 5 p.m. You can’t run errands on your lunch break…or on Sundays. In some countries, you must pay utility bills in person. In the developing world (not only in Latin America and the Caribbean, but in emerging Europe, too), appointments and schedules are more suggestions than commitments. And only a handful of real estate markets outside the States operate with Multiple Listing Services, meaning the search for your new home in Paradise likely will be inefficient at best.

5. Don’t leave your good sense at the border–specifically, don’t mix alcohol and property buying. We call it “Margarita Madness.” It’s a syndrome that can set in shortly after your arrival in any sunny, sandy, tropical locale. The water’s turquoise, the sand is soft, the palms are swaying… That guy you just met in the bar downtown (the one who shared a couple of rum punches with you), he’s now driving you along the beach road bordering his development, pointing out where his clubhouse will be, where the marina will go, where your new home could be positioned. Look at that view. Feel that breeze. Boy, it doesn’t get better than this. And, you know, we’ve got only two lots at this price remaining. A couple of buyers are expected in town tomorrow. I’d hate for you to miss out…

Would you buy a piece of real estate under those circumstances back home? A piece of property you’re seeing for the first time in a place where you’ve never been before? From a guy you met in a bar?

You need to do more due diligence when investing in a piece of property in another country, not less.

6. There’s no such thing as the world’s top retirement haven, no one-size-fits-all Shangri-la. The only one who can determine the best place for you to retire is you. There are dozens of beautiful, affordable, friendly, safe, charming places where you could choose to spend time in “retirement.” It’s a question of what you’re looking for and of what’s most important to you (see #1 above).

7. Your U.S. health insurance won’t cover you once you leave U.S. soil. – You do have International health insurance options.

8. Rent first. Don’t buy a new home in paradise until you’ve tried that paradise on for size for several months. Even if the country turns out to be your ideal retirement haven, maybe the city or the region or the neighborhood where you land at first isn’t where you ultimately want to be. Give yourself time to get the lay of the land before committing to a property purchase.

9. Be prepared for panic. In 25 years speaking with people who’ve made the move to another country, I’ve yet to know one who didn’t experience a moment of, “Geez Louise, what in the world have I done?” Expect to question your sanity for having ever considered the idea of moving so far from home and hearth, if only briefly. Expect it, prepare for it, and understand that it will pass. Everything you made the move for is waiting for you. You just need to give your perspective a little time to adjust.

10. You need local tax advice in the country where you’re planning to reside before you take up residence. When we moved to Ireland 10 years ago, we met with Ernst & Young in Dublin during one of our pre-move visits. This turned out to be super-smart (though we didn’t realize it at the time). In Ireland then (this is no longer true today, as the relevant tax legislation has been amended since), if you organized your financial affairs according to a certain strategy that the advisor at Ernst & Young detailed for us, you could reduce your annual Irish tax burden substantially. I won’t bore you with the details (especially as they’re no longer relevant). The point, though, is that the strategy had to be employed before we had an Ireland address. If we’d waited until we’d taken up residence in the Emerald Isle, our annual tax obligations would have been considerably greater.

11. Pay attention to your gut. A place either feels right…or it doesn’t. All your research and figuring in advance is important, but nothing substitutes for the feeling you get when you hit the ground.

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. You can also follow Kathleen on Facebook. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

What Do You Think? If you have been considering a retirement move abroad, what are your concerns and dreams. And if you have already tried it- what would you add to Kathleen’s list? Please use the Comments section below.


For further reference:
Don’t miss our “Mexican Retirement: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” article.

Posted by John Brady on November 29th, 2010

10 Comments »

  1. :grin:Thanks I read several times.

    by Victoria Rainer — December 1, 2010

  2. Great info. I sooo want to retire Ireland but really have no idea where to start. I am also forwarding your article to someone else I know who is looking to retire abroad.
    Thanks for the insight.

    by Mary — December 1, 2010

  3. This is very good information. There is nothing like real testimonials. Thanks for sharing your experiences abroad.

    by Boomers Abroad Online Community & Social Network — December 1, 2010

  4. Thoughtful information. There are many things to consider but I would add that the very first thing anyone thinking of ‘retiring’ or even living for a lengthy period of time abroad should investigate is residency requirements. Many places are very restrictive on the length of time you can stay in a country. There may be ways around this or to satisfy some requirements but you should look into this thoroughly. Often things you might think would help, such as owning real estate, don’t necessarily make a difference. I am certainly not an expert but have looked at a few places and would recommend this as your first step. Spending a good deal of time looking at other elements and getting close to deciding or trying places out may come to an abrupt halt if you can’t get past this step. Just my two cents.

    by Mejask — December 1, 2010

  5. 113 Billion things you should know: that’s the size of the EU’s bailout of Ireland.
    Right now, with Greece and Ireland on financial lifelines from the European Union Central Bank, and Spain and Portugal tottering, is not the time to buy (rent, ok) property, earn income, or deposit American dollars in Europe. Just google “Ireland Bankrupt” and read the predictions of rising real estate, sales, and income taxes as the government tries to pay off debts obligated by the failure of Allied Irish Bank and the Bank of Ireland.

    by oldnassau — December 1, 2010

  6. This a great article with a lot of valuable advice, much better and more than most people could ever offer.

    I must take issue with this statement, however:

    “Understand that no other country on earth is as comfortable or as convenient as the United States of America.”

    There have been many international studies done that don’t have the U.S. as the top place to live.

    For instance, International Living Magazine ranked 194 countries to reveal the “Best Places to Live” in its 2010 Quality of Life Index.

    It considered things such as Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk, and Climate.

    International Living Magazine has the U.S. as #7 behind France, Australiz, Switzerland, Germany, Luxemberg, and New Zealand.

    Being #7 is a bit of a distance from being #1, wouldn’t you say?

    Ernie Zelinski
    Author of How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
    and The Joy of Not Working

    by Creative Retirement Quotes — December 1, 2010

  7. Thanks for the great comments. There are lots of lists out there about the best international places to retire – if you’re still game for the adventure after reading Kathleen’s article. Here is a Topretirements article about the top 10 International spots we did a while back that makes for interesting reading.
    http://www.topretirements.com/blog/international-retirement/top-10-international-best-places-to-retire.html/

    by John Brady — December 2, 2010

  8. HI – felt I also needed to say that moving overseas is or can be traumatic. At the same time, I”m considering moving from Virginia to Hawaii full-time. That is almost as far and, like Ireland, you can’t drive to the next county or country. Not sure yet whether I will or not, and yet… it’s winter now and those warm breezes in Kona are looking quite nice.

    by Libby H. — December 6, 2010

  9. Happy new year from Madeira island

    by Tony Nobrega — December 31, 2010

  10. Hi Kathleen, Iv’e just found your article and would like to say how many good points your raise. Fortunately for me, your points are time withstanding and therefore serve somebody looking to move now or even perhaps five years in the future. Personally, I like point number 11, trust your gut; it’s served me well over the years and I’m sure many others too.

    by portugal properties sale — December 4, 2011

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