Retiring in another country?

Have you ever thought about retiring in another country?

According to AARP report in 2017, about 550,000 Americans receive their social security benefits overseas.  The top 10 countries for Americans are:

  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Ecuador
  • Costa Rica
  • Columbia
  • Malaysia
  • Spain
  • Nicaragua
  • Portugal
  • Malta

Why do they choose to retire overseas?  Here are the top reasons, according to Investopedia:

  • Warm weather
  • Lower cost of living and health care
  • Adventure of different culture

All sounds like fun.  But, it’s not working for me.  Let me explain why.

I’m already living in a different country:

As some readers might know, I grew up in China.  22 years ago, I decided to come to America, and fell in love with this country at first sight.  Since then, I call America home.

I have to admit that, moving to a different country is very exciting.  Different language, people, culture, and scenery.  Everything is new and refreshing.

As exciting as it sounds, I don’t want to move to another country anymore.  Probably I’m getting old, and have lost the adventuring spirit I used to have 22 years ago.

I would love to live in Mexico or Panama for 4-5 months to explore, and practice my Spanish.  It would be cool to rent an apartment, live like a local, visit the farmers’ market to get fresh fruits and vegetables, and cook some dishes myself.

Once a while, I’d invite my family members or friends over to have fun together.  If they don’t mind my poor Spanish, I could be their interpreter (free service for sure).

But living there permanently is a different animal.  My Spanish may never be that fluent as my English, and language and culture would be a big barrier to me.

Personally I still like America better.  It may sound like a frog in the well: Ohio has been and will be my home forever.

Winter is tolerable to me:

The weather in Ohio doesn’t bother me.  The 3-4 month winter may not be that attractive to me, but it’s not too bad.  Early retirement gives me the luxurious option to stay at home, when there is snow or ice.

Have you noticed the air in the winter is so crispy, and the sunshine is so lovely that it melts the heart?  The snow under the sun looks gorgeous.  I can’t live at a place without snow, and that’s probably too boring.  Just like life needs ups and downs, I need 4 different seasons.

Plus, without winter, you won’t experience the excitement and hope the spring brings: the first bud of flowers, the first tree leaves, the first hummingbirds …

Cost of living & Politics:

If the cost of living is the primary factor for some people to retire overseas, I suggest they reconsider it.  The fact is that, many places in US are not that expensive as New York City or San Francisco.  Some college towns are really nice, with reasonable cost of living and tons of activities.  Relocating within US is much easier than to another country, without losing the comfort and stumbling on the different culture.

The cost of living in central Ohio is relatively low.  I feel it’s affordable, except the health care cost and property tax.

Some people might say that, they are so fed up with the nasty politics in US.  But living overseas won’t solve the problem.  No matter where you live, good or bad, the US news are at every corner on this globe.

Unless living in the caves, you won’t get away from the US politics.  Plus, don’t you feel the ugly politics strengthen our immune system?  Somehow, we each learnt what to listen and what to ignore in order to survive.

This country is still good overall, though many times it’s so ridiculously screwed up.  There are many wonderful things we take for granted every day.  Clean air is one example.  Once living in another country, we might realize how lucky we still are.

Do some rehearsals before the permanent move:

Moving to a different country might be great for some people who enjoy adventures.  Be cautious, and do some rehearsals first.  Live there for one year or two, taste the four seasons and local life, and make sure that’s where you really want to move to permanently.

Slow down, and take the time to make that call.  After all, that’s a big move.  It involves a lot of emotions and money.  Don’t rush, and don’t be rushed by anybody else either.

Dear readers, would you consider retiring in another country?  Why?  Which country would you like to live?

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10 Responses

  1. GYM says:

    My husband would love to live in Hawaii and retire there. He doesn’t like the winter and rain here even though it’s mild compared to rest of Canada!

    I think a lot of people like the idea of geoarbritrage (I might have spelled that wrong) and want to be able to stretch their USD or CAD pension dollar. The cost of living in some of those places are very low, like you could live like a king/queen for $1000 a month including food and shelter.

    I haven’t thought about it much but I am wary of the healthcare costs mainly as I am older and living in a foreign country.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, Hawaii sounds a great place to retire, beach, sunshine, and warm weather. $1000 for food and shelter is really nice. It’s definitely worth the moving hassles. Probably one option is to live in a foreign country when we are relatively healthy, and at the end move back to the home country when getting older.

      • Joe says:

        We’d love to retire in Hawaii too. I love it there since my first visit in 1997.
        I’m over Portland. The winter here drags on for too long. I’m ready to move, but that’s up to the missus. She is still working here… Our public school is really awesome so that’s another reason to stay put for now.

        Once our kid goes off to college, I’d love to retire part-time in Asian and South America. We’d stay overseas for 6 months and then live in the US for 6 months. Or something like that. We’ll have to see where it goes.

        I’m glad you found a home in Ohio. That’s perfect.

        • Retire Early Helen says:

          Hi Joe, once your kid goes to college, you folks will be able to decide where you’ll like to move to. I love to see Hawaii someday.

          Yeah, living in Asia and South America for 6 months each year will be fun. That’s good time to explore the local culture. I might want to see Vietnam, Thailand, or Cambodia.

  2. Hi Helen, I used to think about it when I was younger. Probably because when I was younger I was more adventurous which you allude to as well. Back then, financial independence seemed so difficult and such a long time away, I considered ways to shorten the time line. But in the end, I just put my head down and worked hard, saved and invested. Now I wouldn’t consider retiring in a foreign country, but we are considering where else we might like to live in the US some day. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, yeah, being young definitely means more adventure. I’m so glad for living in a country, where it’s possible to choose the place I like to retire at. FI was such a long and exhausting journey. At the end, it’s rewarding, and also changes the way of our thinking. I’m sure you folks will find a place you love within US.

  3. caroline says:

    I always thought I would retire to Martinique (Caribbean Island, a French department) but I am not sure anymore, maybe to spend a few months there each year would be enough or maybe pick a different country each year, as long as it is warm.
    I have lived in Canada for 31 years and I still don’t like the winter (except on Christmas Day) but I am not sure I would move away forever.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, retiring in the Caribbeans sound very cool, especially during the winter time. Ohio is not that cold as Canada, but the long winter is never my favorite season. Living in one place for a couple of months every year would be nice, and rotating the places is even better.

  4. Katrin says:

    We live in Northern Germany and have a holiday home that we did up ourselves in the Hungarian coutryside, fairly close to Lake Balaton. The COL is somewhat lower there, and the weather in spring and fall tends to be a lot better, summer’s are actually quite hot. So the idea is that we might be spending longer stretches of time there when my husband resigns from work as well. But I don’t thing we’d be moving to another country permanently.

    I lived and worked in the US, Finland and France and really enjoyed getting to know the local cultures and meeting new people, and I’m sure I’d still be enjoying that today. But things like healthcare make such moves more difficult in retirement, I think. In most countries one would have to get private insurance which is probably fairly expensive at age 50+. And we’ve been privately insured for more than 20 years here, and accumulated some benefits with our insurance company that we would lose if we stay out of the country for more than one year. So quite a risk, if one weren’t completely sure about really wanting to stay in the “new” country forever.

    Actually, we were quite tempted to move to the UK in retirement (really like it, our son now lives there, and healthcare would have been covered by the NHS) but sadly that option’s been taken away by Brexit…

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Katrin, spending a season or two in another country every year is cool. I personally still like to keep the home. In this way, no matter where I am, I always have a place called Home to go back to.

      Yes, healthcare is a big issue. In US, the employer-sponsored healthcare is still the majority. The private insurance is not going anywhere. The Obamacare was a good start, but the politicians are so divided that they either couldn’t, or don’t want to improve it. I feel, in the long run, the healthcare has to be detached from the employment, and the cost has to be under control.

      Yeah, moving to another country means we have to navigate the local healthcare system, which could be a daunting task. It would be nice if the big health insurance companies provide some policies to have global coverage for routine cares.

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