Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cheapest Countries for Retirement

With millions of Baby Boomers expected to rely almost entirely on Social Security benefits when they retire, many of them will choose to move to another country.  When they do, they will find they are not alone.  Currently, there are approximately 8 million Americans living in foreign countries.  According to the Social Security website, "over half a million people who live outside the United States receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children."

Although you cannot use Medicare in another country, you are able to have your Social Security deposited in a foreign bank, or in an American bank with foreign branches.  In most other countries, you also have the option of signing up for their national healthcare plan and have basic Medicare in the U.S. at the same time, should you want to return to the U.S. in the future.

Source of Information on Cheapest Places to Retire

If you are interested in retiring in another country, you will want to research your options carefully. There are a number of books and articles available on the internet.  On Feb. 18, 2017, Money Magazine published an article called, "These Are the Cheapest 50 Countries to Live."  While their article was not necessarily geared towards retirement, I found the information useful for anyone who is considering retiring in another country.  All the countries on their list are less expensive than the United States.

The author, Elyssa Kirkham, based her information about the countries with the lowest cost-of-living on research from GoBankingRates, which looked at the purchasing power of the dollar in each country, cost to rent an apartment, price of groceries and the consumer index.

Issues The Researchers Did Not Consider

The researchers did not consider factors such as safety, the political system, or lifestyle.  While many of these countries could be very attractive to American citizens, others might be quite undesirable ... such as Syria, Russia and Serbia.

The list of countries is further down in this article.  If you want more details about how each country ranked, you can find the full article at "Cheapest Countries to Live."

Do Your Own Research Before Moving to Another Country 

As I have mentioned above and in other articles in this blog, it is important for readers to do their own research, check the State Department website for warnings and advisories about travel in those countries, contact local agencies or tour companies and, finally, visit the country before deciding whether you want to move there permanently.

If you still feel that such a move would be a good idea, you would then be wise to consult with a lawyer, CPA and Realtor in the country of your choice. They could help you find a safe, affordable place to live and keep you on the right side of the law in your new country.

List of Cheapest Countries to Retire

1. South Africa                         26. Montenegro
2. India                                     27. Albania
3. Kosovo                                 28. Nepal
4. Saudi Arabia                        29. Georgia
5. Kazakhstan                          30. Brazil                            
6. Zambia                                 31. Turkey
7. Oman                                   32. Estonia
8. Paraguay                              33. Spain
9. Czech Republic                    34. Tunisia
10. Macedonia                          35. Germany
11. Bosnia & Herzegovina       36. Slovinia
12. Poland                                37. Syria
13. Columbia                            38. Hungary
14. Pakistan                              39. Russia
15. Moldova                             40. Bangladesh                            
16. Chili                                    41. Philippines
17. Malaysia                             42. Armenia
18. Serbia                                 43. Egypt
19. Greece                                44. Portugal
20. Bulgaria                              45. Latvia
21. Romania                             46. Morocco
22. Mexico                               47. Croatia
23. Azerbaijan                          48. Lithuania
24. Ukraine                               49. Peru
25. Algeria                                 50.Belarus

By way of comparison, France ranked 78th, the United States ranked 83rd, Costa Rica ranked 88th, and Singapore ranked 104th.  I was surprised to learn that Costa Rica is now considered slightly more expensive than the United States.  Of course, that obviously depends on exactly where you live in each country.  The lower the number, the lower the cost-of-living; the higher the number, the higher the cost-of living.

Among the countries which might especially interest some American retirees are Mexico (especially around San Miguel de Allende), Chili, Greece, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Belarus and Peru.  At the very least, someone looking to retire in a less expensive country should consider them.  If you have relatives or a family connection to one of the other countries, you may also want to put it on your list.

If you are interested in learning more about retiring overseas, the best places to retire in the United States, Social Security, Medicare, financial planning, common medical issues and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, "Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement," which will be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Photo credit:  Picture of San Miguel de Allende courtesy of Google images.    

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Help for Retired Grandparents Raising Grandkids

Like millions of other couples in the U.S., the man and his wife who handle our taxes are also raising one of their granddaughters.  A widow in my book club raised two of her grandchildren until they finished college.  Several other retired people we know have raised their grandchildren for at least part of their childhood.  Unfortunately, this issue creates a number of problems for senior citizens, including where to live.

Journalist Leslie Stahl, from 60 Minutes, addressed some of the problems involved in raising grandchildren in her book Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting and in an article she wrote for the website Next Avenue called  "A Place to Live for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren."

Millions of Grandparents are Raising their Grandchildren

According to Ms. Stahl, there are almost 3,000,000 grandparents in the U.S. who have legal custody of some or all of their grandchildren.  Approximately 18 percent of these families live below the poverty line.  They face a number of issues, including where to live.

Limited Housing Options Make it Difficult for Grandparents

It is against federal law for children under the age of 18 to live with parents or grandparents in an age-restricted over-55 retirement community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or other type of senior facility.  Children are also not allowed in low-income housing for the elderly or in senior apartment complexes.  As a result, grandparents who make the tough decision to raise their grandchildren are often forced to move, sometimes into situations which are not safe for them or their grandchildren and which are not well-designed for the elderly.

The sole exception to the lack of housing for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is the Grandparent Family Apartment Complex which is located in the Bronx in New York.  The complex was build in 2004.  According to Leslie Stahl, it is the only complex of its type in the United States, although there is unquestionably a need across the country.  In addition to providing affordable housing, the complex offers different types of support to the grandparents and children, including transportation, legal services, mental health services, after school care, tutoring, support groups and parenting classes.  These programs at the Grandparent Family Apartment Complex seem to be making a significant difference in the lives of the children.  Their high school graduation rate exceeds that of the surrounding community.

Why Grandparents are Raising their Grandchildren

There are many reasons why grandparents feel compelled to take over the custody of their grandchildren.  The children's parents may have died in an auto accident or from diseases.  In some cases, the parents may not be equipped to properly take care of their children because of mental illness, abusiveness, addiction, or alcoholism.  In other situations, the parents may be deployed with the military or could be in jail. Sometimes the problem is a teen pregnancy and the grandparents decide to continue raising both their child and their grandchild.  Whatever the cause, grandparents who have already raised their own children often find themselves starting over again with their grandchildren.

Housing Solutions for Grandparents

While their options are limited, there are a few things grandparents can do to make the situation easier for both them and their grandchildren.

More affluent grandparents, of course, have more options about where to live.  They may be able to remain in the family home where they raised their own children or move into a similar community.  Younger grandparents who are still in good physical condition may be able to continue to hold down a job and raise their grandchildren.

Low-income grandparents also have a few resources available to them.  For example, they can apply to receive Section 8 housing vouchers or to move into low-income family apartments.

Financial Aid for Low-Income Grandparents

In some states, the grandparents may want to ask their Social Services department if they qualify to become legal foster parents for their grandchildren. They will have to go through an application process and background check, but it could be worth the effort.  If the grandparents are appointed foster parents, they will qualify for financial assistance which could make it easier for them to afford to provide their grandchildren with better care.  If a grandparent is living solely on Social Security, this additional financial assistance could be the only way they can afford to feed, clothe, house and care for their grandchildren.

The grandparents may also want to go to their local Social Services department to see if they qualify for SNAP (food stamps) or other types of public assistance.

If the grandparents are on Medicare, their grandchildren may also qualify for low-cost health insurance through Medicaid.  If the grandparents are still working when they become the legal guardians for their grandchildren, they may be able to add their grandchildren to the insurance coverage they get through their employer.

Other Considerations for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

If you decide you are the best person in your family to raise your grandchildren, there are other issues you may want to consider when choosing a place to live:

School system - You may want to check a site like to decide which school would be the best for your grandchild. Once you pick a school, plan to get involved.  Join the PTA and take any of the parenting classes they offer.  You may believe you know everything you need to know, since you already raised a family.  However, connecting with other parents and learning a few new ideas could make life easier for both you and your grandchild.

Friends and Relatives - We all need someone to back us up once in a while.  You may want to move close to other relatives or friends who would be able to babysit occasionally or even step in and take care of the children for a few days or weeks if you need to go into the hospital or just come down with the flu.

Other Support Systems - Consider becoming involved in a neighborhood church, synagogue, mosque or temple.  Most of them will have youth activities which can provide a positive environment for your grandchildren.  You may also investigate other neighborhood support systems such as after-school programs, pre-schools, sports teams, Scouts, Big Brothers or Sisters, and the YMCA. Welcome all the help you can get while raising a grandchild.

Medical care - Seek out a caring family doctor or pediatrician, as well as a dentist. These medical caregivers can help you keep your grandchildren healthy.

Preparing for retirement is complicated enough if you only have to worry about yourself.  If you are also caring for grandchildren, it becomes even more complex.  Make sure you take advantage of all the help you can get.

Looking for help in planning your own retirement?  Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness, which is scheduled to be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

Want more information on where to retire, common health issues, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and more? Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of other articles.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Should You Loan Money to Adult Children?

Retirees and those approaching retirement frequently face a common dilemma ... should they give or loan money to their adult children?  A Pew Research Center survey in 2015 discovered that approximately 61 percent of people with adult children had helped their kids out financially during the preceding year. The decision to help or not to help can be difficult, especially if grandchildren are involved.  Many retirees wonder when they should agree to co-sign a lease, help their adult children purchase a car or assist them financially in other ways, and when they should say "no."

In a January, 2017 article in AARP Magazine, titled "The Bank of Mom and Dad," Stephen Perrine, the author, suggested four questions to answer before you either lend or give your children money.  He also presented several examples to help people understand how to apply the answers.

Questions to Answer Before Lending Money to Adult Children

1.  Is the money intended to be used for something they simply want, but don't need; or will it add real stability and security to the child's life?  (Necessary)

2.  Will this be a one-time or short-term gift or loan, or will it be something which will require an ongoing financial commitment lasting for years?  (Short-term)

3.  Will your financial assistance require you to co-sign a contract?  Could it hurt your credit?  Is there a financial risk to you or your adult child?  (Financially safe)

4.  Can you give or loan this money to your child without it damaging your relationship?  Could it cause future tension or resentment?  (Emotionally safe)

How to Decide Whether to Help Your Adult Children Financially

When you consider the above questions, obviously the best time to help your child financially would be when it is necessary, short-term, financially safe, and emotionally safe.  Of course, life is not always that simple.

Ideal situation:  When one of our granddaughters needed braces and her mother, our divorced, hard-working daughter, could not handle the added cost by herself, my husband and I were happy to step in and make the monthly payments.  Towards the end of the contract, our appreciative daughter had secured a better paying job and took over the payments herself.  At the time we decided to help, we believed our decision was necessary, short-term (although it went on for a couple of years), financially safe and emotionally safe.  We could afford the payments and our daughter could not. We had no problem making the decision.

Complex situation:  Not all decisions are as clear as the one above.  For example, what if your child "needs" a car to get to work.  Should you help them with the down-payment or co-sign the loan?  If they are asking for your financial assistance, you are within your rights to only offer a limited amount of help, especially if your decision could put you at financial risk.  You may want to insist they purchase a practical, used car.  You might decide to provide a down-payment, but not co-sign a loan.  If you do decide to co-sign the loan, you need to understand that it could affect your own credit, particularly if your adult child begins to miss payments or make late payments.  Could you afford to take over the payments if your child defaults?  In this case, the purchase of a car might seem necessary, but it would not be short-term assistance, financially safe or emotionally safe, since it could create a strain in your relationship with your child.

Other types of situations:  In the AARP Magazine article, Perrine also discussed other complex situations such as paying for an expensive wedding, co-signing a lease or mortgage, giving or loaning your children money for a down-payment on a home, helping an adult child with young children recover from a divorce, investing in a business opportunity which interests your kids, or paying for graduate school.  In each situation, you need to ask yourself if the gift or loan is necessary, short-term, financially safe for you both, and emotionally safe for your relationship.

Some of these decisions will be much easier than others.  Most important of all, you need to consider whether or not helping your adult children financially will endanger your own financial future.  If giving them money would mean you may not be able to take care of your own retirement needs, then you will probably want to deny the request, no matter how necessary the expense may seem to be.

If you are interested in more information to help with your financial planning, family relationships, finding a place to retire, Social Security, or Medicare, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Affordable Retirement Cities with Pleasant Climates

Are you looking for a pleasant, affordable city which is a good choice for retirement?  Do you want to have access to quality healthcare, cultural diversity, and mild weather?  The website put together their 2017 list of "Best Cities to Retire on the Cheap," and one of the cities listed below might be the perfect choice for you.

The major the factor which considered was the overall affordability of the city.  As they point out, however, there is no benefit in finding a city with cheap housing if the weather is so cold in the winter you pay exorbitant prices to heat your home.  You would probably be no better off financially, and you would have to deal with the downside of aging in an area which frequently experiences snow, ice and other weather extremes.  When they put together their list, therefore, in addition to affordability they also considered climate, healthcare, economic vitality and both geographic and cultural diversity.  In other words, these are cities which are not only affordable, but have a number of other advantages which would make them attractive to retirees.

Before moving to any of these cities, retirees will want to do more research to make sure they can afford to live in the city of their choice and to determine if they will have access to activities which interest them.  You will also want to plan an extended vacation, if you are unfamiliar with the city.  However, some of these cities should definitely be on your list of ones to consider if you hope to relocate to a fun, affordable city after retirement.

Affordable Retirement Cities According to

Tucson, Arizona - For decades, people have retired to this city with a population of just a little over a half million.  This makes it easier to meet other newcomers in your age group.  Traffic is not a major problem and there are plenty of ways to stay active ... yoga studios, shopping centers, restaurants, and more.  There are eight hospitals in the city. Because it is in the high desert, the weather is milder than many other parts of Arizona.

Dover, Delaware - The state capitol of the small state of Delaware is equally small .. with a population of less than 40,000 people.  Despite its tiny size, the city has a strong economy, plenty of places to shop and eat out, plus you are halfway between New York City and Washington, DC. This gives you the opportunity to hop on a commuter train and experience world class entertainment, while living in a city which is far more affordable than either New York or Washington.

Bend, Oregon - For retirees who want to live in a city but be close to a wide variety of outdoor activities, including golf, snow skiing, hiking, fishing, boating and mountain biking, this city could be the ideal spot for you!

Sarasota, Florida - Built in the 1920's along the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Art-Deco downtown is adorable.  The Ringling Brothers Circus wintered here in the past, so expect to see circus memorabilia around town.  There is also an opera, symphony, ballet, music festival and other ways to stay active.

Boise, Idaho - This city gets an average of 21 inches of snow a year, so you will still have to deal with bad weather in the winter.  However, it is affordable and has an abundance of hiking and biking trails in the city.

San Luis Obispo, California - This small California city near the Central coast is home to Cal Poly University and is affordable compared to many other California coastal cities.  The weather is very temperate and it is surrounded by other affordable small towns such as Atascadero, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, and Templeton.  One of my granddaughters went to college in this town and we enjoyed visiting her and strolling through this attractive village.

San Antonio, Texas - The charming River Walk, across the street from the famous Alamo Mission, is reason enough to love this appealing Texas town.  The city has a wide variety of urban activities, including shopping and restaurants, and is surrounded by a number of even more affordable small towns.  Our family has vacationed there several times and love the city.

Nashville, Tennessee - If you love country music, there are few better places to live than Nashville.  The fact that it is also affordable and the climate is mild make it even more desirable.

Charlotte, North Carolina - This affordable, friendly city of about 700,000 people has a large number of cultural activities available.  It also has a booming economy, in case you want to continue to work after retirement.

Fayetteville, Arkansas - Located on the shores of Beaver Lake, this vibrant city offers a wide variety of recreational activities.

General Information about Choosing a Retirement City

As with any potential retirement city, the ones on this list contain both good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods.  They are also surrounded by suburbs, small towns and, sometimes, retirement communities which give you the benefit of both city life and small town living.  If you are looking for an affordable place to retire, pick a few cities from this list and get to know them.  Work with a local Realtor and see some of the homes available in your price range.  Check out websites like and Zillow to get more ideas about where to retire. Once you have explored these communities and others, you will have a much better idea of where you would like to retire.

Are you looking for more information on where to retire, financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, healthcare and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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