Showing posts with label living overseas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label living overseas. Show all posts

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Should You Move or Age in Place When You Retire?

Many people look forward to relocating after retirement.  They think of this period in their lives as an exciting adventure, and they can't wait until they have the opportunity to live somewhere new.  While this works out well for many retirees, a number of people are making the conscious decision to age in place.

It is easy for a blog like this to focus primarily on all the amenities that are available to the people who move somewhere new after retirement.  We have covered a variety of options including different home builders, retirement communities and locations around the world that are attractive to retirees (see the indexes of articles at the end of this post).  Some of these locations have been selected because they offer a luxurious lifestyle; others were chosen for their affordability; a few were selected for their exotic locations.  However, not everyone is prepared to uproot themselves from their friends, families and homes in order to move to a new location.  Before you decide to relocate, there are certain issues you will want to consider.

Retirement Planning Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are some questions you should consider before you move somewhere new:

Will you be lonely if you live far away from your children, grandchildren, and friends?  While many people easily make new friends after they move, I have also known retirees in our retirement community who have become lonely and depressed.  Rather than joining clubs and taking part in new activities, some people isolate themselves.  If you are one of these people, you may not want to make a change.

Will you be comfortable with the new climate?   We have some friends who recently moved from the Napa Valley of Northern California to a small town near Lake Michigan.  They have suffered through several blizzards and had their electricity cut off during freezing weather.  They moved there in order to be near their youngest grandchildren.  However, they are both in their 70's and this harsh climate has been hard on them.  Extreme winter climates are not the only consideration.    Some people find that they have difficulty dealing with the heat in popular retirement locations like Florida, Arizona and Palm Springs, California.  You may want to rent a home in a potential retirement area for a year or two before you decide if you are going to be happy living there permanently.

Are you willing to travel long distances to visit your current family and friends?  My parents moved from Missouri to Florida when they were in their early 60's.  Now they are in their 80's.  They used to enjoy the road trips they took to go back to Missouri and see the rest of the family.  Now they don't want to travel at all any more, whether by car or plane.  It has been four years since they went back to Missouri for a visit.  This is an especially important issue to consider if you decide to move overseas where it could also be difficult for your family members to visit you.

If you lose your spouse, would you still want to be in your new location?  If you don't think you would want to stay in your new community permanently, you may want to consider renting rather than buying your retirement home. In some cases, people even decide to become Snowbirds.  They keep a small home or condo in their current location and rent or buy another condo or home at their retirement destination.  In this way, they maintain their connections in both places. 

You also need to consider whether this is a place where you would want to live alone.  As one reader pointed out, if you move to a new location to be near your children, would you still want to live there if your adult children moved away because of a job change?  Would you want to remain in the new location if your spouse died?  You need to think carefully about these issues before you pack up your belongings and move to a new location.

If you decide to move to another country, are you prepared for the legal complications? You may want to read "Why Retire in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands or Guam."  It explains some of the legal issues to be considered in moving to another country, and it suggests that you may wish to consider living in one of our exotic US territories, instead.  It is currently the most popular article ever written for this blog.

If you need extended medical care or a nursing home, where would you want it to be?   Health problems can cause sudden changes in your retirement plans.  We had some friends who were house hunting in Ecuador when the wife had a brain aneurism.  Fortunately, the doctors in Ecuador were able to save her life (which says a lot about the medical facilities there).  However, once she recovered, they came to the realization that they did not want to be that far away if something else happened in the future.  They decided to return to the small Texas town where they had both grown up and where they would be near family and friends.

Finally, where do you want to be buried?  Although most of us do not want to think about this, it is something we should consider, especially if we decide to move overseas.  Do you want to have a funeral in a location where few of your current friends or family members will ever go?  Would you want your body to be returned to the United States for burial?  Will your heirs be left with enough money to do that?

Once you have considered all these issues, you will be better equipped to make the decision that is right for you.  If you do decide that you prefer to age in place rather than move to a new retirement location, my next blog post will cover some of the resources that are becoming available to people who decide to remain in their current neighborhoods after retirement.

If you want to learn more about the options that are available to you after you retire, check out the articles listed in the index links below.  Click on the category that interests you and it will open up to an introduction with a list of articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

More Places to Retire Overseas

Baby Boomers are well-traveled and love new experiences.  As a result, many of them are giving serious consideration to retiring overseas.  Consequently, a number of different websites have produced their own lists of some of their favorite places to retire outside the United States.  In December, 2012, U.S. News published the list they had compiled.  All the locations on their list are fun, interesting places where you will not be lonely.  Most of them have thriving ex-patriot communities made up of retired Americans.  Below is the U.S. News list, along with some basic information and my personal impressions of each.

Where to Retire Overseas

Cuenca, Ecuador

Ecuador is considered one of the more affordable places for Americans to retire.  As I have mentioned before in this blog, some retired friends of ours were actually house-hunting in Ecuador when the wife was stricken by an unexpected brain aneurism.  The doctors and medical facilities in Ecuador were amazing, and she was able to receive life saving brain surgery there.  Of course, their plans to move to Ecuador were interrupted, and now they are back in the United States while she recuperates.

According to U.S. News, a retired couple could live in the charming colonial city of Cuenca for about $1,200 a month.  A small condo there can be purchased for as little as $40,000. This means that many Americans could pay cash for a nice condo in Ecuador by using the equity in their current home, and live comfortably on their Social Security benefits.  It was this affordability that first attracted our friends, as well as many other people.

Granada, Nicaragua

This is another charming city in Central America with an affordable cost of living and low real estate prices.  The government of Nicaragua has had a bad reputation in recent years, so many people may be reluctant to visit this area.  However, there is an ex-patriot community of Americans living in Granada, and most of them feel very comfortable living there. 

Cebu, Philippines

The island of Cebu is another popular and affordable real estate location.  Many members of the U.S. military have chosen to  retire here because they can live so well on their military retirement.  There are some restrictions on purchasing real estate in the Philippines, but it is still possible for Americans to purchase a condo.

One of the more interesting comments the U.S. News article made about the Philippines was that many American men in their 50's and 60's move there to find wives and start families!  That is the first time I have ever read that about a potential retirement location.

Medellin, Columbia

According to the U.S. News article, this South American city is safe and beautiful.  There are also large literary, artistic, industrial and financial communities in the city.  However, personally I was surprised to see Medellin on the list.  Isn't that the location of the Medellin drug cartel?  Before flying off to this city, I suggest that my readers check the State Department website to make sure there are no travel warnings for that location.  Currently, the State Department website says "security in Columbia has improved significantly in recent years ... but violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural areas and parts of large cities."   Later, the website talks about the danger of both violent and petty crimes. 

This brings to mind the fact that we should all do our own research and use our own judgement before moving to another country, even if we see a location on a list from U.S. News or some other reputable news source.

New Zealand

I have known several friends who vacationed in New Zealand, and they always returned full of enthusiam for this dramatically beautiful country.  This is considered a good place to retire part-time, because it is so difficult to become a full-time resident.  However, you can stay for six months at a time, return to the U.S. to visit friends and family, and then return to New Zealand. 

Another option that U.S. News recommends is that you spend six months of the year in New Zealand and six months in another country, like Panama.  This would give you a perpetual summer.  It is an intriguing suggestion, although I think many Americans might want to spend at least part of each year back in their old neighborhoods in the U.S., especially if they have left family behind.  One advantage of New Zealand is that they speak English.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

My husband and I first traveled to Puerto Vallarta in the early 1970's.  Back then, a number of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, had vacation homes in the town. We fell in love with this tropical paradise and have returned several times since then.  Unfortunately, the area has become more developed and more expensive since the 1970's.   While it is not as cheap as some of the other spots mentioned here, it is beautiful.  There are fabulous beaches, golf courses, restaurants, shopping, marinas and five star hotels with great entertainment venues. However, in recent years I have also heard reports of increased crime in the city. 

Samana, Dominican Republic

Are you hoping to enjoy a relaxed Caribbean retirement?   The Dominican Republic is one of the more popular Caribbean locations.  It is very affordable and real estate is less expensive than in many other Caribbean countries.

One of our daughters went on vacation there with some friends.  The trip was very inexpensive, and there were lots of fun things to do.  They found the country to be both relaxing and vibrant.  They felt comfortable and safe while they were there.  Of course, it never pays to get careless about your personal safety in any country.

Rural France

This U.S. News suggestion surprised me.  I have actually heard rural Spain mentioned more often as an interesting and affordable place for Americans to retire.  U.S. News admits that France is not a budget retirement choice.  However, my husband and I have traveled to France several times and loved it, and so have many other couples we know.  There is no question that there is plenty to do, although not everyone can afford to retire there.


I was delighted to learn from this article that Belize is one of the safest countries in the world.  It is a tiny country.  Although I have not been inside Belize, my husband and I have spent time on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, just north of Belize, and were fascinated by the Mayan ruins and the mountainous jungles. It is an awe-inspiring part of the world.

Although it has been decades since our visit, I understand that most of that area has changed very little over the years.  There is no reason to feel lonely if you retire there. Ambergris Caye in Belize is home to a close-knit expat community of like-minded people.

Before You Move Overseas

If you are thinking about retiring to another country, there are certain things you need to take into consideration.  Not all of these countries have easy access to medical facilities.  Some of them have restrictions on your ability to buy real estate.  Other countries have restrictions on how long you can stay.

In addition, governments change and sometimes they may not always be friendly towards foreigners who have moved there.  As always, I suggest that my readers check the State Department website if they are visiting or moving to another country.  Pay attention to any warnings that may be issued.

Another issue you should consider is whether or not you will be happy living so far away from your current friends and loved ones.  While it may seem like an adventure at first, you may begin to feel lonely, especially if you lose your spouse.

However, if you are up for an adventure and you want to have the experience of living in another country, US News has provided us with a great list of potential countries.


If you are trying to decide where to retire, you may also be interested in reading some of the other posts that have been written for this blog.  Links to all of them can be found in the index articles listed below.  In particular, you may be interested in checking out the articles in "Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas."

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

Photo of Ecuadorian art courtesy of

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Risks of Living Abroad

Over the years, this blog has included a number of articles that suggest beautiful and exotic places to consider if you are interested in living overseas.  Many of these areas, such as Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador and Panama, have well-established communities full of American ex-patriots and there are agencies which are able to provide you with tours of the countries and help you find your dream home.  It all sounds idyllic and the perfect way to spend your golden years.  However, I would be doing my readers a serious disservice if I left everyone with the impression that life is always perfect in these developing countries.  Here are just a few incidents that I have heard about from people who thought they were going to improve their lives by moving overseas.

Costa Rica and the Pacific Ring of Fire

As a resident of Southern California, I shouldn't express concern about earthquakes.  We have experienced several of them, and there has been no significant damage in our area as a result.  However, we have a young family friend who teaches school in Costa Rica and  they have had a 7.6 earthquake there.  Neither she nor her students were injured in the earthquake, but she reported that she had a difficult time getting home because of the damaged roads, mudslides, and similar hazards.  Fortunately, once she did arrive home, she was able to use a computer and let all of her family and friends in the U.S. know that she was safe.

The Pacific Ring of Fire is the term used to describe the coastal areas that surround the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.  This Ring of Fire includes many of the places that are frequently under consideration by people who are moving abroad.  Among the countries included in the Ring of Fire are Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines, Panama and all of Central America and Southeast Asia, including Thailand.  The earthquakes that occur in these areas can be very severe and do significant damage to the local infrastructure.

Serious Medical Problems Experienced while Living Abroad

Many Americans travel to other countries in order to obtain inexpensive medical treatments.  This is called medical tourism and often involves elective or cosmetic surgeries that are very expensive in the United States.  It is not unusual for many less developed countries to have fabulous hospitals that cater to medical tourism.

However, last spring a retired couple we know were exploring the idea of living abroad in Ecuador.  They had researched it thoroughly, made arrangements to rent a house for a couple of months, and signed up to start their Ecuador experience with a tour of the country.  Halfway through the tour, the wife collapsed when an aneurysm in her brain burst.  The tour company took her to a high quality hospital where they were able to stop the bleeding in her brain and repair the aneurysm.  The medical facility did an excellent job on the repair, as attested by her American doctors.  However, she was very lucky.  It took the tour company eleven hours to get her to the appropriate hospital.  This couple is back in the United States and they have dropped the idea of moving overseas to Ecuador or any other foreign country.

When our young friend who is teaching in Costa Rica became sick with an identified infection about a year ago, she was sent by the school where she worked back to the United States in order to receive better treatment.  Although the American doctors were unable to determine the cause of the infection, she is now healthy and has returned to Costa Rica.  However, it is interesting that she needed to return to the US in order to get the medical treatment that she needed.

A California Family's Experience after Moving to Belize

Readers may also want to read the new book, "Freeways to Flip Flops," (available from Amazon using this link).  It is about a Southern California family's experience when they moved to Belize.  They sold their home in Lake Forest, California and moved their entire family there, including their teenage sons.  In a little over a year, they moved back to California.  They spent their time in Belize dealing with scorpions, rats, smelly drinking water, heat and humidity.  They were dissatisfied with the educational opportunities for their children.  The husband attempted to work from Belize; however, the computer system was so unreliable that he lost his job.  There were many other problems that they experienced, as well, so it might be worthwhile to read this book before you decide to make such a dramatic move.

Do not expect to find life in a foreign country to be like your life in the United States.  There will be inconveniences.  Our young friend in Costa Rica eventually moved to a gated community there, after her home in the local town was robbed.  Her home in the gated community was considerably more expensive ... similar in price to homes in the United States.  She also has bars on the windows and still has to deal with plumbing problems, huge spiders, etc.  She loves living there and has no plans to move back to the U.S.  However, living overseas does require some flexibility.

The Bottom Line on Moving Abroad

If you are the adventurous type, you may discover that living in another country is not a problem for you.  Like our young teacher friend, even if you run into difficulties you may fall in love with your new country and decide to stay, no matter what inconveniences you experience.  In fact, this young woman has now married a Costa Rican businessman, and they now have a one-year old daughter.  This has made her even more cautious about her home's security.

When I wrote posts that recommend different countries where you may want to live, I do not want to create the impression that everything will always go well.  There will be challenges and inconveniences that may grow tiring after a while, especially as you get older.  The important thing is to be realistic and aware of some of the problems you may experience before you make such a life altering decision.

Looking for more ideas about where to retire?  Use the tabs or list at the top of this article.  They will connect you with hundreds of additional articles on where to retire, financial planning, medical issues, changing family relationships and other related information.

You may specifically want to read:

Best Places to Retire Outside the US
American Retiring in Panama
Live in Ecuador Comfortably on Social Security
Retiring in Luxury to Hua Hin, Thailand
Why Retire in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands or Guam

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