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How to Retire Abroad: 6 Questions to Ask Before You Move

By Margaret Manning October 22, 2013 Managing Money

Many women in our community are wondering how to retire abroad. After all, there are many wonderful countries where you can often enjoy a richer retirement lifestyle at a lower cost of living than in your own homeland. But if you want to retire abroad, how do you get started? How do you take the first step to making your retirement dream a reality?

Here are a few questions that everyone should ask prior to moving abroad for retirement:

What is the True Cost of Living When Retiring Abroad?

Don’t assume that every other country is going to be a lower-cost place for you to live. Keep in mind that there are issues that affect the cost of living that go beyond the price of housing or the cost of a restaurant meal.

For example, your new retirement destination might make you vulnerable to currency fluctuations (where the value of your currency where you have your retirement savings might change for the worse, making your everyday living expenses more costly in your retirement country), the cost of airfare to travel home and inflation.

Can I Get Good Health Care in My New Country?

Health care is one of the biggest concerns for many retirees, whether it’s the cost of health insurance or the reality of potentially needing to get surgery, pharmaceuticals or other life-saving, life-extending medical treatments.

Many other countries might offer lower costs on health care, but do your research to see where you can get the best care possible, so that your health needs do not suffer at a time of life when you might need health care the most.

Do I Feel Comfortable in the Other Country?

Moving to another country is not to be done lightly. Take a few extended vacations to tour the area and get acquainted with the country where you want to stay in retirement. What speaks to you about this place?

Do you love the scenery, the culture, the food, the music, or the people? Can you see yourself feeling comfortable and content here? Does this other country give you a sense of a new beginning, new adventures, new places to explore and new things to learn?

Make sure you feel like you can fully be yourself and thrive to your full potential when retiring abroad.

Will My Spouse Be Happy Retiring Abroad?

Retirement can create a unique sort of new stress on a marriage, and this is especially true when retiring abroad. If you’re married and are considering retiring abroad, make sure that both you and your spouse are equally enthusiastic. Talk about the possible risks and pitfalls as well as the dreams.

Are you both committed to this new adventure? Are you both ready to learn a new language, try new foods, experience new cultures, go without certain conveniences, and possibly feel annoyed and out-of-place at times as you adapt to culture shock?

Make sure that both of you are going to be happy and are fully invested in making this move. Living abroad is a big commitment, especially as a couple. Make sure the move is a shared adventure that brings you closer together, rather than a source of conflict that drives you apart.

Have I Seen the Full Reality of Living Abroad?

Many people want to retire abroad because they only have a happy image in their minds of the other country where they want to live in retirement – if your only experience of a place is of being on vacation there, then you’re probably going to have a distinctly positive impression. However, living full-time, year-round in another country is a different experience than a short-term holiday stay.

The weather might not always be as beautiful as it is during peak tourist season. The cultural attractions might be more limited than you realized. It might sometimes be lonely living abroad, especially if you’re in a country where you’re still learning the language. Be prepared for the possible adjustments and downsides of life abroad, as well as the positives.

Why Do I Want to Retire Abroad?

There’s an old saying, “No matter where you go, there you are.” Are you retiring abroad for the right reasons? Are you seeing retirement abroad as an escape from the world, or as a way to re-energize and re-engage with the world? What do you want to do in retirement? What do you want your life to be about? Sitting on the beach is wonderful, but many people find that a life of nothing but leisure gets boring fast.

If you want to be successful in retirement, you need a plan to stay active and engaged with the world around you, and keep making a contribution to something you care about (whatever that means to you). These questions of how to make a happy, meaningful life in retirement do not go away just because you’ve retired to an island paradise.

If anything, having too much leisure time might cause you to confront a lot of uncomfortable questions and realizations. Think it through before you sell your house and uproot your life and move thousands of miles away from family and friends.

Retiring abroad can be the adventure of a lifetime, but it pays to give this move some careful consideration prior to buying your plane tickets. With thoughtful planning and a good sense of “why” you’re making the move, retirement abroad can be a dream come true.

Have you retired abroad? What is the experience like? What advice would you offer to others? Let us know in the Comments. Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at margaret@sixtyandme.com

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