A few years ago, I left my comfortable life in Seattle, Washington, to relocate to Switzerland. Technically, I wasn’t “retiring abroad.” As the founder of Sixty and Me, I was still busy for most of the day. I was also continuing to work as a freelance consultant. So, perhaps, “semi-retirement” would be a more accurate description.
When I first arrived in Switzerland, I was overwhelmed with emotions – excitement, fear, apprehension and wonder. I was happy to be closer to my family, who had moved to Switzerland several years before me. But, I was also nervous about not speaking the language. I also didn’t have any friends in Switzerland, so, I worried that my social ties would suffer.
Several years later, I can honestly say that moving to Switzerland was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only am I closer to my family, but, I have also become immersed in a fascinating new culture. I can even speak a little German… well at least order a coffee or a salad in a loud voice!
Talking with the other women in our community, I know that many of you are thinking about taking the plunge and retiring to another country. If this sounds like you, you probably have many of the same questions that I did. How will I learn the language? What should I take with me? How can I find good quality healthcare? What are the best countries to retire in?
The good news is that there are hundreds of women in the community who have already moved to a new country after 60. So, to help those of you who may be thinking about your retirement options, I wanted to ask our recent movers to give some advice.
First, I say a few short words about what I wish I had known before I retired abroad. Then, I’ll open this up for discussion. I can’t wait to hear what everyone has to say!
If you have a specific question about retiring abroad, please post it in the comments section at the end of this article. With any luck, you’ll get plenty of answers from the other women in our community.
First, let’s talk about language. One of the biggest fears that people have when they are thinking about moving to another country is how they will communicate if they don’t speak the language. Most importantly, I wish that I had known that, while learning the local language is valuable, it is not essential to your survival in most places.
For starters, there will almost certainly be a local expat community that you can engage with. Just search for “expats + your new city’s name” in Google. In addition, you will probably be surprised by how many local people speak English. Struggling to communicate can actually be fun. The trick is not to get frustrated.
As the same time, you will get more from your time abroad if you take the time to learn the local language and experience the local culture. There are tons of free tools out there to help you learn your chosen language. For example, I am a huge fan of Duolingo.com, which offers free language lessons in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and more.
Another trick is to search the web for subsidized language classes in the city that you have moved to. Many countries want to encourage new visitors to learn the language and they do everything in their power to make this easy. Once again, Google is your friend.
Another important tip that I wish someone had told me before I left for Switzerland was to take less. When I left America, I packed all of my possessions into suitcases and boxes. When I arrived, I realized that I only needed about 20% of the items that I brought. It would have been much more efficient to sell or give away most of my items and gradually replace them over time.
Finally, for those of you who are coming from the states, I would highly recommend that you talk to your accountant about your responsibilities to Uncle Sam. Many people don’t realize that there are requirements for reporting your bank accounts and income, even if you are living in another country. This is much easier to plan for up front, than to deal with after the fact.
So, that’s it for my tips for retiring abroad. Now, I’d love to hear from all of you!
Have you retired, including “semi-retirement, abroad? What do you wish you had known before taking the plunge and moving to a new country? What tips would you offer to a friend who is considering retiring abroad in the next year? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going.
Tags Retirement Planning