Most people approach the idea of retiring overseas in the context of their retirement budget. They have a certain amount of money to retire on and need to search around the world for places where that nest egg could buy them a comfortable retirement life.
I suggest taking a different approach. Rather than trying to identify the place where you’ll enjoy your retirement years based solely or primarily on how much money you have to spend on retirement, I recommend you first consider how you would like to spend your time in retirement.
If you could do anything and occupy your days with no restrictions, what would you do? When you finally flip the switch to retirement, your greatest asset is going to be time. How would you most like to fill it?
I like to walk, and so does my husband. It’s our preferred activity and pastime. Therefore, we’ve made “opportunities for walking” a fundamental requirement when choosing where we’ll spend our retirement.
We also like change and contrast. We enjoy city, beach, and mountain life and all four seasons. We have two children and hope eventually to have grandchildren. Spending time together will be an ever-greater priority as we grow older.
Where does all that lead us? To a plan for serial retirement. Ultimately, we’ll base ourselves in Paris, the world’s most walkable city and one that boasts all four seasons. However, our little Paris pied-a-terre doesn’t lend itself to family gatherings, and we can’t afford a bigger place in the City of Light.
So, we’ve bought an apartment with four bedrooms and a big terrace in another of our favorite cities, Medellin, Colombia, which is also highly walkable. The downside to Medellin, for us, is that it’s a land of eternal springtime. Spring is nice, but we also like summer, fall, and winter.
We intend to round out our long-term retirement plan with time each year in Istria, Croatia, where we’ll be able to enjoy long hikes in the mountains, and the Azuero coast of Panama, with its long stretches of undeveloped Pacific coastline, perfect for early morning walks along the beach.
That’s our plan. Maybe none of these options appeal to you. The point is to begin formulating your retirement overseas plan based on the answer to this question: When I wake up each morning in retirement, what would I most like to be able to do with the day that follows?
Here are some top overseas retirement options, depending on how you fill in that blank. Each of these countries has many other pluses and minuses, but each would be an ideal place to pursue the pastime in question.
- Big budget: Ireland
- Medium budget: Coast of Spain
- Smaller budget: Costa Rica
- Big budget: Mediterranean coast of France
- Medium budget: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Smaller budget: Ambergris Caye, Belize
- Big budget: New Zealand
- Medium budget: Lake and river fishing in Argentina
- Smaller budget: Panama
- Big budget: Paris, France
- Medium budget: Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Smaller budget: Medellin, Colombia
Snorkeling and diving
- Big budget: New Zealand
- Medium budget: Belize
- Smaller budget: Philippines
Expat company and community
- Big budget: Coast of Spain
- Medium budget: Ambergris Caye, Belize
- Smaller budget: Ajijic, Mexico
- Big budget: Burgundy, France
- Medium budget: Istria, Croatia
- Smaller budget: Mendoza, Argentina
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.