How to Work Up the Nerve to Retire Overseas

You need to overcome inertia to launch a new life abroad.

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A greatly reduced cost of living and an enormously enriched quality of life are the promises of retirement overseas. But how do you progress from the dream of an exotic, adventure-filled, and exceedingly affordable retirement in some overseas Shangri-la to actually living that life?

I’ve been living outside the U.S. for more than 13 years. I’ve made three international moves across three continents with two kids, a dog, a turtle, a husband, and two businesses. Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned: You’ve got to show up. Break your retire-overseas adventure down into steps. Then take one. With each step, your self-confidence will build, and every step that follows will seem even easier.

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Sometimes we seem to let our lives happen and close our minds to further change. A friend of mine calls this the “where my car broke down” syndrome. Nearly everyone In Las Vegas, he observed, hailed from somewhere else. One woman he met at a party, for example, explained that she had been on her way from Ohio to California. Her car broke down in Las Vegas, and she didn’t have the money to pay for repairs. She got a job in a casino. That was 26 years ago. She's still there.

The purest coincidence got us to where we’re living. The merest fluke put us in our present place. However we got to where we are, even if simply because our car broke down, we stay put. Now other parts of the world may beckon and other opportunities may offer more. If you’re fed up living where you’re living or if the prospects for your future in that place seem bleak, move someplace else. Don’t stay put.

Things are not bleak all over the world. In some beautiful, interesting, exotic, exciting, and, yes, affordable parts of the world, the sun is shining and your future can be bright.

[See The 8 Best Places To Retire Abroad.]

I've met many people over the years who have been thinking about living or retiring overseas for years. They can tell you how to get a visa, where to open a bank account, how much to budget for rent, and the per-square-foot price of buying a home in a dozen different countries. Still, they're deliberating, weighing the options, and not quite sure where to go or that the time is right to make a move.

To these people, I say: Just do it.

There is no right time, and there is no single right place. But there is a place that's right for you right now. Sometimes life takes you by the collar and pulls you along. Other times it waits for you to create your own momentum. Do your research, make your plans, and then take the leap. Don’t spend your best and healthiest years analyzing and planning. These are years of your life that you’ll never recover.

Yes, you need to carry out your research for every retire-overseas destination that gets your attention. Consider a monthly budget, the cost of renting, and the local tax rates. Other necessities include the residency requirements, visa options, the standard and cost of available medical care, and the local options for health insurance. All this planning is important. But more important is that the consideration and planning is followed by action.

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Get on a plane and spend a week on the ground in one of the overseas retirement havens that interests you. What’s the worst that could happen? You will have a great vacation and return home with good stories to tell your friends. Here’s what else could happen: Your interest will be piqued further and you’ll be inspired to take a next step. Before you know it, you’ll have reinvented your life. And the future will seem anything but bleak.

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.