Before you begin to reinvent your life overseas, you need to figure out what you want your retirement experience to be like. You need to evaluate your priorities, preferences, and the aspects of living in the U.S. you are unwilling to give up. Here are five fundamental issues to consider while formulating a retire-overseas plan.
Who will come with you? While some people move abroad alone, others bring a spouse, other family members, or children. If you’ll be moving with a significant other or other family members, you must consider every issue together and allow all sides a voice. Making the most of your new life overseas will require energy, commitment, and a positive attitude. You don’t want to force someone into this.
How concerned are you with what your family and friends think? Some of your friends and relatives in the U.S. are going to tell you you’ve lost your mind. They’ll forward you media links and State Department warnings to show you how dangerous the rest of the world is and how, once you venture beyond U.S. borders, you’ll be at the mercy of non-English-speaking thieves and scallywags. Plus, they will tell you how lonely and homesick you will be so far away from the U.S. They’re wrong, of course. But you need to believe that as firmly as I do.
Do you want to live primarily among locals or expats? Life in Mexico is a very different experience if you live it in a little village of local fishermen versus in a gated, guarded community built by and for foreign residents. Settling among the locals means you must learn to live like a local. For some people, living within a new culture is exciting and invigorating, while for others it is terrifying.
What are the things you cannot live without? Some people are reluctant to give up dinners at five-star restaurants, American football on Sunday afternoons, museum openings, weekends at the beach, or golf. Make a list of the necessary components of a happy retirement with the most important things at the top. These should be the things you won’t compromise on. Don’t let anyone tell you the things on your list don’t really matter. If they matter to you, they matter to the success of your new life in retirement in a foreign country.
Are you ready to move full-time? A move abroad doesn't have to be all or nothing. You could retire overseas and still spend part or even lots of your time back home. The beauty of retiring overseas is that it is infinitely customizable. There’s no right or wrong way to reinvent your life in a new country.
Throughout my 13 years living overseas, I’ve considered my answers to these questions, and I’ve used those answers to formulate a retire-overseas plan that continues to evolve. I have to consider the positions of my husband and two children along with my own. Fortunately, my husband’s and my ideas about how we want to live long-term are in synch and our children have embraced our lifestyle, though sometimes reluctantly at first.
What is most important to me and my husband is change, variety, and contrast. I could likely enjoy living almost anywhere for a while. But there is only one place in the world where I could imagine living full-time forever, and that’s Paris. Eventually, we may focus our lives on Paris, but right now we plan to move among four places where we’ve developed connections and where we feel at home. Following the seasons, we plan to spend spring in Paris, summer in Istria, fall in Buenos Aires, and winter on Panama’s Pacific coast.
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.