How to Gradually Retire Overseas

Moving abroad doesn’t need to be an abrupt change.


If the idea of relocating to another country is intimidating, you’re probably not ready to make the leap full-time. Instead, take retirement overseas for a test run by spending part of a year someplace foreign.

Retirement 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.

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A move to a new county can be overwhelming. You’ll probably need to sell or make other arrangements for most of your current possessions including your current home, car, and furniture. There are also communication barriers if you go to a country where everyone you meet speaks another language. But a move abroad doesn’t have to be this abrupt.

You don't necessarily need to sell your home right away and you can keep your car if you like it. Simply pack a few bags and head off to someplace that's got your attention for a month or two. Don't even think about buying a house or anything else. Rent a small and modest apartment or arrange an extended stay in a bed and breakfast or guesthouse. Keep it low key and low pressure.

Retirement overseas doesn't have to be like jumping off a cliff. You can ease into the idea. Taking a retirement spot for a test drive allows you to return home if you find the place disappointing in some way. Later you can plan another retire overseas holiday and give someplace else a chance.

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You could continue like this for years. You can enjoy some of the benefits of a new life in a new country, while still having a safety net. Many other countries have a dramatically reduced cost-of-living, better weather, cheaper medical care, and other luxuries you could utilize while there, but also return to the familiarity of the U.S. when you need to. What you'll find is that, with each retire overseas foray, your confidence will build and your plan will evolve.

The next step is to extend the length of each retire overseas vacation. You could spend three or even up to six months at a time in each new place, depending on the jurisdiction's tourist visa restrictions. You could also begin renting out your place back home when you're not using it. This income would help to subsidize the expense of your retire overseas wanderings.

If you find a place you like well enough to want to return regularly you could eventually invest in a new residence. You could also rent out this apartment or beach house when you're elsewhere to further supplement your retirement income. Eventually you may find that you're ready to sell your place back home, because, as time passes, your connection there seems less and less important.

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Take it one step at a time and let your retire overseas plan develop organically. Just as there's no one-size-fits-all overseas retirement haven, neither is there a retire-overseas plan that suits everyone. This idea is infinitely customizable.

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.