Reap the Many Benefits of a Part-Time Retirement Overseas

Consider spending part of the year abroad, and still enjoy the benefits of home.

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You don’t have to move full-time to reap the rewards of retiring overseas. Selling everything you own, packing your bags, and leaving your home, your family, and your friends to retire in a new country may seem bold, intimidating, even ridiculous. Perhaps you don’t want to sell your house. Maybe you don’t want to be a plane ride away from your grandchildren all year long. Some people have business or family responsibilities in the United States that would make it inconvenient to reside overseas 12 months a year.

These are all good reasons to retire overseas part-time. Another reason is improving your budget. If your retirement nest egg has taken a beating recently, your prospects for retirement living in the United States may seem grim. But if you spend half the year someplace where the cost of living is significantly reduced and rent out your U.S. home while you’re away, your retirement funds could expand accordingly during the months you’re stateside. Retirement could go from a source of concern to a cause for excitement.

One good strategy can be to follow the seasons. When the snow starts falling up north, head south. Combine city living with a mountain escape or small-town charm with a beachfront retreat. Soak up Continental pleasures, then withdraw to country life.

A part-time retirement abroad makes even more sense if you can rent out your place back home while you’re off enjoying foreign pleasures. Find the retirement haven that complements your situation at home and buy there. If you can also rent out the foreign residence when you’re away, your budget becomes a whole lot easier to manage.

One very sensible and manageable approach could be to spend half the year in the States and half the year down south, for example. This snowbird approach to retirement isn’t new. Retirees from upstate New York and the Dakotas have been migrating south for decades. The difference today is that they’re migrating farther south. Panama has become the new Florida, the top choice among Americans looking to escape winter back home by spending that season in far sunnier climes. Other top snowbird destinations include Mexico and Nicaragua.

Part-time retirement overseas has other practical benefits. Paul and Vicki Terhorst retired 25 years ago. However, they didn’t retire to anywhere. They retired, literally, overseas. They move around the world as their wanderlust and, critically, their retirement budget dictates. When Paris was a far more affordable place to live than it is right now, they lived in Paris. When the cost of living in that city became more than their budget could bear, they moved to Buenos Aires. When inflation made Argentina too expensive, they moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they’ve been living, happily, for the past eighteen months.

One more benefit to part-time retirement abroad: It means you don’t have to worry about foreign residency options or visas. Remember, you must obtain a residency visa only if you intend to reside in the country permanently, which generally means more than six months a year. You’d have your work cut out for you trying to organize full-time legal residency as a retiree in Croatia, for example, or New Zealand. Both of these countries offer many advantages and appealing lifestyle options for the would-be retiree, but neither makes it easy for retirees to become full-time residents.

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.