5 Ways to Pay for Retirement Overseas

Here’s how to generate the income you need to retire abroad.

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Could you earn an income overseas to support or supplement the cost of living there in retirement? Absolutely. You have two options: you could get a job or you could start a business. Both can be reasonable, realistic ideas, depending on where you want to retire and the kind of life you want to lead in retirement.

Start by taking personal stock. What's important to you? What do you like to do? How could you convert your interests and hobbies into an income stream? Take stock, too, of your skills. What languages do you speak? What experience and training do you have?

Here are five proven strategies for generating an income to support your retirement wherever in the world you want to retire:

Strategy 1: Arrange a posting in another country through your current employer. This is how friends David and Anna organized their retirement in Costa Rica. They both worked for Dell in other countries and requested the chance to continue working for Dell in San Jose. Obviously, this works only if you're working for an international organization with an office in the place where you want to relocate. However, for David and Anna, their reposting to Costa Rica was the perfect segue into the overseas retirement they both wanted.

Strategy 2: Set yourself up as a local consultant. What business do you know? Where in the world might your experience and expertise have value? I know one retiree who'd been in the pool business in Miami his entire career. His search for his ideal retirement haven took him to Roatan, in the Bay Islands of Honduras. There he discovered a lot of people who were interested in building pools, but the local talent for building U.S.-standard pools was limited. Steven was able to parlay his decades of experience into a retirement income that allowed him to afford the Caribbean retirement he wanted.

Strategy 3: Set yourself up as an international consultant. If you're an accountant, attorney, or money adviser, you could make a great living helping expats and retirees abroad structure and then manage their financial lives in paradise. If you have marketing or internet-development experience, you’ll also find many opportunities for consulting with those businesses worldwide. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection.

Strategy 4: Take a position teaching English as a foreign language. This is one of the most common ways to earn an income in any country where the language isn’t English. Often, you can work as little or as much as you’d like, making this an ideal option for retirees.

Strategy 5: Cultivate a trade you could practice anywhere. This can be your best option. It can work for anyone, and it's highly portable. I'm a laptop-carrying, daily letter-producing poster girl for the best mobile trade I know: travel writing. I have at least two dozen good friends who are currently paying for or supplementing the costs of their lives overseas as professional travel writers. And every day I communicate with writers (and writers-in-training) living or retired in places of interest and eager to write about their experiences.

You don't always need formal training as a writer. You need an open mind, open eyes, a curiosity about the world around you, and a penchant for telling stories. If those things describe you, you could earn an income as a travel writer even if you've never done it before. One of the most successful and prolific travel writers I know started her professional life as a barmaid. Others have been housewives, engineers, investment advisers, and even accountants.

One of the many benefits of cultivating this kind of portable profession is that it means the resulting income will be on an international scale. If you take a job or set yourself up as a local consultant in a foreign country, you'll be paid like a local and in the local currency. This could be a plus or a minus, but it introduces a risk. A professional who might earn $60,000 in the U.S., for example, might earn one-third as much in Panama or Colombia and be considered well-paid. Remember, of course, that the local cost of living will be less, as well.

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.