Expat Living: Retiring Affordably in Style

Call it a belated sense of wanderlust, a last-ditch effort to explore another culture or language or simply to get more value for money; retiring abroad has become one viable option for seniors wanting to retire affordably in style.  The trend has become more common in recent years with unofficial statistics at half a million senior Americans moving abroad for retirement.  The number is likely to increase thanks to the Internet and the economy.

Caana Sky Palace in Belize by Dennis Jarvis

The Internet has provided the necessary connectivity for retirees to keep in touch with loved ones and happenings at home making expat living not as isolated as it used to be. The shrinking value of retirement money is even a more compelling reason for some retirees. Living in a tropical paradise abroad has now become more affordable and attractive than the warm-weather cities at home. They can take same amount of funds and live stylishly at half the cost with warm, tropical sunshine for most of the year!

Let’s talk numbers to illustrate. In Nicaragua for example, a top-rated retirement destination for Americans, you can live comfortably on Social Security alone, at say $1,200 per month. If you own your place and earn an additional $600 from other income sources, you can live awfully well. On top of that, you can choose to own property without the worries of price bubbles as these countries are relatively unaffected by price swings in real properties. And owning property can be quite an emotional motivation for most retirees who probably wanted to pursue farming, open a bread and breakfast or simply to own a piece of nature.

But retiring abroad is not all rosy and easy. A lot of homework and research has to be done long before the actual move. There are serious considerations on visa requirements, transferring retirement income, health care, owning properties, culture, language and of course security. Research will also reveal that there are countries offering special benefits to retirees like Belize which easily gives residency status, Costa Rica which has excellent healthcare even for expats or in Panama where expat retirees are given all sorts of discounts for bus fares, movies, restaurants, etc.

Which countries then are popular retirement havens? Most of those belonging in the top ten lists compiled by International Living, Forbes and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) include Central American countries like Panama, Belize,  Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Ecuador, European countries like France (not Paris, but down South), Italy, Spain,  Argentina and Portugal and lately Asian destinations like Malaysia and Thailand.

A lot of people get anxious with planning for retirement, worrying that the value of their money may not be enough to live comfortably when the time comes. But then again with economic uncertainties looming largely, the more important thing is probably not how much you saved for retirement but how you choose to spend it.

Filed Under: BudgetingReal Estate

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  • It’s not just the elders who are heading overseas.  I am 45 and my wife is 30 and we recently relocated to Thailand to enjoy the good weather, friendly people and much lower cost of living.

  • Andy Graham

    80 percent of the people on plane earth earn less than 10 USD per day — keep it simple. I am Andy Graham of HoboTravele.com.

  • Couldn’t agree more. It’s finding a place to enjoy more without spending as much. How’s Thailand?

  • Most Americans prefer to live after retirement in other country. They find it more practical and enjoyable as well.