Retirement Abroad - an opportunity for a better life?

Retirement Abroad - an opportunity for a better life?

Recent research has shown that, on average most people are their least happiest in their early fifties and then they get rapidly happier after that. One of the reasons seems to be that impending retirement comes with some major concerns, including:

  • Will the money I have saved be enough to fund the lifestyle I want to live?
  • Can I get access to the healthcare I need to live the life I want to lead?
  • How will I replace the part that work played in my life?

More and more people are answering these three questions by looking at retiring to a different part of the world. With the same research showing that happiness increases rapidly after retirement, could a different retirement strategy help you move up the curve faster?

Will I have enough money?

The huge differences in cost of living means your money is worth much more in some countries. Your savings and income can go further than you can imagine.

  • Moving from Miami, Florida to Boquete, Panama will effectively multiply your retirement spending power by 230%.
  • A shift from Sydney, Australia to George Town, Malaysia would feel like tripling your spending power!
  • Spend your money in Valletta, Malta instead of London, England and feel 153% richer.
  • Your money goes more than twice as far in Cartoga, Costa Rica than it would in Vancouver, Canada.

The savings in accommodation, food, entertainment, health care, domestic help and other expenses can be enormous.

  • The rent on a two bedroom flat in a mid-range suburb in Sydney, Australia will easily pay for a beautiful beachside house in Hua Hin, Thailand.
  • For the price of eating in McDonald’s in Atlanta, USA you could have a three-course lunch with a glass of wine in Malaga, Spain.
  • The cost of a cleaner for a day and a half in London, England will get you a housekeeper/cook/carer for a month in Granada, Nicaragua.

Some countries also offer great financial incentives too.  Take Nicaragua for example where the retiree benefit program includes incentives such as those below to attract retirees to their country:

  • No tax on out-of-country earnings,
  • Household items worth up to $20,000 can be brought in duty-free
  • Sales tax exemptions on items up to $50,000 when constructing a home. 

What about my health care requirements?

Obviously just having more money in your pocket doesn't solve everything, but it is a good start. Well, what about my health you may ask. If you have a negative view of medical care outside your country, it may be time to have a good look at the reality today.

Countries like Panama, Mexico and Malaysia have incredible modern hospitals at a fraction of the cost of the United States. Quality doctors are accessible when you want them and in some instances, are even available for house calls.

Spain, France and Austria have extensive health care systems that rank amongst the best in the world for access and outcomes. Moving to a new country doesn’t mean that your access to world class health care is compromised, in fact it can mean just the opposite!

And this lifestyle I could have?

The benefits of a physically and mentally active lifestyle are well understood. Retiring to a new country with access to fantastic climates, sea and beaches, mountains and lakes, and other attractions offers this in spades. The Global Coalition on Aging’s white paper on Healthy Aging is clear, the physical, cognitive and social benefits of travel are huge.

“By keeping us active and engaged, travel certainly promotes well-being. Indeed, the levels of correlation between travel and certain areas of health are remarkably clear.”

The obvious fact that many popular overseas retirement destinations have a large, established retirement community means that newcomers have access to like minded people, people happy to share their experiences, and services and activities that fit your lifestyle. It also ensures that infrastructure to service the needs of retirees is in place and viable for the long term.

How to get a visa?

People are often surprised at how easy it is to qualify for a retirement visa. Many countries offer a residency (the right to live and work) based on your available income which can be from a range of sources, including your Social Security, Pension, Annuity or income from existing investments.

Countries that use monthly income to award the visa include: (with the approximate USD monthly amount as exchange rates do fluctuate.)

  • Nicaragua -  USD$ 600  (and USD$150 for each family member. You must be over 45 years of age)
  • Honduras - USD$ 600      
  • Costa Rica - USD$ 1,000 (You need to be able to prove that this income will last for your life time.)   
  • Guatemala - USD$ 1,000    
  • Thailand - USD$ 2,000  (Or a deposit account of USD$ 25,000. You must be over 50 years of age.)     
  • Aruba - USD$ 2,300   (You need to be over 55 years of age)     
  • Malaysia - USD$ 2,500  (You need to be over 50 and show approx USD$ 83,000 in assets)     
  • Spain - USD$ 2,600  (For additional family members you need an additional USD$ 650 each)         
  • Vanuatu - USD$ 2,800  (This amount needs to be transferred to a commercial bank in Vanuatu)      
  • United Kingdom - USD$ 2,900 (You must be over 60 and have an existing connection to the UK)  

Click on the country name for more information.

Panama’s Retirement Visa operates slightly differently. You are required to deposit a minimum of USD$ 170,000 into a 5-year fixed term deposit with the National Bank of Panama which will generate around USD$ 750 a month of income. Click here for more information.

Is Retirement Abroad for me?

While an overseas retirement is not for everyone this is a group that is growing rapidly with numbers from the United States up an estimated 17% from 2000 to 2015. Cheap airfares for family visits, tools like Skype and Facebook to stay connected, fantastic health care, low cost of living and vibrant and engaged communities all around the world mean this trend is only going to increase.

While a change of this nature is certainly not for everyone, if you want to tickle your sense of adventure, stretch your horizons and your retirement savings then exploring retiring abroad may be just the thing.




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Alastair Johnson

A digital nomad, born and raised in South Africa before heading off into the wider world. Developed a serious case of itchy feet and found some amazing places to live along the way including London, Sydney and now Spain. Happiest sipping a sundowner looking over the ocean talking about the day’s diving.…

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