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9 Reasons Not To Retire Overseas (And Why They Don't Matter)

By Kathleen Peddicord

Summary: Kathleen Peddicord, a well-known overseas retirement and international real estate expert, outlines 9 reasons why people think that they cannot retire abroad and why those reasons don't matter.

Retiring Abroad - 9 Reasons Not To Retire Overseas (And Why They Don't Matter)

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #1: "I can't afford it."

Your nest egg has been marginalized in recent years, and you're thinking that there's no way at this point that you can afford to entertain these notions of living or retiring overseas.

Here's the truth: You can't afford not to. I mean this both literally and figuratively.

You could take my advice and launch a more comfortable, more interesting, safe, pleasant, even adventure-filled life in a number of places around the world that I introduce to you in these dispatches on a budget of as little as US$1,200 per month or less. In some parts of Panama, Colombia, Thailand, and Ecuador, for example, you could live comfortably on a budget of less than US$1,000 per month. I'd be surprised if you can't afford that.

But here's the real point: You owe it to yourself to go find out for yourself just how affordable and, more important, just how fun and adventure-filled a new life in a new country can be. I say again that, cost of living aside, you can't afford not to do this.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #2: "It's not the right time."

There is no right time.

Sure, it'd be easier to stay put and do nothing. But where would that leave you at the end of your days? What stories would you have to tell? What adventures to remember?

Years ago, I met a gentleman from Tennessee who explained that he had been researching the idea of retiring to the Dominican Republic for two years. "I'm convinced the DR is a place I want to be," he told me, "but I'm just not sure the timing is right..."

"Have you considered other options?" I asked.

"Well, before I started looking closely at the Dominican Republic, I researched Costa Rica for four years."

"What did you end up doing there?"

"Oh, I never did anything. After four years of looking, prices had risen so high that I figured it no longer made sense."

"Ready, fire, aim," I say. You can plan to reinvent your life in retirement overseas...or you can launch a new life overseas and then make some plans.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #3: "I don't want to leave my home and family for good."

So don't. The real beauty of reinventing your life in a new country today is that it is an infinitely customizable idea. Keep your home in the States if you want and spend part of your time, as your comfort level allows, somewhere exotic and sunny. Establish a second base somewhere foreign...or try out a different overseas locale each year. Come and go as you like, as often as you like, knowing that you've always got a safety net "back home." There is no right or wrong strategy for how to retire overseas.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #4: "I need to earn a living."

In today's world, with a little imagination and self-confidence, you can earn a living anywhere. In fact, it can be easier today for an American to earn an independent living in a foreign country than in the United States, because you have knowledge, experience, skills, and connections that the locals don't.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #5: "I don't have enough capital to make an international move like this."

You need precious little. Take my word for it: If you want to do this, you can pull together the capital you need to make it happen...because, seriously, you don't need a lot.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #6: "I don't speak the language."

I'm not a linguist. And I understand--it gets harder to learn a language as you get older. That's why you're lucky. You speak English, and English is the world's language. Across much of this planet, anyone who is anyone (that is, anyone you might want to communicate or do business with), as well as any school kid, speaks English. That said, it's worth noting that learning a new language is one of the best ways to keep your brain limber as you age.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #7: "I'm too old."

Are you dead? If not, then you're not too old.

Yes, it's easier and might seem more sensible to take a seat on the front porch and await the arrival of the Grim Reaper. Or maybe your life is already so exciting and wonderful that you can't handle a little change?

If that's not the case, then I'd recommend that you take a cue from my friend Jules, who is 88-years-old and making plans right now for his move from Florida to Belize. Even after a lifetime of adventure, traveling the world with the U.S. Navy, Jules is up for another change and a new start.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #8: "I'm too young."

As I said, in today's world, if you've got a laptop and an Internet connection, you can earn an income anywhere...and concern over making a living is the only objection I can imagine someone younger than retirement age could possibly suggest for why he (or she) isn't jumping at a the idea of launching a new life in some sunny, sexy foreign locale.

I promise you that, no matter how old you are right now, if you make this move, you won't regret a day that follows. If you don't, eventually, you'll grow to regret every day of adventure that you missed.

Reason Not To Retire Overseas #9: "I've got to wait for my children to finish their schooling."

Why? Speaking as a mom who has spent the last 13 years raising two children (the second, my son, born in Ireland) across four countries, I can tell you with confidence that a life abroad is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids. They might object at first (my daughter, born in Baltimore, cried her way through our entire first year living overseas, in Ireland), but, in time, they'll grow to love the life and to appreciate the effort you've made providing it for them. Stay put "for the sake of the kids," and, when they're grown and discover what they missed out on, they won't forgive you.

About the Author

Established in 2008, Live and Invest Overseas is the vision of Publisher Kathleen Peddicord.

Kathleen Peddicord has covered the live and invest overseas beat for more than 25 years and is considered the world's foremost authority on overseas retirement. She has traveled to more than 50 countries, invested in real estate in 17, established businesses in 7, renovated historic properties in 6, and educated her children in 4.

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May 23, 2011 15:23

As someone whose expertise in expat living can never be questioned, Kathleen Peddicord has always been one of my favorite authors on the subject. So I'm always gratified when she puts out a new article. I wouldn't mind reading more comments, though, about the challenges facing prospective expats younger than retirement age. "If you've got a laptop and an Internet connection, you can earn an income from anywhere." No one can deny that, but it's easy to say and incredibly hard to do. So many want to earn a living remotely. How many actually achieve it? A miniscule portion earn a full living and relatively few of those are expats. Like most who've been at it for a while, I earn something online. But most of us in the category of "I need to earn a living" and "I'm too young" must still depend on outside jobs. Meticulous research and hard work can get you far anywhere; I'll never stop until I make it. But if there are special tricks to earning a full-time living remotely, I'd love to hear about them.

May 23, 2011 18:52

We visited Belise to see if we would consider moving there in the future. It was a nice country, but we didn't feel a connection. I'd love to hear from people who have retired overseas.

May 23, 2011 19:12

I tried seriously to live in Vietnam for 1yr. I moved to Saigon first.. too hot, so I moved to Dalat...too rainy & cold (can you believe that one?) finally I found a city that was cool & dry...the beach city of Vung Tao. But I still ran into 2 very real problems. 1) Couldn't learn Vietnamese. I speak both German, English and Korean so I thought I could learn Vietnamese. I took a 2hr/day 5 days/week language class at the local Saigon University. Neither I nor any of the 6 others came away after 3 months being able to speak anything more than a few phrases. It was very discouraging to say the least. I even had a VN girlfriend who tried in vein to teach me. I finally gave up. Not speaking the language is very isolating/limiting and made me dependent on the few VN people who spoke English to help me get the simplest thing done. Unlike so many countries 99% of VN speak no English. 2) Diseases. Twice in that year I had to be taken to the local hospital for Cholera. I was suffering from dehydration after going endlessly to the toilet. I suspect I got it from ice cubes (tainted with bacteria) in my ice cafe. I became seriously scared of drinking or eating anything at any restaurant from then on and had all my meals/drinks made at home. That's no fun. The hospitals are filthy and I had no desire to return for a 3d time. After reviewing these "problems" I finally decided that it was best that I packed my things and return to California.

May 23, 2011 20:26

I am 66 and married to a Chinese national lady. We will retire in Nanning in south China. We own a new apartment in a new neighborhood. We will make regular trips to the U.S.. In America people sit at home and do very little. In smaller Chinese cities people still get out and walk everywhere; sometimes till late at night. Excellent dining choices and with friends and family and life is continually interesting and rewarding. South China inland is great and not crowded like some other areas.

May 23, 2011 23:07

I must say that, in spite of the work challenges facing those of us under retirement age, I found through personal experience that U.S. citizens at least would probably find it cheaper and much more pleasant to live abroad in many places. Of course it depends on which country and region you choose, but I'm definitely returning abroad to live, hopefully soon. Even in Europe, which is where I really want to be, I know I'll be better off, in terms of finances and quality of life. I just need to find that ever-elusive income.

May 23, 2011 23:51

I'm below retirement age, but older than many backpacking adventure seekers. I had dreamed of living abroad since high school, and finally moved to Taiwan at age 45. During the previous year my employer had been going through bankruptcy proceedings, so I was preparing for a possible layoff/career change. After many months of research, the only job that I felt I could get without too much trouble was teaching English. My research included figuring out the job requirements and earnings potential for each country I was interested in. I still had bills at home to pay, so I needed to earn enough to live and meet my obligations. Taiwan fit the bill. I had no English teaching experience so I enrolled in a month-long TESOL course in the US that included a teaching practicum. It was pricey ($2,000) but worth the cost. During this time I used the Internet to search for possible jobs and to make connections with other expats in Taiwan. Although English teaching jobs are plentiful, 99% of the schools require you to actually be in-country before they will make an offer. This fact added to the uncertainty of making this big step. So, after emailing about a dozen potential employers, and with a plane ticket and $2,000 in my pocket, I made the plunge. Within 2 weeks I had a job that met my financial requirements (It wasn't with one of the dozen mentioned above). So, even a middle aged guy without direct experience can do it. Of course, there have been challenges along the way, language being the foremost for me. I think what helped me the most was: 1. Do research before you arrive. Ask questions on Internet forums and make connections with other expats who've already done what you're about to do. 2. Having said number 1 above, be prepared for an overload of information, many times conflicting. Use your reasoning to sort it out. It's easier to make a decision based on 50 opinions rather than 2 or 3, so read up as much as you can. 3. BE FRIENDLY AND FLEXIBLE. I cannot overemphasize this. You will be dealing with a different culture that at times will seem so contrary to your own. Patience and humor transcend language and cultural barriers. Regarding retirement, I definitely am planning to retire here as long as the social structure remains at the level it is now. The cost of living is lower than in the US, and Taiwan's universal health care is a dream. For my "golden years" I already have visions of early morning tai chi in the park, some kind of volunteer work or self-enrichment classes in the afternoon, and evenings spent chatting and playing mahjong with my Taiwanese friends. If anyone would like to ask me specific questions about life and working in Taiwan, please feel free to contact me.

May 24, 2011 00:40

I moved to Thailand for work, not expecting to stay. I met a Thai, married, had 2 kids and now consider Thailand my home. But for income I had to go elsewhere. As a family we move around and have stayed in several countries over the past few years: Turkey, Saudi, Uk, Sri Lanka. It gives my wife the opportunity to see other countries and allows us to build a base to retire in Thailand (no, Turkey says my wife!). I agree with all the points made in the article. Don't plan to do, just do and then plan for change. My parents had the chance to go to the Solomon Islands when I was very young, but didn't go 'because of the children'. Maybe you forgive but you never forget that you missed out on something like that.

May 24, 2011 12:34

"Don't plan to do, just do and then plan for change." That's a lovely sentiment and something I wish I hadn't heeded quite so literally. Maybe I wouldn't be where I am now -- back in the U.S., trapped in bare survival mode, with little hope of getting out any time soon. I left a modest editing job and a little apartment in L.A. in 2000, determined to fulfill my lifelong dream of living in Spain, aged 45, with a backpack, a suitcase, $2,000 ... and absolutely nothing else. I've never owned property. If something happened, I'd have nowhere to go. Well, several things happened. The most important was that after a couple of extended sojourns in Spain (teaching stints in Japan paid for them), I was never able to gain a legal foothold there. It's absolutely impossible to live legally there without substantial wealth, a European spouse or a high-level exec position. I went back home with my tail between my legs. Once I had worn out my welcome on friends' couches, I was back in Japan a couple more times. I was seeing that living abroad indeed was easier than living in the U.S. And, I was unsure what my options were at that point. I was hospitalized in Tokyo for a month last August for pneumonia. I know very well the treatment would have been impossible in the U.S. as I'm uninsured. But it did cost me my job, as it was new. I had been in Japan just under two years, teaching at a language school that eventually merged with another. So I went freelance for a while, but I wasn't quite ready financially for that risk, as most of what I had been earning at the language school went for credit card bills accrued in minimum-wage hell during my last, extended spell in the U.S. So unlike in my other Japan gigs, I had relatively little savings to take a risk like that. So I left the freelance job I had taken and signed on to a well-known company for a full-time teaching job. I needed to get back on track so I could plan again. Alas, I was only there a week before I got sick and the company didn't feel enough loyalty to keep me on. I stayed with my sister for a while back here in these times, so dire for so many. She was less than happy. And now I find myself schlepping away in a warehouse, using every muscle I never knew I had, for just above minimum. Almost all of it goes for rent for a room and gas for an old car. There's nothing else. My U.S. friends and life are back in L.A., but there's no work. So I research and hope. A couple of editing gigs but nothing yet that comes close to supporting me so I can move abroad permanently. I reach retirement age in 9 years. I research and hope, and help others with info as I've gained quite a bit of that. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing others go abroad after believing it wasn't possible. It is possible. But you do indeed have to plan. At least know what your resources will cover when you really need them to. On the one hand, I got the medical treatment I would have been denied here, or at best would have been further in debt for. On the other hand, it cost me everything I had. After all my experiences, one vital resource that kept popping up for me was housing. I don't mean housing while abroad. I mean property in your own country where you can go between jobs or if something does happen that necessitates returning home, even temporarily. Almost every mature expat I met had that. The young ones had parental homes. I had neither. Notice I never said don't go. But that could be what separates those who can go from those who really can't. Or at least can't before retirement.

May 24, 2011 17:25

What great stories. I can't believe how challenging it has been for some people.It sounds like you need to have a good plan and secure job set up before going overseas to live (unless you can retire or have enough money to live on without working). I think keeping a home in the USA until you are prety certain everything will work out is a good idea, too. Thank you all for sharing. The reality can be much different than the fantasy, depending upon your situation.

May 30, 2011 15:52

Yes, a secure job set up beforehand and a house or guaranteed shelter of some kind back home. Those are the two main resources you'll need to start out on a secure footing. I'll be going off again with the first, I hope. The second is more elusive, but the future could hold anything. One idea for home-based shelter is to build a tiny house. The idea is to have a secure, paid-for home in the States (if you are American or a legal resident here). You can store some furniture and a few things you can't or don't want to live without forever. Most importantly, you'll always have a place to go if need be. Think it's impossible? Not quite. In the U.S. there's at least one company that specializes in building "tiny" houses, no more than 1,200 square feet, most times smaller. If you're single or, at most, a couple, and don't mind small spaces (you'd better not if you're less than rich and planning to live abroad), you can have a place like this built if you've got some cash set aside or something to sell. The last time I checked one of these companies, I could have had a place built for about $36,000. If you have skills or help available, you can order the supplies for about half and build it yourself. Urban, suburban or rural but you do have to make sure the area is zoned for very small houses. It's obviously more than a storage shed. You need to be able to live in it from time to time. This is apparently a growing movement for U.S. singles and some couples who don't want to mortgage their lives away for space they'll just fill with more stuff -- or who, like me, may never be in a position to buy a normal-sized house. For expats it's an awesome idea. Many older expats have some savings or can sell something to raise the money. If you can get the right location, a tiny house neatly answers your need for mortgage-free property in your home country while spending most of your time abroad. It is, of course, impossible at present for me. I have nothing to sell other than my skills. But I'm looking at it for down the line. Another idea is a campsite you can keep, but I'm not sure you can pay for one long-term while not actually on-site. I don't know if there are companies that build tiny houses in Europe. The company I looked at doesn't build outside the U.S. That could change but it'd be far more expensive. In any case, the need here is for home country-based housing. Ana

May 31, 2011 17:14

Expatana1 put his finger on the right concern : a place to return to back home if need be. One way to solve this if you don't own a home or apt is to sublet a house or 2-bedroom apt at a lesser than normal rental cost to graduate students or beginning young professionals with the proviso that you may return from abroad on short notice ( 1 to 2 weeks )and reclaim a room in the sublet apt or house. You could also negotiate this kind of arrangement in a small town ( less than 5 000 population)with an old couple who need some financial help. Have them sign a contract in due form in a lawyer's office : you send them every month 75 dollars even though you live overseas with the idea that if you need to return back home unexpectedly a warm bedroom is there for you to rent in their home for a 6-month period to allow you to get back on your feet. The key is to be inventive in ways to solve this impediment.

First Published: May 18, 2011

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