Your Best Retirement Overseas

Your best retirement overseas is all about you!  New adventures, new friends to meet, and so many places to check out will make this an exciting chapter of your life.  And there is no reason to lock yourself into one place.  Most retirement advisors warn new retirees not to buy anything for at least a year.  And yet I see many retirees on property tours pressured to buy now.  In some cases, it is their first visit to the country, and maybe their first visit outside the USA.  Don’t make that mistake!  Avoid “property tours”.  Instead, go live there for quite a while and see if it is right for you.

There Is No “Best Place” to Retire

Best Retirement Overseas-Lion Fish
The beautiful but deadly Lion Fish. With no natural predators, they can do serious damage to coral reef systems. I’m told they are delicious.

This will not be a post in which I tell you the best place to retire.  Honestly, I think there are thousands of great places to retire.  The particular place is not the point.  Giving yourself the time to find one or more places you like is the point.  There are great beach locations, more islands than you can count, and every conceivable elevation just waiting for your visit.  You could easily choose to move to a new location every 3 months.  In most of these countries, it is not that expensive.  And that is one of the best reasons to retire outside the USA – the super-low cost of living.

If you like warm, you have lots of choices.  We started in Roatan, Honduras for 3 months.  It is absolutely gorgeous!  Although we have focused on Latin America, Southeast Asia including Malaysia and the Philippines are very popular.  Also, Thailand is top on many lists.  And I didn’t know this, but the countries of Eastern Europe, some of which are former members of the USSR are beautiful and easy on the retirement account.   

I Want To Help You Understand The “How”

Some of my other posts talk about the many benefits of retiring outside the USA.  And we have enjoyed those benefits for over 4 years.  But you may be one of the many retirees who want to know how to find your best retirement overseas.  How requires answering many questions about health, finances, family and friends, your home, cars, pets, etc.  It also requires you to decide where you might like to try first.  And when I say first, I’m suggesting you should try several locations in different parts of the world.  In our search, we have lived in 5 different countries in 4 years.  We are happy now, but there is no guarantee that we are done.  We still have yet to cross an ocean, and that is high on our wish list.  

Banking In A Foreign Country

For 4 years, we have kept our US bank accounts and credit cards.  I can’t think of a good reason to give them up.  The SSA auto-deposits our monthly Social Security into our US checking account.  In Panama and later in Ecuador, we never opened a local bank account.  When we needed cash, we visited our local ATM.  Now that we live in Medellin, Colombia, we opened a local bank account.  We have an account here, and make periodic transfers from the US to Colombia to cover our local living costs (which aren’t much).  But we still pay many of our expenses using our US credit card for the miles or points.  Then we pay the card from our US account.  It is very easy.

Foreign Residency

Since we only stayed in Roatan for 3 months, we didn’t have to deal with “residency issues”.  But then we visited Boquete, Panama and we stayed for 17 months.  To stay that long, you must become a legal resident.  Does that mean you have to give up your US citizenship?  No way!  We are US citizens choosing to live in a foreign country.  And it isn’t that big a deal. 

What About Those “Residency Issues”?

Best Retirement Overseas-Bangkok Thailand at night
Bangkok, Thailand at night. Temperatures can get very warm, but the cost of living is very low relative to the USA.

We became legal residents of Panama.  We are “Pensionados”.  To do that, we had to obtain several documents that were “Apostilled”.  You’ve never heard that term?  Neither had I.  Panama wanted 2 criminal background checks issued by the FBI, 2 signed Social Security letters and our marriage license.  All of these had to be apostilled, which essentially means certified by a specified legal representative.  The four national items required apostille by the U.S. Secretary of State!  Our marriage license was apostilled by a department in the Texas government.  Each of these documents cost about $100.  Added to the legal costs and the cost to travel twice to Panama City, residency in Panama cost us around USD 2,800. 

The good news is that Panama Pensionados receive many benefits and discounts that over time can cut the cost of the residency.  And, all you have to do to maintain the residency indefinitely is visit Panama for 3 days every two years.  Even though we plan to live for many years in Colombia, we boarded a plane last October and stayed 3 days in Panama City.  So we are good for another 2 years.  Why?  Because we never know what changes the Colombian government may make.  We like having options.    

Residency Is Different In Every Country

Each country is different.  As I said, we now live in Medellin, Colombia, and we have lived here for 21 months.  Therefore, we also became legal residents of Colombia.  Colombia only needed our 2 Social Security letters apostilled, and we took care of that during a 2-month trip to the US during March and April of 2018.  Colombia’s residency program is very streamlined in comparison to Panama.  And our total cost was around USD 1,000.  We had our 3-year temporary visa within 2 weeks and received our Cedulas within a month of arriving.

Visa and Cedula are two more new terms you need to know.  The Visa is issued by Immigration (Migración Colombia) and governs how long you can stay.  Tourists can stay for up to 90 days with just their passport.  Extensions are available but don’t overstay your Visa.  There are stiff penalties that must be paid before you are allowed to leave.

The Cedula is the national identity card and is also issued by Migracion Colombia.  Our Cedula Extranjería identifies us as non-citizens.  We needed a cedula to open a bank account, obtain a cell-phone plan, and even purchase a Metro card.  It is a necessity here.  If you plan to stick around in any country, find out as soon as possible about how to apply for a cedula.

How To Find Your Best Retirement Overseas

Best Retirement Overseas-Ecuador City in the Andes
Ecuador has many cities located in or near the Andes Mountains.

The absolute best way to find your perfect retirement destination is – go spend time there.  As I said earlier, don’t look for the one place where you will live for the rest of your life.  Many people (like us) think they want blue water and white sand on an island.  After spending 3 months on beautiful Roatan, every other place we have lived has been in the mountains.  The climate is so much more pleasant. 

After leaving Panama, we became tourists for 5 weeks.  We visited two cities in Colombia and 4 cities in Peru including fabulous Macchu Picchu.  After a week in Lima, Peru we flew to Cuenca, Ecuador.  You would think to be right on the equator would be very hot.  But Cuenca is located at an elevation of 8,500 feet, and we ultimately decided it was just too cold for us.  I could not wear shorts and tee shirts there.  Jeans and at least a light jacket were a requirement for us.  But the cost of living was fantastic and very easy to live on Social Security alone.

Final Point – Making New Friends

This is one of the most surprising things about retiring outside the USA.  Making new friends is easy because you have so much in common.  In deciding to retire outside the USA, you have been through some of the same decision processes.  When you meet another English-speaker, you can share your experiences and listen to theirs.  Within a short time, you are friends.  And with all of the communication apps available, you can stay in touch and remain friends for life.  We still have friends from Roatan who we contact regularly.  We know many people who are still in Boquete Panama.  Others have left Panama and relocated to another Latin American country.  The couple we toured Peru with moved back to the US and we follow each other on Facebook.

Conclusion

Your best retirement overseas is up to you.  Pick a spot and go visit for at least a month – the longer the better.  You aren’t looking for a vacation spot, you’re looking to live there.  Don’t sell everything until you are sure.  Try several places, and don’t think you have to buy a home.  Our rent is only $700 for a large 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment with a great kitchen. And as the dollar gets stronger, our rent decreases because it is set in Colombian pesos.  We can walk to 3 malls, 2 grocery stores and well over 100 places to eat.  And the best thing is we don’t need a car.  For us this is perfect.

Go and find your perfect retirement.  And when you do, please add a comment and let me know.  If you have any questions or comments please use the space below.  I will respond. 

Steve Tuggle

 

 

 

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