Dream of Retiring Overseas? Look Here ...

My family loves to travel. South Africa … Thailand … India … Peru … Italy … Panama … the list of foreign countries we’ve visited, some of them two or three times, is pretty long.

And there have definitely been times when we’ve talked about staying at some of those destinations a little bit longer … like maybe even forever.

For more and more Americans, that’s becoming a reality.

The State Department estimates that 8.7 million U.S. citizens — excluding military personnel – now live in more than 160 foreign countries.

About 400,000 of them are collecting Social Security overseas, too.

Given the massive wave of Baby Boomers now retiring, those numbers are sure to keep rising.

After all, a home with a view of the Pacific is much less expensive in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua than it is here in Santa Barbara, California.

Top notch medical care in Bangkok, Thailand costs a fraction of what you’d pay in Dallas, Texas.

It’s even possible to avoid various types of taxes depending on your personal circumstances.

Beyond the financial considerations, many folks are also looking to simply escape harsh North American winters …

Distance themselves from American politics …

Or embrace a new adventure after decades spent in the same office or town.

So whether you’re just an armchair traveler or seriously considering becoming an expat, let’s explore six countries from different regions of the world that might make interesting places for retirement …

Central America

Central America is popular for many American retirees. It’s close to the U.S. with sunny beaches and remains very affordable.

I’ve gone to Costa Rica three times to enjoy its world-class surf, but there’s much more to Latin America’s longest-running democracy than great wavers.

Many expats live in the central valley where you can avoid the tourists and enjoy the mild climate at elevations above 3,000 feet.

Spanish is the official language, and once you venture from the more touristy areas, a basic understanding of that language is extremely helpful.

Nicaragua and Panama are also up-and-coming Central American destinations that boast many of the same advantages as Costa Rica and maybe even cheaper costs.

For that matter, I had a great time in El Salvador when I visited in 2016!

Okay, next stop …

South America

One survey found that expats in Ecuador say it’s one of the best places in the world to live a happy life. The cost of living is low. And there’s no shortage of things to do.

Love beaches? Salinas could be the locale for you. The summer season is from mid-December through April.

Or, if sailing, surfing, and scuba diving aren’t your passions … look no further than the third-largest city in Ecuador …

Cuenca, with about 500,000 people, lies on the Andes mountain range. Year-round temperatures average in the mid-70s.

This city is a haven for artists and writers, who have prospered there since the 16th century. It’s an ideal spot for hikers and has some of the best fresh food markets in the country.

Southeast Asia

If you want world-class activities in your backyard and you’re okay with a hot and humid climate, Malaysia could be ideal.

You’ll discover national parks that are meant to preserve endangered animals and plants in the rainforests.

You can hike jungle trails or visit tea plantations in the highlands.

And for mountain climbers, at 13,435 feet Mount Kinabalu is one of Southeast Asia’s highest peaks.

Malaysia has dozens of tiny islands with stunning beaches for surfing, swimming, and scuba diving. Plus, many of these destinations are relatively unknown, which also typically means less expensive and less crowded.

There are still top-notch shopping malls, museums, and restaurants in the cities, too.

Many residents are fluent in English. So unlike some Asian and Latin American countries, communicating won’t be a problem.

The only real downside is that it’s a long way from the U.S. – a flight from New York to the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur takes about 20 hours.

Or you could also become a Kiwi …

I actually know one family here in Santa Barbara that just sold their house and is moving to New Zealand.

It’s easy to see why: The country is a great place to pursue a healthy, outdoor lifestyle. You can hike, ski, and enjoy the scenic views throughout the country’s mountains or explore more than 9,000 miles of coastline.

Communicating with the locals won’t be a problem, either. English is the official language.

According to the U.S. State Department, the crime rate in New Zealand is relatively low.

And the 2017 Global Peace Index, which compares 162 countries for the risk of personal violence, rates New Zealand as the world’s second-safest country just after Iceland.

It’s a big world. Just keep a few things in mind.

If you are seriously considering moving outside the U.S, there are three must haves: a sense of adventure, a sense of humor, and most of all … patience.

There will be hurdles to overcome when adjusting to life in a different country. The biggest obstacle is not knowing the culture or speaking the language well enough to go to the doctor or to the store.

Depending on where you go, especially in Latin America, the infrastructure might not be what you’re accustomed to. Gigantic potholes and washed out roads are not uncommon during rainy seasons.

Banking and paying for things might not be as simple as dropping a check in the mailbox or using a computer.

You could wait in line for two hours to pay your electric bill. Renewing your driver’s license could be an all-day affair. I’ve dealt with all kinds of crazy stuff just passing through some of these places!

So my recommendation would be testing the waters on a trial basis before you fully commit.

Too many people sell their homes and everything else in the U.S. and buy a dream home in another country.

Then, a year or so later they become disenchanted. Or worse yet, one spouse wants to move back to the U.S. while the other wants to stay.

But selling a home in another country can be much more difficult than buying. Now they’re stuck.

So no matter where your passion lies, rent for at least six months first. Ride the buses. Use taxies. Go to the shops. Meet some people. Imagine what your normal day would be like if you lived there forever.

Worst case, you’ll enjoy all that the country has to offer for a while and decide it’s not for you.

Best case, you’ll end up on a permanent vacation.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive
for The Rich Life Roadmap

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