Choosing to Live Abroad in Retirement
What is the best country to retire to? Is it where your grandchildren live?
I’ve been thinking a lot about deciding whether to live abroad in retirement. It all started when I travelled to Thailand in April. My cousins gathered from around the globe for a christening. The happy arrival of baby Ellie had proud Irish grandparents asking themselves whether they should (and could) live abroad in retirement. (There’s no decision yet.) Their three sons already made commitments to international living and now span Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Since returning home from Thailand I’ve done some research on the topic of living abroad. It turns out that 6.8 million Americans were estimated by the State Department to be living abroad in 2013. By some accounts this number reportedly swelled to 9 million in 2016. Unfortunately, there isn’t accurate data on how many American expats are retirees.
Deciding to relocate isn’t easy, particularly during retirement. There are concerns about access to health care, countries that welcome American retirees, collecting social security benefits, and affordability. Not to mention, leaving everything that you’ve known behind.
If you are beginning to think about living abroad you’ll want to learn more about how to retire overseas. Here are 10 international living resources that I've collected to get you started.
10 resources for how to live abroad in retirement
1. Kathleen Peddicord
Kathleen was Editor and Publisher of International Living for more than 20 years. She has traveled to more than 70 countries. Her website offers free resources, books and e-books, live events and private consulting. You'll need to sign up to receive some of the free resources.
2. International Living Magazine
The International Living website offers free e-letters, videos, and recommendations for people considering moving overseas. Their international living profiles give stories from real expats so you can get a feel for what it is actually like to live in the location you have in mind. This one caught my attention: Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia: Three Great Destinations to Live in Southeast Asia. If you aren’t sure where to start they offer a “start here” page to get you going. https://internationalliving.com/new-to-il-start-here/)
3. U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs
This site is chock full of useful resources for planning to retire abroad. The topics range from understanding your social security benefits to researching medical care to how to vote from overseas.
4. International Citizens.com
International Citizens bills itself as a source for expatriates and travelers. They have a library of articles addressing many complex topics and Forums and Discussion Boards where you can chat with other expats. Their Moving Abroad Checklist covers all the essentials including travel arrangements, a health checklist, banking and international accounts and how to move your pet abroad. It also has a handy International Calling Code tool. What made this site stand out for me is that many articles are written by expats for expats.
Expatisan is a cost of living calculator. Simply enter the name of the city you are thinking of moving to, and where you are now. According to their calculations the cost of living in Bangkok, Thailand is 59% cheaper than in Boston, Massachusetts. Wow! You can also compare the cost of living between different countries (e.g., Thailand vs. USA).
6. LinkedIn International Living Groups
By most estimates LinkedIn has more than 250 million active users each month. International living groups you join will build your network of other people living abroad. You’ll need to request to join the group and follow its guidelines for posting. Before you join look at the owner of the group and consider his/her motivations for starting it. Also look at how many members it has and the amount of active conversations it has. To get you started here are a few to research: Living Abroad: Networking for Expats; American Expats; Expat.com.
7. Facebook Groups
Facebook has its own share of groups for, and about, expats. Thinking of moving to Costa Rica? There’s a Costa Rica for Expats group. Interested in Portugal? There’s a group for that too. A quick perusal of Facebook shows that no matter where you are thinking of moving to there’s probably an expats group on Facebook for it. Many of these groups have thousands of members and multiple posts each day.
8. Twitter Resources
Twitter is a haven of information. Looking for news and updates on expat life? Twitter is full of expat blogs, people sharing their personal experiences of living abroad, how to deal with relocating children, and more. A few you might look at to get started are:
This website was created in 2005 as Expat blog. It reportedly has nearly 2 million members in more than 500 cities and nearly 200 countries. Once you enter the destination you are interested in you can quickly connect with the community in that location, read articles from expats living in that city, and search for jobs or housing too.
This site is similar to Expat in that you can search for a destination and find useful links, a facebook group and articles on working, health, financial, property and education. It’s easy to navigate and has lots of resources.
Did I miss any resources you've found helpful? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Cynthia Stephens is a marketing architect, with 15+ years designing strategies, content and programs to drive business growth. She is a family caregiver who is passionate about helping people age well and is a Steering Committee member for Aging2.0 Boston and social media marketer for Age Friendly Advisor.