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Anybody Have Questions About Retiring to Europe?
Old 05-26-2019, 10:37 AM   #1
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Anybody Have Questions About Retiring to Europe?

So a couple of years ago I took the plunge and retired at 55. I am a middle class American citizens with no other nationalities.

May 1st, 2017 was technically my last day working (in the United States). I moved to Europe and have lived in Germany with occasional forays into France (where I recently sold a ski condo I had for a couple of decades) and Portugal and Poland and other places. Since my retirement here in Europe was pretty trouble free and I thought there might be other Americans interested in doing this, I am happy to share any information you might want. I am regularly surprised that old friends in the States assume that my lifestyle is very costly or that I am independently wealthy. It's not. I think it's cheaper than the U.S.

I live in southern Germany. My apartment in France was in Chamonix for I know that part of France pretty well too. Happy to help anybody out who is considering moving to Europe.

I have been considering spending a month or two down in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico in the winters -- that's my only real complaint here in Europe apart from having to learn German -- but otherwise life is good. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about making the move to Europe.
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Old 05-26-2019, 10:56 AM   #2
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RR, my first question is health insurance / health care expenses.



It seems like you're an old hand at European travel, but I'm not sure how easy it would be for some of us to establish a network of close friends there. How are you doing that?
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Old 05-26-2019, 12:52 PM   #3
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RR, my first question is health insurance / health care expenses.



It seems like you're an old hand at European travel, but I'm not sure how easy it would be for some of us to establish a network of close friends there. How are you doing that?
+1
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Old 05-26-2019, 01:12 PM   #4
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It seems like you're an old hand at European travel, but I'm not sure how easy it would be for some of us to establish a network of close friends there. How are you doing that?
Like everywhere else in the world, that would take time.
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Old 05-26-2019, 01:20 PM   #5
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RR, my first question is health insurance / health care expenses.



It seems like you're an old hand at European travel, but I'm not sure how easy it would be for some of us to establish a network of close friends there. How are you doing that?

He explained some of this last year.

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So regarding healthcare, it hasn't been an issue for me because I have U.S. insurance from my retirement. To get a residence visa I simply had to go into the foreigners office of my town and provide the following: (a) a copy of my passport; (b) a photocopy of my 401K; (c) an ID card from my former organization saying I was retired; (d) proof of income in the form of a few bank statements; and, finally (e) my health insurance card from the US. They looked these things over, said come back in a month, and that was it. I thought this was ridiculously relaxed. (As a former US civil servant I know we're a heck of a lot tougher than this in America with people who want to move to the USA.) I asked the official, essentially, "is that it? am I approved?" and he said "sure. No problem. You're from the U.S. it's very easy for you." That was it. Now regarding your specific question on healthcare, I don't know how it works if you're not bringing U.S. health insurance. You can probably get it through your wife. I didn't go that route. My partner (we're not married yet) has great insurance from the German government. Never pays more than a few euros for a visit to the doctor, nothing if it's serious, etc. But she told me that if I hadn't had my own health insurance it would have been more complicated and we would have needed to get married, which we have yet to do. I should add that I have to renew annually, but if the process is the same, I am not going to lose a lot of sleep over this.
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Old 05-26-2019, 06:30 PM   #6
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Yep, I would also add that health insurance would be the most important topic to learn more. If you have insurance from the US, what kind of insurance and how does it work in Europe? Have you used it without problems?
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Old 05-26-2019, 06:34 PM   #7
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Yep, I would also add that health insurance would be the most important topic to learn more. If you have insurance from the US, what kind of insurance and how does it work in Europe? Have you used it without problems?
+1
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Old 05-26-2019, 09:19 PM   #8
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As I am a retired federal employee, I have my legacy federal insurance, with is administered by AETNA. I have a six hundred dollar annual deductible in the States or in Europe. Last year I just finally met that by the end of the year. My doctor visits in Europe are so inexpensive it's a struggle to meet the deductible. My primary care physician charges 20 euros a visit (about $23). To the extent that I buy medicine it's cheap. It would be interesting to know if there's a U.S. insurer who specializes in Americans living in Europe. It would be a good business for them I think given how low healthcare costs are here.
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Old 05-26-2019, 09:21 PM   #9
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Because I didn't hit my deductible (600 a year) until the fourth quarter I didn't use my health insurance much, but they paid without a problem when I did submit a bill. (They reimbursed me; I paid the bill with my credit card.) It was trouble-free but they did not reimburse the hospital directly.
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Old 05-26-2019, 09:28 PM   #10
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Regarding making friends, I think this is location specific. In Portugal, Southern Spain, and South-west France there are networks of English-speaking (mostly English) expatriates and it's a lot easier. In my region admittedly this is the hardest thing to do and the thing I miss the most about the United States -- the ease of social contacts. I think my friends in South West France and Spain have an easier time; there are quite a few retired expats living there and that's their core social community. Admittedly that part is much easier in the States, where everybody speaks English. I think if I really wanted to integrate I would volunteer to teach English or something but that would negatively impact my freedom to travel so I've avoided that. Likewise in Germany if one wants to integrate one must join a club, usually called a verein. The local choir had their eyes on me when I first came into town but I resisted that, it was too much time. There is also in many German towns a volunteer fire department which is a big thing.

As a general rule I would say integration with the locals is the hardest element of retiring to Europe, as people are a bit more stand-offish in Europe than in the United States. Not unfriendly, per se. They just don't have that American habit of instant collegiality that we learn by moving around so much in the United States.

When I was in Chamonix in the French Alps integration was quite easy for me. Skiing is an international fraternity and it was quite easy to meet people to hang out with, in my experience.
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Old 05-27-2019, 12:49 AM   #11
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As a general rule I would say integration with the locals is the hardest element of retiring to Europe, as people are a bit more stand-offish in Europe than in the United States. Not unfriendly, per se. They just don't have that American habit of instant collegiality that we learn by moving around so much in the United States.

When I was in Chamonix in the French Alps integration was quite easy for me. Skiing is an international fraternity and it was quite easy to meet people to hang out with, in my experience.
Learnng to speak German would go a long way in establshng social contacts, otherwise you are going to feel isolated during any social gathering. It's really not that difficult if you put some effort into it. In my case, it took about 2-3 years to learn French, Italian, German fluently and several more years to learn the local dialect. My in-laws speak only French and Swiss German so I had little choice but to learn or stay quiet and appear autistic. Now after 28 years I can switch between English, French, German, and Italian without even thinking about it. I also speak Spanish reasonably fluently. This helps significantly around our social circles and travels in Europe.
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Old 05-27-2019, 08:25 AM   #12
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As I am a retired federal employee, I have my legacy federal insurance, with is administered by AETNA. I have a six hundred dollar annual deductible in the States or in Europe. Last year I just finally met that by the end of the year. My doctor visits in Europe are so inexpensive it's a struggle to meet the deductible. My primary care physician charges 20 euros a visit (about $23). To the extent that I buy medicine it's cheap. It would be interesting to know if there's a U.S. insurer who specializes in Americans living in Europe. It would be a good business for them I think given how low healthcare costs are here.
I thought it is extremely rare for US-based, bread and butter health insurance to cover you outside the US, not just while traveling or for expat extrication? Is this a special policy?
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Old 05-27-2019, 08:47 AM   #13
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He is a retired federal employee, his insurance is part of his retirement benefits package and will cover him anywhere.
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Old 05-27-2019, 09:19 AM   #14
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I thought it is extremely rare for US-based, bread and butter health insurance to cover you outside the US, not just while traveling or for expat extrication? Is this a special policy?
When I retired from my Megacorp and was using their retiree insurance through BCBS they covered us anywhere in the world. Much cheaper for them for us to be sick or have surgery outside the USA. During the first few years after retiring we spent 7 months in England, 4 months in Canada and 5 months in Australia plus many other shorter trips to countries in Europe. Before leaving I would get onto the BCBS website and lookup the doctors and hospitals within network by city and print out the details. The only country not obviously covered was Vanuatu so we took out additional travel insurance for that vacation.

Health costs are so low in Europe you could pay out of pocket. Last year while waiting for an appointment at the cardiologists I overheard a foreign couple talking with someone from the accounts department and they were confirming the cost and method of payment for a heart procedure. (I couldn’t hear how much or what the procedure was going to be). Our local private hospital is advertising total knee or hip replacements for £9,000 including all follow up and physio treatment, no insurance needed.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:13 AM   #15
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When I retired from my Megacorp and was using their retiree insurance through BCBS they covered us anywhere in the world. Much cheaper for them for us to be sick or have surgery outside the USA. During the first few years after retiring we spent 7 months in England, 4 months in Canada and 5 months in Australia plus many other shorter trips to countries in Europe. Before leaving I would get onto the BCBS website and lookup the doctors and hospitals within network by city and print out the details. The only country not obviously covered was Vanuatu so we took out additional travel insurance for that vacation.

Health costs are so low in Europe you could pay out of pocket. Last year while waiting for an appointment at the cardiologists I overheard a foreign couple talking with someone from the accounts department and they were confirming the cost and method of payment for a heart procedure. (I couldn’t hear how much or what the procedure was going to be). Our local private hospital is advertising total knee or hip replacements for £9,000 including all follow up and physio treatment, no insurance needed.
It's a pity Medicare doesn't do that. They might save money by allowing retirees to retire abroad, especially at end of life. They could just use the same doctors and hospitals as BCBS.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:35 AM   #16
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It's a pity Medicare doesn't do that. They might save money by allowing retirees to retire abroad, especially at end of life. They could just use the same doctors and hospitals as BCBS.
Indeed they could, and for elective surgery they could offer to pay their US rate or the cost abroad, whichever is cheaper. We have good friends from Louisiana where a procedure wanted by the wife was only offered in Houston, not covered by their insurance. They both flew to Nantes, spent about a week there while she had the operation and it was still cheaper than if they had paid out of pocket in the USA. The op was successful so it all worked out well.
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Old 05-28-2019, 08:34 AM   #17
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Did you get a European drivers license? If so, how difficult was that? Did you purchase a car over there? Any difficulties in getting car insurance?
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Old 05-28-2019, 08:40 AM   #18
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Indeed they could, and for elective surgery they could offer to pay their US rate or the cost abroad, whichever is cheaper. We have good friends from Louisiana where a procedure wanted by the wife was only offered in Houston, not covered by their insurance. They both flew to Nantes, spent about a week there while she had the operation and it was still cheaper than if they had paid out of pocket in the USA. The op was successful so it all worked out well.
Yet, so many still think that we have the best health care in the world. It just makes me sick.
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Old 05-28-2019, 09:19 AM   #19
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Good feedback, thanks for sharing. I just got back from a month in France hiking, and it reinforced my desire/plan to live there at least PT during ER. As OP notes, life can actually be cheaper. BTW, I believe some US insurers ARE dipping their toes into the 'medical tourism' waters, as they realize it can save them money. Now you've got me curious to Google and see....Reitrement_Rookie, once I'm in France maybe we could get together for some socializing :-) On my recent trip I met a lovely German women who's invited me to visit her next time I'm in Europe, so you never know when paths can cross.
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Old 05-28-2019, 01:42 PM   #20
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Any relatives back home?

My old college roommate spent most of his career working in Switzerland but the last time we talked he was preparing to move home to care for his elderly mother.
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