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US Military Retired to Hungary
Old 06-07-2011, 06:05 AM   #1
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US Military Retired to Hungary

Hi, I retired from the US Army in 1999 after 28 years then continued to work until 2009 and the last 3 years I was a GS-15 in DoD (I was a contractor scientist before that earning more than any GS employee but was forced to take the GS position which I hated more than anything so ended up being a GS-15 step 10 just to get close to my previous contractor salary - I know sounds like I am whining but it really did suck). I hated the smarmy 40 (claims to know everything but no actual experience) year old Colonel I was forced to have as my supervisor so finally bagged it and my wife and I moved to Hungary and haven't regretted it one minute. My stress levels are down to nothing and I believe that moving here has saved our lives. We have a fabulous estate with swimming pool near lake Balaton and live great on the $3,000 a year I get for the Army. The food is excellent quality (no chemicals and everything is more or less organic) We still (unfortunately) own three houses in Virginia in the DC metro area but all are rented and are showing a profit above the mortgage costs so aren't a huge concern yet. That profit we are saving for when it becomes time to sell and we have no rental for those months on the market. So, we live in a completely paid off house in a country with no property taxes and insurance and food are cheap. The only expensive things are utilities and gasoline but really I don't drive the car more than once a week. W have blazing fast 120 MB/s internet and my day is split between gardening, working out, mountain biking or hiking in the nearby National Forest, oil painting, on line gaming or whatever. It is a great life and now we get to travel as much as we want and as Hungary is in the exact geographical center of Europe everything is close enough to drive to for fun. Meeical is very inexpensive and we pay cash for everything then we submit to the Army (TRICARE) for reimbursement which the Feds now only pay 65% so not a great deal. However, things are so cheap and the quality so good I could pay cash for medical regardless. For example I had cataract surgery with a reattachment of my retina for a total cost of $1,200 for one eye. A CT Scan is $125 and an MRI $250. My wife recently fell and went by ambulance to the county hospital for suspected neck fracture and the total bill for everything including trauma room, head/neck X-rays/ neurologist consult was $150. Match that in the US. So, if you are thinking about retiring early then don't discount former Soviet countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, or Serbia/Croatia. Life here is beautiful and wonderful. Did I mention we live in a wine growing region with excellent Merlots, Reislings and Sauvignon wines at about $2 a bottle?
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Old 06-07-2011, 06:45 AM   #2
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Hi and welcome!
I know that a lot of stuff is cheaper in Hungary than in the rest of EU but is that $ 3.000 really for a year?
How do you manage the language?
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Old 06-07-2011, 06:48 AM   #3
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sounds like you found the place everyone has been looking for. could you expand a little more. there are always some cons to go with the pros. thanks
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:08 AM   #4
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... and live great on the $3,000 a year I get for the Army.
All this time I've been thinking military pensions were half way decent....
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:09 AM   #5
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Welcome. Sounds great. Is your wife Hungarian or did you already speak the language?
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:36 AM   #6
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All this time I've been thinking military pensions were half way decent....
A lot of people hear about the large pension the military gets, I get $10,344.60/year after taxes (USAF, 20 years), but I always have to send more to IRS at the end of the year. Can't live on that anywhere in the US so I am looking for someplace overseas too.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:46 AM   #7
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We had a poster from Budapest this spring who also raved about the wonderful life she lives there--Isadora--but she hasn't posted in a while.

Do you need a special visa to live in Hungary full time? Taxes? Amazing how you can stretch that $3K/year pension there!
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:06 AM   #8
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According to his last thread it's $3K/month:
Early Retiring to Hungary
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:13 AM   #9
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Thanks for clarifying that, Nords--didn't realize he had posted a similar thread a month ago. A lot more information in the earlier thread, too.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:14 AM   #10
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IMHO, it's not a country I would like to retire in. DW/me have spent time there, and (at least in the central cities, such as Budapest), the former communist "living conditions" are still apparent.

If it was such a great place, why didn't George (Soros) stay?

Just my simple observation/opinion.

Heck - could not even walk across the Chain Bridge due to demonstrations of folks against the government ....
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:16 AM   #11
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I wonder if there is something in the water over there that causes you to reintroduce yourself each month in the "Hi, I am..." forum?
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:36 AM   #12
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Thanks for clarifying that, Nords--didn't realize he had posted a similar thread a month ago.
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I wonder if there is something in the water over there that causes you to reintroduce yourself each month in the "Hi, I am..." forum?
His last introduction was in May 2009, a tad over two years ago.

You know how those ER mornings can be. Get up, get breakfast, get another cup of coffee while you're posting to a discussion board, get distracted by a link to something else, read for a while, finish your cup of coffee and get up to make more...

... suddenly you realize that two years have gone by and you have to start all over again!
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:40 AM   #13
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His last introduction was in May 2009, a tad over two years ago.

You know how those ER mornings can be. Get up, get breakfast, get another cup of coffee while you're posting to a discussion board, get distracted by a link to something else, read for a while, finish your cup of coffee and get up to make more...

... suddenly you realize that two years have gone by and you have to start all over again!
Dang, I didn't look beyond the 5/6 to see the 09 that followed it, unlike someone who has been proofreading galleys for several months. Oops!

Like someone almost famous said, numbers is hard.

The two threads together are very interesting.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:44 AM   #14
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Like someone almost famous said, numbers is hard.
You took the words right out of my mou...uh...sig line.
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Old 06-07-2011, 12:55 PM   #15
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Like someone almost famous ...
"Notorious"?
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Old 06-07-2011, 06:02 PM   #16
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That original thread has some interesing posts in it. Maybe the OP will stick around longer this time.
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Old 08-05-2011, 02:51 AM   #17
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OOOps, sorry I don't seem to be getting any updates from the website so unless I happen to remember to check back on the thread I don't see anything so figured no one gave a damn. Yes, you are correct it is $3,000 a month not year sorry and I am a scientist but in my defense I had bad cataracts (which are now fixed at a cost of a little less than $1,000 including laser reattachment of my left retina). That is very comfortable here and if, and that is not looking too good at the moment, we get our SS then we are doing real well. What Nords said is awfully close to the truth "You know how those ER mornings can be. Get up, get breakfast, get another cup of coffee while you're posting to a discussion board, get distracted by a link to something else, read for a while, finish your cup of coffee and get up to make more... .. suddenly you realize that two years have gone by and you have to start all over again!". Well here I am back again after another hiatus. Not sure why I am not getting any email back letting me know there was a post to the thread.

So, to try and answer a couple of points. Yes, you need a visa to live here and you must prove financial independence and that you have medical insurance. So, they want detailed lists of all assets as well as a 6 month print out of your checking account and you must establish a banking account with a minimum of $5,000 (equivalent). No real big deal. Registering the car and getting a driver's license are real hassles in comparison.

Having been here a while now everything is still wonderful and no problems whatsoever although with the economic problems in Europe being nearly as bad as in the US some things have increased dramatically such as electricity, water, and gas plus petrol and food as well. Probably in total it amounts to an additional $400 a month in expenses, still within our budget but not nice to experience. However, I was back in the US a few weeks ago working and I see the same kinds of increases in food costs (not sure about energy) so it is happening everywhere. Food there is still about 1/3 of the prices in the US on average. This year, we expanded our property by buying the vacant lot next door adding another 11,000 sm and extended our wall/fencing, put in landscaping and a pool with sliding cover. Now that all the renovations are completed we can finally enjoy life here without the details. we have traveled a lot now and plan for more but I am still working in the US periodically. I recommend Hungary, particularly in the Lake Balaton area if you want relatively low costs of living and 4 seasons with a semi-Mediterranean climate. We are 2.5 hours to Vienna, 2 hrs to Graz, 2 hrs to Budapest, 2 hrs to Bratislava, 5 hours to Venice, 7 hours to Sarajevo, 5 to Munich, 4 to Ljubljana, 6 to Hintertux (went snowboarding last week there in the summer on the glacier), etc. In retrospect I would have taken a harder look at Slovenia but it is a bit more expensive than Hungary but a lot closer to the Alps. But, my wife was dead set on Hungary. Serendipitously, our town of Balatonfured has received a ton of EU development money which is transforming our already beautiful town into a place of modern wonder. The language is an issue but not that hard to overcome. My sister-in-law who owns 1/2 of the property hired a full time gardener for $800 a month (double a Hungarian's average monthly wage). So, he is taking care of the gardens and all of the handyman stuff I don't feel like doing myself.

Anyway, the reason I happened to trip back onto the site is we are thinking hard about moving all of our money out of the US. We are very fearful the US is about to collapse and possibly disappear as a Nation and I may not have a pension any longer (in the worst case scenario the US totally defaults and collapses) so all we might have is whatever we have in our various IRA/SEP's/Roth's/etc. and stock portfolio which took a major beating yesterday (more than $60k loss in one day). We have luckily sold one of our 3 houses in Virginia (closes next week) which only leaves one more to sell (the third is so far underwater I can't see it ever becoming a real asset again and will probably let it go eventually. For now with interest rates low the mortgage is covered with a little to spare to cover repairs etc. The second home is still lower than we want but it is rented with a positive income of over $2,500 so we'll hold that until the market recovers should I live so long. Anyway, I was researching what the least expensive way is to move the money out of the US and into a Swiss account (the Swiss Frank looks to be the most stable currency at the moment).

I'll try and remember to check back assuming I don't get an email if someone posts back a reply. I am on several expatiate boards as well which also don't send me any messages although I am on other sites that do so it seems to be a software issue or maybe my account settings need to be changed. I'll take a look at that as well.
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Former Communist environment
Old 08-05-2011, 03:20 AM   #18
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Former Communist environment

Reading back through the thread I thought I would address this one separately. Yes, some of that is true and it is apparent especially when you travel a lot. Hungarians are very proud and likable people. They have had a hard time over the past century and it causes them a lot of problems. It is a touchy subject when you discuss this with Hungarian friends. Plus my wife is Russian (and has PhD in Geophysics so isn't a slouch either). The Hungarians lost 2 wars by siding with the Germans and most of Hungary (2/3's) was taken and used to create other countries or added to existing ones in the Trianon Treaty following WWI. They have a smoldering desire to get all that land back and in fact the residents of those areas which used to be Hungarain in the main still speak Hungarian and they feel like they are still Hungarians. Also, the current Hungarian government has issued passports and automatic citizenship to any former Hungarians which hasn't gone over too well with our neighbors. We have a holiday (kind of like Memorial Day) which is remembrance for the 300,000 Hungarians killed in Stalingrad. The bulk of he German forces fighting there were actually Hungarians who I like to remind them that Hungary very willingly joined the German Nation during WWII. They tend to forget that fact. Then there is another holiday for the failed revolution of 1956 and once again I like to remind them that it was only 11 years after WWII and the Soviets were still pissed about everything the Germans did during the War and of course they wouldn't let them separate from the Soviet Warsaw Pact. We didn't let Germany out of our occupation until 1970 and in fact we still have a lot of bases there so one could argue we are still occupying them.

Then we have the problems after the US's irresponsible banking practices caused the financial collapse of the world in 2008 just when Hungary was starting to get back on its feet after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That didn't go too well and the Hungarians still smarting after the put down by Russia in 1956 cut off all trade with the former Soviet Union which were their only customers for agriculture, wine, etc. So, they killed their only trade to markets in Europe. Only this year have the begun to trade with Russia again. So, economically Hungary still is suffering and the latest problems with the EU economy isn't helping matters. The median salary in Hungary is less than $400 a month. During the days of the Soviet Union Hungary was the wealthiest of the allied countries within the Warsaw Pact so it has hurt them a lot after the fall of the Soviet Union. Many here (the poor majority) had it a lot better under Communism and would be happy if it came back. But, they are making rapid progress but the current government has implemented an austerity program that is very severe. For example, when Hungary left Communism there was a large military and police force in the country. They cut the military and police by 90% mostly by retiring everyone who was retirement eligible. This year they wrote a new constitution and have eliminated early retirements including those that are already retired so about 300,000 people now have to go back to work in an economy with a 9% unemployment. This is a big problem and is kind of what the US is proposing as well. On top of that 37% of work eligible Hungarians are receiving disability which has also been cancelled and all o f the disabled must re-apply under far stricter requirements so again there are going to be a lot of people back in the job market. Also, I see hard times coming here again under the new governments policies very much like I am seeing in the US. On the other hand Russia did the opposite and has lowered the retirement age thus freeing up jobs for the younger unemployed. The US wants to do like Hungary and raise it. Here it went to age 62 for men and 60 for women but the US is considering 70 now for men. Luckily, the tourist industry is going well and a lot of companies are building factories in Hungary due to the very low labor costs for highly skilled workers. So, things may turn around but I believe it will take a few years to get there.
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Old 08-05-2011, 03:21 AM   #19
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I also updated my account. It still had my old US email. Sorry, I thought I had fixed that earlier. So, now I should be getting email updates.
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Old 08-05-2011, 08:46 AM   #20
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Reading back through the thread I thought I would address this one separately. Yes, some of that is true and it is apparent especially when you travel a lot.
Thanks for the update on that subject (yes, we do travel - as a lot of the folks on this board also do). I just commented based upon our time there.

It can be quite difficult to change, especially when you have lived (in some cases, several generations) under one set of "rules".

Now, if you could only take George Soros back (part of the financial - and I won't speak of the politically interaction on his behalf), I would be happy ...
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