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Where to retire to
Old 01-13-2016, 11:59 AM   #1
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Where to retire to

I am new to this forum but not to forums or to retirement. I posted this as a response on an existing thread but thought it would also serve as my first 'new thread' as well.

Where to retire to is probably the most common question people who are contemplating retirement and living in another country ask. I'm going to suggest to you that it is the wrong question.

I have been retired for a long time (26 years, I got an early start) and lived in various countries. If there is one thing my experiences have shown me, it is that there is no way to know if you will 'stick' or not, until you try it.

What seems to be a paradise on a 2 week vacation may turn out to be totally different from your expectations after you have lived there for a year or more. So a 'visit' to see if you like a place will tell you nothing unless it is a very long visit.

I have seen a lot of people set themselves up for failure by starting out from the wrong mindset. I would suggest that 'where to retire' is part of that. Instead, I suggest starting from a different position.

When I retired, I did not think about where I wanted to retire to. I thought about where did I want to live NEXT. That is a whole other question that puts a completely different perspective on things.

First, it isn't necessarily permanent but nothing rules that out. Second, you cannot 'fail' to get it right (a common set yourself up for failure issue), it can only turn out to be a short 'next' or a longer stay.

If you think about why anyone would ask 'where to retire', there are the obvious practical factors like wanting a place with a cost of living they can afford and good healthcare, infrastructure, etc. But there is also the usually unasked reason. That is, 'I don't want to get it wrong'. Well, you can eliminate wrong completely if you look at it from the perspective of NEXT.

While it is only anecdotal evidence, I can say that from my personal observation of people who came to their 'paradise' to retire, about half left within 2 years and only 1-2 were still there after 5 years. Whether you accept those numbers as meaningful or not, there is no denying that it does not work out for everyone the way they thought it would.

The biggest single reason I have observed for people not 'sticking' is a simple inability to adapt to 'different'. Nothing to do with power outages or poor medical services, etc. It just isn't the same as home. Unfortunately, there is no way to know beforehand whether you will 'stick' or not. It isn't about right or wrong, good or bad, it is just about different. So my advice to anyone contemplating living in another country is that you just realize you may not stick and plan accordingly. If you do that, then you will see that it will lead to very different decisions all along the way.

First, it can make deciding which country to try much easier. In my own case for example, I did not start out trying to choose any country to live in. I just went travelling with no fixed time limit on how long I would stay or even a plan of which countries I would go to. Isn't that freedom to get up in the morning and decide what you want to do that day, part of what being retired and financially independent (to whatever degree) is all about? You are to a degree free to live wherever you want for as long as you want. Why would you want to try and decide something that it is impossible to know about beforehand and that would 'lock you in' to whatever degree?

What if instead, you said to yourself, here are 3 countries I think I would like. I will start with them and see what happens. So you go to the first and rent for 3 months and then on to the second, rinse and repeat. No stress to 'get it right', no problem to move on if you feel like it.

After 2 years of casually moving from place to place, I went to a small island expecting to stay for a week or two as part of my time in that country and ended up staying for 7 years. After I had been there a few years, I would get asked by tourists (it was a tourist destination) who heard I had been there a while, what made me decide to stay. I would honestly answer them that I had never actually decided to 'stay'. I just hadn't decided to leave yet. Eventually I did decide to leave. I packed up and left in a week. On to the next.

Going back to the issue of 'sticking', that brings me to the most important piece of advice in my opinion that anyone contemplating a move to another country can get. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, buy property until you have lived in a country for at least 1 and preferably 2 years. That's how long the honeymoon phase can last. When the rose coloured glasses finally come off, the picture may be entirely different as I have said. Renting means you can very easily decide to move on if you wish. Buying locks you in to a much greater degree.

During my 7 years on that island for example, I never once say anyone leave with more money than they arrived with and most left with considerably less than they arrived with. It is easy to buy a home in many 'desirable' retirement locations, it is not so easy to sell. Usually by the time someone gets to the point they want out, they really want out. That's not hard to understand and the locals usually understand that very well indeed. So they will not offer anywhere near what you think your property is worth. They know that by that point you just want out and make their offers accordingly. You then have 3 choices, stay and be unhappy; sell at a loss and move on; hope to find a new starry-eyed foreign buyer looking for their piece of paradise.

This brings me to the next thing that I think is important. Who to listen to. I recognize that not everyone can deal with the idea of NEXT. Some people feel they have to have roots and the idea of well maybe we'll stay and maybe we'll move on, just isn't for them. They really believe they need to make a permanent decision of 'where to retire'. For those people, who to listen to is therefore important.

Other people contemplating a move can tell you all about what their research has found. Crime rates, healthcare, etc. They can't tell you anything about living in that country. The information they can share is valuable in terms of what it does tell you but of no value in terms of telling you whether you will like it there.

Next are those in the honeymoon phase. They live there and can tell you how they went about choosing, how they like it SO FAR but it is likely to be a rose tinted perspective. It's like someone who bought a new car. They love it for the first year and have no complaints yet.

Next are the people I think you should really listen to. Those who have been there at least 5 years. They are the ones who really know what it is like to live there. They are more likely to tell you the reality of living there. But bear in mind, even within this group you have different (from you) kinds of people. So finding people who are the most like yourself in terms of interests, outlooks on life, etc. will be your best source of information. They are people who 'stuck' but if you they aren't like you, their perspective is of limited value.

So to re-cap, I don't advise asking where to retire, ask where to try for a while next. Rent don't buy, whatever you do, whether that is a 'next' or a intended permanent move. Finally, if you adopt a 'next' approach, you don't need to listen to anyone really but if you insist on trying to plan a permanent move, listen only to those who have been there at least 5 years.
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Old 01-13-2016, 12:47 PM   #2
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I like it, OldPro...nice perspective
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Old 01-13-2016, 12:59 PM   #3
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I think this is an excellent post and an insightful way of looking at things. As someone who "stuck it out" for 8 years in the first retirement location and has now been in the 2nd for 2 1/2 years, I can relate to your opinions. I may add a bit more when I'm at my desk/desktop computer.


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Old 01-13-2016, 02:20 PM   #4
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Sounds like good perspective to me. I do not have an intention to retire to another country, and I am not in a rush to move when I retire in about a year, but I do have thoughts of moving to another state at some point.
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Old 01-13-2016, 03:00 PM   #5
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Good post - no intentions to move out of the US but have been moving around the last couple years. On renting - I have rented for a few months in various locations (2-4 months). I have also lived in an RV for a few months (bought lightly used then sold for a profit after 6 months of travel).

One situation I have encountered is not being able to find a rental allowing my old lab -- so twice I have bought condos on the coast of FL with the intention of treating as short term housing. I used the first one for 8 months and then sold for enough of a profit to cover all costs so essentially lived rent free. The second one I have been living in for the last 6 months with plans to sell later this year. I think I will make money on this one as well.

So there are lots of housing options out there. If not for my dog, I would not have thought about buying/selling condos for such short stays.
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Old 01-13-2016, 03:10 PM   #6
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OldPro, thank you so much for that detailed perspective. It know that it is not just a clinical decision based on criteria but I didn't know how else to go about it. And I -DO- have the fear of getting it wrong.

I'm in the process of cleaning out a family's worth of stuff in the house prior to renting, selling, or even just doing repairs that are currently impossible, due to the stuff. I want to end up like the minimalists who can almost carry what they need anywhere. At that point you are so nimble that you can up and move easily. In order to do your experience-tour of countries you must have made yourself pretty nimble, or did you move an entire household each time?
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Old 01-13-2016, 05:16 PM   #7
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More people should have this perspective about work.
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Old 01-13-2016, 06:38 PM   #8
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Great post. I only very recently came to this same conclusion, providing great relief. Although I have no intention of leaving this country, I'd previously intended for my "next" location in the U.S. to be my last. Now I have permission to try out the next place, and go somewhere else after that. Agree totally about not buying property for the first year or so, which will be my strategy. I'm really looking forward to leaving California--it'll be as life-enhancing as the day I retired!
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Old 01-13-2016, 09:18 PM   #9
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This was a great post!


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Old 01-13-2016, 09:57 PM   #10
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Agreed, great perspective. I would not have thought about thinking about it that way but the concept really resonates with me.....
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:27 AM   #11
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For those not planning to move out of their home country, the principle of 'next' is still applicable. If you think about it, it really is kinda dumb to think you can know that a move will be permanent no matter what the situation is.

Misshathaway, when I first ERed and hit the road travelling, I put all the stuff I considered essential into a storage locker and pre-paid a year's rent. At the end of that year, I called my Brother and asked if he and my Son would go to the locker and clean it out. I told him to keep, sell or throw in the garbage all of it. If there was nothing in there that I had needed in a year, why would I really ever need it. So yes, I became pretty nimble. One carry-on compliant travelpack held all that was actually essential.

When I was living in Greece, I rented a fully furnished apartment. When I decided to leave, the biggest issue was selling a Vespa scooter I had bought. I found a buyer in a day. Everything sells easily if the price is right.

As Lakedog suggests, there is more than one way to skin a cat(or dog). The character Jack Reacher in the books by Lee Child doesn't carry anything other than a toothbrush. He just buys a cheap change of clothes every couple of days.
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Old 01-17-2016, 10:18 AM   #12
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Great post, and I can relate to what we did. We have been in our retirement home now for 3 years. It is feeling a little more like "home", although we talk about "NEXT" a lot. I want to stay another couple years, then we can decide what to do. No regrets, though. Golfed 3 days this week, bike ride yesterday. Can't really imagine doing winter again.
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:01 AM   #13
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I think it depends on the person. I can see how someone who has moved a lot might want to plan on keeping moving. However, I do know several people who sold homes they had lived in for decades and bought homes in warmer states after doing a lot of research. Only one rented in the warmer states before buying a house a year later. A decade or more later they are still in those "new" homes.
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:14 AM   #14
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I used to think about retiring to somewhere in San Diego county which reportedly has one of the best climates in the world with a year round average of 72F. It stretches from the coast all the way to the desert.
https://www.google.ca/maps/place/San...0dfd2beb800728

I would picture the possibility of driving to the beach and having an early morning swim in the ocean in the morning; http://beachforbaby.com/wp-content/u...11/delmar2.jpg

driving up into the mountains and doing a quick ski run around Idyllwild (yes I know it's outside the county but easily within driving distance); http://palmstopinesmagazine.com/wp-c...alona-Hill.jpg

dropping down the other side of the mountains into Anza Borrego Desert State Park for an afternoon hike up Borrego Palm Canyon https://onecoolthingeveryweekend.fil...0/img_5549.jpg and returning home to Escondido for a late dinner. It's actually doable.

But that was before I learned to slow down.
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:23 AM   #15
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I think it depends on the person. I can see how someone who has moved a lot might want to plan on keeping moving.
Or, some of us who moved a lot when we were younger are really thrilled at being able to finally "set down roots". At least I am. I have lived in Louisiana for 20 years by now, and love the fledgling roots that have begun to sprout.

If I start feeling restless, I will just change my mind. I understand that's the female's prerogative.
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:32 AM   #16
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Bestwifeever, it is not about wanting to "plan on keeping moving." It is about not having to decide. There is where you live NOW and no need to worry about for how long you will live there.

I recognize that many people are 'nesters' and need to feel they have their nest all the time. But even for them, there is a difference between trying to decide where will I move my nest to permanently and simply deciding where would I like to set up a nest for now. There is all kinds of angst involved when trying to make a permanent decision and it is unnecessary in my opinion. The more of a 'nester' you are, the more angst there likely is to 'get it right'.

As for those who successfully bought right away and are still happy after 10 years, there are also those who bought right away and it did not work out. Knowing some of one group doesn't mean the other group doesn't exist. Nor is there any way to know which group you will fall into if you make a move. For each happy person you know, I have met an unhappy person. Renting simply makes it easier for those who end up unhappy and does nothing to make those who do end up happy with their move, unhappy. It's just a smarter move to not 'burn your bridges' by buying before you find out.

So yes, I agree it absolutely "depends on the person" as you say. However, there is no way for you to know beforehand if you will be one who 'sticks' or not.
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:49 AM   #17
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Neither of us is right or wrong, Oldpro.
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:49 AM   #18
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A very good, sobering post. Having lived in 5 different countries and still struggling a bit with which of three of those to pick as our "final" retirement destination (though we are fine where we are), I know well that all countries, and areas within countries, have "pluses" and "minuses". You will get the minuses, so make sure that you can live with this and that you will make enough use of the pluses to make living there worthwhile.

This issue that complicates following this formula for those of us who are perhaps a bit more of the "settled" type is the visa issue. Many attractive countries have interesting long-term or permanent resident visa programs for retirees, but require a commitment (like buying property or making a long-term investment above a certain amount) in return. In the EU/Schengen area, for instance, without such a visa you are pretty much limited to a 3-month stay, and for the entire Schengen area, not only that specific country. It used to be easier in the past, when most countries would issue 6 month permits-to-stay on arrival and you could get another 6 months just by leaving the country for a few days to go to a neighboring country.
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Old 01-17-2016, 12:25 PM   #19
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Boatfishandnature, you raise a valid point and one that again I don't think people always understand or consider realistically.

You will find people suggesting 'visa runs' by visiting neighbouring countries as you say. Now imagine doing that every 6 months for years. I would not advocate anyone consider a situation where that was the prospect they would face. Either you can get a visa that allows you to stay for as long as you want or you eliminate that country from your list of possibilities would be my advice.

Not only are 'visa runs' a pain in the butt, there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to continue to do so. Do a little reading here for instance. https://www.google.ca/search?q=denie...sa+run&ie=&oe=

Now imagine the person who bought a place somewhere and is then denied entry.

Besides investing money in a property or business as a way to get a residence permit, there are countries as you probably know who will issue a 'retirement visa' based only on you being able to prove you have above a certain amount of pension/investment income. Some as low as around $1000 per month.

But that leads to another aspect of 'where to retire to' and that is the issue of why is a cheap country to live in, cheap to live in? The answer of course is that there are negatives that come with it being cheap. Poor infrastructure, health care, power 'brown outs', crime, etc. etc. As the saying goes, 'there ain't no free lunch'. Personally, I only want to live in a first world country, because I want the benefits that such a country generally provides and that a second or third world country does not.

You mention the EU and I have lived in several countries in Europe. I am fortunate in that I hold more than one passport as does my wife. Some people are eligible for another passport through descent and don't even realize that possibility exists for them. A grandparent born in a European country may be all you need to gain access to residency in Europe for example. If your wife/husband has an Italian/French/German/Dutch/UK, etc. grandmother for example, that can get both of you residency in Europe.
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Where to retire to
Old 01-17-2016, 03:54 PM   #20
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Where to retire to

Welcome old pro. Great perspective

I was a global nomad and fired at 45. I'm not in my permanent place. I assume we will continue a global nomad lifestyle until we can't do that any longer - health or kids or parents or god knows what ....

After 6 countries in 28 years I still haven't found nirvana. It's not because the places are bad. It's because I keep changing what I want and need in life .... Alignment doesn't last for infinity.

Big cities are great til u want peace and quiet. Communist countries are great til u want a taste of freedom. Beach resort islands are nice til u need a level 4 trauma center.

It's a trade off. But as a younger retiree I am as sure as the sun rising every day that our needs over time in retirement locations will change ...

I view it just as chapters in a book. We are on our 7th or 8th chapter.

Different strokes for different folks. Most Americans have never lived anywhere but America. Less than 10 percent even hold passports to travel abroad! Their idea of "place" is very permanent. Home base. Not at all temporary. To them, it's all they know. Their idea of next is ...quite frankly...the cemetery. They can not handle change. Don't know how to deal with it. Adaptation is not a developed skill. Not their fault. After X years in one stable place it's hard to change even for a global nomad.

Welcome and please hang around. We can learn a lot from older guys such as yourself.

And for discussion here is My next list: Vietnam. Cambodia. Ecuador or Nicaragua. Portugal.


2015. marked the first year to consolidate 28 years of crap in 3 storage units. Needless to say goodwill loved me in 2015. What a waste of money to store crap. Admittedly we never thought we would be gone for decades... And the kids were small and we didn't know they would grow up eventually. Ha ha funny as that sounds...

Where were u living before ?
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