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Old 06-19-2020, 08:38 AM   #61
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There was a documentary a few years ago on Swiss TV (probably the TSR) showing that some Swiss retirees might actually pay less taxes in France than in Switzerland because of the numerous tax loopholes available in France. And taxes have actually gone down in France since then. With the lower cost of living and lower health insurance premiums than in Switzerland, France might actually be a competitive option. For my part, I do find it quite attractive. But if you have a large, inflexible retirement income (like a pension), then yes it is best to look elsewhere.
Wow FIREd, are you also an expat ER in Switzerland? Or are you a native there?
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Old 06-19-2020, 10:23 AM   #62
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Wow FIREd, are you also an expat ER in Switzerland? Or are you a native there?
I was born in a Franco-Swiss family and I was raised near Geneva, Switzerland. I came back to the area early last year after having spent 20+ years in the US. Upon my return, I had to deal with many issues that expats face (except immigration). I don't actually live in Switzerland, but rather in France - albeit a stone throw away from the Swiss border and less than 5 miles from downtown Geneva. The border is very soft and I cross it all the time, having family on both sides.
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Old 06-19-2020, 03:56 PM   #63
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Hola from the Atenas Costa Rica. 10th month here. Wasn't necessarily going to stay here permanently, was checking it out and enjoying the nature, but decided to ride out Covid here as opposed to back in the states.

We were going to spend the summer in Europe visiting friends and looking hard at Portugal, Spain and Malta for long term.

No kids, sold our suburban golf course house last July. Did a good job of setting up bank and brokerage accounts beforehand, still have US cell numbers we have had for years so 2F authentication has been no issue on anything. Renewed DL's, passports credit cards all before we left so we have a calendar buffer out into the future for legal needs. Set-up all electronic on all accounts 6+ months before we left so we had time to iron out issues.

Have a traveling mailbox for 90% that might show up. Accountant is the legal address of all financial institutions in case of snail mail. The one or two issues we have had have been taken care of by a quick Skype phone call.

Love being down here. Had the opportunity to take a repatriation flight back to the states, didn't do it. We could go back but we'd expose ourselves and don't feel it's worth the risk.
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Old 06-19-2020, 06:56 PM   #64
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There are many expats on this board. We are extended snowbirds owing to Covid flight Restrictions. I think it is hard to discuss common problems because destination is so crucial to any discussion.

If you can suggest what you interests are, we can direct you to the right threads/places?
I am not an expat but wife and I are giving it serious consideration and it would be nice to join a thread that ponders how to decide to go for an expat lifestyle.

Iím torn due to extended family that would become far MORE extended if we were to go to Belize or Costa Rica.

Thx, Don
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Old 06-19-2020, 07:23 PM   #65
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Things were really cheap back then in Shanghai as well. Rent for a two bedroom was like 500 USD per month. Now it's like 2500 to 3k usd haha.

This is the one big thing I tell people about when they dream about retiring to a "cheap" location. (I am retired in Vietnam but I lived and worked here before retiring.)


Developing countries are developing which means the whole point is that prices will go up. They want their citizens to earn more money which means that, over time, everything will cost more money.


If you're retiring on something pretty lean or have a high reliance on a pension/Social Security (which is indexed to US inflation) then that can cause problems as the years add up.



A friend's father early retired to Hua Hin, Thailand, many years ago (maybe two decades at this point?) and the father has said that many of his German/Swiss/Austrian friends basically ran out of money as their pensions/investments failed to keep up with the increasing prices and had to end up moving back to Europe where they begged family members to move in with them.



Of course, this doesn't happen overnight or even after just a few years. But if you're going to be retired 40+ years someplace, small differences in local inflation add up.
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Old 06-19-2020, 08:54 PM   #66
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I was born in a Franco-Swiss family and I was raised near Geneva, Switzerland. I came back to the area early last year after having spent 20+ years in the US. Upon my return, I had to deal with many issues that expats face (except immigration). I don't actually live in Switzerland, but rather in France - albeit a stone throw away from the Swiss border and less than 5 miles from downtown Geneva. The border is very soft and I cross it all the time, having family on both sides.
Ah ok. Hope the move back has treated you kindly!!
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Old 06-19-2020, 08:56 PM   #67
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Hola from the Atenas Costa Rica. 10th month here. Wasn't necessarily going to stay here permanently, was checking it out and enjoying the nature, but decided to ride out Covid here as opposed to back in the states.

We were going to spend the summer in Europe visiting friends and looking hard at Portugal, Spain and Malta for long term.
Sounds awesome and glad you're enjoying it there! Take your time in your search and decision. The journey is just as important as the destination!
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Old 06-19-2020, 08:57 PM   #68
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I am not an expat but wife and I are giving it serious consideration and it would be nice to join a thread that ponders how to decide to go for an expat lifestyle.

Iím torn due to extended family that would become far MORE extended if we were to go to Belize or Costa Rica.

Thx, Don
Is it feasible to give it a trial run for a year?
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Old 06-19-2020, 09:00 PM   #69
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Of course, this doesn't happen overnight or even after just a few years. But if you're going to be retired 40+ years someplace, small differences in local inflation add up.
You make a very good point. I mean Shanghai is an extreme example (by some measures it is one of the most expensive cities now) but yeah, to some degree this is likely to happen at all the popular locations.

btw, I'd really like to hear your thoughts and experiences. Honestly Vietnam is one of the few places I'm extremely curious about that I've never been to. I have been hoping someone would check into this thread from there!
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Old 06-19-2020, 09:57 PM   #70
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Developing countries are developing which means the whole point is that prices will go up. They want their citizens to earn more money which means that, over time, everything will cost more money.


If you're retiring on something pretty lean or have a high reliance on a pension/Social Security (which is indexed to US inflation) then that can cause problems as the years add up.
I am living in Thailand. Inflation is something you have to worry about in any country. The US has had plenty of inflation over the past 20-30 years. The additional thing expats have to pay attention to is currency exchange rates. For example, my understanding is that British expats in Thailand have lost about 50% of their purchasing power over the last 20-30 years due to exchange rates alone. In the meantime though, I think prices in the countryside in Thailand have hardly budged.

Another thing that periodically increases are the yearly financial requirements to maintain your visa or extension of stay status. Two years ago Thailand made changes that effectively raised the financial requirements.

When considering Southeast Asian countries I think it is best to ignore the past reputation of the region as being a place where you can to live on a shoestring and go anywhere and do anything you want. As part of developing countries going about the business of developing, they are bringing their economies and immigration standards closer to the the developed world. However, it is still true that places like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines are low cost places to live with reliable policies to allow people to stay long term.
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Old 06-19-2020, 11:00 PM   #71
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However, it is still true that places like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines are low cost places to live with reliable policies to allow people to stay long term.

I can only speak about Vietnam, where I live, but this isn't really true. Vietnam has never offered an easy, long-term visa. The only options were own a business, be married to a local, or live on a tourist visa and renew it every 90-days. Renewing would be a combination of border runs and paying to have it renewed in country -- it varied a bit over time and depending on the whims of the local office.


However, last year Vietnam passed some laws to crack down on people living here indefinitely on tourist visas. The 90-day tourist visa is gone as of July 1st and only a 30-day tourist visa exists. There is much speculation that, come July, there will be tougher questions asked on multiple renewals, especially in the same geographic location. But it also might just mean you have to pay a higher bribe every 30 days to renew your tourist visa.



Along with that, Vietnam passed new banking laws that make it impossible to open a local bank account until you have some kind of visa that allows you at least a 12-month stay. Again, this essentially means only people who are working or married to locals have that option. It's not impossible to live here without a local bank account but between daily ATM withdrawal limits and merchants that don't accept international credit cards, you can certainly run into issues. For a year or so, the only ride sharing service -- Grab -- only accepted local credit cards. Foreigners had to pay with cash.
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Old 06-19-2020, 11:28 PM   #72
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I can only speak about Vietnam, where I live, but this isn't really true. Vietnam has never offered an easy, long-term visa. The only options were own a business, be married to a local, or live on a tourist visa and renew it every 90-days. Renewing would be a combination of border runs and paying to have it renewed in country -- it varied a bit over time and depending on the whims of the local office.


However, last year Vietnam passed some laws to crack down on people living here indefinitely on tourist visas. The 90-day tourist visa is gone as of July 1st and only a 30-day tourist visa exists. There is much speculation that, come July, there will be tougher questions asked on multiple renewals, especially in the same geographic location. But it also might just mean you have to pay a higher bribe every 30 days to renew your tourist visa.



Along with that, Vietnam passed new banking laws that make it impossible to open a local bank account until you have some kind of visa that allows you at least a 12-month stay. Again, this essentially means only people who are working or married to locals have that option. It's not impossible to live here without a local bank account but between daily ATM withdrawal limits and merchants that don't accept international credit cards, you can certainly run into issues. For a year or so, the only ride sharing service -- Grab -- only accepted local credit cards. Foreigners had to pay with cash.
Since this is an early retirement site I was mainly addressing retirement possibilities. But yes, there is more detail to be said for every individual country. For Thailand, long stay visas and extensions (1 year at a time) for those not working are available to those over 50 years old, those married to a Thai, and those who purchase into the Thai Elite visa program. If your are a very early retiree, under 50 years, and there are certainly many like that on this forum, then options are more limited in Thailand unless you are well off financially.

Hopefully this discussion thread can help people navigate the process in individual countries and compare/contrast countries.
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Old 06-20-2020, 02:19 AM   #73
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As a resident of Malta, does one have to purchase private medical healthcare, or are you covered by Malta's universal healthcare?
UK and Maltese citizens and all workers are covered for free in the public healthcare system.

Everyone else who is not working must buy a minimum level of insurance and they have special policies for this. It only costs a few hundred dollars a year. There is a private hospital system too and everyone needs insurance to access that. We buy an international plan that gives us access to all private hospitals in the world except the US and Canada. For short US trips you can buy travel insurance like the tourists do. And then you always have Medicare available for a major illness.
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Old 06-20-2020, 03:28 AM   #74
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I am not an expat but wife and I are giving it serious consideration and it would be nice to join a thread that ponders how to decide to go for an expat lifestyle.

Iím torn due to extended family that would become far MORE extended if we were to go to Belize or Costa Rica.

Thx, Don
All the material out there focuses on trying to find the best country but the truth is that expat success is 90% you and 10% the country. People who are well suited could do well anywhere while people who are not well suited wont do well anywhere.

The first criteria is how self sufficient you are. It is a huge advantage to be able to do a lot of DIY stuff yourself. House stuff like simple construction skills, electrical and plumbing and be able to fix you own car. Other countries do not have the level of services, or else they do have the services but there is no follow through. Being able to just do it yourself saves a huge amount of frustration.

You also need to be able to accept things that you would not accept in the US without it bothering you. Things like dropping your car in for a service and getting it back dented. Would you be able to smile and just accept it. Are you happy to buy new things that turn out to be broken and not mind. This is not so easy.

Then there are language skills to consider and there may be things in the culture like racism or corruption. You just have to be able to suck it up.

After all this then the individual countries comes in. Its very different to all the expat marketing out there that focus on how the drinks are cheap or the bus is free.
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Old 06-20-2020, 04:07 AM   #75
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All the material out there focuses on trying to find the best country but the truth is that expat success is 90% you and 10% the country. People who are well suited could do well anywhere while people who are not well suited wont do well anywhere.

The first criteria is how self sufficient you are. It is a huge advantage to be able to do a lot of DIY stuff yourself. House stuff like simple construction skills, electrical and plumbing and be able to fix you own car. Other countries do not have the level of services, or else they do have the services but there is no follow through. Being able to just do it yourself saves a huge amount of frustration.

You also need to be able to accept things that you would not accept in the US without it bothering you. Things like dropping your car in for a service and getting it back dented. Would you be able to smile and just accept it. Are you happy to buy new things that turn out to be broken and not mind. This is not so easy.

Then there are language skills to consider and there may be things in the culture like racism or corruption. You just have to be able to suck it up.

After all this then the individual countries comes in. Its very different to all the expat marketing out there that focus on how the drinks are cheap or the bus is free.
I totally agree. You have to accept that things work differently in different countries. Different is not necessarily bad or wrong. It is just different. You have to be looking for someplace different and not just a cheap place to live.
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Old 06-20-2020, 05:15 AM   #76
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For short US trips you can buy travel insurance like the tourists do. And then you always have Medicare available for a major illness.
I just turned 65 and have applied for my Medicare Part A which is free for qualified individuals. I still plan to buy health insurance for our trips back to visit our daughter in the USA but figure that at least I'll have hospital coverage for major medical if needed. (My wife will be 65 later this year and will also apply for Medicare part A)
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Old 06-20-2020, 05:44 AM   #77
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Hi Alan, just be aware that Part A is mostly just room and board in the hospital. A lot of the other things that happen to you in a hospital stay will be classed under part B and you need to pay premiums for that. A is kind of useless without B.

There are premium penalties for not signing up for B at aged 65 but there is an exemption if you were already fully resident outside the US when you turned 65.
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Old 06-20-2020, 06:20 AM   #78
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Opening a new bank or brokerage account from overseas, even as a USC, is nigh on impossible so you need to have everything set up ahead of time.
I have been overseas in Australia, China and most recently in Vietnam. Left the USA in 1990 and have only lived there 4 years during this 30 year period. I have setup bank accounts, brokerage accounts, opened multiple credit cards, done my own taxes and moved money cheaply and quickly around the globe. It can all be done but you need a few key things:

1) USA address to have info sent to when its required (pretty rare these days as everything is e)
2) Friend or family to open mail at said address if needed
3) USA phone number that will ring anywhere and can receive text messages (easy these days, I have 2)
4) email address
5) VPN so the rare websites that control location access won't block you
6) Willingness to work at night or morning during usa biz hours
7) Patience!

While it is certainly easier to set things up before you leave you can do it from overseas too.
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Old 06-20-2020, 07:16 AM   #79
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?..The first criteria is how self sufficient you are. It is a huge advantage to be able to do a lot of DIY stuff yourself. House stuff like simple construction skills, electrical and plumbing and be able to fix you own car. Other countries do not have the level of services, or else they do have the services but there is no follow through. Being able to just do it yourself saves a huge amount of frustration...
I am a retired engineer and there are few DIY challenges that I am not up to. But when I was painting the black grates over the windows, my guy said he could do the whole job for less than my cost for paint and brushes. He was right and it helped him feed his family.

So my attitude has changed. I still,put together things I buy online but do not attempt anything that requires interaction with the local economy.
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Old 06-20-2020, 07:25 AM   #80
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Hi Alan, just be aware that Part A is mostly just room and board in the hospital. A lot of the other things that happen to you in a hospital stay will be classed under part B and you need to pay premiums for that. A is kind of useless without B.

There are premium penalties for not signing up for B at aged 65 but there is an exemption if you were already fully resident outside the US when you turned 65.
Thanks, I understand all that and wasnít going to bother at all with Medicare but I attended a webinar recently given by the Federal Benefits Unit at the US Embassy in London, and the FBU guy was very convincing so I signed up and should have my Medicare card before my next trip over. The travel health insurance I have through my bank (free until age 70) will cover all the extras that a part B would cover. We have no plans to ever move back to the USA permanently but if we do then weíll have to pay the extra premiums for part B. Our daughter in LA plans to retire and move to Australia within 5 to 10 years so that will be the end of our family ties in the USA.
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