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What to do if you want to retire abroad
Old 03-29-2021, 10:04 AM   #1
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What to do if you want to retire abroad

Hi all-
I received a private message from a contributor to this forum asking whether I had stayed in Singapore or returned the States. As a background, I lived in Singapore for 25 years, but only worked there for 19 years. The rest of the time I kept my residence in Singapore, but experienced Egypt, Jordan and Vietnam, working in those countries, also. In 2013, I decided at the age of 67 to return to the States and retire. I live 1 minute from the Canadian border in a little town in Washington state, which up until the beginning of the pandemic was almost like a part of greater Vancouver. Things will certainly get back to where they were before. Vancouver captures that Singapore vibe.

I guess you could say that my life has been quite the opposite of most retirees here, especially if you retire early. I've spent most of my life overseas, and the novelty of living and retiring in the States is still with me. If you retire at the age of 60, I totally understand your desire to retire overseas, especially if you want to check some things off your bucket list and you're still healthy. However, health care and the feeling of "home" really can only be achieved by being in your own country, but that's only my opinion.

In Singapore, I was a PR (permanent resident), which is similar to a US green card. It allowed me to stay there and live. However, I got my PR through my work (science teacher) rather than through family connections, and so even if you have PR, it's only permanent if you continue to work. The cost of living in Singapore is the highest in the world, and getting health care insurance in your 70's is near impossible.

I actually applied for and got the Malaysian retirement visa (MM2H), and I planned on living in southern Malaysia and travel back and forth to Singapore. What deterred me was the lack of good health insurance and the fact that I was determined to have a dog in retirement, which is a very unpopular idea in Malaysia. Also, the requirement of keeping a deposit of $150,000 in a Malaysian bank was something that did not appeal to me. I decided to give the US a chance for retirement, and so here I am. As a side note about MM2H, for the past year the program has been frozen. It will open soon, but the Malaysian government will up the requirements to keep only "high quality" retirees. Read into that as you will.

Do I have any regrets about being "home"? None! I DO get very annoyed and really frustrated about the awful politics and gridlock, but I also was annoyed at same thing overseas. It's my country after all. Also, I can't think of anything better than Medicare, and that's a feeling of security. Just my opinion.

What I miss, however, is the cultural stimulation I received living overseas for 40 years (other countries, also). I need to travel more, but my Labrador makes it difficult. I am looking into the possibility of living part of the year in a US city that captures the Mexican culture, is very safe, and the cost of living is perhaps the lowest in the US for a big city. That place is El Paso. I want to experience that. Like I said, it's extremely safe there, and being able to walk across the border reminds me of living in Singapore and taking walks across the Causeway to Malaysia. I also am intrigued with Panama, and so that is a place I want to visit.

Just wanted to share with you my thoughts on leaving the US to retire. When I reads the news everyday, I get visibly upset, but I'd still be upset if I were overseas. The US influence is everywhere.

Thanks for allowing me to share

Rob
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Old 03-29-2021, 10:19 AM   #2
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Nice perspective . Thanks.
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Old 03-29-2021, 11:46 AM   #3
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Hi all-
I received a private message from a contributor to this forum asking whether I had stayed in Singapore or returned the States. As a background, I lived in Singapore for 25 years, but only worked there for 19 years. The rest of the time I kept my residence in Singapore, but experienced Egypt, Jordan and Vietnam, working in those countries, also. In 2013, I decided at the age of 67 to return to the States and retire. I live 1 minute from the Canadian border in a little town in Washington state, which up until the beginning of the pandemic was almost like a part of greater Vancouver. Things will certainly get back to where they were before. Vancouver captures that Singapore vibe.

I guess you could say that my life has been quite the opposite of most retirees here, especially if you retire early. I've spent most of my life overseas, and the novelty of living and retiring in the States is still with me. If you retire at the age of 60, I totally understand your desire to retire overseas, especially if you want to check some things off your bucket list and you're still healthy. However, health care and the feeling of "home" really can only be achieved by being in your own country, but that's only my opinion.

In Singapore, I was a PR (permanent resident), which is similar to a US green card. It allowed me to stay there and live. However, I got my PR through my work (science teacher) rather than through family connections, and so even if you have PR, it's only permanent if you continue to work. The cost of living in Singapore is the highest in the world, and getting health care insurance in your 70's is near impossible.

I actually applied for and got the Malaysian retirement visa (MM2H), and I planned on living in southern Malaysia and travel back and forth to Singapore. What deterred me was the lack of good health insurance and the fact that I was determined to have a dog in retirement, which is a very unpopular idea in Malaysia. Also, the requirement of keeping a deposit of $150,000 in a Malaysian bank was something that did not appeal to me. I decided to give the US a chance for retirement, and so here I am. As a side note about MM2H, for the past year the program has been frozen. It will open soon, but the Malaysian government will up the requirements to keep only "high quality" retirees. Read into that as you will.

Do I have any regrets about being "home"? None! I DO get very annoyed and really frustrated about the awful politics and gridlock, but I also was annoyed at same thing overseas. It's my country after all. Also, I can't think of anything better than Medicare, and that's a feeling of security. Just my opinion.

What I miss, however, is the cultural stimulation I received living overseas for 40 years (other countries, also). I need to travel more, but my Labrador makes it difficult. I am looking into the possibility of living part of the year in a US city that captures the Mexican culture, is very safe, and the cost of living is perhaps the lowest in the US for a big city. That place is El Paso. I want to experience that. Like I said, it's extremely safe there, and being able to walk across the border reminds me of living in Singapore and taking walks across the Causeway to Malaysia. I also am intrigued with Panama, and so that is a place I want to visit.

Just wanted to share with you my thoughts on leaving the US to retire. When I reads the news everyday, I get visibly upset, but I'd still be upset if I were overseas. The US influence is everywhere.

Thanks for allowing me to share

Rob
Might as well just live in Mexico...one retiree there I followed online kept paying for Part B & came back to the U.S. for an organ transplant before returning to Mexico.

If pre-Medicare health insurance reverts to pre-ACA conditions that's where I'd go, at least until Medicare eligibility.
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Old 03-29-2021, 07:18 PM   #4
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...
What I miss, however, is the cultural stimulation I received living overseas for 40 years (other countries, also). I need to travel more, but my Labrador makes it difficult. I am looking into the possibility of living part of the year in a US city that captures the Mexican culture, is very safe, and the cost of living is perhaps the lowest in the US for a big city. That place is El Paso. I want to experience that. Like I said, it's extremely safe there, and being able to walk across the border reminds me of living in Singapore and taking walks across the Causeway to Malaysia. I also am intrigued with Panama, and so that is a place I want to visit
...
Rob
I looked into El Paso a bit some years back connected to a job I might take there. I personally like the vibe, and of course while formally in Texas, the climate and landscape is much more like Arizona or New Mexico. And when I looked, there was really fantastic real estate to be had, I particularly liked it up in the hills overlooking Ciudad Juarez.

However, about safety I am not so sure. Juarez was one of the worst places near the US for some years, and I thought some of that also spilled into El Paso. And together with the appeal of the culture, also unfortunately some of the poverty spills north across the Rio Grande.

You also mention Panama which I liked quite a bit, there are many nice enclaves, and in the past I was tempted by Red Frog in Bocas del Toro and that general area.
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Old 03-29-2021, 07:41 PM   #5
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I retired to Bangkok, Thailand four years ago. At first I was more drawn to Thailand than escaping from the US. Having been abroad for a few years now and observing America from from a distance, especially during these particular past four years, I am so so happy to be here in Thailand. I don’t reject America but I see it’s direction as profoundly sad and disappointing. Thailand has been an exceptionally good place to be during the pandemic and I have experienced its good health care facilities. I expect to visit the US from time to time when travel becomes easier.
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Old 03-29-2021, 08:26 PM   #6
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Rob, I can relate to what you are saying.

I have been an expat for the last 34 years. Currently living and working in Indonesia but I would not retire here (or anywhere else overseas). I feel the need to live back in Australia but plan to travel extensively in my retirement (pandemic permitting).

For me, Australia in retirement is a relatively low tax environment, with excellent health care and access to free universal health care. My base in Australia is sub tropical climate so no cold winters etc.

I hate Australian politics - but politics are the same elsewhere.

I can understand the attraction of retirees who have lived in their home countries to want to live in a new country / location - for me it is just turning that around.
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Old 03-29-2021, 11:00 PM   #7
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So @Rob, you traded warm tropical downpours for cold northern drizzle ! Im happy for you that you feel at home at home I feel my own long expatriation made me feel somewhat dislocated everywhere. Its not a bad feeling, just a strange one - I feel apart from everywhere I live/lived yet also a part of everywhere. We settled in London to retire although neither of us was originally from here - after working many years I the UK we both took UK citizenship in addition to our US. For me the diversity and openness of a major world city is crucial; there are probably a handful of places where I could feel equally comfortable at this point but no more than that.
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Old 03-30-2021, 07:37 AM   #8
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I think well be able to scratch the itch by spending one or more winters in Costa Rica. Panama appeals, as well, and has policies that are supposed to be even more retiree-friendly.
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Old 03-30-2021, 07:50 AM   #9
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Old 03-30-2021, 08:03 AM   #10
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I agree that, as we age, the yearning to go “home” grows stronger. It led me to go back to my home country after having spent 20+ years abroad. And it feels good to be back home.
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Old 03-30-2021, 08:13 AM   #11
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I enjoyed reading the interesting comments and perspectives.

To the gentleman that questioned the safety of El Paso- I did also, and then I looked at the top ten safest large cities in the US, and El Paso was ranked first. In other surveys, it's always in the top tier. I suppose I could relocate to Mexico, but if there were ever an emergency health problem, getting back to the US could be difficult.

To the person who mentioned Thailand, I can relate. The flights from Singapore to Thailand were also cheap and plentiful. However, the requirement to leave the country and return every few months to satisfy the retirement visa is perhaps something a future 80+ year old person like myself would prefer not to do. Also, health care for people in their 70's and 80's is not possible, I suspect that you are in your 50's or 60's, and you certainly can do that at that age. I would, also.

Becoming a dual citizen is the optimal situation like the person who is in London and is a dual UK/US citizen. There are certain countries that when you have the retirement visa you can actually apply for citizenship after a few years. Two countries that I would consider are Portugal and Panama where obtaining citizenship after getting a retirement visa is possible.

I appreciate your perspectives.

Rob
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Old 03-30-2021, 09:01 AM   #12
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...
To the gentleman that questioned the safety of El Paso- I did also, and then I looked at the top ten safest large cities in the US, and El Paso was ranked first. In other surveys, it's always in the top tier. I suppose I could relocate to Mexico, but if there were ever an emergency health problem, getting back to the US could be difficult.
...
Becoming a dual citizen is the optimal situation like the person who is in London and is a dual UK/US citizen. There are certain countries that when you have the retirement visa you can actually apply for citizenship after a few years. Two countries that I would consider are Portugal and Panama where obtaining citizenship after getting a retirement visa is possible.

I appreciate your perspectives.

Rob
Following your comment about El Paso, I looked around a bit, and was surprised to see that it is actually fairly safe. One of many sites that do such comparisons is https://blog.cheapism.com/safest-big-cities-17381/ where El Paso is ranked seventh safest, and all higher ranked ones have populations less than 500,000, so may not qualify as larger cities. Among cities that have less than 100,000 people, there is a large number that are safer, but that's to be expected.

Regarding retirement locations and visas, I am in the fortunate situation that I hold citizenship in Europe and the US, and my wife is a Japanese citizen, so we have plenty of options. However, while we have been traveling internationally all the time, partly for job and partly for family, we are growing strong roots in South Florida, which has the right mix of very reasonable cost of living, great weather, very good medical services, and good travel infrastructure. Most master planned communities here have very nice pools, tennis courts, exercise rooms and things like that, and some have golf courses, and the amenities are very convenient to use.. The area is like one big city with everything you may need, yet feels very suburban as soon as you get out of the downtowns of the three metro areas here.

Although I am from Europe, whenever I go there I quickly feel claustrophobic since everything is so squeezed together and the roads are so narrow and much of the town is clogged with cars and has bad traffic jams. Also, people are more narrow minded than one may think from a US perspective, and friendliness leaves a lot to be desired. Even in stores the employees often give me the impression of "you should be happy that we even offer selling anything to you". Of course I like the food and cultural options, but the convenience of daily life there is often much lower than in the US. And in most places in central and northern Europe, the weather leaves much to be desired.

I actually quite enjoy Japan, but my wife has that feeling of claustrophobia I have about Europe when she goes there. And while the Japanese are generally very polite and friendly and public life is very pleasant - quite the opposite of Europe - it is very hard for foreigners to establish real ties aside from the novelty factor that some Japanese enjoy knowing a foreigner and being able to talk about that with their real friends.

But, as one of the rather frequent posters on this forum often says, YMMV.
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Old 03-30-2021, 09:27 AM   #13
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I agree that, as we age, the yearning to go “home” grows stronger. It led me to go back to my home country after having spent 20+ years abroad. And it feels good to be back home.
+1

Dual citizens here, we moved back to England 5 years ago - North Yorkshire. Really enjoyed our 29 years in the USA but there's no place like home.*





* Neither of us are from Yorkshire but we moved there 42 years ago, fell in love with the place, and our children were born here. We regularly walk past the church in the small town we live in and I have direct ancestors on my father's side buried in its graveyard going back into the 1600's. Our children were baptized in that same church. I never knew the connection when we moved here with our work in 1979.
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Old 03-30-2021, 10:17 AM   #14
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We have our Mexican green card (non-working) a few years ago and last year stayed from November 10 to July 17th. We are Canadian so got permission to be absent for 2 years until Nov 10, 2021.

We are not keen to return to Canada. We will if we can practically before we head to Europe in September. I have spent time working in Malaysia and The Phillippines and love both places. But I have Kids/Grandkids in Canada and like the short hop from Mexico.
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Old 03-30-2021, 11:55 AM   #15
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About 20 months here in Costa Rica. Came for 6-9 month stay, covid changed things.

Had traveled a lot internationally for career and even done the expat work for two years in the 80's. So really wanted to be able to go experience the culture and vibe for more than three or four weeks at a time. Even thought we might find somewhere we liked well enough to buy and call our new home.

Interesting to see a lot more bashing of the USA from other Americans than from other nationalities. But more than USA, is the absolute distrust and hatred for China.

All that said, don't plan on buying a house here and when the time is right will head out again for an extended stay somewhere else. In the long term we are US citizens and I'm sure we will wind up back there to settle back in North America at some point.
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Old 03-31-2021, 11:33 PM   #16
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Hi all-
I received a private message from a contributor to this forum asking whether I had stayed in Singapore or returned the States. As a background, I lived in Singapore for 25 years, but only worked there for 19 years. The rest of the time I kept my residence in Singapore, but experienced Egypt, Jordan and Vietnam, working in those countries, also. In 2013, I decided at the age of 67 to return to the States and retire. I live 1 minute from the Canadian border in a little town in Washington state, which up until the beginning of the pandemic was almost like a part of greater Vancouver. Things will certainly get back to where they were before. Vancouver captures that Singapore vibe.


Rob


sounds like you are in Point Roberts, which has found itself totally isolated... even the Canadian tourists can't get in (there was some news that all the golf courses etc were loosing money and that the only grocery store had fairly limited supplies, not normally the case when people could just cross over into Vancouver)
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Old 04-01-2021, 12:28 AM   #17
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I agree that, as we age, the yearning to go home grows stronger. It led me to go back to my home country after having spent 20+ years abroad. And it feels good to be back home.
That's not how it has worked for me. I moved from England to the US at the age of 23, and have been here ever since (I am now 57). I occasionally consider moving back to the UK, but never seriously. I know full well that, were I to go back, I would start missing the US in less than a week. After a month, I would be regretting my decision to move back. The UK does feel very familiar, but to the point of feeling overwhelmingly mundane. In some ways, I quite envy people who, after many years in the US, move back to their home countries. The truth for me though, is that the US is now my home.

I like living in a place that I didn't grow up in. It feels truly mine. I chose it, and made my mark here. Besides, I am a massive introvert. If I moved back, my family would wonder why I didn't want to hang out with them more often
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Old 04-01-2021, 04:38 AM   #18
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What I miss, however, is the cultural stimulation I received living overseas for 40 years (other countries, also). I need to travel more, but my Labrador makes it difficult. I am looking into the possibility of living part of the year in a US city that captures the Mexican culture, is very safe, and the cost of living is perhaps the lowest in the US for a big city. That place is El Paso. I want to experience that. Like I said, it's extremely safe there, and being able to walk across the border reminds me of living in Singapore and taking walks across the Causeway to Malaysia. I also am intrigued with Panama, and so that is a place I want to visit.

Just wanted to share with you my thoughts on leaving the US to retire. When I reads the news everyday, I get visibly upset, but I'd still be upset if I were overseas. The US influence is everywhere.
In Malaysia I am guessing the influence of China can be everywhere. So we receive the benefit of a great power being nearby or actually live in the country (like U.S.). Everywhere you go, there they are, is a way of accepting things.

I am a Philadelphia-expat. Moved to a suburb (South Jersey) where I worked, and settled down. The first town was rather small, and close-minded. When my children were just entering school we knew it was time to make a change. We moved to a larger town which was culturally diverse. That decision made a difference for our kids, and I can see it each time they report on their experiences in the U.S. and overseas.

I am not a real explorer as wife and kids are, and now just listen to world music (lots of South American flavors) I am drawn to for stimulation. Also, I am diving more into the history of immigration and family genealogy to better appreciate how so many influences came together in my family and others.

I was sick about certain things when I read the news in depth. After accepting I had just one vote, and that society will continue to change as in the past, I concluded that progress was ongoing even when I could not feel it.
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What to do if you want to retire abroad
Old 04-01-2021, 12:19 PM   #19
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What to do if you want to retire abroad

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I enjoyed reading the interesting comments and perspectives.



To the gentleman that questioned the safety of El Paso- I did also, and then I looked at the top ten safest large cities in the US, and El Paso was ranked first. In other surveys, it's always in the top tier. I suppose I could relocate to Mexico, but if there were ever an emergency health problem, getting back to the US could be difficult.



To the person who mentioned Thailand, I can relate. The flights from Singapore to Thailand were also cheap and plentiful. However, the requirement to leave the country and return every few months to satisfy the retirement visa is perhaps something a future 80+ year old person like myself would prefer not to do. Also, health care for people in their 70's and 80's is not possible, I suspect that you are in your 50's or 60's, and you certainly can do that at that age. I would, also.



Becoming a dual citizen is the optimal situation like the person who is in London and is a dual UK/US citizen. There are certain countries that when you have the retirement visa you can actually apply for citizenship after a few years. Two countries that I would consider are Portugal and Panama where obtaining citizenship after getting a retirement visa is possible.



I appreciate your perspectives.



Rob


With regard to Thailand, did you mean that health *insurance* for people in the their 70s and 80s is not possible. Just wondering what you meant. Thanks.
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Old 04-01-2021, 01:22 PM   #20
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I'm not sick of the US, and have no desire to permanently live elsewhere, but am concerned enough about the possibility of unrest that I can conceive of relocating within the country or leaving altogether.

Having lived through 1970s NYC, my lesson from that experience was not to stay put in a declining living situation.
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