This article was published in the New Haven Register on April 1, 2018.
How would you like to open your Social Security check from a balcony overlooking a beach in Panama or Thailand?
More than 550,000 Americans are receiving their Social Security checks overseas, according to AARP, with most citing the lower cost of living available in places such as Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico.
If you want to make your retirement dollars stretch further while seeing the world, retiring overseas can be an attractive option, especially for Connecticut residents tired of snowy winters and high taxes. It’s a big move, though, that will require planning from both a lifestyle and a financial point of view.
The first step is to find the right location, and the only way to do that is to live there for an extended period of time. Fortunately that’s not too difficult or expensive, since rental apartments or homes tend to be cheap in areas filled with American expatriate retirees. For instance, you can rent a two-bedroom apartment in Peru for as little as $250 a month, according to the 2018 Global Retirement Survey by International Living magazine.
It’s not too difficult to find target destinations where you can find American expat communities that feature low costs and sunny climates. You can start with International Living, which currently lists Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama as the top picks for retirees. Other sources of information on retiring abroad include AARP and www.expatinfodesk.com.
Some of the obstacles you may encounter include the language barrier, residency requirements, crime rates, currency fluctuations, and in some places a lack of conveniences such as grocery stores and coffee shops.
Health care is a major consideration, since you cannot receive Medicare benefits outside the United States. While many countries feature low-cost health care insurance, some expats find it necessary to travel back to the states for medical care, which can be costly and burdensome.
Social Security is usually not a problem, since you can receive Social Security payments in most countries (with obvious exceptions such as Cuba and North Korea). Do the research to find out how your target country handles Social Security, taxes and any continuing income you may receive.
Another area of research is to find out how politically stable the national and local governments are, as well as look at issues such as drug cartels and gang presence.
A good place to start is to go online and read through the many forums that feature discussions among expatriates. This will give you a good feel for the pros and cons of retiring abroad, as well as leads on the location of promising expat communities.