You don't have to sell everything you own, say goodbye to everyone you've ever known, and take off for a new life in some distant and exotic place, never to be heard from again. That's not the only way to realize the benefits of retiring overseas.
You could, rather, just dip a toe in.
The idea of retiring overseas is enjoying more attention today than ever before, especially in the United States, where baby boomers at or approaching retirement age are coming face-to-face with figuring out a plan for how they're going to spend this next phase of their lives. With many years -- even decades -- of healthy living still to look forward to, this current generation of retirees is more interested than any that has preceded it in considering outside-the-box opportunities. Certainly, retirement in the United States these days is no longer about making a choice between Arizona and Florida. The options for a rewarding, fulfilling and affordable retirement today are limited only by the retiree's imagination.
Well, to be fair, his imagination ... and his capacity for the bold and brave.
"I'm intrigued and infatuated," a reader wrote to me recently, "by the idea of retiring to another country. But, frankly, I'm also pretty sure I'm not ready to make a full-time leap. I'm more interested in options for taking the idea for a test drive."
That's a very sensible way to approach this very big idea. Don't imagine that it's all or nothing. Don't think in terms of a full-time move for the rest of your life. To start, think, for example, about spending a few months a year someplace new and interesting, warm and welcoming.
Retirees from upstate New York and the Dakotas have been migrating south for decades. The difference today is that your viable -- and even easy and certainly appealing -- options can take you much farther south to Central or South America...maybe across the Atlantic to the Continent...or even very Far East. Panama is the new Florida. It, along with Ecuador, Belize, Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia and beyond, can make for a dramatically more alluring, more affordable and more fulfilling alternative to a Sun City retirement in Arizona.
Other good part-time retirement havens are Argentina, Uruguay and New Zealand, where the seasons are the reverse of those in North America. These aren't tropical getaways but offer more cosmopolitan wintertime escape options.
Other places that make sense as part-time retirement choices are those where establishing full-time residency is a hassle or perhaps impossible. You'll have your work cut out for you trying to organize full-time legal residency as a retiree in Croatia, for example. And many foreigners remain indefinitely in Thailand without formalizing their stays, making regular "visa runs," as they're called, every few months to refresh their tourist papers. I don't recommend this. It's easier and safer simply to limit your visit so that you don't overstay your tourist visa, making Thailand another good part-time option.
My point is, if you're just warming up to this idea of spending your retirement years in a new country, take the pressure off. This isn't all or nothing. You can think part-time.
Better yet, you can start by just taking a trip. Which warm, welcoming, interesting, affordable overseas haven has your interest? Book a plane ticket and go visit. Spend a few weeks or a month. Treat it as a holiday. And see where this getting-started journey leads. It could be the fun and easy first step of your rich, satisfying, adventure-filled new life overseas.
Thinking more practically, this part-time retire overseas approach makes even more sense if you can rent out your place back home while you're off enjoying foreign pleasures. Find the retirement haven that complements your situation at home and maybe buy there, too. If you can rent out your U.S. home when you're off in your foreign Shangri-la and rent out your place overseas when you're "back home" in the United States, you could effectively retire rent-free...even generate income to supplement your retirement budget overall.