It's that time of year when we assess the old and look forward to the new. And if your plans for the New Year include finally getting serious about living a happier, healthier, more affordable life overseas, we have five important steps you can take in 2015 to position yourself for a successful retirement in your own personal paradise.
Courtesy of Ann Kuffner, InternationalLiving.com
1. Sit down and make a serious, thoughtful list of all the things in your life that you think, right now, you absolutely can't live without.
Start with physical things... Your mattress, your car, your cookware, your grandmother's bureau, your favorite brand of ice cream. As you write these things down, you may think that other people would find them silly, but that doesn't matter. If a thing in your life is so important to you that living without it is inconceivable, write it down.
Then write down the non-physical things in your life that you absolutely can't do without, at least not for long... Your book club, your bowling team, your unlimited sports channel subscription, your best friend, your grandkids. Again, doesn't matter if they look silly once you write them down. These are the things that mean the most to you, personally.
Now...imagine what you'd do if you woke up tomorrow in a place where you didn't have and couldn't get immediate access to these things.
The things you can't imagine being without for weeks or months...the things you can't imagine being able to find substitutes for...the things you must have but know you couldn't easily bring with you to another country...these are your "deal breakers."
If you have a lot of them, reconsider leaving them behind and moving overseas. If you have only a few, think about how you'd create substitutes or work around them for extended periods of time. If you don't have any deal breakers at all, you're very unusual...and very lucky when it comes to thinking about retiring abroad.
2. Now think about the actual physical environment you want to live in. Many expats retire abroad for what they hope is better weather... but is that better weather in a city? A little village? A farm in the country? On a mountaintop? By the beach? Is it dry or humid? Does it have a supermarket close by? Is it close to an airport or bus line? How close is the nearest acceptable hospital? Can you use your military TRICARE benefits there? How is the Internet service?
A lot more goes into the physical characteristics of a particular place than just the average annual temperature and rainfall. Think hard about all the nuances you're looking for in a geographic location to spend your retirement
Courtesy of Eoin Bassett, InternationalLiving.com
3. Once you have a short list of the locations you think you'd like as a retirement home...visit them. Get your boots on the ground. You can do years of research, but the gut feeling you get after actually spending some time in a place will be your most important guide. If you love a place on paper but hate it in the pit of your stomach as soon as you get off the plane, you won't be happy there. And stay longer than a typical vacation if you can. The difference between being somewhere for a week or two and being there for three or four months is enormous. And plan your visit during "low" season. Almost every place on earth has a low season when even the locals try to go somewhere else for a while to escape the heat, the cold, the rain, the wind, the pollen, the smoke... whatever constitutes that location's low season. Anybody can be happy in a place during its best time of year. You should try to be there during the worst season and see how you handle it, because you may be living there year around.
4. Establish a network of like-minded people before you visit. Expert Facebook pages, forums, and community bulletin boards like the International Living Community Page are ideal for this. Nowadays it's possible to get on the Internet and talk to folks who are already living where you're thinking of going. Introduce yourself. Get to know them. Ask them questions. They've plowed the ground already. Benefit from their experience and establish relationships before you go.
5. Don't worry if your family and friends call you crazy. Some of them will. Some of them won't understand how you could possibly even consider moving to another country, even after you explain to them that you'll be living more affordably in better weather and having more fun than you do right now.
Let's face it...for the majority of people, retiring abroad is not the right thing to do. And that's fine for them...and it's fine for you as well, if you do the research and decide that staying exactly where you are is the best thing for you. But don't let other people dissuade you about retiring abroad until you know for yourself whether it's right for you or not...by following the five steps we just outlined.
Here's hoping your New Year is bright and full of the joy of living...maybe even international living!