So you think you want to be an expat? But does it really make sense for you to retire or relocate overseas?
Obviously, if you have a great job offer with a decent salary and bennies, it probably makes a world of sense. But otherwise...???
Moving overseas can be the right move for a lot of us, especially those of retirement age or those with portable careers or even for families with children. If you want your kids to become true citizens of the world, there's no better way to give them some top-notch educational and cultural opportunities than by immersing them in a foreign culture.
Moving overseas can make sense if you are looking for a lower cost of living.
Moving overseas can make sense if you are looking for a better quality of life.
Moving overseas can make sense if you want to retire early without worrying about having enough money to do so.
Now... you'll notice that we've said, "moving overseas 'can' make sense" and not "moving overseas 'will' make sense." Yes, it's the little things that matter.
And what matters most in this case is that you have a sense of adventure. If you have an independent and flexible "go with the flow" attitude and a penchant for the unknown and unfamiliar... you'll do just fine.
In fact, we can safely say that moving overseas "will" make sense if you love adventure. The most important piece of advice we'd give to any would-be expat is that it's okay to make the move because of your pocketbook (or even your politics) but it's best to make the move because of your heart. If you love the idea of having an adventure that can often take you outside your comfort zone, then you can be fairly sure you're cut out for the expat life.
Notice the use of the word "fairly." Even the most confident among us can make mistakes. So as you craft your plan to move overseas, the more thoughtful and prepared you can be, the better off you "will" be.
We've said it before, and we'll say it over and over: the very first and most important step when considering an overseas move is to profile yourself. Be ruthless. Decide exactly what it is you want from this experience and what you absolutely cannot tolerate. And then don't settle for anything less.
As part of profiling yourself, we'd suggest you consider these seven factors:
1. Environment/Geography: What kind of scenery do you want to see when you look out your window or walk down the street? City, village, farm? Mountains, beach, rainforest, desert?
2. Climate/Weather: Prefer a temperate climate? Can you tolerate hot and humid? Do you want four seasons or will you be okay with only two: wet and dry?
3. Health Care: If you have chronic or specialized health issues that require constant attention, this is obviously your most important consideration. Do not move overseas unless you know that you will be in close proximity to the kind of care (and the prescription medications) you will need.
4. Affordability: If money is not an issue, then no worries, but if it is, you won't want to move to London or Paris (although we'd argue that where there's a will there's a way). If you'll be living on a budget, be sure you do your homework and choose a place where the cost of living suits your needs.
5. Ease of Transition (language, etc.): Some places are just easier to settle into than others. In many countries, you'll find good-sized expat communities and a good number of locals who speak English and who are well acclimated to our US and Canadian cultures. Many countries offer some type of easy residence program. And in some, such as Belize and Malaysia, English is the official language.
6. Accessibility: If being close to home is important to you, then look to a place like Mexico that's just a drive away, or to islands like the Dominican Republic or Central American countries like Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama that are just a couple of hours flying time from U.S. travel hubs.
7. Real Estate/Housing: How much will you spend to rent or buy a home in the place you may be considering? How much are property taxes? Will you be able to sell easily enough if you change your mind? These are all considerations you need to make.
There's more to consider, of course. But start with the basics. Build a foundation for the overseas life you want with this "Expat 101" profiling exercise. Then take your adventurous self and make it happen.