Should I retire overseas?

Where is your retirement compass pointing? If you’re on a quest to see the world and immerse yourself in interesting cultures, vacation travel may not be enough. The idea of living overseas is certainly enchanting – quaint villas, historic architecture, regional food, and new traditions. It’s all too easy to get swept away. At the same time, it’s not out of the question to make that dream a reality.

Retiring in a new country isn’t as simple as moving to another state. There are essential criteria that guide your decision. A thoughtful approach to your search can help you avoid information overload and plan your retirement well.

Here are some key issues to think about first, before you take the plunge overseas:


Note that each country has its own visa requirements. If you’re not ready to stop working totally when you retire, did you know that some countries offer “digital nomad” visas? These temporary, short-term visas are for people working from home who want to continue to do so outside of their current residence.1

Do you want to stay somewhere longer-term? Consider a retirement visa, a type of residence permit that allows you to spend your retirement years in a foreign country. To qualify for this type of visa, you must be retirement age and have enough money to support yourself.2

Renting vs. buying your new home

If you rent instead of rushing into buying, you’ll be able to see if your new community is really where you want to live. After spending some time in your new locale, if you think you want to set up some long-term roots, devote some time to learning how the local real estate market works. Consult with a reputable attorney or financial advisor before you make any commitment.

Location and climate

Who are you leaving behind when you move overseas? If you have young grandchildren or a close-knit family, you may not want to move halfway around the world. But, a regional destination in Central America, such as Costa Rica, can be as close as a four-hour flight from a major U.S. airport. Location is also a driver of climate: Do you want to experience the four seasons, or does a consistent 72-degree day sound ideal? Selecting the right climate can bolster your health, particularly if you have struggled with chronic conditions.


Americans enjoy one of the most highly developed transportation systems in the world. The majority of us are fairly autonomous in our daily travels, driving several miles to a grocery store or running errands without much consideration. For many city dwellers, public transportation is a widely available, inexpensive, and convenient choice. You’ll want to ask questions about basic accessibility and transportation when considering retirement options abroad. Will you need a car, or will you walk to destinations throughout your new community? If walking between village shops is the way to go, how long can you maintain independence, given your level of health and mobility?

Accessibility also affects complex needs, such as healthcare. Research the quality of hospitals and physicians in the region. Many retirees are pleasantly surprised to find that routine medical procedures can cost much less abroad than they do in the United States.

Budget and finances

A retirement budget is essential, whether at home or abroad. For living abroad, you’ll still need to calculate your replacement ratio — that is the amount of income you’ll need to maintain your pre-retirement lifestyle throughout your retirement years. While your overseas lifestyle will certainly look different, you’ll have additional expenses to consider, such as the cost of traveling back to the United States.

The cost of living abroad and the purchasing power of the dollar will be different in nearly every country. Remember, purchasing power and cost of living are two different things. While a poor exchange rate may discourage you from considering a specific country, it doesn’t have to change your decision if the cost of living is relatively low.

If you qualify for Social Security benefits, you can receive those payments while living abroad. However, there are some countries where the Social Security Administration cannot send payments. Healthcare coverage is another important consideration. Although medical care and procedures may cost less abroad, Medicare does not reimburse overseas retirees for medical expenses. You must pay for healthcare coverage on your own.

Can you afford the cost of living abroad?

Location, climate, accessibility, and basic needs all drive the cost of living overseas. In addition to covering your basic needs, consider how you expect to spend your time. Will you be content with relaxation and light exploration in your immediate area, or are activities, excursions, and further adventures a must? Don’t mistake living abroad for a permanent vacation. You must be able to afford the basic cost of living expenses while allowing for additional leisure too.

Whether at home or abroad, your retirement home is the one that fits your lifestyle expectations, your budget, and your interests. Looking for a retirement home overseas doesn’t have to result in information overload. With the right benchmarks in place, you’ll know when you’ve found your new home.


Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2022.  The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY 

2022-142956 Exp. 09/24

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