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Retiring Abroad: 5 Things to Consider


While researching’s 2011 “New Best Places to Retire” list (sorry folks, it won’t be released until October), I found a number of stories on people who decided to ditch the states and retire abroad — everywhere from Mexico to Ecuador to the south of France.  And it made me wonder — if you’re pondering a move like this, what do you need to consider?

To find out, Encore talked to E. Thomas Wetzel, president of the Retirement Living Information Center.  First, use a resource like this one to calculate the cost of living in another country to make sure you can afford it, he says.  Here are five other issues to consider before fleeing the states.

Health Care

Since you can’t collect Medicare when living in a foreign country, you will need to look into purchasing insurance, depending on where you live. Does this cost fit into your overall budget? (This resource can help you get started.) You should also look into the nearest good hospital (and how easily you can get to it), as well as local doctors and dentists.


The U.S. State Department posts travel warnings for certain places that have significant crime or danger to visitors such as the Philippines and Nepal. These are probably not the best places to retire — at least not now. But even places on the “all clear” list may have more crime than you’d think.  Consider taking a trip there first to make sure its safe — ask the locals what crime is like there now and in the past.


Will you have to pay taxes based on income or on your total wealth?  Some countries have zero or very low taxes on retirement income.  Switzerland, for example, provides a low taxation environment for retirees, Wetzel says.  But Australia, on the other hand, will levy a wealth tax on your total assets, he says.


What do flights and other travel (taxis, hotels) cost and how easily can you get from your new home to say, see your family?

Local Infrastructure

How accessible is public transportation and will you need a car?  How easy is it to access roads?  What about electricity, telephone and Internet service?


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.