An Expat Retirement – Perhaps Not For Us

By now I’ve established that – while I like to plan ahead, I clearly don’t have all the answers (about anything, if I’m honest with myself,) but retirement most of all. As a result, The Wife and I have spent the last few years pondering how we want to live our lives when we hit retirement age. Shockingly, that’s not very many years away.

We have seriously considered life as Expats in some sunny and/or exotic location where the cost of living is lower, the health care better and cheaper, and we have the resources to travel, do a lot of art, and eat well. Once we sorted for countries that;

  • have good water and air quality
  • are LGBT friendly with a good (recent) human rights record
  • have health care which is superior to the US (not difficult)
  • allow the legal use of cannabis for medical purposes
  • allow you to bring home furnishings in without paying import taxes (on top of shipping)
  • have a friendly expat community that isn’t too separate from the locals
  • are proximate to some decent wine country
  • will grant a 2-3 year retiree VISA without us having to spend 6 months steadily chipping away at a mountain of paperwork (or invest half a million dollars)

…it wasn’t a long list.

In the past six months we’ve done a great deal of research on the matter, narrowing down our interests to a couple of locations. There is a lot to consider. Language. Citizenship and VISAs. Costs of renting or buying a home. Requirements to bring pets in country. Timing and protocols to bring household goods oversea. Attitudes of the expat community. The local culture. Can I buy peanut butter, the right cat litter and good mayonnaise locally or must they be imported? The kind of trade-offs you must make to live in another country are not minor. If you’re not able to embrace a new culture, you may want to save yourself some money and grief.

Ultimately the sheer volume of paperwork and hassles necessary to relocate ourselves, our three pets, and our collection of art glass made us step back from that plan. Better to stay in the US, and travel regularly abroad. Sometimes, there really is no place like home. In our case, Northern California. The longer we live here, the more reluctant we are to leave.

I would still love to spend a decade working abroad for some Global or Transnational organization, moving from location to location. The Wife is game too. It’s not completely off the table. But retirement abroad seems unlikely.

We don’t have a final plan in place yet, which is why my first recommendation on retirement planning is to start early. Don’t wait until you’re 64 to think about what retirement might look like. In fact, the earlier you start planning, the better. Work with a retirement planner to determine how much you need to save in order to retire according to your ideal scenario. This helps motivate you to grow your career, grow your income, and reduce your spending. The ideal scenario may change, but it’s highly unlikely you will regret having “too much money” in your retirement account.


Blah blah blah. More retirement pondering. I’m not sure if this is helpful to anyone else, but it certainly helps me get clearer about what I want from my future.

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Reformed road warrior with side interests in human rights, fuzzy creatures, great food, and a healthier planet.

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