An Ode to the Barcelona Metro

On this 4th of July I have a wide range of thoughts on travel and I promise I’ll share them, but first a bit of an apology. I know I’ve been gone for a while. My wife and I went to Spain for 3 weeks. The day after I returned my employer of 14 years (with over 200K employees) advised me of their decision to eliminate my position as being unaligned with the new model for the department. Blah blah blah. Right business decision. No reflection on anyone we laid off. Blah blah blah. At less than a year away from eligibility for an early retirement pension, I was not amused. But it does open all kinds of doors, so I’m not terribly upset.

This means we get to fluff the pillows, wrap up our bathroom remodel, touch up the paint, and put our house on the market in order to manage costs. It also means we get to escalate our retirement planning in order to find a place to live that bridges the financial gap. At our house this is an exciting phase. Moving opens all kinds of new horizons. We meet new people. We find new places to love. We are going to miss some of the people in our current home town like crazy, but we also know that we will stay in touch. So the idea of moving is making us feel a bit festive. We’re strange like that.

Travel around Spain, a country approximately the size of Wisconsin… makes me realize how completely backward things are in the US. Spain has dedicated large sums to creating high speed train service that will get you from one large metropolitan area to another in an hour or two. Barcelona to Madrid? No problem. No checked luggage. No unfriendly security protocols. Reserve your ticket the day before and take a cheap taxi to the station. Barcelona to Girona, the same. There are also slower trains that stop at a long string of small picturesque towns. Most of the country is connected by rail. It’s fabulous.

The Barcelona Metro is a miracle of user friendly signage, automated ticket kiosks, with adequate but unobtrusive security. The bus and metro system in Seville is adequate to the needs of the city, if less spectacular than Barcelona’s.

There is an underlying assumption in Spain that one should acknowledge: private cars are not essential to living a comfortable middle class life.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine no car payment, no auto insurance, no money and time spent fueling up on a regular basis. Imagine walking five minutes to the closest bus or train stop, checking the clock that shows the time until the next train arrives. In under ten minutes you are heading toward your destination. We used a taxi once in our two weeks in Barcelona. Their Metro, by itself, was enough to make me want to stay forever.

Experiencing Spain’s commitment to mass transit does leave me pondering American attitudes toward transportation. I believe different generations have different feelings on the matter. Maybe it’s just the Gen Xers and our parents who wouldn’t feel complete without a personal automobile. I’m not sure, but having seen how well it all works in another country, I admit I’d be willing to give a car-free life a try.

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.

An American Retirement

The more I think about the idea of retiring… the less I understand. Is retirement about not working? Or is it about not working at the same job you’ve been doing for a Very Long Time. Am I leaving an employer, a lifestyle, a way of defining who I am in the world? What the heck does “retirement” actually mean?

On one hand there is this privileged view of retirement as a time in life when you sit back, savor the sun on your face, drink a cappuccino at 10am while doing the cross-word, and generally do all the things you never had time to do while holding down that all-important (to Americans anyhow) J.O.B.

We can call it a career, but honestly… even people with a V at the front of their title rarely consider the job anything more than an enjoyable way to pay the bills. And we’re the lucky ones, the people who … through dumb luck, persistence, nepotism, or sheer brilliance (usually some combination of the four) have nudged our job into a track that feels meaningful, or better yet, outright fun.

On the other hand, there is the sheer terror of not being able to physically keep up with the J.O.B. and losing everything when your mind or your health fails and you no longer have the company paid insurance plan… and you’re not quite old enough for Medicare.

There are, of course, as many scenarios in between as there are retirees. I spoke recently with a trim, well-coiffed woman volunteering at the local community art gallery. It all started when I admired her earrings, which were dangly and obviously hand crafted with tiny gems and several different types of precious metals. They were, she said stroking them fondly, done by a jeweler artist friend of hers. Then she added, a touch wistfully, that they were now completely out of her budget.

And there it was. Retirement. The fixed income. The reading-the-crystal-ball calculation of how your savings, your retirement income, inflation, new taxes, new medical costs, miscellaneous unpredictable disasters, and your lifespan will play out. Without the income she once made and regular raises, she can never be sure whether a luxury like gold earrings will lead eventually to her being unable to purchase medications, maintain her transportation, or pay for the roof over her head.

Fine, we think. As we grow older, we need so little. Jewelry? Is that even in the calculations? Of course not. What a frivolity!

True, but what about travel? What about birthday gifts for grandchildren? What about that $1500 loan to struggling children who have lost one of their jobs? What about books, and classes, and music lessons, and art supplies and a large garden out in the country? What about all the things that we hope one day to have the time to do when we’re done with the regular daily grind? Shouldn’t we be able to afford some “frivolities”?

This is retirement. Maybe not just in the United States, but especially here in good old America – where we’re so great that our politicians can regularly have conversations about whether the retirement system every single working citizen must pay into from the first dollar we declare on a tax return until our incomes hit the ridiculously low wage cap of $128,400 (as of 2018), or we retire… should be put to some other use than to provide a modest income for every American retiree.

I am one of the lucky folk, who stumbled into a terrific employer that cares more about people than profits. A company whose benefits include that increasingly rare creature known as a pension plan. In fact, a pension I didn’t even know I had until six months ago.

I have gone along on the assumption that what I put into my retirement investments and Social Security were it. And despite the fact that I’ve been regularly pumping money into retirement accounts my entire working life, every calculator on the internet told me that I was basically due to work until noon the day after I died.

Even with the pension calculated in, they still say this. I must have at least 80% of my present income to maintain the lifestyle I presently enjoy. I sometimes suspect these things are designed to scare people out the idea that there may actually be a different way to live life. You wouldn’t want a horde of early retirees drawing for decades on the system. (I can feel any number of American politicians, and ‘fiscal conservatives’ of all stripes shuddering at the very idea)

I love that term, “lifestyle“. Don’t you? It reeks of needless, heedless expenditure, of trust funds, and jet setting. There are beautiful people involved wearing designer frocks or silk pocket squares, race car driving, beach volleyball, dancing at clubs until 3am while chugging champagne, and trips to Cannes for the film festival.

Yeah.

The fact is – paying a mortgage, maintaining a car, paying vet bills, and pest control services, and buying groceries to make family dinners in a modest town in a climate that swings between raining and overcast, to dry and hot as fuck, also qualifies as a lifestyle.

Whatever expenses you presently have, you’ll have when you retire. If you’re not dressing in designer duds costing more than your average American mortgage payment and drinking expensive vodka on a private jet on your way to a sunny vacation destination now… you’re not going to be doing that when you retire. What are you going to be able to do?

This is where “retirement planning” comes into play. When is your home due to be paid off? How much equity do you have in your home (if you’re lucky enough to own)? Where can you cut costs? No more work wardrobe and dry cleaning? It’s tee shirts and jeans from here on out. Great…. unless you actually enjoy dressing well, or getting the better service that being well-dressed and manicured automatically accords you. I’m personally a pajama bottom and tee shirt kind of woman, unless I’m going out for dinner, and I have a ton of business clothes stockpiled for those events. So I’ll be fine.

You’ll have time to cook your own meals and eat out less. No one needs your saggy grey old-person body in their hip bistro anyhow. That’s just depressing the appetites of their cool young customers. Maybe, even though you’ve never wanted to have a big garden, you’ll grow food and can your way into a supply of semi-healthy winter veggies.

Maybe you plan to let your present fur friends be ‘the last ones’… and bam! Bob’s your uncle. You’re saving on pet food, pet toys, and vet bills you’ll no longer have when they’re gone.

There’s a grim satisfaction to this kind of retirement calculation. How can we do less, spend less, enjoy less?

We consider the income we’ll have, and whether we’ll find ourselves in a lower tax bracket. The strange positive-negative energy of being poorer, and therefore paying less to support government services clogs the air like slightly toxic smoke, destined never to recede.

Am I depressing you? Well, don’t be. Surely your circumstances are far better than mine, with my healthy income, steady job, and good credit. You won’t need a safety net in your old age. In fact, you probably don’t need one now. All those people who “can’t hold a job” and are just sucking off the government teat… and OUR tax dollars, should just go away.

And by that, we mean die. Right?

People in need can always rely on their family for help. Right?

No. Families from every generation are under siege financially in a way that American families have not been since the Great Depression… and maybe not even then. Do you really think your student loan-burdened children and grandchildren will have extra space in the apartment they can barely afford to give you a place to live? Can you really afford a home of your own AND the medical costs of your chronic medical conditions? The middle class is barely scraping by, without supporting additional family members. Most of us are one paycheck away from suffering damage to our credit, if not loss of desperately needed transportation, essential health care, or even a home.

And amidst all of this, we have a record-breaking government shut-down so that our elected president can have what he wants… which isn’t border security with it’s complex matrix of tunnels, midnight scurries across the border, people snuck in inside of barrels on trucks, or the cargo holds of large shipping containers. What he wants, is to Get His Way. Despite his much proclaimed “negotiation skills”, the President has consistently demonstrated an inability to sit down and discuss why his point of view will lead to an outcome that is better for the American people than what his adversaries, (the snowflake, libtard) Democrats want. (Oh, and an increasing number of sad defectors from his own party who are tired of the tirades, tired of the lies, and tired of being asked to support things that are blatantly not in the best interests of their own constituents.)

Every politician wants to hold onto the office into which they were elected. Republicans are no exception. The hold-outs believe that the 30-40% of die hard GOP members who don’t want to think too hard about the implications of everything their party stands for and is actively doing to their neighbors, friends, and co-workers… will be as loyal to them as they are to Mr. Trump and his cadre of very very beautiful and really really loyal family members.

Unfortunately, that math falls through when 2/3rds of your wives aren’t stunning blond USSR immigrants, and you don’t have vast reserves of money and opportunity to hold over the heads of your children to ensure they step up and perform precisely as directed. Republican politicians who are toeing the party line, all know that they’re going to have some serious soul-searching to do one day. But it’s easier right now to be LOYAL. That’s what get’s rewarded… and by rewarded I mean, you don’t have regular vitriol directed at you via 3am tweets and unsubtle insults at the pulpit… um, lectern.


And that’s all I have the energy I have for this topic folks. I’m not even ready to discuss the fact that the human body breaks down much earlier than anyone wants to admit, and that enjoying retirement of any kind means not just taking GREAT care of your health but being genetically fortunate, while finding a way financially to retire long before the “golden” age of 67. Retirement in America. An interesting proposition. Meanwhile, my wife and I are working on our own unique calculations. Perhaps I’ll blog on that more later.

Expat Destinations – Decisions, Decisions

If you are seriously considering spending your retirement years in a beachy, sunny, festive, low cost location SOMEWHERE outside of the United States, you are in good company.  The cost of health care (and insurance) in the US is a significant enough motivation, without adding in perks like travel discounts, exotic locations, and (sometimes) a low cost housekeeper for the later years when your knees/hips/shoulders make scrubbing floors and cleaning the refrigerator Not Much Fun. 

The challenge lies in determining what your priorities are, then winnowing down the options.  We have been considering Ecuador, Spain and Portugal.  

So first, language.  I have to admit that I have always wanted to learn Spanish.  I’ve lived in California for a third of my life, and the casual exposure to Spanish gives me a leg up on learning the new language.  (not to mention I have friends whose first language is Spanish… so yeah.)  Don’t get me wrong, Portuguese sounds flowing and sexy, which is incentive enough.  But I love the fact that Spanish follows English in frequency of usage.  Still, if learning a language spoken by the most people on the planet was my main criteria, I’d have to go for Mandarin.  Hmmmm.

Really really tempting… but not in my late fifties.    Add to that the fact that a significant percentage of young Portuguese have been exposed to enough American movies to give them an ear for English… and I figure we can muddle through together.  I’ve always wanted to be fluent in other languages, let the games begin!

Acceptance of LGBT Couples: The whole ‘human rights’ thing is a critical element… especially acceptance of LGBTQ individuals like yours truly and my amazing spouse. Here Portugal edges out Ecuador by a hair, and Spain comes out at the front of the pack… if you can completely ignore its history.  I can believe in political change, so all three are acceptable destinations on that count in my mind.  

Health care… now that’s a kicker. Quality of treatment has to be sophisticated, but not profit-based like the US. There has to be a universal payment/coverage system, or affordable coverage. Equivalent drugs must be available. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy must be available. All three candidates qualify in the large cities… less so as you get into the countryside (and that varies significantly from country to country).   Do your own research based on your conditions and needs.  Research claims that sound too good to be true, even further.  The impact of Ecuador’s geography (elevation and proximity to the equator) on its residents should definitely be taken into consideration

We have a long list of our own interests including (in order of importance to us… yours may be different); 
* safe tap water
* air quality
* cost of living
* safe public transportation
* hot water heaters in homes
* status of cannabis usage for medical purposes
* retiree discounts
* access to good restaurants
* access to wine country and quality adult beverages
* arts and culture

 There are a number of web sites out there dedicated to the interests of Expats all over.  Most should be taken with a grain of salt… especially the ones that bubble over with enthusiasm about the idea of leaving your home country for somewhere *better* (i.e. cheaper, sunnier, friendlier…)

Expat life is an adventure. Of that I am confident.  There will be no guarantees. It will shake us up, irritate the shit out of us, transform our way of seeing others and ourselves, and will probably change our relationship significantly. The Wife and I are are fully aware of the possibility that we will spend six to eight months glaring at one another and thinking, “You, and your bright ideas!”  

We are also pretty confident in our ability to adapt, savor the process of learning new things, and enjoying whatever splendid foods, beverages, and vistas we find in front of us. It’s our retirement.  Let’s have fun with it!

Considering Expat Life – Decisions, Decisions

If you are seriously considering spending your retirement years in a beachy, sunny, festive, low cost location SOMEWHERE outside of the United States, you are in good company.  The cost of health care (and insurance) in the US is a significant enough motivation, without adding in perks like travel discounts, exotic locations, and (sometimes) a low cost housekeeper for the later years when your knees/hips/shoulders make scrubbing floors and cleaning the refrigerator Not Much Fun. 

The challenge lies in determining what your priorities are, then winnowing down the options.  We have been considering Ecuador, Spain and Portugal.  A friend recent recommended a couple of cities in Italy, and one in Mexico.  We have a lot of research to do. 

So first, language.  I have to admit that I have always wanted to learn Spanish.  I’ve lived in California for a third of my life, and the casual exposure to Spanish gives me a leg up on learning the new language.  (not to mention I have friends whose first language is Spanish… so yeah.)  Don’t get me wrong, Portuguese sounds flowing and sexy, which is incentive enough.  But I love the fact that Spanish follows English in frequency of usage.  Still, if learning a language spoken by the most people on the planet was my main criteria, I’d have to go for Mandarin.  Hmmmm.  

Lately we’ve invested in several CD programs to learn more Spanish.  Pimsleur, Living Language, and Fluenz are several good choices, but the Spanish dialect spoken in Ecuador is different than the one spoken in Spain.  The same is true of Portuguese spoken in Brazil and Portugal.  So even this is not as easy as clicking a link on Amazon to get the starter set. There are also online courses where you can video chat with a fluent language teacher, immersion travel adventures, and any number of combinations of the three.  Hopefully I’ll have something useful to say about this in a while. 

Acceptance of LGBT Couples: The whole ‘human rights’ thing is a critical element… especially acceptance of LGBTQ individuals like yours truly and my amazing spouse. Here Portugal edges out Ecuador by a hair, and Spain comes out at the front of the pack… if you can completely ignore its history.  I can believe in political change, so all three are acceptable destinations on that count in my mind.  

Health care… now that’s a kicker. Quality of treatment has to be sophisticated, but not profit-based like the US. There has to be a universal payment/coverage system, or affordable coverage. Equivalent drugs must be available. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy must be available. All three candidates qualify in the large cities… less so as you get into the countryside (and that varies significantly from country to country).   Do your own research based on your conditions and needs.  Research claims that sound too good to be true, even further.  The impact of Ecuador’s geography (elevation and proximity to the equator) on its residents should definitely be taken into consideration

We have a long list of our own interests including (in order of importance to us… yours may be different); 
* safe tap water
* air quality
* cost of living
* safe public transportation
* hot water heaters in homes
* status of cannabis usage for medical purposes
* retiree discounts
* access to good restaurants
* access to wine country and quality adult beverages
* arts and culture

 There are a number of web sites out there dedicated to the interests of Expats all over.  Most should be taken with a grain of salt… especially the ones that bubble over with enthusiasm about the idea of leaving your home country for somewhere *better* (i.e. cheaper, sunnier, friendlier…)

Expat life is an adventure. Of that I am confident.  There will be no guarantees. It will shake us up, irritate the shit out of us, transform our way of seeing others and ourselves, and will probably change our relationship significantly. The Wife and I are are fully aware of the possibility that we will spend six to eight months glaring at one another and thinking, “You, and your bright ideas!”  

We are also pretty confident in our ability to adapt, savor the process of learning new things, and enjoying whatever splendid foods, beverages, and vistas we find in front of us. It’s our retirement.  Let’s have fun with it!

Retirement Planning

The Wife and I are planners.  I’m a Project Manager by trade and my better half is a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer.  Our plans have contingency plans, risk management plans, communication plans, and vendor management plans.  We’re perfectly willing to make the best of any situation, but we don’t leap before looking, double-checking with other people who have had a similar experience, triple checking our resource inventory, and weighing the bad press against our skills. We do our best to mitigate risks and ensure smooth transitions.  When things don’t go well, our ‘fix it’ mode kicks in and we can totally stress ourselves out trying to take care of everything at once. 

Retirement planning takes all those habits and kicks it into high gear.  What kind of weather do we enjoy?  What activities?  We love to entertain, eat out, explore new sites and experiences, and spend time with our menagerie (two small dogs and an extremely sociable cat).  While I love my career when its in full swing, my employer has undergone an extended transition that has left me sitting on the sidelines, twiddling my thumbs.  

So lately we have been discussing early retirement for me (my wife retired from the Navy after 20 years and is now a Realtor).  I could collect a small pension, that along with hers would be adequate if we were to go abroad as expats.  Since we both  love to travel this idea seems like an exciting adventure.  (I am fairly certain we will have a number of moments when it will seem more like the last crazy act of people on the verge of senility.)

True to form, we’re researching possibilities.  Although neither of us speaks a second language, I’ve always felt comfortable picking up a few phrases for trips to Paris and Japan. Given an environment where I’m forced to learn a new language to get around, I think I can pick up the basics and grow from there. The Wife is the same.  So language is not an impediment.  

But we’re looking for a culture that is human rights and LGBT friendly.  The Wife prefers cannabis as a pain management solution to opioids, so that has to be legal.  We want access to high quality health care, housing with some 1st world amenities, safety and proximity to an urban environment with shops and restaurants.  We also want to bypass vehicle ownership, so access to public transportation is a must.  Cost of living is a consideration until we reach official retirement age and have access to our long term investments and whatever is still available from Social Security.  

While I’m trying not to be an alarmist, I’m already experiencing arthritis in hips, hands, and I recently injured my knee.  My wife has had her shoulder joint recently replaced.  We are beginning to realize that time is not on our side, so retiring at 58 doesn’t seem quite as irresponsible as it once did. Now we just have to find a way to make it financially doable.  Hence the expat scheme.

I have been fortunate in my employment, in addition to socking away a significant percentage of my income into retirement accounts, my employer offers a pension.  This is something I just learned recently.  Until a few weeks ago,  I thought my retirement funds were my sole source of retirement income until I was able to collect Social Security. So this is my first bit of advice,  involve a financial planning professional earlier in your calculations.  I am preparing to take my own advice. 

Meanwhile we have come up with a short list of Spain, Portugal, and Ecuador. The more we research, the more we recognize how little we know. So the next course of action is to take a trip to experience these locations first hand. Fortunately, we like to travel.  I mentioned that, right?  

Stay tuned.  I’m going to continue to write about our planning and preparations for life abroad.  Who knows?  I might actually learn something of interest to you. 

Is Early Retirement Possible?

The Wife and I are planners.  I’m a Project Manager by trade and my better half is a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer.  Our plans have contingency plans, risk management plans, communication plans, and vendor management plans.  We’re perfectly willing to make the best of any situation, but we don’t leap before looking, double-checking with other people who have had a similar experience, triple checking our resource inventory, and weighing the bad press against our skills. We do our best to mitigate risks and ensure smooth transitions.  When things don’t go well, our ‘fix it’ mode kicks in and we can totally stress ourselves out trying to take care of everything at once. 

Retirement planning takes all those habits and kicks it into high gear.  What kind of weather do we enjoy?  What activities?  We love to entertain, eat out, explore new sites and experiences, and spend time with our menagerie (two small dogs and an extremely sociable cat).  While I love my career when its in full swing, my employer has undergone an extended transition that has left me sitting on the sidelines, twiddling my thumbs.  

So lately we have been discussing early retirement for me (my wife retired from the Navy after 20 years and is now a Realtor).  I could collect a small pension, that along with hers would be adequate if we were to go abroad as expats.  Since we both  love to travel this idea seems like an exciting adventure.  (I am fairly certain we will have a number of moments when it will seem more like the last crazy act of people on the verge of senility.)

True to form, we’re researching possibilities.  Although neither of us speaks a second language, I’ve always felt comfortable picking up a few phrases for trips to Paris and Japan. Given an environment where I’m forced to learn a new language to get around, I think I can pick up the basics and grow from there. The Wife is the same.  So language is not an impediment.  

But we’re looking for a culture that is human rights and LGBT friendly.  The Wife prefers cannabis as a pain management solution to opioids, so that has to be legal.  We want access to high quality health care, housing with some 1st world amenities, safety and proximity to an urban environment with shops and restaurants.  We also want to bypass vehicle ownership, so access to public transportation is a must.  Cost of living is a consideration until we reach official retirement age and have access to our long term investments and whatever is still available from Social Security.  

While I’m trying not to be an alarmist, I’m already experiencing arthritis in hips, hands, and I recently injured my knee.  My wife has had her shoulder joint recently replaced.  We are beginning to realize that time is not on our side, so retiring at 58 doesn’t seem quite as irresponsible as it once did. Now we just have to find a way to make it financially doable.  Hence the expat scheme.

I have been fortunate in my employment, in addition to socking away a significant percentage of my income into retirement accounts, my employer offers a pension.  This is something I just learned recently.  Until a few weeks ago,  I thought my retirement funds were my sole source of retirement income until I was able to collect Social Security. So this is my first bit of advice,  involve a financial planning professional earlier in your calculations.  I am preparing to take my own advice. 

Meanwhile we have come up with a short list of Spain, Portugal, and Ecuador. The more we research, the more we recognize how little we know. So the next course of action is to take a trip to experience these locations first hand. Fortunately, we like to travel.  I mentioned that, right?  

Stay tuned.  I’m going to continue to write about our planning and preparations for life abroad.  Who knows?  I might actually learn something of interest to you.