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.