Whether you’re looking to spend sunny days by the waterfront or want to immerse yourself in cosmopolitan city life, retiring abroad can be an invigorating and exciting experience for those looking for a fresh start in their later years. We looked at ways you can make the most of your retirement overseas, taking into account financial issues such as pensions and property purchases, health considerations, and the sometimes daunting task of settling into a new culture.
Manage Your Finances to be Wealthier
If you’re spending large amounts of cash each month on mortgages and other bills, it’s worth reconsidering your property needs when you move abroad. If you’re paying for a four-bedroom house and there are only two of you, why not consider downsizing to free up some funds, reduce your energy costs, and give you more options when it comes to where you want to live? Downsizing may mean you can live somewhere highly desirable and slightly more expensive, just in a smaller property – so if you’re dreaming of the sunny shores of somewhere like Monaco, you may be able to work out a way to get there.
Buying abroad can make a lot of sense, because in some countries you can get considerably more for your money. That being said, try not to fall in love with the seven-bedroom villa with a pool and land in Spain just because it works out to be the same value as your house at home. Consider running costs, maintenance fees, and whether all that space will really be worth it when the novelty wears off. Instead, by buying a smaller place you may find you’ll have extra money to live life a little more comfortably, and do more things in your chosen country.
Some of the best countries you can move to for value for money in the property market are Portugal, Cyprus, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Spain, Brazil, Cape Verde, Greece, Croatia, South Africa, and Turkey. If you’re looking at real bargain properties, some of the cheapest places can be found in Bulgaria. However, if you’re dreaming of a rustic home in the Italian countryside, a French country house with a compact vineyard, or a chic city apartment in Berlin, there are still plenty of reasonable options for home buyers to contemplate. Whenever you’re looking to move abroad it’s worth considering how much you’ll pay in taxes and other fees throughout the property purchase process, just so you can be prepared.
Buying property overseas can be even more cost-effective if you have a great exchange rate. For instance, if you wanted to move £300,000 abroad to Europe with an exchange rate of 1.14, you’d be in receipt of approximately €342,000. However, a few months later if the rate shifted to 1.07 you might only receive around €321,000. That’s a difference of €21,000 you could use to completely redecorate your new property, spend on holidays elsewhere or visits home, or just put to one side for a rainy day.
Exchange rates fluctuate every day so it’s important to speak to a currency expert so you can stretch your funds further and trade at opportune moments. FC Exchange even offers a Best Exchange Rate Guarantee.
Plan for Your Pension
If you’re moving your pension overseas, you’ll want to ensure you’re getting a great exchange rate on a regular basis. Brokers can offer forward contracts which can lock in an exchange rate for up to two years—something that some people did before the EU referendum to protect against the political uncertainty Brexit brought with it. Looking ahead, there’s likely to be more political uncertainty the world over, so it can be a good idea to protect your funds against it. Alternatively, they can offer you a great spot rate on the day if you need to move money quickly. Your account manager will also be able to talk to you about upcoming events and developments which could affect your chosen currency pair, so you’re always able to make informed decisions and make the most of your money.
If you’re moving from the US, you may want to check out the IRS website to see if you’ll have to pay taxes on your pension when living abroad (which can be a question if you’re considering renouncing citizenship), and if you’re moving from the UK it’s worth checking the government’s website to make sure you know exactly where you stand ahead of your move. Planning ahead like this can be imperative to ensure you’ve got a realistic cash flow plan.
Quality of Life
There are plenty of people opting for a life abroad to help motivate them to be more active and spend more time pursuing an outdoor lifestyle. What’s more, moving to sunny locations has been linked to healthier bodies and better mental health too. If you’re moving somewhere renowned for a healthy diet, why not plan to take some local cookery classes so you can learn to make cuisine like the locals do and kick-start your life abroad the right way?
Additionally, it could be worth researching the types of activities you could get involved in once you’ve relocated. Whether it’s running by the coast as part of a club, getting involved with some water sports to spend time in the sea, signing up to a hike with a group of explorers, or just taking some classes like dance, aqua aerobics, or general fitness., new activities can help you settle in quicker, make friends, and fill some of your spare time – something that can be great for new retirees used to working 40 hours a week.
Whether you never get ill or you’re in and out of the doctor’s surgery at home, private medical care can be an extremely important consideration for your move. Many countries have systems completely different to what you’re used to; you may find that you’re half covered by private and half covered by state care, that you need complete private medical insurance to even get a visa or residency permit, or that there’s a comprehensive public care plan in place that means you don’t need to worry.
When you’re considering care, don’t just look at the cost and whether you’re eligible for fully funded treatment. Make sure you also consider the quality of the treatment on offer. Check how crowded hospitals are, the ratings of the doctors, how far you’ll have to travel to specialist care units, what the average wait times are for hospital appointments, and whether things like dentistry and optical appointments are included. It could be worth taking out a policy just for these factors alone. It’s also worth finding out how well your doctors speak English, otherwise you may find it a tricky task when you need to pay a visit to the GP.
You might miss home more than you thought you would, you could find the culture very different to how you’d expected it to be, or you might just find not having your usual routine disorientating. When you begin life somewhere new it’s important not to forget why you’ve moved, and usually that’s for a different life and a taste of adventure. Don’t get too settled with a routine; instead try and step out and push limits, try new things and meet new people – you never know where it might lead you. Try learning the native language and blending in with the locals – there are plenty of books, audiobooks, websites and apps that can help you. Try looking at Duolingo where you can learn languages for free!
It can be a good idea to not solely stick to the expat communities; instead attempt conversations with the locals in their native language and find out more about your new country’s history. Visiting museums and famous sites can help you to understand your surroundings better. For instance, Cyprus has been a country divided into two with a rich and colourful past. There are plenty of places to visit to understand how two cultures have existed on the island together, and you can even visit Nicosia, Europe’s last divided city.
Online expat forums can be a great way of making friends ahead of your move; talking to previous expats and asking questions can be a great help. It’s also important to keep in touch with home to stave off any pangs of homesickness. If you’re moving alone, Skype and online messaging can be a really great way to stay in touch with family, while experiencing the joys of somewhere new. Why not Skype outside in your new town or by the waterfront and show your family around?
Making the Most of Your Time
When you move abroad, some scientists have suggested the way you experience time may change and make you feel like you have a longer life. Here’s why.
You may find that time tends to fly by as you get older. Scientists have hypothesised that this could be because you become very familiar with the world around you. Meanwhile new things that you experience for the first time, such as moving to a new place and living in a different culture, require your mind to do more work to take in the details and store them.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman of Baylor College of Medicine suggests that starting afresh means there are many ‘firsts’ to remember. He suggests when you look back on things like early birthdays and early holidays they seem to almost move in slow motion. He says: ‘I know when I look back on a childhood summer, it seems to have lasted forever.’ Because there’s so much detail for you to take in and remember, the encoded memories are compacted so much that when you look back over them they seem to have taken a long time.
He continues: ‘It’s a construction of the brain. The more memory you have of something, you think “Wow, that really took a long time!’’ Of course you can see this in everyday life. When you drive to your new workplace for the first time and it seems to take a really long time to get there. But when you drive back and forth to work every day after that, it takes no time at all, because you’re not really writing it down anymore.’ It’s thought that the new and exciting experiences you have when you move overseas are recorded differently by your brain, so you may experience Eagleman’s theory when you move!
To ensure you free up as much of your time as possible, plan a research trip ahead of your move and find out all the things you’ll need to know. You can also inform all the authorities in your home country that you’re moving, look at buying a car and getting car insurance so you’ve got mobility from the get-go, organise healthcare, set a redirect on your mail, and plan all the admin for your new life abroad so when you get there, there’s nothing left to do but live it.