12 Things To Consider Before Retiring Outside the US

Infographic of an older couple looking at a map while traveling

Retiring outside the United States can be an appealing option for many reasons— lower cost of living, better weather, and a change of scenery are just a few. But there are some important things to consider before making the big move. This blog post will outline 12 things retirees should take into account before taking the plunge into retiring outside the US. Whether you’re a retiree who is looking to make a move or simply thinking about it, this list is for you.

Moving Costs To Consider

First and foremost, it is important to go over the big ticket item, which is the cost of actually moving to a different county. Everyone knows moving expenses can add up extremely fast, and that unfortunate fact is even more true if you are moving abroad. Therefore, it’s important to budget carefully and be aware of all the costs involved. 

Here are some travel costs you should account for when making your budget:

  • Visa fees: Depending on the country you’re moving to, you may need to pay for a visa or work permit before arriving.
  • Shipping costs: If you’re bringing your belongings with you, you’ll need to pay for shipping. This can include air freight, sea freight or land transport. Make sure you understand the total cost; you might be surprised at the international fees and opt to leave some things back.
  • Storage fees: If you’re not able to bring everything with you right away, you may need to store some of your belongings in a storage unit or with a friend or family member.
  • Travel expenses: Think about flights, trains, cab, uber fares or other transportation methods you plan to use to get yourself and your belongings to your new home—including fees once you land in your new country. 
  • Insurance: Depending on where you are moving, you may need insurance for your belongings during transit or while they’re in storage. 
  • Customs fees: Some countries charge customs fees on imported goods. 
  • Housing costs: You’ll need to pay for rent or a mortgage on your new home, as well as any deposits required by landlords.
  • Utilities and other living expenses: You’ll also need to budget for utilities like electricity and water, as well as food and other day-to-day living expenses.
  • Language classes: If you don’t speak the local language fluently, you may want to take language classes before or after arrival. 
  • Taxes and other fees associated with immigrating: Every country is different when it comes to taxes and fees associated with living there long-term. You will want to check out the country-specific government site for more information on applicable taxes and fees for becoming a resident. 

Even with the best planning, always set aside a little more than you think for those unexpected surprises that come up along the way. 

12 Questions To Ask Before Retiring Abroad 

Infographic of two older couples talking about retiring outside the US

Now that we’ve covered the details of moving costs, it is time to dive into the other top considerations before making your big move! Keep reading to find out if you have considered all of these factors before retiring abroad. 

Have you been to the country you want to retire in and lived like a local? 

For many people, retirement is not just the end of their career, it’s an opportunity to embark on a new adventure. Many retirees will opt to move to a new place as part of this journey, but many decide on the location after visiting as a tourist rather than having spent any real time there outside of a resort or hotel. 

Doing an extended visit and living like a local will give valuable insight into how life might be after making the big move. It will help you understand the less glamorous realities such as the cost of living, culture shock, climate change, job opportunities, or even healthcare. Once you’ve spent a good chunk of time in whatever place you want to retire in, you will have more knowledge about the true local lifestyle, making your move smoother and confidently knowing you do want to live there long term.

Do you have a valid passport?

For those looking to retire in a new country, having a valid passport is an important requirement. Without this, you may have trouble even getting to your new home, even with other legal documents necessary for travel. Also, having a passport will be necessary for many activities, such as traveling within the country and verifying identity for opening bank accounts. If you already have a passport, be sure to check the expiration date. 

Do you know the travel document, visa or residency requirements for the country you want to live in?

Before taking the plunge and settling down in another country, be sure to double and triple-check that all of your travel documents and residency requirements are properly taken care of. 

Retired citizens have lots of things to consider before entering a foreign country, such as the type of visa that’s needed for long-term residence, registering for Social Security benefits in their new location, obtaining any necessary residence permits, and so on. 

Do you understand healthcare and coverage costs in the country you want to retire in?

Do yourself a favor and get familiar with the healthcare system in your new home before an accident happens. Understanding the cost of healthcare and coverage in your new country is essential—not only for your peace of mind but also for your financial planning.

Knowing how much you will be spending on health care vs. other resources can greatly impact your retirement budget and lifestyle. While it may seem like a daunting task to research a foreign healthcare system, there are many easy-to-understand resources available, such as websites dedicated to offering advice on local healthcare abroad and international health insurance plans

Are you prepared for the cost of living, and have you secured housing?

Moving to a foreign country can be both an exciting and daunting prospect, especially if you are not prepared for the cost of living. With research, however, you can make sure to know what lies ahead and plan accordingly. Have you secured accommodations, or do you need to sort something out when you land? Doing this in advance will help to ease the transition process and help you enjoy your new home to the fullest. It will also prevent you from rushing such an important decision because you get desperate. 

Do you understand the tax and income laws in the country you want to retire in?

Retirement can be an overwhelming process, especially when it comes to overlooking important details like tax and income laws. It all depends on the country you choose to retire in, since different countries have different regulations. 

Understanding the rules related to taxes and income laws specific to the country you’ve chosen for retirement is essential for financial planning in your golden years. Do a little research online or connect with local expat advisors who specialize in helping retirees know what to expect from their host country’s tax and income laws. With a good understanding of these details, you can live comfortably and securely through your years of retirement.

What is the climate like in your chosen retirement country?

When it comes to selecting the ideal retirement country, climate is an important factor to consider. This could be a big shock for someone, depending on where you are moving from. 

Be prepared with extra layers of clothing that are suitable for both hot and cold climates, and stock up on non-perishable food items in case power outages occur as a result of bad weather.

Have you researched the political situation in your chosen country?

When it comes to planning a retirement, making sure the political situation of one’s chosen country is stable and secure should not be overlooked. After all, peace and tranquility are essential components of a happy retirement. Those looking to retire in a foreign country should research their options thoroughly and make sure they are comfortable with any political issues that might arise. Taking the time to understand how local politics could impact your retirement plans is key to avoiding any unpleasant surprises once you’ve settled into the country.

What language(s) do you need to learn in order to communicate effectively in your chosen country of retirement?

When considering the best country for retirement, one of the most important aspects to consider is the language. Depending on the location, you may even benefit from studying multiple languages. 

Additionally, be sure to check into regional dialects or slang words to help you avoid looking like a tourist. Learning a new language takes time, dedication, and patience, but it is well worth the effort. 

Will you have family or friends who live in or near you?

For many people looking to retire abroad, the availability of family or friends living in or near their chosen country is a huge advantage. Having close connections already in place allows for moral and even physical support if needed. It will also give you a sense of safety, knowing that people you know and trust can help monitor your health or provide a friendly face when things seem difficult. Of course, having local contacts isn’t essential for retirement abroad, but it is undoubtedly something worth considering if it’s available to you.

Are you aware of U.S. tax requirements while living abroad?

Many U.S. citizens who are living abroad may not realize they still have a responsibility to file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It’s important to understand the tax responsibilities even if you’re temporarily living abroad, or you may be liable for fines and penalties upon returning to the U.S. One of the most significant criteria for filing is earning over a certain amount of money, depending on specific circumstances. Therefore, it pays to stay up-to-date on your taxes while residing outside of the country, as this can potentially save costly headaches down the line. To avoid confusion or harsh penalties, be sure to connect with a professional before you hop on the plane. 

Do you have a plan to connect with others while you are there?

Regardless of where you live, making meaningful connections with people is an important part of maintaining a high quality of life. A great way to meet new people is by joining local clubs or activities ahead of time. 


Here are a few commonly asked questions about retiring abroad. 

How can I find a place to live in a foreign country?

There are many resources available for finding housing in a foreign country, such as online classifieds, real estate agents, and expat groups.

How do I open a bank account in a foreign country?

Opening a bank account may require specific documentation or identification. Research banking regulations and requirements within the specific country before attempting to open an account.

What are some cultural differences I should be aware of when living abroad?

Cultural differences can vary greatly between countries. It’s important to do research and learn about local customs, traditions, and social norms to avoid offending locals or causing misunderstandings.

How can I stay connected with friends and family back home while living abroad?

Staying connected with loved ones back home is important. Consider using video chat apps like Skype or FaceTime or social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram to keep in touch. WhatsApp is another great way to stay connected to friends and family back home. 

Is Retiring Abroad For You? 

There’s a lot to think about and plan for before deciding to retire in another country. Be sure to do your research on everything from residency requirements to the cost of healthcare. Consider the climate, politics, and language barriers you might face. And don’t forget to factor in U.S. tax implications. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s normal, but in the end, retirement should be relaxing and stress-free once you are settled! 

Related: How Long Will Your Retirement Savings Last? Learn How To Calculate And Plan

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