Will your dollars go further if you retire abroad?

Retiring Abroad

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Choosing the Right Retirement Community

Retiring Abroad: Dream Come True or a Nightmare?

Retiring Abroad

Retiring abroad to another country, such as Costa Rica or Mexico, is a way to live frugally and still have some luxuries. Do you have any information about making such a move? This idea intrigues me and I would like some feedback from others on living abroad. Thanks.
Linda C.

Research Before Retiring Abroad

There are a lot of great websites about retiring abroad and retiring to these countries in particular. However, the best one is Escape Artist at EscapeArtist.com. Access to all the site's content is free, as is the newsletter you can sign up for, and unlike printed retirement guides, it's very up to date with articles submitted by people who are actually living abroad. As someone looking into doing the same thing Linda C. wants to do, I've found this site to be invaluable.

Read Then Retire Abroad

There is a book called The People's Guide to Mexico . It is a book about four friends that have been living in Mexico for about 40 years and very, very frugally I might add. They have a section of the book dedicated to this option. But they also give you the real information on how much it costs and the legalities of it all. They have a website at PeoplesGuide.com that is great. You can find the information there.

Retiring Abroad? Check Web

Check out InternationalLiving.com. You'll find all the information you could ever want.
Jacqueline N. in Las Vegas, Nevada

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Retiring Abroad

I was a foreign exchange student in Mexico during my second year of college. While it is possible to live very frugally in Mexico, most of those savings you'll only see if you are fluent in the language. I've seen the boasts on how one can live like a king in Mexico on your Social Security check. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Anybody "down there" catering to English-speakers is going to charge a higher price, whether they are selling you groceries or renting you an apartment. Many homes and apartments in Mexico lack dishwashers and washing machines (hiring a maid has always been relatively cheap), so that "modest apartment" the retirement articles may mention could lack things that many apartment shoppers here might take for granted.

What Americans may not see at the tourist traps is that water is in short supply for the "average Mexican." Your water supply may just be a cistern on the roof, refilled at regular intervals. No long showers. Be sure to include room in your budget for bottled water service. The tap water may not be quite safe.

Senior citizens may want to take note that Mexico does not have the same requirements for "handicapped accessible" public spaces that the US has imposed. Imagine trying to negotiate uneven cobblestone streets and curbs without any ramps for crossing the street, and forget about leaving space or ramps for wheelchairs. You may be fit and healthy now, but that may not be the case later.

A trip to the doctor and most basic medicines are cheaper in Mexico, but the ridiculously low price for a doctor's visit you may have seen probably won't be for someone American-trained and/or English speaking. Again your language skills have to be strong to realize any "savings." And unless you are in one of the major cities, I wouldn't count on the availability of the hi-tech treatments. Check the details of your medical insurance, if any. If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, coverage is probably only offered on emergency care during leisure travel. You have to be in the US more than six months of the year. Medicare itself may cover care in Canada, but I don't think it will cover care in Mexico. If you have a big problem and want Medicare to cover it, you'll have to go back to the States.

Mexico is a beautiful country, but living there is much different from a trip to Acapulco. It may be cheaper to winter there than, say, Arizona, but weigh your options very carefully before living there on a full-time basis. Don't necessarily view it as a backup plan in case your 401k takes a dive.

Warnings aside, food, alcohol, and restaurants are pretty cheap. Having a car is not absolutely necessary since bus and taxi service is widely available (a mercy since driving there is not for the faint of heart). Clothes can be as cheap or expensive as you want them to be. Books, electronics, and CDs I found to be quite pricey. International phone service is very expensive, unless you live right near the border. You will have to rely on the kindness of relatives to call you. Also, living in a foreign country is quite the learning experience. It can be a wonderful way to spend your winters or your retirement or it can be misery if you don't easily adapt.

If you would like to do some reading on the subject, the Culture Shock series is a handy introduction to a country. There is a volume for Mexico and many other countries as well.

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