5/21/2021 | By Annie Tobey

The decision to retire comes hand in hand with the decision of where to retire. Perhaps you want to age in place, remaining in the same comfortable home – maybe even where you raised your children. Or, speaking of children, maybe you want to move to where your adult children now live. Or maybe you’re ready to spread your wings and move somewhere entirely new … and to an entirely new country! If you’re deciding where to retire abroad, we suggest considerations and destinations.

One couple’s decision-making process

When Kim and Bruce Whiting were searching for a retirement destination, they had one top criterion – a salubrious location.

Kim has multiple chemical sensitivity (a medical disorder triggered by exposures to chemicals). Exhaust fumes, pesticides, cleaning agents, and overall city air quality were making her sick. She discovered that when she was experiencing the clean air of a beach location, she was at her healthiest. Eventually, Kim’s doctor suggested that they move to a more healthful environment.

That suggestion began their search for a warm coastal destination. Kim and Bruce used vacation time to explore Aruba, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Finally, they stumbled upon their perfect paradise – healthful and affordable. Five years before retirement, they purchased an oceanfront bed-and-breakfast fixer-upper. With the help of local repair workers and their own labor during vacations, they rejuvenated the property.

Now, they live there full time, returning to the states about twice a year. And they both are in great health – which Kim attributes to clean ocean air, sunshine, and exercise.

Considerations in deciding where to retire abroad

The Whitings knew what mattered most to them in a retirement home. What factors are important to you? Consider:

Landscape. Some people thrill to the sounds of waves crashing against rocks. Others find solace in babbling brooks or sweeping mountain ranges. What natural settings inspire you?

Climate. Do you like weather that’s cold, hot, wet, dry, calm, or windy? Do you appreciate four distinct seasons, or would you be content to soak in your favorite temperatures year-round? Do extremes like tropical storms and wet seasons bother you?

Safety. Few of us want to live in a fortress during retirement. Check the U.S. State Department travel advisory pages for details on safety and security as well as information on visa requirements, health care, and more.

Recreation and entertainment. Do you crave outdoor recreation? If so, do you yearn for water or forests? Do you want access to museums and cultural activities, spectator or participatory sports, or community engagement and group events?

Language. How many locals speak English? Do you already know the native language, or are you willing to learn?

Expat communities. A cohesive and active community of others from your home country can ease your transition and provide a sense of belonging.

Local welcome. Are government regulations welcoming to immigration? How about the people – are they friendly and welcoming, too?

Food. Besides determining if you enjoy the local cuisine, also consider if the cuisine is healthy; if fresh produce and groceries are easy to procure; and if American staples are accessible (for those times you yearn for comfort foods from home).

Cost of living. Will living expenses match your long-term budget?

Health. What is the cost, quality, and accessibility of health care? Is it adequate for your needs? Do the locals value a healthy lifestyle, as in food and daily activity?

Infrastructure. Note phone and internet options, both for local use and communicating with the states; reliability of electricity and clean water; roadways and public transit; etc.

Convenience of the location. If you’ll want to return to the states often – or invite friends and family to visit – consider the proximity of airports, ticket prices, distance, etc. If you’ll want to explore outside of your new home, look for a community near other trip-worthy venues.

Other important considerations include currency, visa and residency requirements, ease of buying and owning property, the value of property investments, and so on.

Kim and Bruce Whiting found their paradise. How about you? To help you in deciding where to retire abroad, Seniors Guide presents 10 top international picks around the world.

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Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey