09 April 2012

Retiring Abroad

Everywhere I look nowadays there are articles about retiring abroad. Maybe it just seems that way because I'm living the topic, but a glance at the Yahoo! front page, or at Kiplinger's, or International Living, or the inescapable AARP Magazine says different. The articles come with many titles, but basically they're all the same: Best Places to Retire Abroad, Top Ten Places to Retire Overseas, Ten Great Overseas Destinations for Retirees, and on and on and on. Thousands of articles, but always rounding up the usual suspects for the American retiree: Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama and Nicaragua for closeness to home; France, Italy, Spain and Portugal for European culture and civilization; and Argentina (if one insists on South America) but only because of the comforting idea that Buenos Aires is so like Paris. And Brazil? Not in the top ten.

But there are also the runners-up, the B-list countries like Vietnam, Ecuador, Uruguay, Croatia, South Africa, Turkey and Malaysia. Be daring, think outside the box! these articles seem to be saying. But Brazil? Not even a runner-up. Well, whether we're on the lists or not, I'm always devouring the articles, so full of advice, opinion and suggestion, both helpful and annoying. My favorite part of these articles usually comes at the end, the list of Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Packing. You'd think the readers were high school kids instead of retirees who've lived a life and are presumably competent. For example . . .

Have you thoroughly researched your target country? Well, gee, who would move away from his native country sight unseen? It's one thing to be an escaping war refugee, or a 22-year-old off to an adventure in a new place, or 28 and getting married to someone from another country and jumping in feet first. But retirees? Of course they've done their research. What a question.

Have you asked yourself what you're willing to do without? The examples given in the article that asked this were 1) American TV shows, and 2) Oreo cookies. I swear, if you can't live without Oreo cookies you should stay put, and as close to a 7-Eleven as possible. And it might be more helpful to inform people that American TV has conquered the world. Buy a cable TV package wherever you end up and, if it matters so much to you, you'll not miss one episode of This Old House. 

Do you know if retirees get special senior benefits? Now you're talking! This we want to know. It's a subject that needs plenty of research, and had Mark and I done more of it I suppose we would have learned, for instance, that Malaysia has an incredible incentive program for foreigners over 50, including easily-obtained perpetual visas. But we found it more fun to learn what our benefits were in Brazil as each birthday passed by. Oh, look, I'm 60! Half-price tickets at movies, shows, museums and sports events. Coming on 65? Free rides on all public transportation. It may not be Panama's unbeatable pensionado program, where they practically pay you to move there, but we're happy. 

Should Mark and I have asked ourselves these questions before we started packing? Or any of the other questions regarding crime rates, health care, residency requirements, taxes? Well, we didn't. Truth is we weren't planning to retire here at all. We liked the idea of living abroad, we liked Brazil, it was time for a move so we moved. We did so without any thought to obstacles in the form of visa restrictions, hostile banking laws, or webs of bureaucratic red tape. As I say, we didn't come here to retire but, as time passed and we weren't doing very much in the way of earning a living, we realized that we were de facto retired. I've been grateful for the location we chose. We may not have had all our ducks in order before we moved, but with the luck of the innocents they're quacking away quite happily now.


  1. You really posted some valuable information here.I am so glad.Thanks a lot!

    retire overseas

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful! For more detailed, up-to-date info, you might check out an interview I did on ExpatsBlog at
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Best, Barbara