Important factors to consider when preparing for retirement
Is retirement quickly approaching? Are you thinking of downsizing once you retire? Possibly even moving to a new country? Following on from my recent blog “Why so many want to retire abroad” it is clear that many retirees take advantage of their new freedom by moving to new destinations where they can enjoy warmer weather, a more tropical locale, or where they can more easily pursue a lifelong passion. You may even find that your income stretches further in some countries.
Addressing this point at a recent event, we spoke about the “continual year-on-year rise in demand from clients for professional, cross-border financial advice, as more and more people contemplate an overseas retirement.”
If retiring abroad is for you then there are a number of important things you should consider when choosing a retirement destination:
Cost of Living.
For many retirees, this is the most important consideration. How far will your budget stretch in the country? If you’re on a pension or other type of fixed income, this is especially important. One of the biggest challenges today is that people need a more diversified pot of money than ever before, especially when the focus is retirement. Taking control of one’s long-term financial security is ultimately a personal responsibility, therefore having quality, professional financial advice has never been more important.
As part of a sound financial strategy, taking into account the country you choose to live in could determine the lifestyle you lead. In some countries in Asia and Central America, you may find that you can live a dramatically enhanced lifestyle on a smaller budget. There are even places in Europe where you can live the high-life at low cost. For example, real estate in Spain is extremely reasonable, as are groceries and utility costs.
Research housing costs, as well as food, utilities, transportation, and any other costs that you’ll face on a regular basis. Then add those costs into your budget to see if your fixed income can cover them.
Speaking of transportation, consider how you’ll get around in the new country. Will you need a car? Do you want a car? If so, can you ship one there, or will you need to purchase one?
If you won’t own a car, what’s the public transportation system like? Is it readily accessible, and will you feel safe using it?
Spain is also a great example of a country where you may be fine without a car. They have a modern, high-speed railway system that can get you virtually anywhere you want to go. In fact, you could plan a trip around the entire country and hit every major location using only their railway system.
This is a critical consideration for any retiree. It’s inevitable that you will need medical treatment at some point during retirement. There are two important aspects to think about regarding medical care: its cost and its quality.
In some countries, such as Malaysia, you may find high quality health care at fairly low costs. Spain also has a high-quality mix of both national and private healthcare providers. In others, such as some Central and South American countries, you’ll find that the prices are low, but the quality may not be up to par. Also, check with your health insurance provider to see what they will and will not cover in foreign countries.
Access to friends and family.
You’ll likely want to have access to your friends and family in your home country. This could be especially true if you have grandchildren. How difficult will it be to travel between your new country and your home country? Is it just a train journey? Or do you need to take a plane half way around the world?
If travel between the two will be costly, consider how that distance will affect your emotional well-being. Many retirees pack up and move and say they’re never coming back, but then they soon find that they miss old friends and family. Would you really be OK with seeing your loved ones only once or twice a year?
The world has become so globalised that you can often find people who speak almost any language in nearly any country. Of course, English is usually spoken in some capacity everywhere, and Spanish is also widely used.
However, you may need to learn the native language for basic tasks like food shopping, dining out, and other recreational activities. Do you want to learn a new language? If not, you should probably look for a country where your language is widely used.
Many countries appear to be very safe when you only see them from the beach or tourist locations. However, as a resident, you’ll likely explore other areas. How safe is it for you to travel alone in the country? Are violent crimes an issue? What about robberies or break-ins? Check out these statistics before you make a decision.
Finally, you’ll need to know whether or not it’s easy for you to stay in the country for an extended period of time. Some countries actively recruit retirees. For example, Malaysia offers a social visa that lasts 10 years and is easily renewable. Panama offers residence to anyone who has a government or corporate pension of at least £1,000 per month.
The key to finding the right home is doing your homework. Think about your priorities, and make a list of what is most important to you. Then research your destinations online, and narrow your list to two or three places. Then visit those locations to get a real sense of what it may be like to live there. The first-hand experience will help you make a more informed decision with confidence.
The most important factor in retirement planning is to take control of your finances as early as possible by seeking professional, independent financial advice. Retiring abroad is a momentous decision, Having a proper plan in place will, typically, avoid people having to save a lot more as they get older or delaying their retirement abroad. They can then proceed with choosing their ideal location to retire and enjoy their retirement as they wish.
As an expat expert, I am on hand to help with all of the above and more.
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Mike Coady is an award-winning financial expert and a well-known leader in the financial industry.
Mike is qualified to UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) standards, a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute, a Fellow of the Institute of Sales Management (FISM), and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD).
Blog published by Mike Coady