14 Essential Things To Consider Before Choosing Your
New Home Overseas
Our annual Retire Overseas Index was released a few weeks ago, and this mammoth project takes our editors months to compile, but the result is a ranked list of the best retirement havens in the world…
It’s got me thinking about all our top havens, why they are such, and what goes into making that decision…
It comes down to 14 things… 14 things that are so important, I used to have them pasted on one of the walls in our Panama City HQ. They are the guiding principle behind everything my editors and I do each day…
They are the things you absolutely must confront in your new potential home before you make the move—and that you must be honest with yourself about before you decide to compromise.
1. Cost Of Living
Perhaps the number one thing on everyone’s mind—whether talking about their current life or their aspired life—is cost of living. For each of our havens, we offer itemized budgets to give our readers an idea of what their new life in X will cost them per month. Whether you’re on a tight budget or not, you want to know where your money is going each month, and perhaps one of the best unforeseen upsides of going overseas is the ability to cut certain costs.
Transportation, for example, can often be much less overseas. In many of our favorite havens, a car is an inconvenience rather than a necessity. If you can’t get by on foot, public transport in Europe is efficient and affordable; in Latin America, where public transport fails (some cities aren’t as developed as others), taxis and ride-hailing services are often a pittance. Sometimes you have the option for either.
When you’re shopping for fresh food from markets instead of processed (or imported) things from grocery stores, food costs can plummet.
Costs are more controllable than most people imagine… we get stuck in our ways and sometimes it takes a life shakeup to see how to change them. Living in Panama City, my husband and I spent the same or even more as we’re now spending per month here in Paris.
2. Health Care
While some countries do better than others, very few do worse at providing good, affordable health care than the United States. Most people worry about quality of care overseas, but I speak from a lifetime of experience when I say it’s better than the States in every country I’ve been to (except maybe Belize). Hands down.
And the comparative affordability is enough to make you rue the entire U.S. system. Even with student insurance during my time at U.S. university, I paid more in my co-pay for simple medications than I paid for the same thing out of pocket in every other country.
And not just overall care, but for dental and eye care, too.
3. Entertainment And Recreation
What will there be to keep you busy in your new home? Whether you’re a culture vulture or an outdoorsman, there’s a haven to meet your every desire—and many places offer enough to satisfy both. Or perhaps you prefer tranquility and doing nothing… we’ve got places for that, too.
4. English Spoken
Whether you want to learn another language or are intent on speaking nothing but English for the rest of your life, this is a major consideration to make sure you’ll be happy in your new home overseas. There are several good choices for English-speaking havens, and even if the local language isn’t yours, there are ways to make yourself more comfortable and accepted as an anglophone in many of our top picks.
5. Expat Community
Some want to escape all the familiar… others want to embrace their new culture with like-minded compatriots. There’s no wrong answer, and there’s no need to force yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of our favorite destinations offer the chance for both full immersion into an authentically local community or for life in a community of folks from back home. You can take your pick.
Are the roads well maintained? How often does the power go out? Is there high-speed internet and how much does it cost? Can you drink the water? All these niggly little things and much more can be the difference between an enjoyable or frustrating lifestyle. Maybe you’re looking for a more rustic way of life… fewer roads and less internet dependence, but maybe you’re not willing to compromise.
7. Access To North America
How far is it from back home and how costly to get back and forth if you want to? This point might not be critical for you if you’re not planning on going back to visit often… but at the very least it will impact the ease of your initial move, so it’s worth a quick thought. (It may determine just how much you can bring with you!)
8. Environmental Factors
Pure air, healthy rivers, clean beaches, litter-free streets… while the world as a whole is currently at its dirtiest, you can still pick and choose when it comes to what’s most important to you.
No place we recommend is unsafe, but crime exists everywhere, and you should educate yourself on what to look out for. Pickpockets in big cities… burglaries in remote areas… street cons pulling scams… areas to avoid (every place in the world has them)… whatever it is, we help to prepare you for what you should protect yourself from no matter where you go.
10. Affordability Of Real Estate
Perhaps not important if you plan to rent, but, maybe, eventually, you’d like to invest in a piece of your new paradise. We give you the apples-to-apples comparison to make the best decision for your destination.
11. Real Estate Restrictions
Wait… can you even own real estate in your new home? It’s not possible everywhere, and some places put restrictions on what foreigners can own. Many of our top havens, though, treat foreigners just as they treat citizens. Don’t be duped by overzealous real estate agents selling you something you can’t legally own—find out what you’re allowed to do before you put any money down.
Staying for keeps? Find out the best way for your situation, whether it’s through investment or your existing income stream. Or maybe it makes more sense to keep things casual… if you’re spending less than six months a year in a place, that might be the best option…
Your tax burden in your new home is worth knowing—not that you should base your decision on this or any other administrative matter, but you need to know how to stay compliant in your new and old homes.
We don’t give a grade for this in the Index… because how could you? Is hot and tropical perfect weather? Four seasons? Cool and temperate without fail? It’s entirely subjective, so we don’t try to put a number on it. But we do make sure to give you as many details as possible to choose what’s perfect to you, including natural disaster risks.
Editor, LIOS Confidential