Retiring Abroad – Considerations Before You Go
Every day, we research different retirement ideas that will stretch the nest egg as far as possible while still having an acceptable standard of living. While one’s home country is preferable for many, more and more are electing to retire in a foreign country for numerous reasons including the ability to make their retirement funds last longer. Many low cost foreign countries now offer some of the finest medical care in the world at a fraction of the cost and in locations that many would never dream they could afford for a vacation much less to live full time. The following article offers some very important considerations that many don’t think of when traveling or retiring abroad.
Retirement Abroad – Social and Environmental Considerations
By Les Johns
At first sight social and environmental conditions may not sound like vital considerations when thinking about retirement abroad. They are as important for a happy retirement as are arrangements about finances and visas. Since the place is a personal choice then it should have as close to the ideal climate as is possible. The country must have adequate local services and organizations to allow for a full and enjoyable lifestyle. The available communications and transport facilities should allow continued contact with family and friends who stay at home. The details of some of these things will be discovered in destination pre-choice investigations. All should be examined when the “Golden Rule” is applied. This rule is:- “Always visit a place at least once before making any final choice or irrevocable decision.”
Information on the climate is easily obtained from many obvious sources (travel agents, tourist brochures, internet). What is often missed is that in many, sometimes even very small countries, micro-climates exist which can mitigate or aggravate seasonal extremes. A tourist industry selling warm sun, beaches and water sports may fail to mention cool upland or mountain retreats. It is easy to find sandy beaches, blue water and plenty of Sun in Panama. There are also cool inland areas at higher altitudes that have more temperate climates and more rain. In the Dominican Republic, in addition to the usual Caribbean coastal attractions, there are both mountainous and desert regions. This range of terrain might not be expected in so small a country.
Some of the rarely mentioned features of the climate of a place are neither attractive nor desirable. Hong Kong is a wonderful city occupying islands and part of the Chinese mainland. It has vibrant shopping malls, stores of international repute, great hotels, good restaurants and exciting entertainment. In addition there are beaches and quiet deserted areas. What is seldom mentioned is the extremely high humidity which is, for some, unbearable. Although the wonderful Australian climate features, in many references to that country, the cold wet winters in the south, and the threat of summer cyclones in the north are rarely mentioned.
Weather is simply the daily expression of what adds up over time to result in the climate. Weather is often extreme. Climate is the long-term average. It is important to realize the difference, to experience the weather and to heed local advice about what might be expected at periods other than during a “Golden Rule” visit.
When touring a prospective retirement spot it is important to contact the local expatriate population and to visit social outlets and businesses. At a non-tourist bar or coffee shop it is possible to meet some interesting talking companions. Take everything said and learnt with the proverbial “pinch of salt” and never enter into any serious agreements or arrangements with a casual contact. Any local press or newsletters will often give information on expatriate activities, clubs and services. It will usually be perfectly acceptable to attend any but the most formal functions at short notice. One could become an “instant celebrity” as a surprise guest speaker.
It is also possible to take advantage of any international organizations to which one may belong. These could include service clubs such Lions, Rotary and Free Masons. A tour of the shops and markets in the immediate vicinity of expatriate living suburbs will give an indication of the cost of living and produce availability. It will be possible to discover information on local electronic and telephone communication services at any internet-cafe. Sometimes government sources tend to be optimistic about or to idealize such services.
A travel agent will be able to give advice on the local and international travel situation. An estate agent will be able to specify local practice with respect to land and property transfer, title security and tenure rules. Banks should be visited and asked for information about the opening of a local account and about dealings with an offshore account if any are allowed.
Visits to government offices are often useful so long as one speaks and understands the local language well. It will usually be possible to clarify situations relevant to driving licenses, electricity and water supply and other essential services. It is useful to know if and how water rights attach to properties. In Cyprus the value of a property will be greatly affected by water rights. Police, fire and medical emergency services should also be checked.
If this does not sound like a perfect holiday it should be remembered that tourism is not the object of this trip. Any schedule can and should include time for relaxation to consider the information gathered. A visit to a tourist bar or restaurant will allow one to consider quietly what has been learned. Such places will probably be free of any members of the local expatriate community. This will avoid any further pressure from that quarter if any had been experienced previously. Reasons for the “Golden Rule” often become increasingly obvious during a visit.
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