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Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some good resources to help people interested in retiring abroad? My wife and I will be retiring in a few years and have always thought it would be fun, and more affordable, to live abroad. What can you tell us?
Retiring abroad has become a growing trend in recent years for millions of U.S. retirees. Here are some tips to help you find and research your foreign paradise.
Do Your Homework
Retiring Americans are choosing to emigrate for a variety of reasons – adventure, a better climate, lower cost of living. Whatever your reasons, before you sell the house and kiss the grandkids goodbye, you need to do some homework and learn everything you can about the country and community you’re interested in – climate, crime, cost of living, insurance, taxes, visa requirements and more. Some good resources to help you get started are www.internationalliving.com and www.escapeartist.com which provide tons of information on dozens of countries. Also check out the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook at www.cia.gov – click on “Library,” then “The World Factbook.”
Another good tip is to talk or network with some expatriates who have already made the move you’re thinking about making. They can give you tips and suggestions, as well as the advantages and disadvantages and day to day reality of living in a particular country. Some popular sites to finding expat resources are www.liveabroad.com, www.expatexchange.com and www.expatforum.com.
Once you find a country or two that strikes your fancy, you need to visit multiple times at different times of the year so you can get a feel of weather changes. If you like what you see, to find help scoping out potential properties, or to find a local real estate agent visit the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations at www.worldproperties.com.
Need to Know
Whether your international retirement plans are seasonal or year-around, here are a few additional areas you need to consider:
· The shrinking dollar: Retiring abroad used to be seen as a surefire way to live beyond your means, and for some countries it still is. But the U.S. dollar has been in a steep decline in recent years, so your money may not stretch as far as you think. To compare currencies see www.iccfx.com.
· U.S. Taxes: Most people aren’t aware that even if you’re living in a foreign country full-time, you still have to pay federal income taxes. And unless you sell all your U.S. real estate, or live in a no income-tax state (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming) you’ll owe state taxes too. For more details see the IRS publication 54, “Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad,” at www.irs.gov. Or call 800-829-3676 and they will mail you a free copy.
· Health care and insurance: While medical care in many foreign countries is vastly improved and very affordable, you need to be aware that Medicare won’t cover you outside the U.S. Your best bet is to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate (see usembassy.state.gov) in your destination country to see how you can be covered as a foreign resident. Or you may want to buy a policy (see www.eglobalhealth.com) that will cover you wherever you live. And for help locating good doctors or hospitals, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate is again your best resource. You can also search for internationally accredited hospitals at www.jointcommissioninternational.org.
· Social Security: This is the one area you don’t need to worry about. Your Social Security benefits will follow you wherever you go (there are a few exceptions). You can have your benefits deposited into your bank account either in the U.S. or in your new home country. To learn more, see Social Security publication 05-10137 “Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States” at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10137.html.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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