How To Retire Abroad

Beautiful scenery, a better quality of life, and inexpensive living sound like ideal elements for retirement.

An increasing number of Americans are looking to pursue these goals outside of the United States. A recent survey found that 13% of U.S. workers and retirees hope to live in another country in retirement.1 They are not alone. The interest in retiring abroad has grown in recent years.

In 2020, International Living, a website focused on living and retiring overseas, reported a surge in visits to its “How to move out of the U.S.” information page. Between May and August, traffic to the page increased 945% compared with the same period in 2019. Spain was the most researched country, followed by Belize, the site reported.

Many retirees are already living their dreams. According to the Social Security Administration, more than 500,000 retired U.S. workers living overseas received Social Security benefits (as of December 2020). Nearly 50,000 retirees were living in Japan; 70,000 in Canada; 32,000 in Mexico; 25,000 in Germany; and nearly 20,000 across Central America and the Caribbean.2

How did they get there?

The process starts with research and planning. Before choosing a location, pre-retirees need to ask themselves what they are comfortable with in terms of spending, adapting to a new culture, and managing the distance from family and friends. Additionally, do their plans entail relocating to another country full-time, or just part of the year?

Visiting the country before moving is a critical step. Make sure to fully research the level of political and economic stability of a potential destination. The U.S. Department monitors and publishes updates regularly and offers a guide on retirement abroad, with key considerations such as visas, safety, and emergency preparedness.

Some key considerations for retirement abroad include:

  • Healthcare costs. Those retiring abroad should research whether they need to purchase additional coverage through private insurers, and whether it makes sense to enroll in Medicare as well.
  • Visas and other legal documents. Some countries offer special retirement visas that may allow individuals to work. Existing legal documents, such as will and trusts, should be reviewed before moving overseas.
  • Living abroad. Research the real estate market and understand local laws around property ownership and renting. Decide whether to rent out your U.S.-based residence if you still maintain one.
  • Earning income. Many retirees want to continue to work. This may include part-time work or starting their own business. Research rules about earning and reporting income.
  • Finances and taxes. U.S. citizens need to pay taxes no matter where they live. However, the Unites States has bilateral income tax treaties with about 70 countries to help workers avoid double taxation.

Consult financial experts

There are multiple planning issues involved. With different laws in other countries, it is important for those planning to retire abroad to meet with a financial advisor who is familiar with their financial situation and retirement plans. Tax laws vary and can make it complicated for investors to meet their financial goals. Seek help from a tax professional. Investors may need guidance planning ahead and learning about strategies that help them mitigate taxes and preserve their retirement nest egg. There are also estate attorneys who specialize in cross-border planning.

With proper planning, workers thinking about retiring abroad may be able to optimize their savings and live their dreams.

  1. Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement, June 2021
  2. https://blog.ssa.gov/social-security-benefits-u-s-citizens-outside-the-united-states/

Connect with an advisor in your area to find out if your retirement is on track.