Adventures in Retirement Planning

Laidback living by a tropical beach…with monthly expenses a fraction of ours in Australia. A stone cottage in a hillside village rich with history and tradition. A colonial city with walkable streets and a vibrant, cosmopolitan culture…

At home in Australia, I can only dream of a weekly maid…maybe even a gardener. I imagine walking out the door each day without knowing what I’ll find—colourful markets…a street procession celebrating a local festival…a troupe of monkeys squabbling by the roadside…a hawker stall with a dish I’ve never tried before…

My husband and I dream of a more adventurous life…and we know it’s out there. But we’re not ready to move yet.
We often hear from Australians who’ve simply picked a place, packed up and taken off. That’s certainly one way to do it. But everyone’s situation is different. We have a daughter still in high school, so we’re taking it slowly.

For us, it’s a five-year plan. We’re taking our time to work out where we’ll go and how we’ll fund our overseas lifestyle.

We really like the idea of a roving retirement—spending time in one place…and moving on when we tire of it.
We might even combine that with a few months back in Australia from time to time. You see, we’re not planning to move because we don’t like Australia. Far from it. We love Australia—the clean, uncrowded beaches…great weather…clean air…every amenity you could possibly want. But it’s expensive. And that puts a limit on our lifestyle here.

We want to live without worrying about every dollar. We want to eat out when we feel like it. We want to pay our utility bills with our loose change. And we want to have a bit of fun while we still can.

International Living Australia features so many places where we can live well on our small budget. But would we enjoy living there? We don’t want to move somewhere just because it’s cheap.

There are other things to consider and we’re putting together our checklist. Cost of living is certainly a big one, but it’s not the only one. For us, a strong community is really important. We love the idea of making friends with the locals and gaining some sense of belonging. But we also want to have other expats around—it’s nice to have your own tribe.

Environmental quality is also really important to us. We like fresh air…we like to be able to swim at the local beaches…we favour a more rural environment without the noise, pollution and frenetic activity of a large city.

Access to first-world amenities is important too—healthcare, shopping, international airports. They don’t have to be five minutes away, just close enough.

But this planning phase isn’t all checklists and calculators. We’re having some fun too, putting our feet on the ground as often as we can. We’ve got the time to do that.

Recently I found myself sitting on a large balcony overlooking the Kampot River in Cambodia. It was a beautiful blue-sky morning and Mount Bokor, on the other side of the river, was touched by wisps of cloud. We’re not sure yet whether Cambodia will make our shortlist…but we enjoyed checking it out.

We figure that if we scout out a couple of places each year, we’ll have a pretty good idea of where to start our overseas adventure at the end of five years when our daughter finishes school. We’ve done a lot of travelling through Southeast Asia. Europe and Latin America are next in our sights.

How will we fund our overseas life? That’s a big part of our planning.

In five years’ time we’ll both be 61. So we won’t have the Age Pension to smooth the way. We’re not eligible for that until we reach 67 (68.5 if the Libs get their way and hoist the maximum pension age to 70).

Even once we hit 67, it may be too hard for us to get the Age Pension. You see, there’s a bit of a problem if we’ve been living overseas before we reach pension age. We’d have to return to Australia to apply. That’s not such a problem. But, because we’ll have gone non-resident, we’ll likely have to stay in Australia for two years before going back overseas and prove our Australian residency before we’ll be allowed to take our pensions overseas.

That’s doable but it might not suit us when the time comes. So we’re working on a Plan B so that we don’t have to rely on the Age Pension. We’re developing an investment property portfolio that will provide cash flow positive rental income. And we don’t plan to stop working. I love to write and I can do that no matter where in the world we live. And if all else fails, we can supplement our income by teaching English. I’ve got my TESOL and in many of the places we’re considering there’s big demand for native-speaking English teachers. Our age won’t matter. Maybe we will keep working until we’re 70… But it will be on our terms…and it will be a choice.

We’re enjoying this slow approach to planning our overseas move. There’s no pressure to make decisions now. Our travels have a purpose as we work on our destination shortlist. And in the months when we’re not travelling…we love hearing about the adventures and lifestyles of other Australians who’ve made the move…

Related Articles

Living Overseas

Cost of Living in Cambodia

The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2018