Many Americans have found a better quality of life…for less…by moving to any number of prime locations around the globe, from Latin America to Europe to Asia, and everywhere in between.
There are no shortage of spots where a retired couple can live well on $2,000 a month. You’ll find good quality medical care, exciting new traditions, and cultures, great food fresh from the market, engaging expat communities, welcoming locals, and more.
You can also find good value real estate in many locations around the world, whether your dream home is a house or a condo on the beach in the tropics, a resorted farmhouse in the country, or a home in a quiet mountain European village.
There are many benefits to moving outside the United States…some drawbacks too. But the actual process, while definitely doable (millions of Americans have done it), is not as straightforward as moving within the U.S., which you may have done in the past.
Here are some of the steps you should take as you’re planning on moving out of the U.S. no matter where you’re planning to move.
How to Profile Yourself and Find Your Spot
The first step on your journey to moving abroad is to look within.
What you must do is ruthlessly profile yourself. Think deeply about your needs and wants, in several areas:
- What level of spending are you comfortable with…what can you afford to pay for rent, healthcare, and living expenses?
- What level of healthcare do you need, and what can you afford to pay? Do you need specialist care due to a chronic condition?
- Ease of transition. Remember, you’ll have to learn a new culture when moving abroad. But are you also comfortable with learning a new language? Do you need certain familiar items at supermarkets? Consider how easy it might be to get a residence visa or otherwise navigate the local bureaucracy.
- How easy is it to get to and forth from your home country, for visits back home or for visiting family and friends.
- Is there a community of expats? Or will you have to integrate more into the local culture? Which option appeals more to you?
- Are there homes for sale and rent at reasonable prices? What can you afford—and is it available?
- Do you like four seasons…or warm weather year-round? Is the heat and humidity of the tropics 365 days a year—and intense rainy season—too much for you to bear?
- Is there enough to do to keep you occupied? Are you content with relaxing on the beach and enjoying seafood meals at simple restaurants? Or do you need a symphony orchestra and fine dining?
Look at all these factors and prioritize them in order of importance. Consider what your must-haves are. There could be other factors too, like the availability of assisted living or the potential to start a business. Then do you research. There is plenty of information available in International Living and other online resources. Join Facebook groups for locations you’re interested in.
Your goal is to find locations that match up with your profile. Places that have all or some of the things you need and want. Your ideal location is out there. You just need to find it.
How to Secure Your Residence Visa
Several countries make it quite easy for retirees to obtain visas. They have dedicated retirement programs. For example, Costa Rica has its pensionado program, which allows a person and their spouse to live there full-time. The main requirement is a guaranteed $1,000 a month in income from Social Security or a retirement fund. Belize’s Qualified Retired Persons program requires you to be over 45 years old; have $2,000+ in income from Social Security, pension, or annuity; stay in Belize 30 consecutive days annually; and pass a criminal background check. As part of the program you can import a car and/or boat tax free, as well as your household goods. You’ll be tax exempt on all income from outside Belize.
In Europe, there are also visa programs. In Portugal, for example, the Type 1 visa is available to those who have private healthcare insurance valid in Europe and sufficient funds to cover the cost of living in the country. You first receive a temporary visa, good for one year. You can renew for two years twice. Then you can convert to a permanent resident.
In Mexico, where there an estimated 1 million retirees and other expats from the United States living full or part-time (as well as a half-million Canadians), there is no designated retirement visa. But it’s quite easy to receive a temporary or permanent residence visa. For temporary residence, you need only about $1,400 a month in income to qualify—and you can bring you U.S. plated car into the country.
In many countries, getting a visa is the first step to eventual citizenship and a second passport; a process that usually takes years and could require you to learn the local language.
How to Make Money While Living Abroad
If you still need to generate an income while living abroad, you’ll have to keep in mind that most countries don’t want you to take a job from a local. And many residence visas for foreigners do not allow you to work. Besides, the salary you might make would no doubt be much lower than the U.S. anyway. That doesn’t mean you can’t make money. There are plenty of options.
1. You could work remotely with your current job.
In many jobs you essentially sit at a desk and interact with colleagues or customers via email, phone, instant message, or other online communication. Face to face time is rare. In that case why not do it from a location overseas? With high-speed internet available just about everywhere, it’s not difficult. What about meetings? You could join in via video conference with software like Skype or through a teleconference line.
2. You could work online as a freelancer.
You could take the skills you have now and start offering your services as a freelancer or consultant. You’ll be working with clients around the world online. You could even take on a new skill.
Some examples of good freelance careers include proofreading and editing, content writing for websites, copywriting (which is advertising writing), graphic design, website design, and many more. You could also be a virtual assistant, which is like being an administrative assistant but remotely—helping someone organize their business and schedule.
You find these jobs through referrals or online job sites like Upwork.
3. You could start an online business.
Again, you could take something you’re an expert on or have an interest in and transform that into a business selling products online. For example, you could sell e-books on Amazon.com, books you write or public domain works you find. You could also sell products as an affiliate, which means you advertise products on behalf of a larger company and when you make a sale you get a commission, which means you never actually have to physically ship the products or handle refunds or customer service—simple. You could also create your own digital products like guides, or videos, or online courses based on an interest expertise. These products you would sell to customers as digital downloads from your website or platforms like this.
4. You could start a brick-and-mortar business.
If you’ve always dreamed of owning a restaurant or beach bar paradise, or a clothing boutique, or an ice cream place… or any of a number of other businesses. In many countries, the cost to start and operate a business is much lower than the U.S. And there is less red tape.
5. Rent out your home.
One easy way to make an extra income, or in some cases cover all your expenses, is by renting out of your home in the U.S. short term through sites like Airbnb or long-term to renters who take out a year or multi-year lease. In this case you would have to own your home, of course. Also, it’s best to have a property manager handle bookings, check-ins, and maintenance on the property. They’ll get a cut of the rental income in exchange for their services.
How to Plan a Scouting Trip to Find Your Ideal Spot
It might be tempting to simply pick a location you’ve researched or once traveled to…and simply pick up and move there. But before you sell your home or sell most of your possessions, it pays to test the waters so to speak. There have been many people who always dreamed of living at the beach…because that’s where they’ve always vacationed. But once they stayed more than a few weeks, they discovered they didn’t like the heat and humidity…or the sand that always seemed to be getting in the house…or all the tourists.
This means an extended scouting trip to the location you’ve picked out. This is not a two-week vacation. Instead take two months…three months to really get to know a place. You’ll have to rent a home or apartment, which are usually available for affordable rates through a property management company or individual owner. You can even ask Airbnb or VRBO hosts if they’ll cut you a deal for a long-term stay.
Your job on this visit is to feel what it’s like to live in that location. You talk to locals and expats about their lives—the benefits and drawbacks of the place. You can go to expat meetups like Saturday morning breakfasts or sunset happy hours to find expats and get the scoop.
Go grocery shopping in local grocery stores and farmers’ markets—see what’s available and what the prices are. Visit local medical facilities—do they have the specialists and medications you need. You also check out the internet speed and reliability of electricity and water.
Are their local groups catering to a hobby of yours like crafting or poker? Figure out if it’s too noisy—does the local church set off fireworks every morning? Is the beach town too much of party spot? Is the quaint mountain village you dreamed of actually too sleepy? Is there enough of an expat population?
You explore different areas and neighborhoods of that location…and then travel around the region or even country to see if another spot strikes your fancy. The idea is to experience life fully there to see if you could be there full time and be comfortable. Again, this is not a vacation but it’s more like work as you really investigate this location.
If you’re wondering about how to move out of the U.S., you won’t get there overnight but this guide will help you to find the right location and gives you the tools and resources to stay there and enjoy a new life.