Put Some “Cushion” in Your Retirement Cushion

Writing for International Living over the years has inspired me to take a pretty hefty interest in all things related to retirement. And, having just celebrated my 60th birthday, that interest has sharpened.

After all, moving abroad is one of the most intriguing ways to improve your retirement situation…or to lay the groundwork for an active, interesting, and affordable retirement if, like me, you find retirement rushing at you faster than ever.

So when I found an article on the Forbes website about planning for retirement in your 50s, 60s, and 70s, it caught my eye. Like many, I figured that if you hadn’t started your retirement planning in your 20s or 30s, you’d missed the boat.

Turns out not to be the case, and I was so pleased to learn that there are ways to improve your retirement outlook, even late in the game, that I reposted the article on my Facebook page.

It also got me thinking about something I hadn’t considered before. I know for a fact that you can live well in many beautiful places around the world on much less than you can in the States and Canada. Heck, my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I literally wrote the book on it.

But…and this is a big “but”…it still costs something to live abroad. It costs something to live anywhere, and you still need that something to make retirement work, even if the spot you choose is amazingly inexpensive as compared to back home.

There’s one mistake I’ve seen people make time and time again. They read that it’s possible to live in some exotic location for $1,500 or $2,000 per month…and then they quit reading. They buy a ticket and get off the plane in a foreign country with $2,000 in their pockets and a plan to start living the high life immediately.

If they had kept reading, they’d have known that, no matter where you choose to move or retire, there will be start-up costs: rent deposits, freight charges for moving personal goods if that’s what you choose to do, fees for visa and other legal work, furniture and fixtures to buy, Internet and satellite TV hookups to pay for, and so on.

They’d also realize that, just like back home, they could encounter unforeseen expenses that seem to pop up out of nowhere—health issues they didn’t realize they had, transportation costs for getting back home in case of family emergencies or special events, and on and on.

In the excitement of moving someplace prettier and more affordable, they forget that they still need to plan…to have a cushion…to make sure they have the resources to handle the extra start-up expenses that always accompany a move anywhere…across the street or across the planet. Fortunately, these are usually one-time expenses.

Moving abroad is one of the most intriguing ways to improve your retirement situation.

But that’s why retirement planning and the need for that cushion…that something…doesn’t end with retirement or with your move to Belize or Ecuador or Spain or Malaysia. There is, in fact, an entire industry devoted to helping people do that planning, just as there are dozens of ways to continue making money after official “retirement”.

I meet with and talk to many expats, and I applaud those who can make the move and simply kick back and coast on what they’ve already managed to save and invest. But more often than not, as economies around the world change, as the boom and bust cycles come faster and faster, I find that even some of those farsighted folks are looking around for ways to get a little more “cushion” into their cushion.

The good news is, there are many ways to beef up your financial situation no matter where in the world you decide to live, even if you’re in the later stages of the game. There are a lot of positive steps you can take to hedge your retirement bets even in your 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Every positive step makes your cushion a little bigger and a little softer. And that’s the kind of cushion I’m looking forward to when I retire.

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