- Saving up to enjoy your golden years can be a stressful part of late adulthood, with only one in four Americans stating they feel prepared for retirement.
- Americans looking to retire abroad have to consider numerous financial angles, like foreign housing markets, healthcare systems, and tax laws.
- We asked Americans who retired in a foreign country their best advice for saving up for an international retirement.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Saving for retirement in the US is already overwhelming enough — according to a recent survey, only one in four Americans said they felt prepared for retirement.
If you’re hoping to move abroad for your golden years, there are even more things to consider.
For instance, you’ll need to factor in getting residency and figuring out taxes in a new country, not to mention navigating a foreign healthcare system and calculating a new cost of living.
Regardless of what international destination you’re planning on spending your retirement, experts highly recommend discussing your goals with a financial planner to help you find the best options.
Here, American expats who retired abroad share 13 things they did to save for an international retirement.
Seeing a financial planner can help prepare for retirement abroad.
Ellen McGregor Kortan, 48, and Ted Kortan, 56, retired in 2015 and started traveling the world. Before, they’d lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and now run the budget travel blog EarthVagabonds.com.
"We planned to retire and travel the world as early as we could," McGregor Kortan told Business Insider in an email. "That meant saving as much money as possible for decades. We paid a certified financial planner for a one-time review of our financial situation and retirement plan while still working, and drew up a road map for the next 30 years based on savings, investments, and expected future benefits."
Finding out the country’s residency requirements in advance is crucial to a smooth transition.
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Susan Schenck, 63, formerly a resident of San Diego, moved to Cuenca, Ecuador, nine years ago with her late husband. She’s since written a book about her experience, "Expats in Cuenca, Ecuador: The Magic & The Madness."
She said to make sure to research residency requirements in advance, such as if your new country will require a minimum income.
"Here, it is only $800 a month," she said. "Also, save several thousand for your flight, initial housing, and lawyer fees to get a long-term visa."
Schenck also recommended exploring housing costs in your desired location prior to retirement, as well.
"Here in Cuenca, Ecuador, you can rent a house for as little as $400 to 800 a month, an apartment for $300 to 600, and $1,000 a month could get you a furnished penthouse," she said.
In addition to researching the cost of living and income requirements, knowing how moving to a specific country will impact your tax obligations in the US is imperative. Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub, told Business Insider in an email that some — not all — countries even offer special tax breaks or benefits for retirees.
"Retiring overseas can also affect your US tax obligations," Gonzalez said. "This is why you should seek advice from tax specialists both in the US and in the country you want to retire."
Doing trial-run vacations can help assess the cost of living abroad.
Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters
Before they retired, McGregor Kortan and her husband said they explored how to "live like locals" on vacations they took during their working years.
"Instead of all-inclusive resorts, we opted for studio apartments in mom-and-pop hotels to get an idea on how much it would cost to live abroad," McGregor Kortan said. "These trial runs were vacations, but also investments, that helped us realize we could realistically live a great life abroad for far less money than is needed to live in the US."
For example, they said the cost of living is much cheaper in many beautiful foreign countries, such as Mexico, Malaysia, and Portugal, among others.
"Our rent for a modern, centrally located, one-bedroom apartment was between $500 to $900 a month," she said. "And in some countries, it’s actually less expensive to dine out than it is to cook at home. You can get a great meal in Vietnam or Thailand for as low as $2, if you really wanted to stretch your money."
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