Early retirement, or indeed retirement at any age, can open up a whole host of new opportunities. One of these may be the chance to live in a different part of the country, or even in a different part of the world. In this post, I explore some thoughts about retiring to a different location, whether on a full time or part time basis.
This is a topic close to my heart because, out of my adult life, I've spent 17 years living away from my home country. On the one hand, I think I'm lucky that this experience has opened my mind to the potential to retire to a different location but, on the other hand, it's made things confusing because it's not easy to figure out where we will make our forever retirement home, and I can tell you that it has been a topic of conversation in our household for a long time.
There obviously isn't a "one size fits all" answer to this, but let me get the ball rolling with some thoughts. My starting point is a core of things that are important to me when considering a place to retire to:
Generally, if it's too cold, too hot, too snowy or too rainy, then it stops us doing things, and having worked hard to earn our retirement, we want to make the most of it. A bit of sunshine also makes most of us feel good, and we like to feel good. When we're a bit older, a warmer climate can help with some of the aches and pains, and avoid new ones by not having to shovel snow. A good climate therefore makes my list of important considerations for a retirement location.
Cost of Living
We all have to live within a budget, so cost of living is clearly important. For those aiming to retire young, finding your forever home in a lower cost location can make the retire early dream come true sooner, and for others it can free up some cash to ensure there is enough money to do the things you want to do. However, I'd be cautious about choosing a location just because of cost of living, the other boxes have to be ticked as well.
Family & Friends
I think this is the most important thing. Given a choice of a perfect location without good friends, or a lesser locations with great friends, then I would go for the lesser location/great friends option every time. Staying near your kids and other family can also be a draw, but at the same time they need to lead their own lives and you need to live yours - to me, it is not the be all and end all point, especially as travel can now be relatively easy (although the cost can creep up). But I do understand why proximity to family may be a deal breaker for many. It may also be something that changes over time and, as we advance in years, being closer to our family may become more important. Because we have lived quite a lot of our life away from home, we know from experience that it is friends that make a place special. Therefore, consider whether you think you will be able to make friends easily in a given location, is it remote, will language be a barrier, are there social or sports clubs that can be joined, are you the kind of person who will get out to meet new people? And worth mentioning is that it takes some time to build up a circle of friends, perhaps six months or a year, so do be prepared to be patient and don't give up if finding friends takes longer than you expected.
Obviously this won't apply in every case as many relocations are within the same country and therefore have the same language. However, if it is to a country with a different language, then you have to be able to communicate to make friends and to really settle into a community. I also think it is respectful to your host nation to learn their language, and I'm sure it will help you get so much more out of your retirement life. By the way, my language skills are a disaster, so this would be a real challenge for me!
I have touched on what I call my "purpose" in a couple of other posts. To me, this is the thing, or things, that make us excited about getting out of bed each morning. Quite possibly, in the past it would have been our work/career, or perhaps raising a family, but in retirement it is most likely something different (I guess, by definition, it is different from work/career). It may be a hobby or an interest that you plan to immerse yourself in, it could be volunteering, writing a novel, starting a blog(!), or any number of other things. So a suitable location will need to have facilities to develop the lifestyle you want, and to enable you to follow your "purpose". I think that it is worth saying that retirement isn't likely to be an extended time living as you would on vacation, and therefore the drivers for choosing a location for retirement are quite likely to be different to choosing a vacation destination.
So they are my core items. There are others that are important as well, and you may have some that you would put in place of some of mine. For example, my better half, Sally, has somewhere that is picturesque on her list of important criteria.
Things like access and cost of residency visas, cost and quality of healthcare, taxation, and in some instances access to government pension or social security schemes are very important. You will also need to check out whether the culture of the places you are considering will fit you, and does it have what you are looking for in terms of shopping, entertainment, the arts, sports etc?
If you are thinking of taking your retirement to a new location, whether somewhere else within your home country, or to a different country, then it is certainly a big decision, particularly if you haven't had a lot of experience of relocating in the past. I would certainly advise making a trial run for a year or so and seeing how it goes, do you like it, have you made friends, do you miss your old home and friends too much? I do think that the test needs to be for a substantial period, three or six months probably isn't enough to find out what you like, what you don't like, what you miss, have you made friends etc. During this time, you can rent in your new location (and rent out your old home if you wish to cover some costs). If you find that it is not for you, then you can go back to your original home, and the trial run will have been an adventure - certainly don't be embarrassed to go back to your old life if you find relocation retirement is not for you. You will have done a smart thing in testing it - kind of like it being better to have loved and lost rather than to have never loved at all.
Snowbirding, or having two places in retirement, perhaps one for the warmer months and one to escape the colder months, is another option, and one that Sally thinks we should look at. I'm not completely against the idea, but I do feel that it could be a more costly option (I wouldn't want to pack my home up every six months to rent it out, so we would have costs for two homes, but probably not the budget!), and I also wonder if you end up not making really good friends and putting down proper roots if you are only in a place part time. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has done this and has some advice on it.
So having written all of that, where am I in my own thinking? If you have been following my blog, you will know that I will be in Dubai until June 2018 (so 9 months from writing this) before heading off for a round the world trip (which you can read about here). I also want to tour North America in an RV, and we are getting a (tiny) ski apartment in the French Alps (ready in September 2018). That means that I've got some exciting times ahead visiting some different places and perhaps seeing somewhere we could retire to. I always wanted to work in North America for a while, but never got a chance, so perhaps we should look to do that (the living there bit, not the working!)? We're originally from the UK, so that is a relatively easy option, it ticks the family (although who knows where our kids will end up), friends and language boxes, but doesn't quite meet our climate or cost of living aspirations. I feel that the ski apartment in France is too small for full time living, but it could be part of our own two centre "snowbird" living? Oh dear, it seems that I'm just as confused as ever, but I do feel that we have options, which is exciting, and I think that exciting is exactly what I want my retiring young to be about.
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