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Retiring abroad? Tips and tools for making an informed decision

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Dear Savvy Senior: What are the key factors to consider when contemplating retiring abroad? My husband and I will soon be retiring and are interested in moving to a country that’s cheaper and warmer than the U.S. — Looking Ahead

Dear Looking: Whatever your reasons for aspiring to retire abroad — a lower cost of living, a better climate or a desire for adventure — you need to do your homework and learn everything you can about the country you’re interested in, because it’s not an easy move. Here are some tips for making an informed decision.

Researching tools

If you’re in the decision- making process of where to retire, International and LiveAnd are two excellent websites that provide articles, information and lists of the top retirement destinations abroad based on cost of living, climate, health care, housing, visas, infrastructure and more.

Once you pick a country or two that interest you, a smart move is to talk or network with some expats who have already made the move you’re thinking about making. They can give you tips and suggestions on many issues, as well as the advantages and disadvantages and day-to-day reality of living in a particular country. Facebook is a good resource for locating expat groups.

But before committing, experts recommend visiting multiple times during different seasons to see whether you can envision yourself living there. Here are some other factors you need to look into.

>> Cost of living: Retiring abroad used to be seen as a surefire way to live large, and in many countries it still is. But depending on where you move, the U.S. dollar might not stretch as far as you think. To compare the cost of living in hundreds of cities and countries, use

>> Visa requirements: If you want to spend just part of the year living abroad or are willing to move from country to country, most countries offer a three- or six-month tourist visa, which is easy to get. But if you want to set up permanent residence abroad, you might have to jump over a few more hurdles depending on where you want to retire. To research visa requirements in the countries that interest you, visit VisaGuide.World.

>> Health care: Most U.S. health insurance companies do not provide coverage outside the U.S., and neither does Medicare. Check with the embassy (see of your destination country to see how you can be covered as a foreign resident.

Many countries provide government-sponsored health care that’s inexpensive, accessible and just as good as what you get in the States, or you might want to buy a policy through or

Also know that most people who retire abroad eventually return to the U.S., so experts recommend paying your Medicare Part B premiums. If you drop and resume Part B or delay initial enrollment, you’ll pay a 10% premium penalty for every 12-month period you weren’t enrolled.

>> Housing: Buying a home in a foreign country can be complicated, so it’s almost always better to rent first until you’re sure you want to permanently reside there.

>> Money matters: Opening or maintaining a bank account abroad can also be difficult. You might have to establish a checking account with an institution that has international reach, such as Citibank, or maintain a U.S. bank account that you can access online. Claiming your Social Security benefits, however, should not be a problem since they offer direct deposit to almost every country in the world. See payments.html.

>> Taxes: You also need to research tax rules in your prospective countries and be aware that even if you’re living in another country, as a U.S. citizen you’ll still most likely need to file an annual U.S. tax return — see

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit

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