Malta, our early retirement destination

Retire in MaltaThe thought of early retirement hadn’t occurred to me until 3 years ago. In my mind, you needed millions of dollars to be able to retire early. I was therefore resigned to working my retail job till l was old enough to draw social security. I had been with the same company for so many years. It just seemed like the thing to do.

The mindset changed for me after some family tragedy. I lost one of my sisters to breast and lung cancer after a very courageous fight. This was the eye opener for me. She was only 49, had never smoked, and ate right. She was two 2 years older than me, had worked all her life, had her family and it just seemed unfair for it to be taken away like that. I realized that we must seize the day and enjoy life as much as we could. At that point, l told my husband that l wanted to “retire” from work and travel. This is what we had originally said we would do, but in terms of “someday”.

We immediately set about paying down our debts and planning for the escape. I did tons of research as to places to move to. Our advantage was that he is from Rome, so we could stay anywhere in the E.U without worrying about immigration. Retirement in MaltaThe countries we considered included Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus. Italy was out of the question for him as he did not want to move back home. It was also going to be much more expensive. The others were eliminated due to the global crisis and the reluctance to learn a new language.

Malta revealed itself to us when l was reading a list of popular retirement destinations. Truthfully, l had never heard of the place. I found out it was just 50 miles from Sicily. The cost of living was lower and the best part was that English, as well as Maltese were the official languages. We came over for 3 weeks to check it out, and really liked it. Our plan was to live on the passive income from our 2 rental properties and our savings for about 5-6 years, then we will start drawing dividends from the 401k which is enough to cover our living expenses.

Upon our return to the U.S, we set about selling everything, cars, furniture etc. and put our house up for lease. We figured we would rent it for a year as that would give us enough time to see if we liked Malta. Retire in MaltaIf we didn’t we would just come back. In May of 2013, my husband and l, and our 2 rescue beagles made the trip to Malta to start a whole new phase of our lives.

Malta is a tiny island in the mediterranean. The population is about 350,000 and welcomes over a million tourists yearly. It reminds me of Italy that time forgot. The Maltese people are very warm and helpful. Life is a lot slower here. The only form of public transportation is the bus, and a day’s fare cost just €1.50. The capital is Valletta which is a UNESCO world heritage site, with it’s narrow streets and colorful Maltese windows. There is the majestic St. John’s Co-Cathedral, built for the Knights of St. John with it’s baroques architecture. The lovely view of the Grand Harbor, Senglia and Vittoriosa from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Most days, it is bursting with thousands of people as it is a port of call for major cruise lines.

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  1. It would be really helpful to know on what size nest egg you have been able to so this. We do not have any income property, but could probably rent our house for about $2,000 per month. We would also have close to $1M in 401K, IRAs and savings. Would that be enough do you think? We are mid-60s. Love that I wouldn’t have to learn another language in Malta! My husband is US citizen but has a passport from EU country as well.

  2. Hi Chris,
    Half your battle is already won with the E.U passport. Lucky! Our nest egg is practically the same as yours. You would definitely be able to make it with your holdings. If you take a look at my blog, l have a post of our cost of living here versus Houston as well as one that details groceries. Your $2000 coverts to €1450 approximately, and we spend less than that monthly. We don’t skimp on anything either, and could do it on a lot less, but we love seafood, which is more expensive here go figure (they sell their catch to Italy!!) and we insist on a Marina view :0) . Gozo is even cheaper by far.

  3. Hi there, how difficult is it for an American to obtain residency in Malta? Is work difficult to find? Especially for an American/foreigner? For an American, is it best to have an International healthcare plan? Do you need to have proof of income coming in or set-up a company in order to stay any significant length of time? Do you have any idea if home school is allowed in Malta and/or are Americans allowed to attend local schools? I have an 11 year old girl that I want to let her see the world…but of course, her education is important. Travel to me is the best education unfortunately, she will need a bit more to become a doctor! Her father passed away suddenly last year and I am feeling similarly to the way you expressed with the loss of your sister. Ironically, death has a way of showing us how important life is. Thanks for your article and what is your blog address, please? Thanks again, Jenifer

  4. Hi Jenifer, I am sorry about your loss. It must have been very hard. You’re right that death sometimes wakes us up. I will try and answer your questions best as l can:
    It is difficult to find a job here, unless you’re specialized. Nurses and IT seem to be where the money is at. Online gambling is very big here and it pays well. You would have to have a job lined up, and they would apply for your work permit. This would give you access to the health care. Linkedin would be a great place to start. Some work as English teachers, but the pay is not great.
    Home schooling is not allowed. She could attend public school as well.

    If you choose the retiree way, you need to show enough to support yourself for a year to get the residency. The amount has to be at least €14,000 or so to prove that you would not be a burden to the country. Private insurance is cheap to get, like €300-800 per year for 2 based on level of care. We pay €488 for our ages (49 and 42) for the year. Private hospital care with oncology included. Our residency was approved for 5 years, but l think with work, it depends on the length of the contract.
    Cost of living is cheap, but so are the wages. It takes months to find jobs. I hope this helps a little. My blog address is listed in my bio. Thanks and good luck.

  5. Hi K! It was good to find your blog regarding retiring. We live in Norway and have 2 grownup girls. One is married and the other is not. Soon we will be having 2 grandchildren. Your blog is very informative and looking forward to emailing you for any questions. We are 59,58 yrs old repectively and I am on the look out for places to retire n Malta is one of them as recommended by my eldest daughter who was there for a 1 week vacation with her friends. She said no problem with language since it is English and there are a lots of Catholic churches in every corner just like in the Philippines.

  6. Hello, hope you are still answering questions. Can you explain the taxation on income? We are retirees. We would meet the annual income requirements. Are we taxed on that in Malta plus the US? I think by what I’ve been reading, we could get a residency visa that is renewable. We are looking at living there for maybe 5 years. I also understand that we need to get private medical insurance. Is that a policy that we buy in Malta? Do you know of any other resources I can consult about living there? Thanks for any info or resources you can give us.

  7. Hi Marilyn,
    Happy to help :-). The annual requirement has been increased to l believe €23,500 or thereabouts recently. You will not be taxed in the U.S because they have an agreement with Malta and are exempt from paying U.S taxes up to $101,000 (it might be a thousand more) of income. You would pay the taxes in Malta. If the amount is less than €12,000 of income (please double check once there as it might have increased), you don’t pay any taxes at all which is good. The residency is renewable. You buy the private insurance in Malta, and it’s super cheap, about €40-50 per person monthly. I was in the ER at private hospital and my bill came to €35 without insurance and excellent care. I have some posts on Malta on my website (cost of living etc) and have an ebook on Amazon on how to settle quickly once there (cable, banking etc). I hope this helps.

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