Retiring Abroad – What Does It Take?

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama” –The Beach Boys


Retire in BelizeIn conversations about retirement, moving overseas is always a hot topic. The ocean is always bluer on the other side of the equator. We all know or have heard of the wonderful places, the low cost of living, and the incredible experience of moving to an exotic land. But, what is the reality of making an international move. What does it take? Do you just show up? Is it as easy and as great as it seems?


Let’s get a realistic look at what you need to do to live in the top retirement locations or become a legal resident. What kind of lifestyle would you like to have? There are the sunny, sandy beach communities, towns in the mountains, big city life. Which is for you?


For some a warm tropical climate, walks on the beach with palm trees, and the smell of salt air is their dream spot. For others a mountain location with a cooler climate and less humidity may be right. You might like the fast pace and the hustle of a big city with all the conveniences that come with it. You don’t have to give up your dream of having those things. It’s all out there. You just have to find the right locale for you and your budget.


There are several countries that welcome retirees and do their best to make coming to their shores attractive and inexpensive. Both Panama and Ecuador have incredible discounts for retirees. They want you. They want American dollars to boost their economy, and they make it easy for the retiree to get long-term or permanent visas.


The discussion below is not intended to be exhaustive by any means, but just a brief overview of the most popular retirement destinations.


Retire in EcuadorRemember, countries are large and individual places within a country will be very different. Think about someone moving to the United States. What would you tell them it was like? Like the beaches in California, the intensity of New York, or the slow southern tempo of Kentucky?


There are general requirements for moving overseas and those specific to individual countries.


Visa Requirements


For each country you may consider relocating to, there are basic visa requirements that you must provide. You will need:


  • Visa application
  • Visa fee
  • Passport photos
  • Current Passport-good for six months
  • Health certificate
  • Criminal background check


All documents will have to be validated by a government agency and notarized. There may be additional legal or translation fees required to process your application.


Financial Requirements


Each country will then have its own financial requirements. The most popular locations with a low cost of living are listed below. I will caution you that information on the Internet can be incorrect and outdated. It is best to get your information directly from the embassy or consulate for the country you choose. Requirements change frequently as does the process involved.


Panama, in Central America, is currently the #1 country in the world for attracting retirees, with a generous discount program for pensionados and a modest income requirement. Retire in PanamaYou must prove an income of $500 per month for an individual or $600 per couple from a government or corporate source for a long term visa. There is no deposit required to live in Panama. While the length of the visa is indefinite, you do need to prove annually that you have the necessary income to remain in the country. The Turista Pensionado is the best option for those collecting Social Security or a pension. Contact the embassy for the most up-to-date information.


Discounts are available for just about everything: transportation, entertainment, restaurants, utilities, hospital visits, medical and dental care as well as prescriptions. They range between 15 and 50 percent for retirees and make living here much less expensive.


Ecuador, a South American country, is also a popular retirement destination. It boasts an attractive discount program similar to those offered in Panama. One additional feature is that retirees never have to wait in line. You automatically go to the front.


For immigration purposes for Ecuador you must apply for the Pension Visa and prove an income of at least $800 per month. There is no deposit necessary.


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  1. We decided not to retire to another country (though we considered it), but we did move to a warmer state, Texas from Iowa. And our annual month living on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, is still a treasured tradition.

  2. Hi Rhonda, Sounds like a good move for you. Living abroad is not for everybody. You found your fun in the sun without going to far. Have a great time in Mexico. Donna

  3. Don from Melbourne

    May 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you so much for this truly excellent article. I am a newcomer to this site, and I have greatly enjoyed what you have written. Sensibly presented, intelligent advice. So rare nowadays on the ‘net, a joy to read when I can find it.
    You and Gordon Kinghorn are, to me, the two best writers on this site. Long may you continue to entertain and inform us with your advice and wisdom.
    Best regards,
    DON from Melbourne

    Now in Surabaya, Indonesia, to Penang, Taiping and Ipoh, Malaysia in June, to Brunei in September, then home to Australia for two months, then I’ll start again and do it all over! Being 67 is the best.

  4. Hi Don,

    67 sounds fabulous. Do you write about your adventures? I’m sure you have plenty with those locations on the horizon. I’d love to hear about them. I hope you have a wonderful time. Melbourne is pretty nice too.

    Thanks very much for your kind words about the article. It’s nice to hear and I’m glad it was helpful.

    All the best, Donna

  5. Heard You on the radio with Josh today 12/26/2015 , I have a question about social security and whether to file and suspend my benefits ?

    Husband ( me ) age 69 started collecting SS at age 62 current receiving $ 1,788
    Wife age 67 started receiving SS at age 62 current receiving $ 1,177
    Note : net amount after medicare A and B

  6. I have enjoyed these writings and look for more. My wife and I are thinking of Thailand or Penang a a retirement spot. What say you? I have lived and worked in six countries already from Scotland to Singapore and we both love the heat and palm trees and little brown bodies running around. So we are happy! We would love to hear from others who have been there and done it.
    Jay and Di

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