Retiring Abroad – What Does It Take?


Mexico, our nearest neighbor to the south, has long been a retirement destination for many Americans. Retire in MexicoTo immigrate, you must first apply for a Temporary Resident Visa. The Temporary Resident Visa lasts up to four years. According to the Consulate, you must prove $2,000 tax-free income per month or an average balance of bank accounts and investments of $95,892 over the past 12 months. After the four-year period, you can then apply for a Permanent Resident Visa. For this you need an income of $2,500 per month or a balance of $119,865 for the past 12 months.


Belize is a small country on the Caribbean just south of Mexico. The Qualified Retired Persons Visa (QRP) is a long-term visa available to those who can prove an income of $2,000 or more per month.


Nicaragua, a Central American country, which has both a Pacific and Caribbean Coast, requires an income of just $600 per month and is working hard to compete in the arena for the attention of retirees.


The Philippines is a South Pacific country made up of over 7,000 islands with an SRRV or Special Resident Retiree Visa, the most appropriate for American retirees. This visa requires proof of $800 monthly income or $1,000 for a couple and does require a $10,000 deposit. If you do not have a verifiable income, you can still obtain this visa, but the deposit requirement goes up to $20,000.


Malaysia is a South Pacific nation that is connected to the mainland of Southeast Asia by Thailand. This is known as West Malaysia. Another section located on the northern side of the island of Borneo is called East Malaysia. Retire in ThailandThe two are separated by the China Sea. Malaysia offers the MM2H, Malaysia My Second home, visa. This is a ten-year renewable visa. A deposit of $45,878 is required along with a monthly income of $3,058 (at today’s conversion rate).


Thailand in Southeast Asia has long been a popular retirement destination. It offers the Non-Immigrant Long Stay visa, which allows you to stay for one year. After that you must reapply, and an extension may be granted. A verifiable income of about $2,015 per month is required or a deposit of $24,800.


As we have seen, income requirements vary a great deal. Some are very low at $500 per month, and others are over $3,000 per month. Deposits can be high or not needed at all. Your income and the type of environment you want to live in will help determine which place is right for you.


General Attributes


One of the things that all of these countries have in common is that they are in a warm climate—some warmer than others—but they are all closer to the equator than we are. It is also generally true that the cities will be more expensive, though the further away you get, the lower the cost of living. Also, the closer you are to the metropolitan centers, the better the services will be.


Most of these countries are continually upgrading their infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of immigrants—and yes, you will be an immigrant—but some are further along than others. As a general rule, medical care, utilities, water, Internet connections, and cell coverage will vary the farther away you get from the city. The more remote the location, the less reliable the services are. If you need the Internet or a cell phone to conduct business while abroad, you’d want to make sure you have what you need before making the move.


Road conditions are also something to consider: though they are improving all the time, the existence and maintenance of roads is a major factor. If you like to travel and explore, this may be something you want to think about and investigate.


Retire in NicaraguaYou may also want to consider the distance you live from a good hospital and how long it will take for you to get there in an emergency. It’s not fun to imagine traveling on a bumpy road when you are sick or hurt.


Language can be a fun factor. In general, more English is spoken in the city than in the rural areas, unless you are in an area with a large expat community. It is always easier, and you will acclimate better if you speak at least a little of the local language. You’ll be able to communicate with your neighbors and handle situations better. You’ll be more engaged in your community and have better relationships. Another perk is that learning a language is one of the best things to do to keep your mind sharp, and we could all use that—so start creating those new pathways in the brain.


Shopping is another thought. Many cities cater to the expat communities and import things you are used to. Merchants want to keep you happy, so they import foods and products that you like. This may not be true in more rural areas.


We all need to remember that we live in a highly efficient country. Things here work. That is not always the case elsewhere. Electricity, water, phone service, etc. may all be subject to outages or spotty service.


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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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