Wealth Management Blog

The Ins and Outs of Retiring Abroad

By JJ Burns

February 6, 2019

Your 60s are a unique time. You're on the home stretch of your professional life, your kids are likely grown, and in the back of your head, you're probably asking yourself what it is you want out of your retirement. But in the run-up to your golden years, finding time to catch your breath and really dive deep into the big questions isn't always easy. Work, family and social obligations have a way of keeping us perpetually busy—giving us the perfect excuse to put off retirement planning.

We don't have to tell you that time goes fast, and if you aren't prepared, retirement could very well sneak up on you. The good news here is that a little planning can go a very long way when it comes to crafting the retirement of your dreams. Of course, it all begins with one very important question: What do you really want to do once you retire?

What Does Retirement Mean to You?

This is a very personal question. For some, it may mean finally embracing a slower lifestyle where you have the time to dig into your hobbies and do as you please. For others, this stage of life is more about exploring new adventures and finally experiencing bucket-list dreams. Whether you prefer to take up rock climbing, big game fishing or work on your garden, being a happy, fulfilled retiree depends heavily on one important factor—planning ahead. 

It all begins, of course, with you. Take a minute for yourself, close your eyes, and envision your ideal retirement scenario. What does it look like? What is it that's going to feed your sense of fulfillment and emotional well-being? These are big questions, so really settle into this exercise.

For more and more people, retiring abroad has been a game changer. There's no shortage of beautiful locales that boast inexpensive, quality health care and low housing costs. Put those things together and it's easy to see why a whopping 3.3 million Americans are skipping Florida and opting for an out-of-the-box retirement destination instead.

How to Plan to Retire Abroad

In some ways, planning to retire abroad isn't all that different from retiring in your hometown. Both require getting a firm grasp on two ever-important factors: Your income and your expenses. The first one goes beyond your nest egg, covering everything from Social Security benefits to pensions to passive income streams like rental properties. This amount isn't really contingent on your location as the numbers will be the same whether you're in Fort Lauderdale or Belize.

It's your expenses that really tip the scales. Coming in on top is usually housing and health care, both of which can be significantly cheaper outside of the United States, depending on where you go. While the average American homeowner spends $1,443 per month on housing alone, expats can live a life of luxury in dreamy Granada, Spain—soaking up five-star cuisine, rich culture, and unbelievable natural beauty—for just $2,500 a month. Health care is also top notch.

So how can Baby Boomers get there? The journey begins with having a candid conversation with an experienced wealth advisor who understands your values, goals and financial position. Together, you can craft a plan that's tailored to you, and then begin taking steps to get there. As the old saying goes: Inch by inch, life's a cinch.

In other words, the best time to start making a roadmap for retirement is always now. This is especially true for folks looking to retire abroad or live in multiple countries during retirement. Planning ahead means thinking about what you'll do with your stateside properties, how an expat lifestyle will affect your taxes, and zeroing in on the destinations that tug at your heart the most.

After working your whole life, retirement is an opportunity to live a life that's in alignment with your greatest desires. The problem is that it's dangerously easy for the busyness of everyday life to derail our efforts to clarify those desires and bring them to life. At JJ Burns & Company, helping people achieve the retirement of their dreams is perhaps the biggest perk of the job—a little bit of forethought and accountability is all it takes.