Retirement abroad: Cheap but different
Nothing sudden or permanent
When it comes to real estate, move slow, if you move at all.
"Rent for at least a year," says Knorr. Not only will it give you a chance to "get the lay of the land," she says. But "in most countries outside the U.S., people tend to rent rather than own, anyway."
Golson takes that advice a step further. "Rent, don't buy," he advises. "Not only rent before you buy," he says, "but rent instead of buying. People get off an airplane and have stars in their eyes," he says. "They make a large purchase the way they never would in the U.S." In addition, he says, a good number of the Internet sites that provide relocating information to retirees are focused on selling local real estate.
Local laws may be very different from those at home. Some countries make buying or bequeathing property very easy, while others may decree that at a resident's death, everything reverts to the state, says Barbara Corcoran, author of "Nextville: Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life." So it pays to do your homework. Or you might be able to swap homes with a local, says Corcoran. "It's a very comfortable way to get beyond the tourist image of an area and actually live there," she says.
Don't forget health care
No one plans to get sick or have an accident. But what kind of facilities will your host city or town offer?
"There are certain pockets in certain countries that are well-known for good medical care," says Knorr. Mexico, for instance, "has excellent medical care around the big cities," says Golson. "But there is a certain risk if you're going to live up in the hills."
"A lot of countries have medical facilities where people are trained in the U.S.," says Knorr. Others don't. Locals and embassies can be good sources of information on local care, costs and access, she says.
You also want to look at the cost of medical care for a foreigner in the country.
Medicare won't cover medical costs if you're living outside the U.S. So find out if you'll have to pay for care out-of-pocket. Some countries make low-cost insurance available to foreign residents. Especially in Central America, "various countries welcome retirees, because retirees bring in dollars from the U.S.," says Knorr. In other cases, you may have to purchase an individual policy or set aside money to pay out-of-pocket.
But don't drop your U.S. medical coverage, either. "If you think you will ever come back to the U.S., you have to maintain health care coverage (here) or you will be stuck," says Knorr.