After a few decades of working hard to save up money, most of us are more than ready to kick back, relax, collect our Social Security, and retire to the beautiful neighborhoods of… Latin America?
Believe it or not, heading south of the border might actually be a better plan than staying close to home. Here’s a brief roadmap covering the things you’ll need to know.
1. Understand Your Options
How close to the equator would you like to be – and how high would you like to live? These are just two of the many questions you’ll need to consider, given that they’ll have a huge impact on your daily temperatures. Latin America has plenty of options, from Colombia to Argentina, and you should do some research on each country to see which is most appealing to you.
The key thing to remember is that the cost of living is lower in Latin America. The same amount that would barely get you an apartment in some parts of the United States could get you a good-sized house in many Latin American countries.
For now, focus on estimating your annual income and comparing that to the cost of living in each country – and remember that a lower cost of living doesn’t necessarily mean a worse place to live. As a start, check out this list of dollar-value comparisons for products.
Oh, and be sure to talk with a qualified tax planner so you know how both US law and foreign laws will affect your finances. You don’t want to move just to find out that most of your money is unavailable.
2. Take A Look Around
Once you’ve settled on some options, it’s time to take a look around the country. There are two effective ways of doing this.
- First, you can take a guided tour of the country. Some companies actually have tours designed to show future retirees various places they could live, and if that works for your budget, it’s a good route to go.
- Second, you can create your own tour. The goal isn’t to just look around the capital – it’s to travel across the country, examine a number of different sites, and decide whether or not they appeal to you.
- You’ll probably want to spend at least a week in the country so you have time to acclimate to it and actually take a look around without the pressure of having to leave immediately after arriving.
3. Narrow It Down
By the time you’re done with #2, you should have a much better sense for which regions appeal to you. For example, let’s say that you like Cartagena, a port town in northwest Colombia built around a core of 16th-century colonial buildings. A combination of beach living and quaint old-world construction is excellent if you think you’d prefer a slower lifestyle, and the country’s ease of property purchase makes it fairly simple to arrange for buying (or renting) a home.
However, what really matters is what you’re going to do once you’ve narrowed your list down. Ideally, you’ll be able to pick one place that you almost certainly want to live – and that’s where you should spend a minimum of six months before buying property or selling off your American home.
This is important. The only way to truly understand what living in a Latin American country is like is to actually live there, and you shouldn’t make a major life decision like moving to another country until you’re absolutely sure that you want to stay there for good. A trip of this length means you’ll have the chance to examine their health care, see what it’s like in different seasons, and generally understand the area in a way no tour guide or magazine article can convey. You may want to work with a local real estate company at this stage of your planning – they know the market better than any foreigner and can help you find the best property for your budget.
As you can see, retiring in Latin America isn’t as hard as it looks – with a combination of low costs, high standards of living, and surprisingly modern infrastructure, looking south of the border for your retirement has never been quite as appealing as it is now.