Monday, January 31, 2011

Retiring Abroad: Some Thoughts From Experience

             White sanded beaches.  Exotic, friendly neighbors. A low cost of living. If all of these pictures occasionally dance into your daydreams, then retiring abroad might be something for you to consider. Since I am , as the title of this blog would suggest, retired ,and also living abroad, I’ll spend today’s blog relating some thoughts on the pros and cons of retiring abroad.

                                          Be Informed
                   Just the facts mam. Some of you may remember that request from Sgt Joe Friday on the old Dragnet television series. Knowing the facts is essential if you are going to make a wise choice on whether to retire abroad and where to retire if you decide to do so. Fortunately the internet gives today’s researcher an incalculable resource for investigating retiring abroad. Of course not all information is equally valuable or accurate, so as always on the internet, remember “caveat emptor”. However, I will mention some of the sites I have found to be most credible.

                   One of those valuable sites is http://www.retire-abroad,org. This site contains a plethora of articles from expatriates from the U.S. and other countries, discussing their experiences. Another valuable website is The information here is oriented toward senior citizens retiring abroad, but also gives links to many other retirement abroad forums. Since I am personally living in the Philippines I will mention a couple of websites and forums that are Philippines specific, but provide insight about expatriate life that can be generalized for other countries, especially developing countries. The first such site is This is a web magazine run by an American who lives in Mindanao in the Philippines and is well organized and balanced. A second Philippine oriented site is This was not a misprint, the only difference in the domain title of the two sites is the ing. This is the oldest of the sites and gives useful information, though occasionally views life in the tropics through rose colored lens.


                      Life in a warm tropical climate probably sounds awfully appealing to any of you shivering in sub freezing temperature. I have to admit that knowing I’ll be nice and warm, makes getting out of
bed each morning here in the Philippines much easier . On the other hand as the day wears on and the heat and humidity take their inexorable toll,  I start thinking some cool weather would not be so insufferable.  (Notice I wrote “cool” not “cold’’).  If you like the four seasons you need to keep in mind that in the warm  balmy tropics you only have two seasons, rainy and dry and both are warm. Deciding what type of climate you prefer is a key question in determining where and if you want to leave the  climate in the U.S. you are currently accustomed to.    


                              Cost Of Living

                     I enjoy playing a game occasionally where I ask my friends and acquaintances “ if you had unlimited resources and could retire and live anywhere in the world, where would that anywhere be?  ( My choices are San Diego and Hawaii but I’m open to new options) Well, in the real world most of us don’t have unlimited resources so we have to take into account the cost of living. There are some countries where a person can retire on a social security,  or a  military pension alone and not work at all , at least for a salary. These countries are usually in the developing world and three countries that are often mentioned are  Panama , the Philippines and Thailand. I know some Americans who are living in the Philippines or Thailand with their families for as little as 1,200 U.S. dollars. My own opinion is that if you live in the provinces or small towns you could probably do fine on 2000  U.S. dollars, but if you lived in the cities such as Manila, Bangkok, or Panama City you would need about 2,500 U.S. dollars. This would also depend on lifestyle choices  such as how many American foods do you feel you couldn’t live without ( they are more expensive because they have to by imported) and  how often you feel the need to travel back to the U,S, to visit family and friends. Airfare from a Pacific area country could cost as much as 1,200 U.S. dollars while flying from Mexico or Panama City would of course be much less expensive.


                  I have found one of the more  surprising  and stressful factors in living outside of the United States  for me is the frustration of not understanding what is being said around me. I find this limit’s the  experience of living abroad because I can’t communicate with as many people and they also are not comfortable in communicating with me in English.  ( I actually have learned a lot of Bisayan words, the language spoken in the part of the Philippines where I reside , but the combination of my age, the idiomatic expressions of   any language, and my  trained in Texas tongue, keeping up with conversations is a huge obstacle)  and so my advice is to try and learn the language of the country you would like to retire in ; my own personal belief is that some people have a natural skill at learning language like some people can naturally hit a jump shot) or retire to a country that has a low cost of living and speaks English. Belize comes to mind.

                     Summing Up




Steve Sovie said...

I read your comments about not understanding the language in the Phillippines. I retired in Penang, Malaysia, where English is widely spoken. The other languages spoken here are Hokkien, Cantonese, Malay and Tamil. When I first moved here I thought I would try to learn one of the local languages. I gave up on that idea because I couldn't decide which one to learn and I had no problem being understood.

JKeelan said...

I am very interested to learn about these options. This is an option alot of teachers forget.
Thanks for stating the pros and cons. I can't wait to look at these places!

rich said...


Thanks for checking in. Yes I agree that not many teachers have considered the retiring abroad option Are you considering it. Do you also have a blog.