Boomers are Longing to Retire Overseas

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Australia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Ecuador, Belize, Nicaragua – our readers living all over the world, or planning to, shared their experiences in comments posted to a February blog, “The Ultimate Travel: Retiring Abroad.”

The article profiled a Houston couple on the verge of retiring who are systematically exploring cities that interest them in Panama and Costa Rica. Few blogs have elicited so many comments – no doubt because thoughts of retiring overseas are more fun than worrying about whether the 401(k) account has enough money in it.

The success of retiree Dennis Desmond and his wife’s relocation to Australia makes it hard to resist temptation. “The weather here is incredible, the people are fantastically friendly, and the scenery is wonderful,” Desmond said in his comment.

But the picture isn’t all roses. William Pederson wrote in his comment that he knows five couples who’ve moved overseas and returned stateside. “You get what you pay for,” he said.

Here’s more of the fun stuff, and a few downsides, from our readers:

  • Several retirees like the idea of simplifying their lives abroad, whether out of financial necessity or because developing countries are less expensive and less consumer-oriented.

    Pamela Foust and her husband have begun a search for an overseas retirement spot in Panama. “We can have a very comfortable life abroad in paradise! Being from working-class backgrounds, we know how to economize and enjoy simple lifestyles,” said Foust, a Generation-Xer. “We feel certain our future is in Latin America.”

  • Some might have heard that less developed countries are dangerous. But Mark Gall – who’s been an expat in Thailand, Cambodia, Ecuador, and Belize – suggested such warnings be “taken with a grain of salt.” Each new location has mostly been exciting for the couple, affording new opportunities to see even more countries in the area – Nicaragua is next. Gall’s experiences have been nothing less than “great.” Jaime Jerez wrote that Nicaragua “is up and coming.”
  • Several people brought up medical care, and the general opinion of those who’ve lived abroad is that the expensive U.S. healthcare system is no better – and sometimes worse – than that of less developed countries. Gall and his wife, a registered nurse, feel the medical care in Bangkok, Thailand, for example, equals U.S. care.
    Pensacola, Fla., retiree Stephen Wilson, having worked for the federal government in several countries, is “less impressed” now with U.S. health care – the first doctor his ex-wife encountered in Germany solved a chronic stomach  problem that had been treated unsuccessfully in this country.

    Quality comparisons probably depend on the country. Lonnie Julian and his wife have tried both Spain and Scotland but moved back to a mountaintop home in Tennessee. “Medical and dental are better in the USA and hospitals … are just better, and when you get old you are sure to need a doctor or nurse.”

  • Retirement abroad must be planned in advance, because it’s complicated. Tax considerations are one aspect of a big move like this. Wisely, Steph Young and her husband have been plotting a move to an island for a decade. Karen Poasa has been looking into retiring overseas for five years – and is eager to ramp up plans to move, with her husband, after she retires this month.

To read more comments and about the Houston couple planning a getaway to Panama, check out the original blog.

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Paul Brustowicz

It was hard enough convincing my wife to move from New Jersey, near the grandchildren, to South Carolina. I wouldn’t dare suggest we continue our retirement overseas, except when I feel like having a little fun.

Surprised to read about Australia for retirement. I thought Aussies had an immigration policy that was prohibitive. Good to know though since I have friends in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Dave G.

Retirement overseas is more an option for the affluent and those with amazing retiree medical benefits, which is rare these days. Keep in mind, Medicare does not cover costs for anything incurred overseas, so you’ll be out-of-pocket for all medical costs. Medicare Supplements (Medigap) plans F, G and Hi-Deductible F pay limited benefits for only emergency services if incurred within 60-days of each trip leaving the U.S. Beyond 60-days, you are responsible for all costs.

You can get coverage for U.S. citizens visiting or living overseas, but beware of limitations and/or exclusions or pre-existing conditions.


    While visiting Panama I met an American family who had lived there for years. The father told a story of his 12 year old daughter who had fallen and broken her arm in 3 places. An ambulance ride across roughly 30 miles plus 24 hours in the hospital cost them $170.00. For those type of medical treatments, out-of-pocket seems reasonable.

Warren A Flick

One important caveat about health insurance if you want to return to the U.S. after living abroad for some years—you may find supplemental insurance difficult to get. My understanding is that companies issuing those policies may take pre-existing conditions into account if you’ve had a gap in private insurance. For example, a person who retires overseas and neglects to keep supplemental insurance in effect, then gets diabetes, heart disease, etc. and decides to return to the U.S. to live out their final years near family, may find themselves in real trouble. They can get Medicare, but a new supplemental policy may be too costly. Then the person would be responsible for about 20% on average for their medical costs, which can easily be enough to break the bank here in the U.S. If someone knows this to be wrong, please write. But that’s the conclusion I came to when researching this question for a friend.

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