Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Retire Overseas by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord has lived and worked overseas for over two decades, beginning in Ireland, then on to Paris, France, and most recently in Panama. Although there is a lot of good information about living as a retiree or pensioner abroad, the title is a little misnamed, as almost all of its content would apply to anyone wishing to live abroad for extended periods of time.

Most countries, as you'll learn in this book, limit your stay on a tourist visa to six months maximum, so if you want to live in a particular country longer than that, you'll have to apply for legal resident status, which Peddicord discusses extensively. She also covers thoroughly how to find a place to live, and the pros and cons of renting vs buying vs building or remodeling overseas.

I think the most important takeaway from all of this is that we, as Americans, have to realize that almost everything we take for granted here can very well be different overseas. This includes things like buying real estate, setting up a bank account - simple here in the U.S., but akin to attaining a security clearance most other places in the world - getting utilities, phone and Internet connections hooked up, and just getting around the area in your new home.

She talks about the "manana" factor a bit towards the end of the book. Here in the U.S., we tend to expect - and get - businesses and people to do what they say they will do, on time, and in accordance with the prepared cost estimate. Most other cultures around the world, for various reasons, are a bit more relaxed about things, and very few projects actually go according to plan or schedule.

There is an extensive middle section of the book where she describes in great detail some of her top picks for overseas livings, based on factors such as affordability, culture, climate, quality of health care, education for dependents, accessibility from the U.S., and special benefits available for expat retirees. If you already have a vague idea of somewhere you want to visit extensively, grab a  locale in the same area from this book, and pick Mrs. Peddicord's brain.

I think one of the best things in this book is a section on the decision making process that leads to moving overseas in the first place - some questions to ask yourself ...and your spouse. They'll determine, first, the particular locations that would make you happy, and second, whether you should move overseas at all.

A sample from this list:

  • Do you enjoy a change of seasons?
  • Do you need regular sunshine?
  • Do you mind rain?
  • Can you handle heat? Humidity?
  • Do you lose your cool if you can't send an e-mail the first time, every time you try?
  • Would you mind living on a dirt road?
  • Would you mind your road access being temporarily cut off during the rainy season?
  • Do you need American television?
  • Would you be comfortable owning a car and driving yourself around in a new country?
  • Would you be unhappy without your favorite comfort foods?
  • Do you have children or grandchildren you want to see regularly?
  • Do you speak a second language? Are you terrified at the idea of learning one?
  • What's your favorite thing to do on a Friday night?
  • What would you like to see from your bedroom window? The ocean? A mountainside covered with wildflowers? A vineyard? A busy street scene?
  • Have you spent much time outside the United States?
  • From where will you derive your income in retirement?
This is a great book, really makes you think about things, and gets down to brass tacks about a subject that seems, for most of us, castles in the sky.

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