Considering retiring overseas?

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There are a number of countries vying to import a share of Australian self- funded retirees’ disposable incomes. At the same time there are many retirees looking for ways to make their retirement funds stretch further, while enjoying the fulfilling lifestyle they’ve worked for. So retiring to a country where the cost of living is less, makes good mutual sense – on the surface.

However, what do you need to consider before taking an extended holiday, or long term residency, overseas?

A bigger lifestyle. Why wouldn’t you?

Destinations in South East Asia offer a bigger lifestyle for considerably less day to day living expenses. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s published figures on the cost of retirement for a modest lifestyle in Australia for couples (that are also home owners) is $653 per week. $650 can stretch a long way in countries such as Bali where a couple can enjoy a three course meal each at a mid-range restaurant and go to the cinema afterwards for AUD35 versus AUD100 in Melbourne! (Ref:

Others may be yearning to immerse themselves back in what they fondly recall of the culture of their European, Middle Eastern, South American or other exotically located birthplace, and be closer to extended relatives.

Choosing to leave behind family, friends, familiarity and the security that comes with that, is a life altering decision. It’s a decision that must be supported by detailed and careful research – your insurance against choosing a pathway to a lesser lifestyle when you deserve more.  Here are the top three priorities that we recommend you consider and research thoroughly:

Safety and security

Unless you’ve already established trusted connections in the region you’re thinking of relocating to, your personal security and safety may be an unknown until you spend time living in the area. Make sure you invest time researching lifestyle factors that can have a direct impact on your personal security and safety such as crime rates, infrastructure and building regulations, standards and associated safety records, public transport and traffic safety.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) does publish crime statistics that are readily available online. However, it is important to exercise caution in interpreting these per se, as legal definitions and reporting can differ greatly from country to country.  Your ideal source of information is from a local, or someone that you know that has made the destination a longer term stay.

It is also important to understand the history of, and current, political and civil tensions within the country you are thinking of retiring to. What could an escalation of political tension mean to your lifestyle, aligned with what you value most?

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides up to date summaries on the political conditions around the globe.

Prolonged absence from loved ones

The promise of a resort style lifestyle, tropical holiday climate and even paid home help at a very affordable cost, is enticing. But are you genuinely prepared for the reality of being removed from family and friends? Regular video calls is of course an option, provided you’re living in an area with reliable data transfer speeds. If spending the holiday season together is something you value, can you afford to head back to Australia each year for a family Christmas?

On the other hand, your family and friends may welcome an excuse to come and stay with you in your new digs.

Importantly, if you are making the decision as a couple, what happens if you lose your life partner – to a marriage breakdown or death? Would you want to be living where you’re dreaming of, solo?

Access to quality health care

The quality of health care in areas like South East Asia is improving, meeting the demands of international tourists and residents. But is it comparable to Australian health care? If you had to call an ambulance at 2am, do you know what to expect?

If you’re 65, fit and healthy, access to quality health care may not be a concern to you right now. If you’re planning on long term residency, quality health care will become a high priority as you age.

Ensure to look into and compare International Health Insurance, and factor the cost into your retirement budget. Medicare benefits are not available for treatment you receive overseas.

Other considerations to factor into deciding on your retirement lifestyle

Here is a list of other considerations you’ll need to look into before packing up and heading overseas for a long term stay:

  • What is available in terms of supporting aged care needs?
  • What is involved in ‘exporting’ my household furniture and goods to my new overseas destination?
  • What are the long term residency pre-requisites? For example, do I need to purchase local real estate? Do I need to pay an upfront visa cost?
  • What are the pension, superannuation and tax impacts and considerations of relocating overseas?
  • What are the language and cultural nuances that I may need to learn and understand to make living there easier, and maximise my freedom?
  • What if I don’t like it, and want to come back to Australia?

This article isn’t to deter you. If you’re an adventurer at heart, and you’ve weighed up the pros and cons thoroughly, then go for it! Just make sure that you make a well informed decision so you can make the most of your later years.

Helpful resources about retiring overseas publishes an annual global retirement index. The index is based on important considerations such as the cost of daily living and government regulations.

Australian Government’s Human Services advice on Australians overseas and impacts on health care and Government payment benefits. advice on where to live overseas and the considerations.

Malaysia targets Australian retirees to boost economy, an article on the pros and cons of retiring on a Malaysia long term residency visa.

This article first appeared on the blog for Retirement Communities Australia a leading manager of Retirement Villages in Melbourne.

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