Costa Rica Ex-Pat

You Want to Be An Ex-Pat? Retiring Overseas Musts

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Many folks who are approaching retirement are looking for the best places to live when they retire.

Healthcare, housing, entertainment and food can be significantly less in other countries. Many folks need several months to plan for this transition. It can get complicated depending on where you want to live. But many countries are interested in attracting US Retirees and are making it easier for folks to make the move.

Can a US Citizen Retire Abroad?

The short answer is yes! Any US citizen has the right to leave the US and reside in any country that will allow them to.

Retiring abroad is becoming increasingly popular with retirees who would otherwise struggle to make ends meet if they remained in the United States. Many seniors are learning that they can live off of their social security alone when living outside the US.

Most countries allow US citizens to reside there but that does not necessarily mean you will want to live in just any of them. You will want to narrow the list after investigating political and cultural concerns.

Ex-Pat Retirement

An American can typically stay in any country for 90 days with only a passport.

However, if you want to stay longer, you will want to know the requirements to stay before you leave. May countries have a minimum income requirement and require you to carry your own health insurance.

Once you decide on your country you can go to the US Department of State website and research information on that specific country.

What Are The Best Countries That Welcome US Retirees?

When looking to move to another country there are several things you will want to take into consideration. For me, my number one concern would be government stability in the country I am looking at as well as the government of the surrounding nation. This is one reason I would also not move all of my money out of the US.

If there is an unstable government your money could be devalued very quickly in a crisis.


With the world becoming increasingly smaller, Americans are heading out much further than they used to. Asia is becoming more and more popular. With an incredibly low cost of living it is quickly becoming a hot spot for more Ex-Pats to consider. But they still have not caught up to some of the other countries in popularity. In my book, Retiring With Purpose, I go over what to look for when deciding where to retire.

300*250 vacation with your friends

There are 10 categories you should use to consider other countries to live in:

  1. Housing: Is the housing more affordable when you consider all the costs of living in this region?
  2. Discounts and benefits for seniors: Look for tax and medical exemptions for seniors.
  3. Cost of living: Are food, utilities, and other daily expenses higher or lower than what you currently pay?
  4. Ease of entry, visas, and work permits: Is the country receptive to United States ex-pats coming to the area?
  5. Quality of healthcare: Is there quality health care with advanced equipment for seniors?
  6. Entertainment: Is there safe and inexpensive entertainment available?
  7. Climate: Is the climate mild or severe? Does it suit your hobbies?
  8. Stability of the government: Is there widespread corruption or unrest in any parts of the region?
  9. Assimilation: Are locals open to United States ex-pats moving there? Are you open to local customs?
  10. Language barriers: Are you willing to learn the language? Are there English-speaking people around to help you get by until you pick up the language?

South America and Western Europe are still the most popular spots for retirees who are looking for the best of the best. Costa Rica and Panama have become a little too popular for some and the cost of real estate has become too high. Many, soon to be retirees, are looking at Ecuador as an option in South America. South and Central America have been very popular with seniors who are looking to live a luxury lifestyle on a Social Security budget.

  1. Portugal
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Spain
  4. Czech Republic
  5. Panama
  6. Mexico
  7. Ecuador
  8. France
  9. Malaysia
  10. Thailand

Healthcare Concerns for Ex-Pats

Healthcare, when you are living outside of the US, can be a serious concern for Ex-Pats. Many folks choose private insurance so they can have access to private hospitals. Most private hospitals have English-speaking staff so Americans feel more comfortable.

The good news is that insurance and even medical costs can be significantly less than when you are living in the US. The bad news is the health care might not be of the same quality as the US. But there are some great spots to retire that offer medical services that are superior even to the US and cost significantly less than our health care system.

Here are the top 5 countries to retire to when looking for the best healthcare.

  1. Portugal
  2. Spain
  3. Colombia
  4. Panama
  5. Costa Rica

Even though you may not have health concerns right now, this is something that can change as we age. It is important to make this an important part of your decision.

Banking While Living In a Foreign Country

It is recommended that you have a local bank to pay your bills. Exchange rates may be a factor in your budget so you will want to make sure you have enough to get your through if there is instability in the market. You will want to look into those country’s rules and regulations before you move to make sure you have an easy transition.

If you want to keep an account in the US, you will typically need a physical address within the bank’s footprint. You can see if they offer an international account that will allow you not to have a US address or ask a trusted family member or friend in the US to use their address. With robust online platforms, this is becoming less of an issue.

If you intend to keep a bank account in the US then you will want to make sure you find a fee-friendly account that will allow for free international transfers and ATM withdrawals. Many banks will offer fee reimbursement if your account has maintained the required minimum balance.

Top 3 Banks For Ex-Pats

When looking for a bank you may want to consider a bank that has ATM’s all over the world. This will help to keep fees at a minimum.

  • CitiBank – Offers offices and has its ATM Network in 40 countries.
  • Capital One – Offers an interest-bearing checking account with no foreign fees.
  • HSBC – Offers banking in 64 countries.

Tax Concerns for Ex-Pats

Single filers under 65 have a gross income that is at least $12,200, will need to file a tax return with the IRS. If you have assets over $10,000, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, also known as FATCA, will let the U.S. government know you have assets in an overseas financial institution by their U.S. account holders or be subject to withholding on qualified payments. The HIRE Act also contained legislation requiring U.S. persons to report, depending on the value, their foreign financial accounts and foreign assets.

It is important that you stay on top of US Tax Code if you are considering moving money out of the US or even earning a decent income. Often the Foreign Tax Credit or FTC will help when it comes to the tax bill but things can change with each new political season.

The Language Barrier

Having to learn a language has pros and cons. The blessing is that you are learning something new. Learning a new language is one of the best ways to help our brains sharp as we age.

On the flip side, not everyone where you move may appreciate your lack of language skills. For example, the French are notorious for only wanting to converse in their own language and take a dim view of people who do not speak their language well. Many countries, like Panama and Costa Rica, are more accommodating, though.

Limon Costa Rica

Wrap Up!

The bottom line is that you have so many great options for retirement when you are considering becoming an Ex-Pat.

The key is not to make permanent decisions too soon. Taking an extended vacation first and then renting when you make the jump, makes it a lot easier to come back to the US if you change your mind.

The most important thing is to take your time doing your research. Joining Ex-Pat forums and groups on social media can put you in contact with folks who are already living the life … outside the US!

Be sure to watch our tour of the Tortuguero Canals in Costa Rica!

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