Retire Overseas—On a Shoestring

Can't afford to stop working? If your nest egg deposits $1,500 a month into your bank account, you could live quite comfortably (even luxuriously) in these faraway places.

by Laurie Werner
retire overseas on a shoestring
Living in Granada, Nicaragua, is "like going back in time," says American expat Kathy Snyder. "And the people are so kind." A two-bedroom condo here goes for about $158,000.
Photograph: Brown Cameron III
(Public medical care is free, but many expats go private.) For $50 to $169 a month, you can buy a local insurance plan that is effective within the country.
 
> Logistics To qualify for residency, you need an address in Uruguay (property owned or rented) and outside income (such as Social Security) of at least $650 a month per person. Go to uruguay.visahq.com for details or to a local law firm specializing in immigration, such as Fischer & Schickendantz (fs.com.uy).
 
/ Belize /
Ann Kuffner, 60, and her husband, Mike Brunette, bought property on the largest of Belize's islands, Ambergris Caye, in 1999, attracted by the beautiful surroundings, the openness of the people and the sizable English-speaking expat community. Four years ago, they settled there full time. “We drive around in a golf cart, not a car, for which we pay $75 a year in insurance,” she says. “We snorkel at a reef offshore. There are great restaurants and wine tastings every week, although wine is expensive here.” They get the same TV channels as in the U.S. and have high-speed Internet access, but Kuffner misses foreign art films, Netflix and some foods. “We can't get peaches and raspberries, two of my favorites,” she says. “And people bring me Peet's decaf when they come to visit. I would die to go to a Trader Joe's.”
 
Taxing matters
>> Americans living overseas pay federal taxes on income earned anywhere in the world. But if you meet certain requirements, you may be able to exclude up to $91,500 of foreign-earned income. Laws regarding local taxes owed in host countries, as well as the details of tax treaties between the U.S. and other nations, are always changing, says Richard Mizrack, an international lawyer and tax expert with New York's Nicoletti Gonson Spinner & Owen LLP. So consult with both your U.S. tax accountant and a local tax attorney in the country you're considering. To start your research, visit the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs (travel.state.gov).
 
> Housing Ambergris, where condos currently run $150,000 to $800,000, is in the priciest part of the country. “But you can buy a house in other parts of Belize for $119,000 to $149,000,” says Kuffner, or rent a two-bedroom cottage or apartment for $1,000 a month.
 
> Medical care They carry worldwide insurance from Bupa, which costs $7,000 a year for both, with a $5,000 annual deductible. Medical care is good and constantly improving, says Kuffner. When she needed surgery for a broken hip and spent four days in a local hospital, her doctors checked on her daily (her portion of the bill totaled $4,500). For serious illnesses, some residents go to Mexican hospitals, where the care is thought to be better.
 
> Logistics Belize is the exception to our $1,500-a-month budget. The Qualified Retired Person program, for which you need to be over 45, requires you to spend at least one month a year in Belize and show monthly pension (not Social Security) income of $2,000 (for details go to belizeretirement.org).
 
/ Southern France /
Carol Artigues, 70, moved to Aix-en-Provence in 1977 after visiting an old friend who lived there. “I love it,” she says. “It's a college town where interesting events are always going on—a classical-music festival in July, a vineyard and wine-tasting fair in September. The town is connected to Paris by high-speed rail, and we get 300 days of sunshine a year. If you don't eat foie gras all the time and don't rely on restaurants, the food isn't exorbitant. You can get a couple of fish fillets for $6 to $8 at the supermarket, and the wine is cheap.” Plus, the region's charming villages and renowned landscape of olive trees, vineyards, stone farmhouses and fields of lavender are less than an hour away by car.
First Published December 7, 2011

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