Here are the Top 10 Mistakes International Retirees Make.
Buying Real Estate Too Soon
You should live in a foreign country at least 2 years before buying real estate. That means that you already live there for two years before you think about buying real estate. If you think about the times you bought real estate in your home country, it is when you knew the neighborhood, you knew how much the houses all around you sold for. You knew what they sold for in the neighborhood you grew up in. You didn’t buy a place before you moved there when you didn’t know anything about the place or the neighborhood. You didn’t buy it after going to visit for two weeks either.
Why then, when you are moving to a new country where you have no comfort with the laws, why would you buy real estate right away?
Do not buy real estate for the first year or two. That’s the number one mistake new international retirees make when they move to a new country for the first time. It is easy to get into this mess, but very hard to get out of it. Everyone’s going to tell you how it’s such a great deal, you need to buy right now. “It’s going to double in the next year or two!” But it’s a lot easier to get into a mess than to get out of it.
It probably won’t even grow as fast as buying another rental in your hometown town. It will take time to know if you really love this new country. Make sure you know what you’re doing in the new place. Know it like the back of your hand before you make a decision to buy real estate.
Unless you have so much money that buying another home is like a drop in the bucket for you, then it is okay.
In fact, I don’t even recommend selling your old home in your old country. The rental income for your home in your home country is probably double or triple what you would you have to pay for rent in one of these retirement Paradise places. So why sell that place when you know it has been taken care of beacuse you own it.
Hire a property manger and rent your place out. Use the income to pay the lower rents in the foreign country.
If you have money laying around you need to invest, I recommend buying another rental in your home country and using the income to live cheap in a foreign country.
Don’t Apply for a Retirement Visa Too Soon
Do not apply for a retirement visa too soon. You haven’t even lived in this place long enough to know if it is the right place for you. You haven’t visited the surrounding cities in this new country or the surrounding countries in this part of the world, so why would you apply for a retirement visa in the first year or two?
In many countries, the retirement visa requires you to set up bank accounts, prove that you have income, gather documents, and meet with officials, and pay a bunch of fees. What if you decide this place isn’t your favorite after seeing the country next door. Would you immediately get another retirement visa in the next country you visit? Why?
Instead, live there for 3 to 6 months or until your tourist visa expires. Then visit the countries around it. Go on an exploratory mission in that part of the world. We spent over a year in Mexico and South America just seeing what the world was like around there. Many countries allow 3 month tourist visits. Many allow you to come back after just crossing over into another country for a week or two. Mexico allows 6 months visit without even a Visa for both Malaysians and Americans.
Do Not Fall in Love with the First Country
Don’t fall in love with the first country that you visit. We have 50 retire cheap reports of all my favorite places. I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve been to 65 countries. There are a bunch of places around the world that you would love to live. This isn’t like looking for a needle in a haystack. So don’t fall in love with your first country. Do a little bit of an exploration. See the countries around your target country first. Maybe go to another part of the world too. See those countries. It’s not expensive to be in these retire cheap countries. Many of them are right next to other retire cheap countries. You can take trains and buses across borders. Stay in Airbnb apartments so you can shop and cook and get to know the feeling of everyday life there. You can do some real exploration for not really much more than you’re going to spend living in that country. See what it feels like to be in a country before you start falling in love with and picking which country you want to retire to. So, don’t fall in love with the first country.
In case you are wondering, these pictures are all of Qiang and me as we travel the world. We met in Malaysia in 2016 and she has been traveling with me since 2017. My name is Dan. I have been traveling since I left the USA in 2007.
Do Not Ship Your Stuff Right Away (if ever)
Don’t ship your stuff to a new country for the first 2 to 3 years. In fact, I recommend just selling everything you own except for family photos. Scan photos and put them in the cloud. If you have family heirlooms put those in storage for the first year or two. Rent furnished places in the new country and surrounding countries until you know you have made a more permanent decision.
When you really fall in love and realize your favorite place, then ship if you have to. Again, I never shipped. I recommend selling all your old stuff in the old country and slowly acquiring only what you absolutely need in the new country. After 13 years I still haven’t settled down. You could end up like me.
I have fallen in love with 10 different countries. What would have happened if I shipped to all of them? What a waste of time, energy, and money.
You can easily visit the surrounding cities and countries for a little more than cost to live in these countries. So why not explore for the first few years until you know you got it right?
Don’t Put a Bunch of Money in Foreign Banks
Keep your money in your home country bank. You do not understand the laws outside your home country yet. Don’t rush into anything. Why would you put your life savings in a foreign bank? Just use your ATM card to get money out of your home country bank when you need it.
After you have settled in a new country and have learned the laws there for a few years, then you can put some of your money in the foreign bank if you want to. But for now, keep your money in your home bank, keep your house and rent it out, get a property manager. Think of this like you’re exploring. Don’t think like you’re going to take one step and it’s going to be perfect. You could step on a sharp rock and not like your first country. Then step one country to the right and fall in love. When you are ready to go full time in a country, that will be obvious to you. Don’t rush this like you absolutely know that the first person you meet you will marry and live happily ever after.
Explore before making that decision. Date a few countries. This is me dating Ecuador in 2019.
Don’t try to Create Your Old Life in a New Country
Don’t try to recreate your old life in a new country. These countries have different personalities. They have different foods. Different groceries.
The world is getting more homogenized but things are still quirky and different in each country.
Two years from now, you have no idea what they’re going like in the restaurants. So don’t try to recreate your old life. Don’t try to look for that old food. Learn what the local food is all about. Read about the restaurants in the area. Find out what the Specialties are. Get immersed in that culture; find out what the culture is really about. Don’t eat the same food you ate at home. You need to learn about the new food. You see, a local dish might only cost you a dollar fifty, but if you look for an Italian restaurant serving fettuccine alfredo, it will cost a fortune and won’t taste like what you expect. This new country does local food best, not Italian food. Immerse yourself in the country, become part of that culture and you save a lot of money and you will learn something too.
Instead, if you say I want my old house, my old car, my old food … what’s the point? You’re not really enjoying a new country, you’re not exploring the world. You brought your world with you.
Don’t Hang Out Exclusively with Expats
When I first left the USA in 2007 it was to India.
I was the only westerner at the company in India. So I made friends with Indians and they were part of my everyday life.
But I noticed that a bunch of the expats living in India at the time all hung out together. They all hung out together. Not all of the expats were like this, but many were. They didn’t work with any Indians or socialize with any Indians.
So many expats never really got to see the Indian culture through the eyes of Indians. If you’re just hanging out with expats in India you’re not going to get an idea of the traditions of the culture. You’re just going to be kind of a fish out of water. It’s okay to have expat friends but if you make a steady diet of that, before long, it will be like purchasing a ticket to get out of that country.
Which is fine, maybe that country is not right for you. Maybe you need to explore some other countries.
I really believe there is a home country and a favorite country for every human on the planet. The grass is always greener so the favorite country for you is likely to be different from your home country.
I took this picture of Qiang in Thailand in 2022.
Don’t Pay for Sex
Paying for sex is not really a fulfilling way to live your life. I’m not judging anyone that does. I’m just saying it is hard on your self-esteem, your health, and your pocketbook.
In any country in the world, you could meet normal locals that are looking for authentic love.
Plus, because you’re a foreigner you’re interesting to people. So you already have a leg up on the competition. You don’t have to go to some bar and buy drinks and develop inauthentic relationships. People will be interested in you, whether you are a man or woman because you come from another country. They like the accents, they like to learn about new countries, and they like to make friends with people from other countries.
There’s no reason for you to waste any of your time going into these places and creating these inauthentic relationships. Don’t pay for sex. The online electronic dating apps work in foreign countries. Put your profile up in a foreign country and go out and have fun.
Don’t Assume The Laws Are the Same
Assuming the laws and the legal rights are like home is not realistic. Every country has quirky different things about it. It is better if you stay on the right side of the law.
Breaking laws, getting in fights, or being rude to people are all bad ideas when you don’t understand the environment you are in. Just be a polite visitor. Be a nice representative of your home country.
Don’t Shop Exclusively in Expat Grocery Stores
Shopping primarily in expat grocery stores is very expensive. They have multiple types of foreign food you can buy from all over the world. They sell specialty foods from each country such as American, Italian, German, whatever. If you just have to have American pickles or mustard, you will pay through the nose. If you are able to learn about the local foods in the local market, your grocery budget could easily be 70% cheaper.
Okay, those are the Top 10 Mistakes International Retirees Make. Make sure you don’t make these mistakes and you will integrate into a foreign culture much more easily. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but try to get a little better at each one as time passes.