Living 50 Plus

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Best countries for retirement

Many couples look to downsize once they retire. Empty nest retirees may no longer need their large family homes, which can be expensive and difficult for seniors to maintain. While some retirees choose to move into senior living communities or condominiums, some opt to be a bit more adventurous and venture further from home.

A number of retirees choose to spend their golden years abroad. Doing so can equate to a more adventurous retirement, a lower cost of living and the ability to stretch retirement savings much further than if you decided to stay closer to home. Many of the more popular international retirement locations offer beautiful climates, culture and health care systems that are hospitable to retirees.

Affordability is a key consideration for men and women mulling whether or not to retire internationally. According to U.S. News and World Report, retiring overseas may run the average person anywhere from $700 to $1500 USD per month. Those who can offer higher budgets may be able to retire to any location of their choosing.

Before you make any drastic changes, first calculate your retirement budget. Add up retirement savings, Social Security income (if applicable), pensions, and any other investments or savings you may have. Have an estimate of the market value of your current home and any other property you may own. These figures will be your working numbers. Subtract your age from your estimated life expectancy and divide the retirement funds sum by that many years to see how much per month you will have to spend.

Once you have established your budget, begin investigating where you would like to live. Argentina, Ecuador, Belize, Costa Rica, and France are some of the more popular retirement locations among North Americans. Once you've selected a potential location, take a vacation there and explore. In addition to the climate, check out the infrastructure, shopping, medical services, amenities, and crime rates. Try the place on for size and figure out if this is an area where you can comfortably spend your retirement.

Once you have narrowed down your prospects, contact your native country's embassy to determine what will be needed to legally live in a foreign country and obtain a visa. Some places are more accommodating than others with regard to residency visas.

It also pays to contact an accountant or tax professional to see what, if any, taxes you will still be required to pay even if you move abroad. Your obligation may be less than if you chose to stay closer to home.

Another consideration is health insurance. Government-sponsored plans may not cover services overseas, requiring you to find an alternative insurance source. The good news is that many international plans may be more affordable than ones found in the United States.

Retiring abroad does not mean you have to cut all ties to home. Some couples choose to keep dual residency and fly back and forth when necessary. But the slower pace, affordability and other draws of international retirement spots could be challenging to leave behind.

AARP, Forbes and International Living routinely rank the best international retirement destinations. Check with these sources for more information about retiring abroad.