“I could never live abroad, it just plain costs too much,” announced one retiree, blithely ignoring the fact her home was in an area of California where the cost of living was more than twice the national average, and the median cost of a house was upwards of $900,000.
A lot of my US friends are convinced that it costs a scandalous amount to live overseas. And it would, if you spent money as freely as you might on a go-for-broke two-week holiday. But living abroad – as opposed to vacationing abroad – can actually reduce your everyday expenditures, from rent to transportation to eating out. In California, for instance, it’s not uncommon to pay $4.50 for a fancy coffee, a price tag that brings shouts of disbelieving laughter from Sevillano friends, who pay the same amount (3.50€) for a breakfast of excellent espresso, freshly-squeezed orange juice, and a toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil and topped with slivers of ham. I haven’t had the nerve to tell my amigos about the $900,000 houses yet...
What’s your retirement fantasy? Do you picture yourself sitting on a beach at sunset, sipping a Mai Tai and ordering grilled lobster for dinner? Do you then find yourself wondering if you could afford grilled lobster on your pension? Is this followed by fretting about how you’re supposed to survive on a fixed income in an era of skyrocketing costs? And does that line of thinking quickly spiral into a breathless panic over current global economic instability and the gloomy future of mankind?
Take heart! The future may be brighter than you think! I don’t know what’s going to happen to the world’s finances or geopolitical stability – smarter people than I am remain stumped by that stuff – but I can put some of your fears to rest about the cost of living abroad.
“You can retire to a place with warmer weather, a better quality of life, less crime, more cultural activities, healthier and less-expensive food, better and less-expensive health care…and you can do it for $2,000 [1580€ or 1254£] a month or less, all in,” according to International Living. Want something even more affordable? The Huffington Post suggests you consider one of the following places, where the cost of living is $1200 [936€ or 752£] a month (the amount of the average American retiree's Social Security check):
World's 7 Best Budget Destinations
These are gorgeous, exotic locales where you can live comfortably and allow yourself to indulge in those Mai Tais and grilled lobsters on the beach. But they’re not your only, or necessarily your best, options. There are plenty of lovely, safe, affordable cities out there, each with its own mix of pluses and minuses. Check out the newly published Expat Insider survey I wrote about in last week's blog post, then Google some of the countless websites describing other expat-friendly destinations around the globe. For pointers about what to look for in choosing a new home in a foreign country, peruse my 101 Ways to Enjoy Living Abroad: Essential Tips for Easing the Transition to Expat Life.
Why go anywhere? Why not just stay home? That’s a great option for many, of course. But for some, the allure of economic advantage and overseas adventure is hard to resist. Those of us who are coming into maturity now are used to being trailblazers. We will live, on average, thirty-five years longer than our great-grandparents did, and spend nearly two decades in retirement. I don’t know about you, but I’ve earmarked those years for exploring the world and generating lots of colorful new stories for my blog and memoirs. If I can save money while I do it, so much the better.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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