Column: Are You Considering Retiring Overseas?

April 10, 2019

[Written by Carla Seely]

There is a growing trend in Bermuda for pre- and post- retirees to consider moving to another jurisdiction for the last chapter of their lives instead of enjoying their retirement years on this island. The chief reasons are the possibility of a lower cost of living and/or a more adventurous lifestyle.

Whether you are choosing to move to the US or to Canada, or to somewhere a little more exotic like Panama, you must make sure that you have an ironclad plan in place. Retiring overseas can be a great idea, but without research and a clear understanding of what is involved, it can be a very bad idea and one that could cause financial ruin.

Carla Seely Bermuda October 2018 TC

So, what should you be thinking about prior to retiring overseas?

  • 1. Have you spent more than a month in the place and lived like a local?
  • 2. How will you have access to your money?
  • 3. Can you get the medical care you need?
  • 4. How difficult is it to establish residency?
  • 5. Are there any tax implications?
  • 6. Do you speak the language?
  • 7. How do you plan to see your family?
  • 8. What do you need to bring with you?

Have you spent more than a month in the place and lived like a local?

If you have made the decision that you would like to retire overseas, and you know where you would like to live, you need to ask yourself if you have spent a reasonable amount of time there and lived like a local. Spending a couple of months in the area where you think you might want to live will give you a good idea of the place. Does this area have the infrastructure needed to support the type of retirement you would like?

How will you have access to your money?

This is a fairly simple question, but, depending on your selected retirement place, the answer may not be simple. Are you planning to open an account in this country and what are the requirements for this? Is it your plan to keep your bank account in Bermuda and use your debit card to withdraw cash? What happens if you lose your debit card? Could you handle this situation?

Can you get the medical care you need?

There is little doubt that health insurance is one of the biggest expenses during retirement and it is extremely important to make sure that you have good quality healthcare. Does the country where you intend to live have healthcare? Many people want to move to countries that offer free or relatively inexpensive healthcare to their residents. However, free or low-cost healthcare comes at a price. Are you prepared to wait six weeks for a doctor’s appointment? Are you prepared to no longer to have a choice of treatment and to be told whether your treatment is elective or non-elective?

How difficult is it to establish residency?

Some countries are delighted to welcome foreign retirees and may even offer incentives including residency and exemptions on duty charged on the personal effects you bring with you. This is less true of some other countries, especially if the population is aging and the birth rate is low. These countries do not want foreign retirees, and your money will not make a difference when it comes to obtaining a visa.

Are there any tax implications?

Will you have to pay taxes on your retirement income once you move? If you are going to become a resident of a country, are there tax implications for your retirement income? It is important to know what your potential tax liabilities will be and exactly how you will file your taxes.

Do you speak the language?

If English is not the primary language of the country, how do you plan to communicate if you do not have a good command of the language? Do you plan to take lessons prior to moving or do you hope to learn the language once you become a resident? Not speaking the language can be frustrating and it can lead to loneliness.

How do you plan to see your family?

Anyone who has lived aboard will know that during the first year after you move, your family will visit. The following year, visits will begin to taper off. You cannot expect your family to visit you every year, nor can you be expected to spend your money visiting them every year. It is essential to set ground rules for family visits.

What do you need to bring with you?

The location will determine what you need to bring with you. Will the climate be cooler or warmer? If you are renting, is the place fully furnished down to the bed linen or will you need to pack some? If you plan to open a bank account, will you need bank reference letters? Are there background checks you should have done before you leave?

Retiring aboard can be a wonderful experience. Some places can make your retirement income go further. If you do your research, plan correctly, and anticipate any potential challenges, you could have a most enjoyable retirement.

- Carla Seely is the Vice President of Pension, Life and Investments at Freisenbruch-Meyer, if you would like any further details please contact or call 441 297 8686


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