Best Places for Military Retirees to Live Overseas

Which are the best places for military retirees to live overseas? Read our guide to find out.

Moving abroad could be your best shot if you can dig deeper into your retirement money. This way, you’ll explore more of what the world has to offer and sometimes, at a lower cost. However, what are the best places for military retirees to live overseas?

Some of the best countries for retirees that feature on our list include five different Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America. You’d want to learn Spanish if you are planning to retire abroad.

Best Places for Military Retirees to Live Overseas

International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index usually uses the scoring system to determine the best counties for retirees. The system helps measure a number of factors such as:

  • Cost of living
  • Cost of renting
  • Healthy living
  • Climate
  • Political stability
  • Infrastructure and development
  • Social amenities and entertainment
  • Residency and Visa requirements
  • Ease of owning and buying property
  • The value of investing in property
  • Discounts and benefits on essential things like entertainment and healthcare
  • Ease of fitting in and making new friends

Here are best countries for retirees with the highest average score cumulatively across the above-mentioned categories:

1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica

If you like living a healthy and active lifestyle, then Costa Rica is your best bet. There are a lot of things retirees can do in Costa Rica. What’s more, there healthcare, governance and development are things worth writing about. The cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively cheap.

2. Panama


You can have the best of both worlds in Panama between the bustling beaches and majestic mountains. The cost of living is affordable and the locals are friendly and welcoming. Everything in Panama is virtually inexpensive than in the U.S. Foreigners with retirements visa can enjoy several benefits including discount on local transportation, entertainment, hotel stays and airfare among others.

3. Mexico


Modern amenities in Mexico have a rustic feel which makes it a perfect destination for retirees especially those who prefer close proximity to America and balmy climate. The ease with which you can establish residency, amenities and entertainment makes its best suited for retirees.

4. Colombia


There is something for everyone in Colombia from exploring rainforests, mountain views and beaches. It’s a perfect combination of cosmopolitan and colonial with plenty of direct flights from Florida to Colombian cities. Plus, you can easily acquire a retirement visa by showing proof of your retirement funds. However, you’ll need to renew it after every three years.

5. Portugal


The abundance of amenities and low cost of living makes Portugal an ideal destination for retirees.

The other five countries are Ecuador, Vietnam, France, Malta and Malaysia. All these countries strike a perfect balance between great weather, amenities and low costs.

Best Places to Retire Abroad

Save for the International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, there are several other sources that advise retirees on the best places to retire abroad. However, there are countries that retirees tend to flock depending on where they can effortlessly collect their social security checks. Here are the top five countries that are experiencing an influx of recipients that prefer a foreign retirement.

  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Mexico
  • Japan
  • Canada

By now, you already know why most social security recipients prefer settling in Mexico. Living in major cities like London and Tokyo can be expensive. However, the cost of living and housing in the countryside and small towns is usually lower as compared to that of America even after factoring in the universal healthcare that these other countries offer.

Some retirees choose some of these places owing to their familiarity. Most military personal rom the U.S are usually stationed in some of these countries that’s why some prefer to stay on after retirement.

RELATED: North Carolina Military Retirement Tax Exemption

Planning Your Retirement Abroad

1. Check Your Residency and Visa Requirements

You should know that residency and immigration laws are not the same for every country. Review specific information of the country you are planning to reside in to confirm if you’ll need a visa. You can get all the necessary information on the U.S State Department website including mandatory and recommended vaccinations, currency restrictions and passport validity for both entry and exit.

2. Political Stability and Research Safety

The State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs in the U.S usually provides updated travel information on safety and stability of different countries. Sometimes, they issue alerts and travel warnings about these locations. In some rare occasions, the U.S can restrict its citizens from visiting certain countries. Foreign nationals are bound to experience travel restrictions at some point in the said countries. Remember, foreigners are subject to the laws of that particular country.

3. Determine the Rules and Regulations of Foreign Ownership

Most countries usually have rules when it comes to ownership of property and how to use the property. There are some countries that don’t allow foreigners to own property. Before you decide to relocate to a foreign country, ensure you have a detailed overview of the restrictions to ascertain that they wouldn’t interfere with your plans and finances. A real estate agent within the locality can be your go-to person for this kind of information. You can use the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations to find the agents.

There are countries that don’t necessarily restrict ownership of property by foreigners but have a say in what happens when they sell it. In addition, always ensure that your rights of property are protected. For instance, the United States issues homebuyers with clear titles once they buy a property but the rules can be unclear in other different countries. Ensure you hire a local attorney and real estate agent to handle the paperwork correctly as per the local requirements.

4. Visit the Place Before Moving and Rent First Before Buying

Being a tourist and living in a foreign country are two different things. Try staying in the areas and neighborhoods where you are planning to relocate to. This will help you understand what living in that place like a local feel like. Also, visit the place in different seasons.

It’s always advisable to visit during a weather season that is least pleasant, for instance during monsoon rains, dry desert winds and dreary winter season when the sun doesn’t rise for weeks. There’s no escape once you make the place your home. Check whether there is an international club or association that you can join to help you learn about living in that particular region or country.

When you move to a foreign country, always start out by renting to ensure your retirement vision is compatible with the place. Only look for a house if it works out.

5. Pay in Cash

Finding a lender or bank in the U.S to fully or even partially finance your mortgage for an overseas property is a near miracle. You can get a local bank that loans foreigners but they asked you for a substantial amount when it comes to down payment.

If you want to buy property, find one that you can purchase outrightly in cash. The transaction will not only be less complicated but it’ll also give you more bargaining power. Plus, you are bound to get a better deal.

6. Try Organizing Your Assets

You don’t have to move all your assets even if you are planning to retire in a foreign country. IRAs, annuities, stocks and bonds can remain in America where you are conversant with the political situation and economy. Your income tax requirements will still be the same unless you are planning on renouncing your U.S citizenship. You’ll file your tax returns with IRS and declare the money you withdraw from the retirement account.

Ensure you consult a tax advisor or attorney before relocating. You’d want to keep the communication active even after moving to keep tabs and ensure you are tax compliant abroad and at home. Work with an attorney or accountant on matters tax if you are planning to move assets with you. Open a bank account to cover your daily expenses and accept transfers from pay bills and your account in the U.S.

You can easily manage your accounts from wherever you are thanks to brokerage accounts and online banking. However, some countries usually restrict certain transfers. The delivery time also varies if the social security check is sent abroad. You can opt for direct deposit, but it can also prevent check-cashing fees and currency change. Most areas around the world accept major credit cards like American Express, Master and Visa cards. You can also make purchases and pay for other day-to-day expenses with the card.

7. Healthcare

You need to settle your healthcare before relocating since most policies in the U.S don’t usually cover those living abroad. Social security will move with you to where you reside but Medicare coverage is limited outside the country. However, healthcare is affordable in some countries that you won’t need an insurance. For instance, if the government offers a subsidized healthcare for its citizens, then they are likely to give foreigners the same treatments, that means accessing the services at the same cost and care.

If this is not the case, then you can try to find a cover that works for you and plan your healthcare accordingly. You can find international or American companies that sell health insurance to those living abroad. Some countries offer affordable healthcare except the standards might be lower than what you are used to. In this case, plan ahead by setting aside a couple of dollars to cater to these expenses.

Get your physician to recommend his/her replacement when relocating. Connection helps especially when dealing with underlying medical conditions and it also makes the transition easier.

8. Driver’s License

Get an international driver’s license as it comes in handy when moving to a foreign country. Besides, the U.S driver’s license is not recognized in all countries. Most countries usually accept an International Driver’s License which expire within a year. The license is issued by the American Automobile Touring Alliance or the American Automobile Association. However, you have to accompany the permit with your regular driver’s license. Get a local driver’s license if you are planning on driving in a foreign country.

9. Working After Retirement

Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean not working at all. Most retirees usually enjoy doing part-time jobs and volunteer opportunities. There are others that prefer starting and running their own businesses abroad. Before relocating, check if your destination of choice has any restrictions in place when it comes to non-citizens opening up businesses and working.

10. Stay Connected

Most people miss friends and family when they move to a different country, retired or not. Plan to stay connected with your loved ones. Fortunately, thanks to the modern technology, there are so many ways that you can link up with people from all over the world with ease. Some of these methods include: video conferencing and smartphones where you can communicate virtually. In this case, having a reliable and strong connection is paramount. Find a place with a strong connection but if this is not an option, then you can visit public libraries and cafes where you can access the internet.

You should also have an emergency plan. Your family should have a copy of your passport and contact information. Also have contact information of your family when travelling. Educate your family on how to get in touch with the consulate OR U.S Embassy.

Resident Versus Citizen

Military retirees in America can settle in any country as long as they have proof of income from either pension, investment or social security. What is required varies from one country to another. However, in countries where the cost of living is high the income level requirement is equally higher.

Generally, most countries have a process categorized in three stages of transitioning from a tourist to resident and finally a citizen. However, the red tape and wait time varies depending on the country. The State department in the U.S always keep tabs on specifics on short-term visits. You can check on the details about citizenship and residency requirements on the website of U.S Consulate.

Here’s is what happens in most countries:

  1. You can stay in a foreign country for up to a maximum of 90 days with an American passport only. Some expats in Mexico and Canada stay on longer as they take a bus when crossing the border to and fro every six months to reset the clock.
  2. Generally, long-term visits require a one-year renewable residency visa for a couple of years before getting a permanent one.
  3. In most countries, you can only apply for citizenship after staying in the country between two to 10 years. However, those who make substantial investments can be exempted from these programs.

In most countries, the above mentioned are usually straightforward when it comes to retirees if they can show proof of steady income and aren’t looking to work. Some countries are a bit tough with the paperwork and requirements. The pros and cons of being a permanent resident or a citizen often depends with your country of choice. Remember, you’ll have certain rights with citizenship in most European countries. The most common choice for retiree expats is usually between dual citizenship and permanent residency.

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