Five things you must do before you pack your bags for an overseas retirement

overseas retirement

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To all those who make the big decision to retire abroad, Cynthia and Edd Staton say, “Congratulations!”

In 2009, a look at their battered retirement accounts made the Statons think hard about what their retirement might look like. They could stay in the U.S. where they’d lived all their lives, or they could find a foreign country with a far lower cost of living and set out on a great adventure.

They chose adventure and haven’t looked back. The couple has written books about their experiences and plans to create more projects about how to retire abroad.

Retiring overseas is a journey with a lot of moving parts. “The list goes on and on,” Edd Staton said. “And that’s just for closing up shop at home.”

Get ready to put your organizational skills on steroids, because you’ll need at least three months of planning and organizing. Expat Info Desk has a 90-day checklist of tasks to help orchestrate your move.

Before you go

A typical pre-move to-do list will include some of the following:

• Sell house. Contact realtors.

• Pare down all that stuff. Hold an estate sale.

• Cancel subscriptions.

• Renew driver’s license and passport.

• Figure out a plan for your mail.

You’re also going to need to prepare for the other end, and online is a good place to start. The U.S. State Department has information on retiring abroad, including links to resources on visas, medical insurance, paying taxes and voting while overseas.

The website International Living likes to use local correspondents in many countries to detail their personal experiences and share helpful tips. Escape Artist is a somewhat more money-focused site with info for expats. Expatistan and Numbeo are two sites that give cost comparisons and prices for living in hundreds of countries.

Here are five key topics to focus on.

1. Learning a new language

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You may not need fluency to relocate. “Becoming functional is a more realistic goal,” Edd Staton said. “Locals appreciate your sometimes-awkward attempts to communicate and will go out of their way to be helpful.”

At the very least, you need some basic skills so you don’t remain an outsider. The Statons recommend as much study and practice as you can cram in before you leave. Take classes or learn online.

Another good idea: Load up on apps such as Duolingo or Memrise. The free versions may be limited but they keep you on track. Every little bit helps. Read articles online for more tips, such as partnering up and using flashcards.

When diplomats have to learn a language, here’s how they do it.

If you show up without any skills, find a class and enroll ASAP. “At the very least, it can be a chance to make new friends,” Edd Staton said.