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Retirement in a Foreign Country

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I have been looking at different countries to move to in case this one asks me to leave. It could happen. Every time I look at one country or another, it seems like everyone on the internet starts passing around notes that I can't see, and telling each country that I'm looking at, that I am interested in coming there to live. The reason I say something as crazy that, is because when I spot a great place to retire too, the very next week, or even the next day, Time, or Newsweek or National Geographic Adventure publishes an article on why that country is a great place to retire to and how easy it is to live there.

The next thing you know, everybody and their mother-in-law is scrambling to get there, so that country raises the minimum requirements on how much you have to bring with you when you go there, ups the percentage of how much of your pension has to be directly deposited in their banking system, lowers the amount of household goods you can take with you, and generally makes it too much of a hassle, and suddenly it doesn't look like such a great deal anymore.

I started doing this in 1997. Belize was my first choice. Nobody had ever heard of Belize in 1997. All of a sudden, everyone was moving to Belize. Then it was Costa Rica, and then Honduras, then it was Nicaragua and then Panama joined the club of nations seeking US ex-patriots. Mexico was a great place for ex-military and other pensioners, but when they took a whole town away from American retired people because some lady came up with a deed that said it was her land, not many Americans were too keen on moving there.

The first thing you look for is the price. We have all heard stories about living like a king on $500.00 a month. You can forget that. The only way you can live on $500.00 a month is to live like their lower middle class. That means sleeping in adobe houses with no AC, one light bulb just to show you have electricity, and cooking your rice and beans over a wood fire. Sound romantic? If all you want to do is wake up with a beer in your hand and fall asleep in a dead drunk, I guess it is. That's what you get for $500.00 dollars a month, and don't go out into your neighborhood after dark. To actually live like an American in the states, you are going to need at least $2500.00 a month. Which is still cheap considering that's for just about everything.

The second thing you have to look for is whether or not the country is stable and non-violent. You don't want to move to a war zone and get kidnaped every other week by rebels who throw you out of their camp when they find out what you are really worth. It's embarrassing and it interrupts you day to day living. Go to a nation that has a stable government and doesn't have an Army that is much too big for the country. That's usually a big tip off that means A: The people don't like their leaders and a revolution is brewing, or 2. They are looking for a fight with a neighboring country, or it could just mean that The United States has CIA and Black Ops groups, moving throughout the jungles and this makes some governments nervous.

The third thing that you want to find out about is the weather. Believe it or not, Poland is a great place to retire too. I have read about ex-military that have retired in Poland, they have a huge house, a maid, a chauffeur and a car, and if they need medical attention or American goods, they hop an the Bahnhoff (railroad) and go to Kaiserslautern or Wiesbaden or some other American military base. Then of course you could always go to Spain or Italy if you are retired military and do the same thing. The only catch is that Spain and Italy are a bit expensive. So the point is, if you don't mind brass monkeys with missing appendages, Poland could be just the place for you. Otherwise, keep shopping Central and Latin America.

Nicaragua is today's latest hotspot. Little Danny Ortega, who is now in his 60's looks like the winner of this years election. You might remember him as that Che Guevara look alike that almost got Reagan thrown out of the White house in the Iran Contra deal. The Contra's were the people we were supplying with weapons so they could rid themselves of Mr. Ortega. Now that he is back on the scene, and is President again., Nicaragua does not want to lose that good old ex-pat money that goes into it's treasury each month, so they are bending over backwards to convince Americans that it's still a great place to live. They are probably right. With Ortega taking power, they are actually going to woo Americans and it could be your best retirement bet. That makes me wonder what all the fuss was about in the 80's. Ortega was supposedly so dangerous, and with all the leftists coming to power in Latin America, you would figure he would be very vocal and join the anti-US club. Gee, could we have been wrong about him from the start? Come to think of it, nothing that bad happened the first time he was President. I think we were doing some military-corporate work when we went after Ortega. It probably wasn't our government that was worried about him, it more than likely some corporate "campaign donor" was afraid of getting nationalized by him

There are good points and bad points about moving out of the country and living somewhere else. If you are on a fixed income, you can probably live much better for less. You will meet some interesting people and learn a new language and culture and could probably live by a tropical lagoon until it's time to go to bed forever. You could do things you can't do here like walk through a real rainforest and see thousands of varieties of birds. The pace of life is slower and you could conceivably live years longer unless you are an alpha male or female. You wouldn't have to hear what the "Threat level" is for the day, and you probably wouldn't have to worry about a dirty bomb going off in your city. People would probably leave you alone, and even the governments would respect your privacy more than our government would.

There are bad points about it too. If you want to see your Son or Daughter or your grand kids a lot, forget it. You can't afford to go home every week-end (unless you're rich). You can't see a Broadway play or even an Off-Broadway play. Steely Dan or The Rolling Stones aren't going to show up at your neighborhood concert hall. You might see Hall and Oates or Kansas though. You could still get on the net and get an album sent over. You wouldn't shop at Winn- Dixie or Piggly Wiggly or Publix around the corner. You would shop at a local bodega and get what's in season. It's a choice that I've been trying to make for a long time.

The one thing that I have learned from trying to pick a spot to retire too, is that the longer I wait, and the older I get, the more I don't want to go. Maybe that's why so few people really go through with it and move to paradise. For me, I know that happiness is usually found in my head, and not in the things or places around me, and sometimes, if I'm in the right mood and the sun warms my face just the way I like it, and I look out on the grass, and my big dog is barking at the dog down the street, and our little corgi is chasing our cat, until the cat whirls around and chases our little corgi, who runs away as fast as her little legs will take her, I can find paradise in my own backyard.

 

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Tim Gatto is Ret. US Army and has been writing against the Duopoly for the last decade. He has two books on Amazon, Kimchee Days or Stoned Colds Warriors and Complicity to Contempt.

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