Ask Clark: What should I look for in a retirement destination?

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In addition to the question of when you’re going to retire, where is a big issue.

You may vacation to different places and think one place or another would be a great spot to retire. There’s also no shortage of “Best places to retire” kind of lists that come out all the time.

My take? When considering a retirement destination, you should consider personal factors first!

Picking a retirement destination is about more than just cost, weather

First up is the friends and family factor. If you go move somewhere that’s thousands of miles away from close family, it could be isolating and lonely. Are you going to be able to establish a network of friends in your new destination?

Being isolated means you’ll be more prone to health issues and financial ones, too. Financial abuse of the elderly and vulnerable is an ugly and real threat.

Another factor to consider is the cost, accessibility and quality of health care. Did you know, for example, that you could be paying more for drug prescriptions based on where you live in the country? That’s yet one more thing to factor into your decision.

Meanwhile, there’s a big difference between vacationing somewhere and living somewhere. So, if you’ve vacationed somewhere and said, “This is great! I would love to live here…” I’d tell you to be careful what you wish for.

One of my key rules is you should always rent first for six months, a year or even two years if you’re thinking about relocating for retirement. If it turns out that you don’t like it, at least you’re not all-in owning a home that you’ve now got to get rid of.

Special considerations if you’re thinking about living overseas

Speaking of owning a home, more and more Americans are looking at living in Central America or other places overseas because the cost of living is so much lower.

If you do that, you’ve really got to pay attention to the health care piece of the puzzle.

Checking the medical facilities

The Joint Commission International is the top dog when it comes to inspecting medical sites around the world. At their website, you can see if facilities are accredited near where you’re considering living. Accreditation means they’re up to JCI standards and have passed inspections.

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You also want to consider if the doctors who would be in your potential new area are trained or board certified in the United States or another First World country.

And, of course, you’ve got to make sure you have health coverage, which may involve buying a separate policy to cover you while you live out of the United States.

Should you pay extra for medical evacuation insurance?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the cost of medical evacuation in excess of $100,000.

If you’re thinking about moving to a developing country, you might consider medical evacuation insurance as a hedge against the possibility of a huge medical bill. It will really come in handy should you need to be airlifted to a nearby nation with better medical facilities.

Medical evacuation insurance will also help foot the bill for getting you back to the U.S. The uninsured cost of that alone can range from $10,000 to $50,000 if you need to travel with medical equipment and a nurse.

Be sure to rent at first

Beyond what I’ve laid out above, you’re going to certainly want to follow my advice on doing the rental thing at first. In fact, you may want to rent instead of owning in a foreign country for as long as you live overseas.

It’s great to consider living somewhere else and maybe it’s always been what your heart has desired. But my advice is make sure that your head and your heart end up in the same place. And you do that by doing a “test drive” of an area rather than just saying, “I’m in.”

You’ll be much happier if you do it that way, I promise!

Final thought

The decision about your retirement destination is an important one. But don’t overlook the question of when to retire.

While there’s no one size fits all answer, it’s generally better to delay claiming your Social Security benefit as long as you can. That way it has time to grow into a bigger monthly check for the rest of your golden years.

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Fortunately, there are a variety of free calculators to help you understand the best time to retire based on your exact circumstances. See what’s available here.

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