Several of our clients have expressed to us over the years when visualizing their own retirement success that they are interested in living abroad. But living abroad means we'll have to change almost EVERYTHING about our life: different governments-different cultures-maybe different languages-different cost of living-changing citizenships (maybe?) -different healthcare access- and more! We've been searching high and low for an expert to discuss this ~ it was Dr. Sara Zeff Geber who mentioned to us that we NEED to talk to our next guest. Dan Prescher is our guest in today's podcast and is a Travel writer, copywriter, editor, event host, expat, serial re-locator, & a musician. He is an author with Suzan Haskins of The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget and a Senior Editor for International Living Magazine. Tune in to "Considering Living Abroad in Retirement" to find out how doable living abroad really is and how to avoid some mistakes along the way!
What You'll Learn In This Podcast Episode:
Welcome, Dan! [2:45]
What is International Living Magazine? [12:09]
How does someone find out where they want to live out of all the places in the world? [17:50]
How does citizenship work as you decide that you want to live abroad? [26:39]
What are common myths that people let influence their decision NOT to move abroad? [29:47]
How can someone manage potential currency exchanges and taxation while living abroad? [38:56]
How can someone evaluate the healthcare systems in areas of the world that they may want to live? [47:58]
What are common mistakes that Dan sees retirees make when deciding to live abroad? [56:51]
What is Retirement Success for Dan? [59:21]
Ben, Abby, and Curtis wrap up the episode. [1:03:29]
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Ben Smith: Welcome everybody to The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast. My name is Ben Smith and I'm joined by my two co-hosts as usual, Abby Doody and Curtis Worcester, the plane and train to my automobile. How are you guys doing today?
Curtis Worcester: Good Ben.
Abby Doody: And how are you?
Ben Smith: I'm great. I'm great. We're kind of on this theme of where in retirement, right?
Curtis Worcester: Yeah.
Ben Smith: And a lot of our clients have expressed to us over the years about, when they're visualizing their own retirement success, that they're really interested in living abroad, right? And something like, again, we know, we know we're cheating here, the title of the podcast is actually formerly called Retirement Success in Maine. And we are now of course, cheating by having a topic about encouraging people to leave the State of Maine, but I think that's something where we all have dreams and where we want to be, and home kind of routes us at times, but sometimes maybe we just need a change in life, right?
Ben Smith: And living abroad is something that might mean that we need to change everything about our lives. You know, whether it be different governments, different cultures, different languages, different costs of living, maybe different citizenships, different healthcare access, really almost every... friend group, family, all that stuff together.
Ben Smith: So, we've kind of been thinking about this a lot. And you know, anecdotally of course we run a Facebook ad and we say, "Hey, Retirement Success in Maine you should check out." And of course people in Maine will say, "Well, you need to leave the State of Maine to have retirement success." So, we thought, well, hey, that's a valid point, maybe we got to explore that a little bit. That was the impetus for us kind of reaching out to hear and finding somebody.
Ben Smith: And in a previous episode we were talking to Dr. Sara Geber about solo age, and we said, "Well, here's the topic we're looking at," and she said we got to talk to our next guest. So, with that, our next guest is a travel writer, a copywriter, an editor, an event host, an expat, I think is the formal term there. He's a serial relocator and a musician. He's also the author with Suzan Haskins of the International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget. And he's a senior editor for International Living Magazine. And that's what Dr. Geber is pointing us to is, hey, you got to check out International Living Magazine because it really just dives into this topic, almost serially for us.
Ben Smith: So with that, I want to welcome to The Retirement Success in Maine Podcast, Dan Prescher. Dan, good to have you on the show.
Dan Prescher: Good to be here, guys. Good to see you.
Ben Smith: Dan, with all of our guests, we want to get into you a little bit and hear about your journey, your story, all of that. I'd love to just dig into just your bio in terms of your growing up, what was your experience in terms of growing up and your career?
Dan Prescher: I'm a Nebraska boy, guys. I was born and raised right in the middle of the United States. I went through... Nebraska is a wonderful place to be from. It's really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. And I lived that way for many, many, many years. Met my wife, Suzan Haskins, here. We are both trained journalists. Got our degrees in journalism, had to pay off our student loans, and we went immediately into copywriting and business to business writing, marketing.
Dan Prescher: And one day Susan just said in the middle of winter, "You're in Nebraska. You know other places where it doesn't snow? Or places where if you get locked outside your house in the middle of the night, you won't die, you won't freeze to death?" And that's when I found out that she'd been reading International Living for a couple of years. And we did a little bit of exploring, we did a little bit of writing, and we found out there were people who were moving abroad and living wonderful lives in places that were warm year round, cheaper than in the United States and not really give sacrifice in anything in quality of life.
Dan Prescher: So, we figured, you know, a couple of guys who were in the writing business might make a living writing about that. And that's what we did about 20 years ago. We've been doing that for about two decades now.
Ben Smith: Dan of course that's scary, is to go, "Hey, my life is in the middle, again, isolated here, not by oceans of any sort in the smack dab in the middle of the country. And this is what I've known, this is probably generations, or generation of a few of mine have known their entire lives is here."
Dan Prescher: Yeah.
Ben Smith: So, that's a big courageous jump to just say, "Hey, I'm going to take this." And it's one thing to write about it, is to go, "Hey, we can write about the experience, but let's go do this ourselves and talk about it out of the comfort zone." What led you to ultimately take that jump and move out of the United States?
Dan Prescher: Well, you said it, comfort zone. Most people stay in their comfort zone their whole lives, and that's fine. Being comfortable is a great thing. I enjoy being comfortable myself, but when we were offered the opportunity to go abroad for International Living, we literally looked at ourselves and said, "If we don't do this now, we won't know how it will have turned out. We'll never know what this expat lifestyle thing is all about."
Dan Prescher: So, we sold the house, we got out of the business, we made the jump, and that was 20 years ago and we haven't regretted a day of it. It's been scary by fits and starts, it's been completely different, it's been a challenge, a daily challenge, but that kind of, if you talk to expats, that kind of keeps them young. It keeps you on your toes. You get out of your comfort zone, you have to deal with stuff. It keeps you sharp, keeps you young. So, we haven't regretted it at all.
Ben Smith: Dan, I have a ton of questions on that. I think one thing I want to define is when we hear the word or when you say expat. I want to make sure that we all know what that means. Can you talk about expat and what that means as a definition there?
Dan Prescher: In our world, expat just means somebody who moves out of their home country and lives somewhere else for whatever reason. It's an immigrant, basically. And sometimes North American expats get a lot of guff from other people around the world for not just calling themselves immigrants, but expats sounds a little more flashy.
Ben Smith: Is it something like it is expatriate is kind of the [crosstalk 00:06:44]-
Dan Prescher: Exactly, it's short for expatriate. It doesn't mean that you're not a patriot anymore, it doesn't mean that you're an ex-patriot, it just means that you've expatriated. I'm a happy contented citizen of the United States, I would not consider giving up my US citizenship nor do I need to, to do what I'm living.
Dan Prescher: I've lived off shore full-time for 19 years, and have never had to give up or consider giving up my US citizenship. There's just no reason to do it. There are people who do it, there are compelling reasons for some people to do that, there are even more compelling reasons to acquire citizenship in another country, which doesn't mean give up your US citizenship, but having another passport can be a very useful and comforting thing sometimes. It all depends on your personal circumstances, but my wife and I have been the happy legal residents of several countries in Latin America and never have had to give up our US citizenship and never even considered.
Ben Smith: Can you talk about that journey a little bit more Dan, in terms of where have you been, because I want to hear that part.
Dan Prescher: Sure.
Ben Smith: And then how has it been? Better than you thought, right? Because again, you have the, I think it's all... it's always romantic on his side of the fence, right? Is it's always greener is that, but I want to hear that it has worked out in a way, but I also want to hear, how has it been more difficult in ways that you maybe didn't expect? So, could you talk about that journey and kind of [inaudible 00:08:08]?
Dan Prescher: Sure. In 2001 in September, the second week of September, we went to France for an International Living conference where we accepted the job to be international living correspondents in Ecuador, in Quito, Ecuador.
Ben Smith: Can I pause you for one second?
Dan Prescher: Sure.
Ben Smith: So, second week of September, 2001?
Dan Prescher: Sound familiar?
Curtis Worcester: Tough time to travel-
Ben Smith: There was a little bit of something that happened that week, as you are starting your whole journey.
Dan Prescher: We were in Paris when September 11 happened. We were stuck there for the next two weeks because nobody was flying. We couldn't get out. And this was our first time out of the country for any extended length of time. So, we're saying to ourselves, "What have we done?" But when we got back to the States, we went ahead and pulled the trigger, we sold our place, we sold the truck and the camper, and I got rid of all my tools, put all of our stuff in storage. And by November, we were in Quito, Ecuador. We were the Ecuador correspondence for International Living.
Dan Prescher: And we spent our first six months there crying on just about a daily basis wondering how we were going to manage this, because at that time we had never lived in another culture before, and it's very different. Something we found out pretty quickly is that North Americans, for some reason, just assume that the rest of the world is United States light, it's America at half the cost. And that's not the case.
Dan Prescher: These are all individual places with their own histories, their own cultures. And once we grokked that, once we caught on to that, we were kind of hooked. Moving out of the country is a difficult thing to do the first time, there's a lot to take care of. It can be a pretty detailed and specific endeavor. Doing it the second time is a little easier, and doing it again is a little easier. And I think you, like you said, we've become kind of serial relocators.
Dan Prescher: Every couple of years we go, "Wow, what's next? [inaudible 00:10:04]?" And right now we're planning where we're going when travel restrictions are listed, because I don't want to date this podcast or anything, but we are now in Omaha, Nebraska, where the pandemic caught us, back in our hometown. We were visiting our granddaughter, we had decided before that to spend part time in the United States after living abroad full-time for 19 years, because we wanted to be there for our granddaughter. We wanted to have a lot to do with raising her.
Dan Prescher: And that's a big reason that a lot of expats, especially North American expats, come back to the United States. It's not a one-way trip, it's not like jumping off a cliff. You can do it full-time, you can do it part-time, you can do it for a couple of years and you come back. Every time you do it, as far as we're concerned, you're better and wiser for it. And your horizons broaden a little bit, and you learn a little bit more about other countries, the rest of the world. So, there's really no wrong way to do it unless you just do it for financial reasons.
Dan Prescher: If you're not going to a place that you're not interested in, that the culture doesn't intrigue you, if you're just going because the cost of living is a fraction of what it is back home, you're an economic refugee. And I don't know anybody who's happy just being an economic refugee. There has to be some sense of adventure. You have to move with your heart instead of your wallet. Your wallet will follow if you pick the right place, and we've certainly found that to be true, but you got to move with your heart first, as just my... Dan Prescher's word of advice, move with your heart.
Ben Smith: I like that, because that's really good. Because especially, I think what we're hearing from the people that we work with or, and I wouldn't say it's a universal thing, but there's a minority of people that go, "Man, wouldn't it be great to be able to do what you're saying?" Is like I'd love to go to Ecuador, I'd love to go to this place, and I've never experienced this part of the world. And I don't want to vacation there, this isn't about like just, "Hey, I want to be five days and see three monuments and check it off a list," is I really want to live and experience stuff, but you just can't do on a vacation. It's a very different experience there.
Ben Smith: I want to ask you, Dan, in terms of obviously you joined International Living Magazine and that got you into this as well in terms of marrying profession to the lifestyle that you were looking for, but for those that obviously don't have the profession side, can you talk about International Living Magazine and how it helps people on the lifestyle side? How it was founded, who is it targeted to? All of that.
Dan Prescher: International Living started up about 41 years ago. And originally it was just one of those little email pamphlets that you get in the mail, like you may already be a winner. This is how to live abroad on pennies a day. Live like a king on pennies a day. The original live abroad on pennies a day guys. But it turns out to be true. There are places around the world where you can go and live on social security or an insurance annuity, or at that time, whatever your retirement income was, if you had a limited income from a retirement annuity or social security, these were places you could go to make it go as far as possible. And for years and years, International Living was aimed mainly at retirees, near retirees, post-retirees to make fixed incomes go as far as possible. Then the internet happened, and the internet changed everything for everybody.
Dan Prescher: Suddenly, careers became transportable. Suzan and I couldn't do our job without the internet. We're using the internet right now to listen your podcast. Almost any area of expertise you have, you can monetize by putting it on the internet. And people found that out. And if you can be a copy editor or be a graphic artist or be a business consultant and do it from the beach in Panama or from the little mountain town of Dalat in Vietnam, why wouldn't you?
Dan Prescher: I mean, all things being equal, if you could move somewhere where the weather's better and the cost of life is half what it is, why wouldn't you go? There are a lot of reasons you wouldn't, comfort zone is one, and just wanting to stay where you are and where you know how to work things is one, but if you've got a little sense of adventure, the world is really your oyster. And the internet has taken this whole being an expat thing from an exotic kind of fringe idea, and really pushing it into the mainstream, because you can go anywhere in the world there's an internet connection and apply a trade, if you know how to do it.
Dan Prescher: And the magazine is all about telling the stories of people who are doing that around the world in different places. We publish a global retirement index, which is kind of a compendium of the places that are most popular for expats to do that where the weather is the best, where the infrastructure is the best, where it's easiest to get back and forth in the United States if you want to stay close. You kind of choose your criteria and make your cut. And those places end up on your short list and you give them a try if you've got the adventurous spirit to do so.
Ben Smith: And Dan, so folks like yourself then are essentially plugging in to this index, right? It's like, "Hey, I'm living here, or I have lived here, or I've been visiting there," and you're saying, and we're all compiling it together in terms of we're all thinking and our processes is similar versus we all have our feelings or sentiments towards stuff, right? This is essentially us.
Dan Prescher: Exactly. Our job has been to write about the expat experience, mostly in Latin America. So, we have correspondents all over the globe. These guys report back to us and tell us what their lives are like on the ground. Then the editors, this all happens above my pay grade because I'm not a detail guy, but our editors go out and compile all the hard numbers they can. We crunch all those things with a hefty dose of subjective opinion from our editors and our correspondence around the world and come up with these categories and the best places to go and be an expat if that's what you want to do.
Dan Prescher: We do that every year and it helps a lot of people clarify their goals. And if they do that, and if they visit a couple of these places and decide, "This life is not for me," that's a great thing. You're wiser about yourself. You know more about yourself than you did before. And if you stay put, that's great for you. Not very many people do this. I mean, it's not for everybody, it's not even for most people, but for the people it is right for, it's a lifestyle. I mean, we've been doing it for 20 years and hopefully we won't stop.
Ben Smith: I want to give a plug for you, Dan, in terms of International Living Magazine. First of all, how can people find it? I know you obviously are on the web as well, but can you talk about the subscription costs to it? Because again, I want to make sure that people can go find that as a resource. And what you're saying is this index is something where, and we'll get to process in a little bit, but I think that would be helpful to kind of point people to a place where they can start.
Dan Prescher: You can find the index and magazine subscription specials, there's always a special on subscribing, subscribe for a year, for six months, subscribe for three years, get a deep discount, of course, but the magazine is also online because again, the internet has changed everything. You can just get it in PDF online. So everything can be found at internationalliving.com. All one word, two Ls in the middle. Internationalliving.com.
Dan Prescher: Once you're there, everything we have is spread out for you. It's a broad and deep website. Pour yourself a cup of coffee before you get on there, because you'll be on there for a while. You'll be down the rabbit hole, I guarantee you.
Ben Smith: But I will, of course, with all of our resources anyway, Dan, we'll take some links from you anyway and we'll put in our blog post for this episode so people can go find it and they can kind of... we just want to make sure we're pointing people to the resource of a place to start.
Ben Smith: I really want to dig into this topic a little bit more though, about process, right? Because if, obviously, you've learned a lot from knowledge just from the writing perspective, but also from the comfort zone. Because I know that's something that's come up, and I will say probably if there's one thing that we're trying to address with all these shows is look, the comfort zone is really great and to say, "Hey, I'm really comfortable with how my life is." And it's really easy to get into retirement and just very quickly establish just a lower key lifestyle and be really kind of bubbled into that comfort zone.
Ben Smith: So, which is, again, we don't want to put judgment on that, but for a lot of people that's a really great thing and they're able to access things that they usually could, but there's a people, as you said, they have a sense of adventure out there, but they're scared, right? They're scared to break through that comfort zone, and that's where we want to get to process here is, hey, if I knew I had a process that will allow me to have more success, it doesn't mean that I moved to Ecuador, for example, and all of a sudden it just is the place and I fell in love with it-
Dan Prescher: Like we did, yeah.
Ben Smith: But you know, from that is. So, I want to ask you about, if someone wants to find out where they should go of all the places in the world that they could go, how do they start? What's the first place? What do they do?
Dan Prescher: You really just start out by profiling yourself ruthlessly about what you want out of life and what you feel you can give up, and be really, really honest about it. If you need a good bowling alley nearby, that's going to limit your choice of places you can go in the world, if that determines your quality of life. If you need six different brands of roasted red Italian peppers to be a happy camper, you'd better make sure that those things or reasonable substitutes are available where you're going. And that's all about research. And again, the internet has changed everything.
Dan Prescher: International Living has a global retirement index. It also has links to Facebook pages and bulletin boards where you can go and talk to people who are living the expat life in real time. That's a huge advantage. I mean, if you're a carpenter and your work depends on having a certain kind of slot headed wood screw you can ask somebody who's living in Cotacachi, Ecuador if that is available at the hardware store there, and get an answer in real time. That makes a tremendous difference, but be honest with yourself about what you need.
Dan Prescher: If you need 500 thread count sheets to be happy, you're going to have a problem in a lot of places in Ecuador. If you need cheap electronics, if you like to turn your electronics over a lot, you're going to have a hard time in a lot of places throughout Latin America, because the import duties are high. But if all you need is beans and rice, your options are legion. Great weather. I mean, Suzan and I lived in a place, Cotacachi, Ecuador up in the mountains, it's just an example. It's in 8,000 feet between two extinct volcanoes and a green valley. It gets to 75 degrees during the daytime, 55 degrees at night, 365 days a year. It's directly on the Equator. No heating, no air conditioning.
Dan Prescher: I can walk from one end of the village to the other in 20 minutes. It costs me five bucks to get a cab to the shopping center where I can go to the Costco. For two bucks I can get a bus to Quito. Our cost of living was so low that we saved money every paycheck. We got rid of our debt. We put money in the bank. Astoundingly after 20 years, we actually have money in our savings account. We weren't living hand to mouth like we were in the United States. It's a compelling reason to go, but you have to make sure that these are places that you're actually going to be comfortable in. And that's the next step. You profile yourself ruthlessly, you make a short list of the places that match the criteria that you want.
Dan Prescher: You may think you want to be on a beach, but once you're there, you're going to find out that that's where they keep the bugs in the sand. You may change your mind and find out you want to go to the mountains. It'd be great to go to the mountains beforehand and find that out for yourself. Suzan and I thought we were beach people, we definitely like to be high and dry.
Ben Smith: Interesting.
Dan Prescher: [crosstalk 00:22:05] those short places, go there, get your feet on the ground long enough for it not to be a vacation. You have to find out what it's like to try to open a bank account, to get your utilities hooked up, to get your phone service going. Once you do that in a couple of places, you'll get a gut feeling about a place about if this is the right place for you, if this is the right lifestyle for you to begin with. Then you can start thinking about renting a place there and tying up your affairs in the United States in such a way that you can move conveniently to another place without leaving a lot of loose ends. And that's a process in and of itself. There's a checklist that you can go down.
Dan Prescher: Your home office, get your mail online, get your finances online, as much as possible. All of those things. Get your pet certificate, health certificate, if you're moving with your furry friends, all of that stuff. There's a checklist for all of that. Then you go down the checklist, you make the move, and you celebrate life.
Ben Smith: Dan, you're talking about sampling here, right? Is you're saying, "Okay, that I move here." And what you originally described is, hey, for the first 30 days when you first moved you cried every day. [crosstalk 00:23:15]-
Dan Prescher: For the first six months. It took a while.
Ben Smith: Yeah. That's something where you're going, hey, well, I move and I sample it and I go, "What's the right amount of time to understand whether I am going to be happy or..." because again, you had to go over a significant hurdle to get to that point of like, "No, we can do this."
Dan Prescher: Right.
Ben Smith: Maybe there's something about it we needed to change even within Ecuador or... like maybe I was going to be on the hut on the beach, I need to be in the mountains. Well, that's a completely different thing is I uprooted... the vision in my head was the hut on the beach and we're doing these things and we're fishing every day, whatever the thing is, and then you have to adjust to do something else. What has been the idea of like how do I know if maybe I just made a terrible decision? Like I shouldn't have done this.
Dan Prescher: Oh, you'll know. You will know. Here's the experience that Suzan and I had. We got to International Living. We had a little office that we had to get up and run into because we were still working, we were writing from there. And it was six months after 9/11, nobody was going anywhere and nobody was flying. The expat community in Ecuador was fairly small at that time and insular. And every day we'd get up with a long checklist of things that we had to get done. By the end of the day, we hadn't got one of those things done and it was very, very frustrating. It took us six months to realize that that was our fault, that those were our type A expectations moving from the United States trying to impose our needs on a Latin American culture, where that wasn't important.
Dan Prescher: Our adjustment was to make a list of one thing every day. And if we got that one thing done, we'd go out to dinner and we'd celebrate. And if we didn't get that one thing done, we did what all of our local friends in Ecuador did, we went [foreign langauge 00:25:06], we'll get it done tomorrow. It was so relaxing and so liberating. I mean, the pressure was just off. The weather is so fine where we lived that... I mean, I come from Nebraska. You guys are in Maine. If you don't get your ducks in a row, winter will kill you.
Ben Smith: That's right.
Dan Prescher: This is not the case in many of the places that Suzan and I have lived, and we lived in those places purposely because of that. The pressure's off. You can eat fruit off the trees. I mean, if you just want to live on fish and rice, you can do that. And it doesn't cost you much money. If that's the lifestyle you want, that's what you get. But you have to leave your expectations at home and stay really light on your feet.
Dan Prescher: We brought a container load of stuff with us to Mexico when we moved there right after Ecuador, most of that stuff has gone now. We've moved so many times that we found out most of that stuff was just an anchor tied to our backs. We'd go back every couple of years, look at our storage bin and say, "Why on earth do we keep that?" And we just have shed stuff over the years, we now realize that the stuff that we, the baggage we want most are memories and experiences. All the rest of that material baggage, you can get anywhere on the planet if you want it. I mean, you don't have to bring your T4 pans with you, they're perfectly serviceable frying pans in Ecuador and Panama. And you know, you can get that stuff anywhere, but the experience, the friends, the challenges, that's what you make the move for really.
Ben Smith: Dan, I want to ask maybe it's a, I don't know if it's a legal question, but kind of the whole like citizenship piece because I get, and this is just from I think my own ignorance of how that works is if I'm a US citizen and I want to go live somewhere for a period of time, like it feels like there would be different restrictions based on how long you can live somewhere or without getting maybe dual citizenships or... what if I want to do what you're talking about? I do want to move every so often, but what if it was to be two years to do that I have to become like a citizen of another country and another country and other... how does that whole thing work? Because I can see that could be very overwhelming.
Dan Prescher: Yeah. One of the reasons Suzan and I concentrate on Latin America is because it's so easy throughout much of the Western Hemisphere. You can go to most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere on a tourist visa with a US passport and stay for up to six months. And in many of these places, you can just go someplace else for the weekend, come back, and it resets. You got another six months.
Ben Smith: Oh, wow.
Dan Prescher: A lot of expats have been living on tourist visas for years. That fits some people's lifestyle, that's perfect for them because they can just pack up and take off whenever they want. That has no effect on your US citizenship, it has no effect on how often you can come back and forth to the United States. The next step above that, are visas. And almost every country that Suzan and I have lived in has a retiree visa. They call them Pensionado Visas.
Dan Prescher: All you have to do is show that you have a social security income or an annuity income, or in many cases just enough money in the bank to show that you could get 1500 or a 1000 or 1,250 bucks a month if you wanted to. And you can get a residency visa as a Pensionado. You can get an investment visa if you buy a home in one of these countries that's over a certain amount of money. That gets you a visa as an investor in that country because you bought real estate.
Dan Prescher: And these visas have varying lengths of time that they are good, varying ways that they're renewable, but if you want to stay in a country that you've fall in love with, there are a number of ways to do it. All of them are a little bureaucratic because we're humans and it's the world and bureaucracy is what we do, but it's no more onerous than the bureaucracy in the United States. It's just different.
Dan Prescher: And finding local resources, which is another huge reason to have good contacts and do good research, having local professional resources to get you through that, to get the visa step done, to get the legal requirements done. If you're going to do business in the country, to interface with the tax system there, whether or not there's dual taxation, which in most places there isn't, but sometimes taxes in a foreign country will impact your taxes in the United States. All of that stuff, having professional resources to help you with is a big plus, but people do it all the time every day. And they're easy to talk to now, thanks to the internet. And it's, like I say, it's just bureaucracy. Nobody likes it, but it's everywhere. You deal with it.
Abby Doody: Dan, we touched on this a little bit earlier about the excuses not to move. So what are some of those excuses that you guys hear and what are some reasons to overcome those? Or how do you overcome some of those myths? And then kind of going hand in hand, how do retirees work to integrate themselves in these new cultures where languages they might not be familiar with?
Dan Prescher: You bring up language and that's a huge hurdle for a lot of North Americans. Because again, we figure just everybody in the world speaks English. And if they don't, if we just yell it a little louder and slower, they will get it. And of course, that's not the case. What turns out to be the case is that almost everybody we've ever run into in Latin America and around most of the rest of the world has at least a little English or know somebody who does.
Dan Prescher: We have almost never been in a situation where there hasn't been somebody around us who's had enough English to help us out and get us through, but learning the language is not only courteous because you're living in a place where English isn't the first language, it broadens your cultural horizons by orders of magnitude and it makes everything so much better.
Dan Prescher: It's not hard for people of a certain age like me to learn a second language. You don't have to be fluent, you just have to be functional, you just have to know enough. And that's not a hard thing. And there are people who specialize in teaching second language, especially Spanish, in ways that folks of a certain age have an easy time to get it, it shouldn't be a hurdle. If it is, that's fine. If you don't even want to mess with it, that's fine.
Dan Prescher: And there are enclaves of North American expats who live in foreign countries who never bother to learn the language and never bother to speak to anybody in anything but English, it's possible to do. In my opinion, that's not the best experience, but it's possible to do. That's the one big hurdle.
Dan Prescher: The other big hurdle is safety. As weird as this is to think about, if you pay attention to the news cycle in the United States, you know how many really dangerous places there are in the US, but everybody thinks outside of the US is more dangerous. Most of the places, I take that back, all of the places that Suzan and I have lived in throughout Latin America, and we've lived in seven different communities in four different countries in Latin America, had been statistically safer than Omaha, Nebraska if you just go by [crosstalk 00:32:16]-
Ben Smith: Interesting.
Abby Doody: Interesting.
Dan Prescher: That might have a lot to do with reporting, the policing systems, the informational systems are different in these countries. We've never lived in a community in one of these countries where we have felt less safe than we have in Omaha, Nebraska, or in Casper, Wyoming, or in Kansas city, Missouri. That's something that expats learn when they move abroad that they don't necessarily, there's no way for them to experience that unless they go and try it out.
Dan Prescher: Talking to other expats is a great way to do that, and that's how you integrate in a lot of these communities. Almost every one of these great places, certainly the ones that International Living has identified as good places to retire in, have established expat communities. You're not just going out in the bush and hacking weeds, this ground has been plowed. A lot of it has been plowed for you in very effective ways.
Dan Prescher: A lot of people have made the mistakes that you don't have to make. They'll tell you how to get over it. If you want to go out and be a pioneer and live in a place and never see another English speaking expat again, you can do that. That's out of my comfort zone. I'll live almost anywhere on the planet, but I don't want to live out where I can't get ahold of anybody if something happens. I like having a community around me. I'm a city guy. Suzan and I both love the city. It just depends on what your comfort zone is. But once you do this, you won't be alone, there are millions of us out there.
Curtis Worcester: I want to take a second and dive into the cost scenario situation. You know, I know we talked about it a little while ago, about how, and you brought it up, how you just had to show kind of income. And we hear on our end, or the ability for income, sorry. So we hear on our end that the biggest concern is just making what they have stretch as long as possible, whether it's here or somewhere else. And I know you discussed your kind of personal situation living in the mountains, and it was super inexpensive or in between the two volcanoes. Can you just share some stories or other situations of success like that, and then kind of conversely, maybe some situations or stories of where people found it wasn't less expensive, ended up costing them more?
Dan Prescher: Right. You can spend as much or as little as you want anywhere on the planet that you are, you realize that. We could have spent millions of dollars in Cotacachi, Ecuador if we'd wanted to, building fabulous houses and importing Italian marble for new construction, stuff like that.
Curtis Worcester: Sure. Yeah.
Dan Prescher: It depends on your lifestyle, but that being said, if you move to, I'll use Ecuador, Cotacachi, Ecuador, as an example, we bought a condo there, feasible, we owned it, with a tourist visa, which is perfectly possible in Ecuador for $52,000. It was only 1100 square feet, a third of it was outside terrace, but that's where we spent most of our time because the weather was perfect. Our property taxes were less than $60 a year. Take your property taxes off the top of your budget. You might point that out.
Dan Prescher: We never had to own a car there, it didn't even occur to us to own our own vehicle. Public transportation was much too cheap and much too available to go everywhere if you couldn't get there on foot. Take a vehicle off the top of your budget. The maintenance, the insurance, just take it out of your budget. We didn't do this, but residents that we know who lived... we traveled too much, so we didn't join the Ecuadorian public health system. Most of the places we've lived have public health systems where strange as this is to relate, healthcare is a human right, what a concept.
Dan Prescher: So, these guys would interface with the Ecuadorian public health system and spend maybe 50, 60, 100, $150 a month on comprehensive health insurance with no pre-existing conditions. Take your insurance off the top of your budget and see what that does to it.
Dan Prescher: No heating, no air conditioning. The weather was perfect all year round. We couldn't spend everything every month that we got, we had to say it was impossible not to save under conditions like that. The cost of living was just so low. Like I say, if we wanted to, we could have spent all that money on stuff that we didn't need, frivolous stuff, self-indulgent stuff, but there are dozens and dozens of places around the world where that's possible.
Dan Prescher: The caveat is that once you step off the plane in Quito, Ecuador, or in Panama City, Panama, that doesn't happen right away. You'll have legal expenses. You'll have to get your first and last month's rent just like you do in the United States. You'll have all of those startup expenses. You'll have to do a little exploring. So, you have to have a cushion, you have to have some savings, you have to be able to get through it to that point where you find out the local places to shop.
Dan Prescher: You interface with the guys who tell you how to lower your cost of living effectively. You get your utilities. There's a learning curve to it. And it costs a little bit of money. You could move to Paris, France, and there's no better lifestyle in Paris, France. I'm sorry, if you like a place better than Paris, that's fine. We won't argue about that. Paris, Prague, Czechoslovakia, those places I could move to tomorrow. Dublin, Ireland, they're expensive. They're really expensive. And if you go there thinking that you're going to save money, you're just wrong. You're not going to be able to live on your social security there.
Dan Prescher: Your lifestyle has so much to do with how much you will eventually spend that it's hard to say this is too much for you, or this is too little for you. It's really a case by case basis. But if you want to live on $2,500 a month and live well and not give up good healthcare, not give up great internet, not give up access to a world-class hospital, it's perfectly possible to do in dozens of places around the world.
Ben Smith: That's really good to know, because again, from a barrier thing, I think there's an assumption of all those things. It's like, no, well, my rent is going to be the same, or my, again, Northeast where heating oil is a huge thing and the property tax is a...
Dan Prescher: Yeah.
Ben Smith: You basically like listed like the top five things on all of our kind of expense budget that we have to pay for.
Dan Prescher: That's what it comes down to, your taxes, your healthcare, your insurance. If you're living in the right place, those things dwindle to a ridiculous fraction of what they are in the United States.
Ben Smith: I want to ask you a question, Dan, so I can kind of think of, of course there's lots of countries around the world where they use their own currencies that aren't the US dollar based or Euro based, right?
Dan Prescher: Right.
Ben Smith: I would have a concern say I moved to Rio de Janeiro, and now using the Brazilian currency there, and they are encountering 20%, 30% inflation a year. So, I guess my question is, how have you seen people combat... like maybe on social security I'm getting my income or I'm getting maybe a gig economy as you're saying, I'm earning money in US dollars, but my expenses are in a different currency. I can see where I think all three of us would probably have trouble keeping that straight, but how does somebody in this situation like kind of combat the knowledge as the income minus expense, but now income minus expense in different currencies?
Dan Prescher: Right. It's again, that's stuff that happens above my pay grade. The math center of my brain disappeared sometime in grade school. And I don't do those things well. For people like me there's Panama where they use the US dollar. Ecuador dollarized their economy in 2000, I think 2000, 1999 or 2000, use the US dollar. Belize, if you want to live on Ambergris Caye and dive on the Mesoamerican Reef, 50 yards off shore, the Belize dollar is pegged 2:1 at the US dollar, and has been for years and years and years. So, you don't have to worry about the conversion factors there.
Dan Prescher: In Mexico, Suzan and I have lived in three different places in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende, Mérida, and Ajijic south of Guadalajara. When we first got there the exchange rate was about 14 to one, 14 pesos to one US dollar. The exchange rate now is I think at 20 or more, which means that if I'm getting paid in US dollars, bringing US dollars into Mexico, things are fabulously affordable for me.
Dan Prescher: The last time we were there, we couldn't afford to cook at home. It was too cheap to go to a restaurant. Our US dollar, the exchange rate was so favorable to the US dollar that it was a remarkable bargain. If tomorrow the exchange rate went suddenly to nine pesos to the dollar, all of that would change and we'd have to deal with that.
Dan Prescher: The Canadians really hate us because their dollar exchange rate is not the same as the US dollar exchange rate, and they don't know why. They would like it to be the same, but it's not. So those are things that you really have to deal with. The riyal, the Nicaraguan peso, we lived in Nicaragua for a while, all of those exchange rates fluctuate. As long as the US dollar is really strong, you're doing good. It's anybody's guess how long the US dollar is going to be really strong. It's been on a terror man, it's been on a real terror. Right now it's great, but that'll change soon or later. [crosstalk 00:41:57]-
Ben Smith: It will. And it always changes, right? I think that's the thing of, as we're looking through this and you've got to examine at the time you're making decisions and that will dictate things. So again, I think for us we want to be interested in process and not necessarily like today when we're making the recording, this is the place to be, type thing.
Dan Prescher: Exactly.
Ben Smith: Dan, I want to ask you a question about taxes, and you brought up taxes. Especially from property, you're looking at that and saying, "Hey, in some cases, property taxes are way lower than what we experience in the United States."
Dan Prescher: Yeah.
Ben Smith: But I think we even see that in state to state cases, like we're next to New Hampshire, right? So no state income taxes next door to us, but you want to always do an apples to apples comparison, right? Because it's looking at what, because it could be that maybe sales taxes are higher or income taxes are higher, but property is less. Do you guys, in terms of International Living Magazine or something you've seen out there, is there a way to do an apples to apples comparison when I'm saying I'm looking at Ecuador or I'm looking at Prague or wherever I'm looking to going?
Dan Prescher: That exists. That's difficult information to gather and to keep current, there are changes all the time, but there's a tax, what we call a Tax Bible on the International Living website. It's in the bookstore. Go to the bookstore and look for some of those titles because all of that stuff gets addressed in special reports. And Tax Bibles that put together, realize it's a moving target. It's always been a moving target.
Dan Prescher: Most countries have IVA, value added tax. So, you're paying taxes on the goods that you actually buy upfront, which is one reason income taxes can be so low, which is one reason property taxes can be so low. In a lot of places you get what you pay for. And if your property taxes are really low, it might mean that the local schools aren't so high, it might mean the electricity goes off a couple of times a week, it might mean that the water isn't potable, that you might be better off drinking bottled water. And those are real concerns. You can save a lot of money in some ways, but you might give it back in others, getting bottled water or getting a generator for when the power goes off if you need to do that, or you can just live like a local and say, "Power's off, I'll have a beer." That's always a good strategy [crosstalk 00:44:18] situations like that.
Abby Doody: We have a few younger clients who have subscribed to the FIRE, so the Financial Independence Retire Early theme.
Dan Prescher: Yeah, I have heard of that.
Abby Doody: Yes. And so they are looking to possibly set sail and travel around the world by sailboat. I think you guys refer to this as a roving retirement. What are some strategies that people can use to successfully do this? Because it's different than just living in a single place. You're kind of all over the place. So, yeah.
Dan Prescher: As an old guy, I don't know as much about that as some of the younger people in the International Living Organization, but I know for a fact that we are developing a product now that deals with working visas in Europe, because one of our correspondents lives in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and is on a working visa. Everybody's heard of Estonia. You can go there and get a really cheap working visa and live there for a year and take advantage of their internet system, their infrastructure, which is world-class top-notch.
Dan Prescher: We're going to put together a product, it'll be a white paper, a special report that we'll offer on the website that highlights the best of those and the ways to take advantage of them. If you're on a boat, all you really need to do is get to a harbor that has a Wi-Fi connection I think, then you're close enough to do your job online. It will depend on where your income is generated, what your tax situation is. If your income actually comes from a company in the United States, that's one situation. If your income comes from a company based in Ireland, that's another situation. If it comes from a company based in Brazil, that's another situation.
Dan Prescher: If you're an independent contractor, it depends on where your tax residency is. And all of those are considerations. Those are ducks that you get in a row by thinking about what visa is best for you and where you want it. Again, bureaucracy has a lot to do with that. And I hate bureaucracy, so I don't pay any attention to it. I let my tax guy and my local legal consultant take care of that. Stay compliant is my only word of advice. Whatever the rules are, stay compliant.
Ben Smith: And Dan, I just want to ask a quick question there is obviously, if you're going to be doing these sorts of things or moving, you want someone with expertise in terms of like, okay, if you're US citizen and you are earning income, but you have all these other situations internationally, right? You want to go to somebody that has that expertise and can help you navigate those laws appropriately and not be accused of doing something nefarious along the way, right?
Dan Prescher: Exactly. And you can find that expertise in the United States. The people that know how to do expat taxes, because as you guys probably know, if you're a US citizen you're obliged to file your taxes every year. You may not have to pay them, you may be earning little enough and living on little that you don't have to pay taxes, but you always have to file.
Ben Smith: Right.
Dan Prescher: And you can find US tax experts who specialize in that. Many times the legal experts in countries with big, big North American expat populations, local resources will specialize in that as well because it behooves them to know how their local clients are interfacing with the US tax system. So, they'll have a body of knowledge about that as well. And you can find these guys. I know people would do it themselves, I'm not able to do that. I need professional help to do that. [crosstalk 00:47:55]-
Ben Smith: That sounds pretty scary.
Abby Doody: Yeah.
Curtis Worcester: Dan, I want to kind of rotate this conversation to healthcare. And I know we talked about it a little while ago, but I really want to dive in. So, say I'm considering moving out of the country, is there a way for me to evaluate the various healthcare systems? Say I have a short list of five places I want to live, how do I go about sort of evaluating the healthcare in those places?
Dan Prescher: Healthcare is one of the categories in the global retirement index. So, if the five countries on your short list are from the global retirement index, there's a category for that. I mean, you can Google Costa Rica healthcare system and you'll find out about the CAJA, C-A-J-A. That's the national health insurance scheme in Costa Rica. You can find out everything you want to know about it.
Dan Prescher: You can get the latest data on the Ecuadorian public health care system because it's changing as time moves on. Mexico is in the midst of revamping their national healthcare system, but keep in mind that in most of these countries, the national healthcare system isn't the only game in town. In the United States social security, Medicare, and the private healthcare systems are the only games in town, but in Mexico you could join the national healthcare system, you could get private insurance to cover the gap, and there's also a social security system that you could join. That may change in the near future, but Costa Rica, same way.
Dan Prescher: Any interface you have with the public healthcare system, you can get in the private healthcare system as well. Just go to an insurance company and get gap insurance, or insure yourself fully with private insurance, if you want, or if you're young and strong pay out of pocket, because you can get comparison tables of what it costs to get a knee replacement or get an appendectomy, or get a facelift, compared to what it costs in the United States. Most of the time you'll find that it costs a fraction of what it costs there.
Dan Prescher: And for years, Suzan and I happily paid out of pocket for what little healthcare expenses we had in Ecuador, in Nicaragua, in Panama. Now we're older, I qualify for Medicare, which I think is a really great deal. Don't get me wrong, one of the best health insurance plans on the planet. I hope it lasts. We keep pounding it, we'll see how long it goes, but we could go to Costa Rica next year and happily join the national healthcare system there. It's a matter of options.
Dan Prescher: They have so many option that it's really up to you to cobble together the healthcare plan that best fits your individual needs. For a lot of people joining the national healthcare plan is not the best deal, you might not want to do it. You might want to get private insurance just to cover catastrophic stuff and pay out of pocket for the rest. You'll really limit your healthcare expenses that way. But if you could afford a 100, 200 bucks a month, 300 bucks a month for a family to get what amounts to full coverage with no preexisting conditions in a lot of these countries, why not do it? That's a good feeling.
Dan Prescher: And I will add that in every major metropolitan area that Suzan and I have lived next to in these countries, there has been a hospital that's been the equal of, or better than any hospital that we've had in the United States. It's just a myth that the United States has the best healthcare on the planet. By almost any measure, outcomes, cost, infant mortality, longevity, by almost any measure, the United States hasn't been in the top 10 for a long time. France always tops those indexes. Most European countries top those indexes. And surprisingly, most metropolitan areas in Latin America will be at the top of those indexes as well. So, you don't sacrifice quality.
Curtis Worcester: I want to kind of follow up that first question with I think that scenario, I hear you as if I truly think of myself, I think I'd be along the lines of you paying out of pocket, knock on wood, being relatively healthy. I think a big concern kind of shifting to retirees is I think generally speaking, you'll need more care as you age. What do you think that kind of experience could be for someone who maybe needs advanced care as they age, but still living abroad? How do you kind of think about that?
Dan Prescher: We see this all the time, because for years and years, most of the people that we wrote about were retirees, and those guys eventually need more care. In our bailiwick in Latin America, people have been caring for their [foreign language 00:52:30], their third age relatives in home. Families take care of families. So, institutionalizing that kind of care has not been a big thing.
Dan Prescher: Mexico now realizes that a lot of North American retirees are going to age in place in Mexico, and they're taking care of that. They're starting age in place institutions, they're starting those long-term care institutions, but in a place like Mexico, in a place like Panama, in a place like Belize, or Nicaragua, getting in home healthcare from a qualified professional costs a ridiculous fraction of what it costs in the United States. If you're aging or you have an aging parent, we know people who have brought their parents down to Panama, or to Nicaragua, or to Belize so they could get an in home caretaker for them at an affordable price. That's perfectly possible too.
Dan Prescher: Again, you cobble together those solutions. And there are just as many people, which is why we always suggest keeping up your Medicare payments, keeping up... because if you get to a point where you want to move back to the United States, and you're more comfortable in a US hospital with a doctor who speaks English, go back, go back and find your comfort zone, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And Medicare is a great insurance plan.
Ben Smith: And from an advanced age perspective, and you made the point about how basically the kind of a generationally what you see around the world is really the next generation taking care of their older generation as we age, right?
Dan Prescher: Right.
Ben Smith: And especially stepping in for as we're living longer and helping take care of affairs. How have you seen that happen? Because you said this is not a new theme of people moving abroad, but it would seem like at some point where there might be some sort of admitting that, geez, I am maybe losing capacity to do things, or it would be better or easier where maybe the community have around me for whatever reason is not the community that wants to take care of me as I age and I eventually die. So, is there a point where people would then say, "Hey, maybe this is the time for me to move back and get close to my kids again and..."? Because I guess that would be a natural kind of transition for me is think about that as at some point, okay, we've kind of done that and I want to kind of be close to my family, especially as end of life happens. Right?
Dan Prescher: That's why Suzan and I became part-timers last year before COVID hit. We have a six year old granddaughter who's the smartest person on the planet, and we want to be closer to her. We moved from Ecuador to Mexico where we're now legal residents, so we could part time in the United States and be a lot closer to her. That's why the pandemic caught us here in the States because we were here during that time. Many, many expats want to take part in their grandkids lives. So, they come back. They part time. Many, many expats would prefer to spend their last years around their familiar friends and families back on the block that they know about, getting care from somebody they don't have to have a translator for. And that's a perfectly valid concern. And lots of expats come back specifically for those reasons. Those are great reasons to move back.
Dan Prescher: And I think when we started this, like I said, it's not jumping off a cliff, the place that you go and decide to retire, you don't have to make plans to die there. You die wherever you want. Just like you can live wherever you want, you can die wherever you want. I like Medicare. I'm going to take full advantage of it. I might be living part time in Mexico, I might be living part time in Ireland, I might be living part time in the Czech Republic because my people are Czech, I like the beer, but I see nothing wrong with having a foot in both places.
Dan Prescher: Because like I said before, I'm a very patriotic happy US citizen, and my heart is here and my heart is also in Ecuador and Panama City and all those other places that we've moved. Suzan and I have just become... it's like becoming a citizen of the world. You know, it truly is. It broadens your outlook, it doesn't make you like the US any less, it just makes you like the rest of the world more.
Ben Smith: I love that.
Abby Doody: Great. We touched on this a little bit, but learning from other people's experiences can be really valuable, especially when making these moves abroad. So, what are some common mistakes that you see retirees going through when they go about making the big move abroad and how can we learn from those mistakes?
Dan Prescher: The biggest mistake, and I've touched on this before, is an attitude mistake. It's the attitude of thinking that wherever you go in the world, it's going to be just like the US only cheaper or in a funnier language. And that's not the case. You have to be ready for people who have different concepts of time and different concepts of responsibility and different concepts of family. You have to stay light on your feet in that regard.
Dan Prescher: You also have to maintain a sense of humor because not everybody around the world wants to be a US citizen. And when you come there with your US attitudes and you say, "You know, that's not the way we do it in the United States," they will just laugh at you because, "We don't want to be Americans, we're perfectly happy being Brazilians. We're perfectly happy being Uruguayans. We're perfectly happy being Panamanians. You guys have some great stuff, but if I want it, I'll ask you for it. Don't just unload it on me."
Dan Prescher: Another common problem is that people think they're going to save money immediately and they don't have a big enough cushion. They don't have a big enough float to get them through that first six months or a year, especially if they find out that they've chosen the wrong country and they want to change their mind.
Curtis Worcester: And do it again. Yeah.
Dan Prescher: If they want to de camp and find another place to go, you're going to have to have some float. And it's just smart to have a float all the time, but especially when you're establishing yourself in another country, no matter how low the cost of living, you're going to need some cash, you're going to need some cushion. And a lot of people don't realize that.
Dan Prescher: And a lot of people don't realize also how much they're going to miss back home. We've seen a lot of really, I tear up just thinking about it, but they've lived in a beautiful place with lots of great friends for about six months, eight months, and they just miss home so bad. But again, the internet has changed a lot of that. We saw a lot of that the first 10 years that we were working for International Living. Now we can get on a Zoom call like this with our friends and family once a night and catch up. It eases that burden a lot. But still, if you've got a grandkid back home, you got to get back there and you have to get your hands on. You guys will find out, you'll learn all about that, you'll figure it out.
Curtis Worcester: That's great. So, Dan, a way that we love to end every conversation we have with our guests is kind of flipping up the playbook on you. And so the name of the show is Retirement Success in Maine Podcast. Someone like yourself who has, I know we hear a lot of people who answer this question as they want to travel, so someone like you who has traveled a lot of your adult life, how do you see retirement success going for you? Like how do you define a successful retirement?
Dan Prescher: Wow, great question. To me, having a successful retirement, I got to be honest, it means keeping doing what I'm doing. Retirement has completely changed in the last decade or two. People don't just stop doing what they have been doing all their lives at 65 and swing in a habit. I love what I'm doing for International Living. I host conferences, I write, I like the people I work with, I like the people I talk to. I'll do this until they tell me to stop. That's my hope for retirement. I hope to do it wherever on the planet I want to do it, of course, you know?
Curtis Worcester: Sure.
Dan Prescher: I'd love to do it from Ireland. I'd love to do it from Galway. I might not be able to afford to do that, but I know that I can afford to do it from Costa Rica, I know that I can afford to do it from Boquete in Panama. I just want to keep active and interested and engaged. And living abroad is the best way I know to stay active and interested and engaged because there's a challenge every day. You have to be active, you have to be interested, you have to be engaged. That's the lifestyle. Engagement is the lifestyle. So, I want to do that til I drop.
Ben Smith: That's a really good answer, because again I, and I think what you did, you did a really great job of summarizing as well of what you love about International Living to what I think people are going... what they're trying to search for. Because I think we hear, and what we hear a lot from our clients and people that are pre-retirees and getting to retirement is they're fatigued from the day-to-day monotony.
Ben Smith: It's like it's not just that they don't want to be challenged anymore, they're just sick of the same challenge every day, for 40 years. And it's like that's the, it's like this grind of that every day and then they kind of get worn down to this point of like, it's the, well, I don't know if I want to take on a challenge, but they don't want to take on the previous challenge, right?
Dan Prescher: That's exactly what happened to Suzan and I 20 years ago. We had a successful business in Omaha, Nebraska. We were consultants. We were working from home. The business was going great. And then we got this job offer and we went, "You know, we can stay here and keep putting on the monkey suit and keep pitching clients and barring our best suggestion three down so that we could end up with that, or we can go abroad and see what happens." So, you really have to have an appetite for novelty, you have to have a sense of adventure, but like I say, that's what keeps us alive, that's what keeps us going.
Ben Smith: And keep us young, right?
Dan Prescher: And keeps us young. I want to do that till I drop.
Ben Smith: Because again, we're looking at 30 years of retirement and we want people to go, "Hey, let's stay active. Let's engage. Let's have fun."
Dan Prescher: That's a long time to [crosstalk 01:02:32]-
Ben Smith: It's a long time. Let's have fun. And I think for some people, and maybe I can kind of say with envy is like, man, that sounds really exciting, right? Is to kind of see new things every day and to kind of live it. So-
Dan Prescher: Retry it. If you've got a social security nut and you've got something you always wanted to do, move someplace warm where the cost of living is half as much it is where you live now and give it a shot. Yeah.
Ben Smith: And you said the key word up here, is everyone... I think everyone's attention was like, "Warm? Oh, sign me up. That sounds great."
Dan Prescher: Yeah. Warm and interesting.
Ben Smith: Yes. So, Dan, thanks for coming on the show, we really, really can't thank you enough. And I think you're really great representative of International Living, but also as a theme, as someone that's done it, someone that can speak to it and the challenges and the mistakes and the lessons. So, we appreciate you coming on Retirement Success in Maine Podcast today.
Dan Prescher: My pleasure guys. Thanks for having me.
Abby Doody: Thanks.
Ben Smith: Take care. Have a good day. So, living internationally in retirement, right? So again, sorry to cheat, I'll apologize upfront, we're asking, we're telling people here's how to live outside of the State of Maine, but you know, again from our side is I think that's a pretty honest thing of people saying, "Hey, I've really enjoyed where I've lived and I've been in the state or the United States in general, but I'm curious about this thing about going somewhere else."
Ben Smith: And you know, I see it with even my family is we hear that like, "Well, I would move, but your son is here, my grandson is right here. I can't go anywhere, but I would love to be somewhere where it's 80 degrees every day."
Curtis Worcester: Sure.
Ben Smith: You know, you hear that, you go, "Well, why not? Why not? Why couldn't you do it?" And it's that bubble, it's that comfort zone. And what we wanted to do was have Dan come on and really provide a little bit of like let's put the pinprick to that bubble and let's kind of pop that a little bit and show how you can do stuff. What a great kind of representative since he's already like lived like four or five places, he's seen experiences. So, it's such a great I think honor for us to kind of hear from his experience, because I think that's something that it would be tough for us to naturally find.
Curtis Worcester: Yeah.
Ben Smith: So, that's a really good one. Of course, we like to highlight lessons from our shows, so I will have Curtis start us off here with something that you liked from our talk with Dan today.
Curtis Worcester: I think a really important piece that stuck out to me, and Dan kept bringing it up, was the idea of people want to go live somewhere that's cheaper. And I think he made it very clear, it's very possible to do that, but I think it's also easy to fall victim to going there with nothing and thinking you're just going to live this life. You know, he mentioned always having that float in your bank account and the first six or 12 months having some cash, because there will be some money to kind of get going, whether it's setting up utilities or finding a place to live or various things like that, that I think you see even here when you move.
Curtis Worcester: So, I'm glad he mentioned that because again, I think it's easy for someone to say, "Oh, I can live for a quarter of my costs in Ecuador," and they just move up and move and don't really think about what they might have to spend when they get there to get rolling.
Ben Smith: Interesting too, and just as an aside, that he kind of said, "After a second and third move, we kind of figured out like that shipping container that was following us around everywhere really wasn't necessary, since I could go down the street to Costco." I'm like, "Wait a second [crosstalk 01:05:59]."
Curtis Worcester: I know. Yeah. When he said a $2 bus ride to Costco, I was like, "Maybe I can go live there."
Ben Smith: Oh, yeah. Because you can do everything at Costco, right?
Curtis Worcester: Exactly.
Ben Smith: I thought that was a really kind of a good point Curtis there, because I think that's something where people don't... Just like if you were moving into, even if you were moving out of your house and into downsizing house somewhere, more likely the furniture you have in your existing place is not going to fit the new place. So, there's that. That is a requirement, I think, regardless if you're going internationally or just down the street, you're going to have that going on, but a good [inaudible 01:06:33] to point that out. Abby, from your end, what was something you took away from our talk with Dan today?
Abby Doody: I found it really interesting how he kept bringing up the attitude that people have when they move, right? So, not going to a foreign country and trying to have it be just like America because it's not, and it never will be. So, going there with a good attitude and open mind to just experience what that country has to offer is really the best way that he's seen the outcomes end up. So, being as open as possible without impressing your own thoughts about the country ahead of time is really important. I found that really interesting.
Ben Smith: And I'm sure you have a lifelong lessons of culture that we've absorbed in United States of norms and things that we say, this is the way it should be. And to then kind of, as he said, he's learning things every day of like, Oh, well, you know, you don't do it this way, you do it that way. And I need to also be adaptive to it and not certainly pressing my feelings about it. So yeah, which again, I think as we all age we kind of get a little more set in our ways, so that's a unique personality, I think, to have that attitude, right? To be able to go there and be adoptive and not be prescriptive of, "You guys are wrong and I'm right."
Abby Doody: Absolutely.
Ben Smith: I thought one thing that I liked a lot was Dan showing vulnerability on his first move.
Curtis Worcester: Yeah.
Ben Smith: Because I could see where people could listen to this and go, "Hey, Dan did it. And here's how he did it, here's some process, and he got all the checklists." And he's a writer for International Living Magazine. Here he is writing about this stuff, and he does his first move and every day for six months they're crying, they're homesick, right?
Curtis Worcester: Yeah.
Ben Smith: It's like there's not a checklist for being homesick. It's like there's really, that's just something about, I could see where that is a very high hurdle and go, what is homesick versus what is just a feeling I hate? Right?
Curtis Worcester: Yeah.
Ben Smith: And I could see where people could bail out early because they start it and then they fall start because they think that they just can't do it. So, I think that was an interesting point because he said, "Now we're on our fourth trip and we've done all these different moves and locations," but the homesick part was something that he had to get over, he and his wife, and it just took a while. And I could see all of us doing that as you get somewhere and you're like, "Boy, I really miss my favorite sandwich shop down the street and I wish I could just have that, or..."
Curtis Worcester: Yeah.
Ben Smith: Every day I'm sure you're reminded. I think that's a really big part is that we're all going to have to face some sort of homesickness if you are moving. And again, even that can be down the street, but I'm sure even more so when you're going to a new culture, new language, new financial system, new healthcare, new everything.
Ben Smith: But appreciate everybody tuning in today for international living in retirement, because again, I think that this is something where it's like the bucket list traveling with [inaudible 01:09:26]. I think this is something that a lot of people are really interested in, especially now with COVID and now we can work remotely even more. Maybe now is I think this is on people's minds. So, hopefully this resonates with people, helps answer some questions, maybe start new questions, but for those that really want to go, again, we'll have our blog out there with all the internationalliving.com resources, some of the things that Dan was sharing with us. So, you can go to blog.guidancepointllc.com/28. We're in episode 28. You can check that out there.
Ben Smith: And of course, again, we'll have a little bit more for you to go, but I would even say if you're thinking about this, I think that's probably a pretty good start even looking at subscribing. Subscribe to that magazine, read what the stories are, what are the experiences. It might open your eyes to what's possible out there. So, I'll put up a quick plug in there, but again, we always appreciate everyone's attention and listening in to our show today. Hope you learned something. We learned a lot. And we will catch you next time. Take care.