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Leavin' on a jet plane...

Leavin' on a jet plane...

| May 28, 2024

I attended a talk on Medicare yesterday. In addition to providing a good overview, the talk also discussed the role of private equity in the US healthcare system. It was a bit unnerving to be honest. And then I read an article about US retirees looking to retire abroad based on lower healthcare costs.

There is a certain financial sense to this move. One couple interviewed stated their US monthly healthcare expense was $1,500 whereas it is but $300 in Portugal where they now are. Another US couple now living in Italy stated that theirannualhealthcare cost is $2,200.

The article did not dive into the quality of care but the interviewed couples seemed to feel their needs were being met. It is important to look at the quality of care as well as how long one might have to wait for anything medical related.

When I talk with my 401k client employees about retirement, the topic of living overseas comes up more and more frequently. Having worked overseas in Hong Kong, I can say that it is not easy but then again, what in life is easy?

Language can certainly be a barrier. English is my native language and I can navigate my way around the US with ease. I am a reasonably smart person but for all my smarts, I had a heck of a time learning Cantonese, the native language of Hong Kong. Considering that I am able speak some Mandarin, I thought I might be able to conquer Cantonese. Nope. It was one of the frustrations I felt while working in Hong Kong.

Culture is another issue. Again, I am comfortable in the US. As I travel around the states visiting my 401k clients, I am confident wherever I go. Not so in Hong Kong in spite of being half-Chinese. No amount of study can prepare a person for living in another country. Some are easier than others but this should be kept in mind.

The administrative side of things is something else to consider. For example, most employees I speak with are able to open a checking account or transact financial matters. That can be quite different in another country. Toss in the language barrier, the speed with which people work, and the fine print of a financial document and you may find the administrative side is a full-time job or one requiring hiring someone.

Not being close to family or an existing community also came up in the article. Even for countries where there is a growing ex-pat community, these are not necessarily people you know at first. Rebuilding community takes time and in the interim, it can be lonely. My solution to that in Hong Kong was to get involved in a variety of activities so I could make friends.

Last but not least, I do caution employees on things we take as creature comforts in the US that may not exist abroad. One of my college MBA friends actually turned down an offer to work in Hong Kong because he would not be able to watch American football games. Yes, you can laugh at him. And certainly, NFL games are usually only shown pre-season August - February (Super Bowl) but this mattered to him.

When you factor all of these things in - language, culture, family, administrative stuff, and creature comforts - it can be challenging living abroad day in and day out. There is no doubt the US healthcare system can be improved. And yes, healthcare in the US is expensive. Caution and research though are warranted before making the move overseas.