Of all the South American countries, the most eligible for a retirement home for us would be Uruguay. Most people don't know much about Uruguay, so it probably wouldn't come to mind as a choice for a retirement home location. Heck, most people couldn't even place it on a map of South America. There's a very large ex-pat population there … Brits, Europeans, Americans … who enjoy the “tranquilo” nature of this little buffer country between Argentina and Brazil. There's easy access to the rest of South America and heading back to the States is a breeze and accomplished in a day. Part of the issue, I guess, is that we don't want to be part of an ex-pat neighborhood, we want to belong to the country, not to a community of folks just like us who are ex-patriated. Yes, we want the good life, but we don't want to be insulated from the locals.
If we retire some place, we really need to be able to call it home. We're at a disadvantage in some respects. We've been out sailing for the past 14 years. There is no “old neighborhood” to which to return. There aren't the scads of old friends that we've summer vacationed with for decades or played cards with every Saturday night for an eternity. Our friends are scattered throughout the world in Sweden and St. Helena Island and New Zealand and Australia. Home has been Nine of Cups and we have changed our neighborhoods as often as most people change their underwear.
So, how about a South Pacific island like Tonga or Fiji? We loved both places for the time we were there, but again political unrest in Fiji and a complicated cultural strata in Tonga were stumbling blocks for us. Plus an island is a small, small place and it's not easy to have family or friends over for a quick visit.
New Zealand and Australia have lots of allure. They speak English (of a sort) and share many of the same customs and culture, so what's the problem? They don't want us! That's right, they don't want us. And really, who can blame them? Let's be realistic. We're getting older and won't be contributing to society like a young professional would. What do we bring to them? Not much, I'd guess.
New Zealand offers an on-line test to determine if you're “immigrant” material. It's a point system and they give you X amount of points for each positive answer you provide. We both got points for our university degrees. David got extra points for being an engineer and having a Master's Degree. We racked up extra points for experience levels and I got a few for having been an English teacher. At the end, we had a gazillion points and were pretty proud of ourselves until the last question. “How old are you? Over 55? Lose a gazillion points … plus one. Do NOT pass GO; Do NOT collect $200 “… unless you have in a million dollars or so to invest, the Kiwis don't want us except as temporary visitors. Hmmm!
Australia's rules are similar to New Zealand's. Australia is wonderful and the people are friendly, but it's an expensive place for Americans to live. And once again, if you're older than 55, you must invest in order to get residency. This is fair and realistic, just not possible for us. Not enough loose change in the kitty. If one of these places is your goal for retirement, consider it early (before you're 55) and make your plans accordingly.
So … the best place to retire in our humble opinions? We don't know yet. We haven't explored all the possibilities. We know where we don't want to retire, but we're not sure exactly where we do want to retire. Rest assured, we'll definitely let you know when we find Utopia. Till then, we'll keep sailing to new neighborhoods.