The idea of moving abroad is rather romantic. You pack your bags, close up shop, and set off on a grand adventure to a new place.
And this is a largely fair representation -- moving abroad is often extremely fun and adventurous. But that doesn't mean it's easy, either personally or on your finances. Here are a few things you need to put into place before you go.
The number one thing you shouldn't do is buy property before you've spent some time in your new home country.
The fact is that price levels vary wildly by country (even by city), so what looks like a bargain to you now may in fact be a complete waste of money. Renting also gives you a chance to really think about where you'd want to live, and you'll be much more confident about it having actually spent some time there.
Secondly, and critically if you'll be looking for a job after you move, doing your own freelancing thing, or starting a business: have some savings prepared. You don't want to go into debt, and you really don't want to end up essentially stranded somewhere because you've gone in without the means to get back out if things don't work out.
Even if you have a job offer, you will not regret having a little pot of funds that you can use to move back or cover additional expenses during the transition.
Do your homework
Even if you've taken my advice and decided to rent instead of buy, it's still important to do your homework on where exactly to live. All cities have neighborhoods that you'll probably love and ones you'll hate, so do a bit of background reading on potential locations, their prices, and the kind of lifestyle they require. Ask yourself questions like, "Will I need a car?" and "Where will I go grocery shopping?"
On that note, what do the price levels look like? If you're considering a job offer, does it make sense in light of the cost of living? Luckily, in this day and age cost of living information is freely available, so spend some time investigating. Expat blogs and boards are another great way to gather this kind of intel.
Also important: If you're moving to a place where English is not the dominant language, how well will you need to speak the local tongue? The answer can also vary by neighborhood, so take the time to be prepared -- otherwise you might find that something as simple as shopping for food can be a much more expensive and stressful experience than you expected.
Check your policies
Many health insurance plans don't provide coverage abroad, and if you're a retiree take note that your long-term care policy may also not provide you with coverage.
So, depending on where you're going, check out what kind of coverage you can expect to get locally. If there's specialized care or medication you need, take the time to find out where and how you can get it. Also keep in mind that different countries take different approaches to seemingly common things -- for example, you may find that a pharmacist can give you what only a doctor can prescribe in the U.S., or that routine care for anything from injury management to obstetrics can take a course far different than you'd expect.
In the meantime, you might also consider travel insurance to cover you during the transitional period. It costs relatively little, and though the reimbursement process might be annoying it could also be very useful!
Overall, moving abroad is a huge but often completely worthwhile adventure. Step back to make sure you have the necessary plans in place and have a great time!
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