Why we Decided to Move from the U.S.
Why we moved to Portugal in 2021
Disclaimer: The thoughts, experiences, choices, and opinions written here are strictly our own. You may not agree with them, and that’s okay. We’re not trying to influence or judge – we’re simply providing information on how and why we decided to take this journey.
There were a variety of reasons for our decision. Some of the primary reasons were:
Affordability – we were becoming increasingly concerned about a comfortable, affordable retirement in the United States.
Healthcare – we were looking for good, affordable, accessible healthcare. Over the last decade in the United States, we had personally experienced a decline in the quality of the healthcare system. Get less care. Charge more money. Get sick and hope for the best? We didn’t want to go bankrupt over surprise medical bills and the prohibitive cost of prescription drugs, especially when we fully retired on a fixed income.
Safety – we were concerned about feeling safe in the United States. We were finding that many people were increasingly angry all the time – road rage, mass shootings, etc. Some may attribute this to the Pandemic, but we think there’s a more serious underlying issue. We were looking to live in a safer environment, especially as we get older.
Climate – as former desert dwellers, living in the American Southwest for nearly 20 years, we witnessed increasingly hotter summers that lasted longer. No rain and more construction meant water shortages. Wildfires were also a concern especially when in 2020, a fire came to less than 3 miles away from where we lived. Daily smog was becoming more prevalent, and we both developed dry coughs. We were looking for a place with a more temperate climate (even though we understand that climate change is global).
Note: Over the last few years, we considered moving to other parts of the United States – South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida were top contenders, but we didn’t really like the climates there, not to mention increasingly more hurricanes and tornadoes. We did not want to be anywhere cold, so New England, the place we were born and raised, was out of the question.
Less stressful environment – America runs on high-octane. We wanted to get off the hamster wheel.
Politics – whatever part of the political spectrum you’re on – liberal, conservative, or somewhere in-between, it’s arguably no fun for anyone right now to be in such a politically divided country. We were looking for a more peaceful political environment.
Diversification of assets and countries of residence – we were looking to diversify our assets and countries of residence by having some of our funds available to us in bank accounts or investments in a country other than the United States should we ever need to access them. We also felt that a residency in another country would ensure that if we ever felt pressured to have to leave the U.S., we had another place to live. You never know when other countries will make the requirements to apply and establish residency more difficult or cease to allow certain resident visas altogether. We wanted to ensure that we had an alternative place of our own choosing to live.
If not now…when? We initially started to talk about moving to another country well over eight years ago. We would talk about it, then not think about it for a while. Looking back, we were both waiting for the perfect time, which of course, never really happens except in your mind. Then, some things occurred in the span of a few months from 2019 to 2020 that made us decide not to wait and to just do it:
We sold our home. We knew we wanted to move to another country (eventually), so we decided that a good first step would be to sell our home while the housing market was up, so when the time came to make the move, we’d be ready. The actual selling of the house didn’t take very long – we had a buyer rather quickly - but the process leading up to it – all the sorting of possessions we had accumulated for 40+ years and no longer needed or wanted – giving things away – selling things on eBay and Etsy – doing repairs on the house – replacing appliances, etc. - took a lot of time and stressed us out on many different levels.
A Sudden death. Paul’s brother died suddenly. At just 71 years old, Paul’s older brother – who was extremely fit and athletic – had a massive and fatal heart attack while skiing down the slopes of Loon Mountain in New Hampshire in December of 2019. He never made it to the bottom of the mountain and was found in the woods, off the ski trail. That was a wake-up call for us.
COVID happened. We had been planning a 3-week scouting trip to Portugal when COVID hit. When 2 weeks of disinfecting everything we encountered, wearing masks, and going nowhere but within the walls of our rental home ended up being several months more, we wondered if we would even survive COVID-19. I worried about Paul’s age and prayed that he was healthier than his brother – he worried about my getting a cold that would go to my chest. Night after night, we would sit and watch the news and see the tally of people dead from the virus go up. In those moments, we became so much more aware of time and how vulnerable we all are to losing the time we think we still have.
Dementia at a young age. A longtime friend called me in April of 2020 to tell me that she had been recently diagnosed with a hereditary form of dementia. She was forced to retire from a distinguished healthcare career which she loved and excelled in. She’s a little younger than I am. Her husband had retired but was working part-time. He stopped working altogether to take care of her at home for as long as possible. They had plans to enjoy a long, happy retirement together. Now, that’s all changed. Another painful wake-up call for us.
I wanted to retire. I was tired of working in a job that didn’t excite me, challenge me, or utilize my skills to their fullest extent. And although due to COVID, I was working remotely from home, I was tired of just working for a paycheck, and a mediocre one at that. I was approached by headhunters and recruiters along the way with more lucrative jobs and salary offers but didn’t have it in me to start another position where I would be ‘owned’ by my employer. I didn’t want to be available 24/7 and I didn’t want to have to answer my cellphone or my work email while on vacation. I wanted to come home at a reasonable hour to be with Paul who was already retired. I was done. We agreed that due to the Pandemic, I would work to my full retirement age and get my maximum social security benefit. After that, there would be no more excuses.
Although by this time we had already decided that we wanted to eventually retire in Portugal, it was at this point in 2020 when we decided to forego scouting trips (which due to COVID seemed to always be put on distant hold), and start making plans, conducting research, and gather the documentation needed to just do it and make the move to Portugal from the United States.
Until next time…