My mother recently took Sri Lanka for a "test drive" to see if it was a place where she could eventually retire. She's not of retirement age yet, but I'd like to think she could consider retiring early if a place like Sri Lanka was a real option. When I say taking a "test drive", it's different from taking a holiday, which she has done a few times now. The intent with a "test drive" is to see what it's like to actually live and make a home here i.e. cost of living, weather, infrastructure, access to necessary facilities, medical care, local culture, safety etc. More on this to come.
The truth for most of us is we are too busy to think about (let alone plan for) retirement. With youth, it's because we're living and grabbing whatever opportunity comes our way. There's a thought that says "it can wait for later, I've still got time to be reckless". And as we get older, we find ourselves caught in between a rock and a hard place weighed down with commitments, responsibilities and erroneous views.
I feel that the crux of retirement comes down to a few simple things. Firstly, you have to want to retire (early). If you tick this off, then the rest is all about the "how" and then the "when", "where", "what" and "with whom".
In my case, based on my age, retirement may be a long way off, but I've been thinking about the possibility of retiring early. In fact, I definitely want to. And so, the "how" is where I'm focused right now.
How to Retire?
Retirement actually comes down to choices and planning. Once you decide you want to retire (or retire early) you start considering questions like:
- how much will I need to retire?
- will my savings, investments, pension, assets be enough?
- what kind of lifestyle do I want and how much will it cost?
- what are my options for retiring abroad?
- who's coming with me?
"Retirement can be a great joy if you can figure out how to spend time without spending money"~Author Unknown
Retirement is more than just a long holiday, it's a different way of life without work. You will have more time to do the things you enjoy, spend time with yourself and others, and just generally be. You could think of it as an endless vacation that you needs planning and creativity to sustain.
Many people seriously consider retirement abroad. A few of my relatives and family friends have retired to destinations in Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and Australia (from the UK). Some have asked me about retiring in Sri Lanka. Their reasons for retiring abroad are multi-factored and include things like:
- weather and climate (i.e. sunny destinations, tropical etc.)
- value for money (including lower cost of living, cheaper medical costs and more)
- quality of life
- new culture, food and learning potential
- volunteer opportunities
- closer to extended family
- leisure and entertainment
I've also received a few messages and emails from people looking at Sri Lanka as a possible retirement haven and seeking information on cost of living and other considerations. It's not surprising as there are already quite a few expats who have retired, semi-retired or sought a sea-change in Sri Lanka.
For example, many have retired to Sri Lanka because they loved the climate in Nuwara Eliya and the reminders of England. They divide their time between the UK and Sri Lanka. Others have fallen in love with the tropical beaches around Colombo's outskirts as well as the Galle area and further south enjoying a gentler pace of life. And you'll find a few more who have retired and have been living comfortably in the cooler climate around Kandy for quite some time. FYI, there are some interesting YouTube videos that have interviews with people who have retired to Sri Lanka.
If you haven't visited Sri Lanka, then you'll be surprised to know the island has more to offer than just its coastal beaches. Although the island has a total area of 65,610 km² and its coastline is 1,340 km long, at the heart of the country in the south-central interior are the rugged central highlands. The island enjoys year-round warm tropical weather including tropical monsoons. However, cooler temperatures and less humidity can be experienced around the central highlands.
Why retire in Sri Lanka?
This was the question my mother was trying to figure out during her recent "test drive" of Sri Lanka. In the past, her visits have been primarily 2-3 week trips to check up on me with a few small adventures around the island. She did get a feel for the people and culture, but not really a proper idea of what its like to actually live here.
This time around she experienced it warts and all. She lived with me for a month in Colombo and also spent a month living in a bungalow around Kandy for a different experience. And her main objective was to see what it'd be like if she were to retire here. With this in mind, her main areas of investigation were:
- visa options
- cost of living
- safety and security
- value for money
- location and housing
- access to services and costs of medical, dental, optical etc.
- leisure, travel and entertainment
- food and dietary requirements
- expat communities
I'll explore these areas in more detail in Part 2 of this blog post on "Sri Lanka as a Viable Retirement Haven".