Retiring early is tough. I don’t care where you live.
Not only do you have to maintain an ultra-high savings rate for a long time, but you’ve got to constantly say no to temptation. That might be easy for some of you, but society has conditioned us to believe things like a big house and a fancy car are the byproducts of success. The only thing successful about that guy riding a bike is his ability to get DUIs.
And then you’ve got to invest successfully. This is harder than it looks. Sure, we’ve got low-cost index funds you can just stick your cash into, but they still don’t take away the human tendency of selling at the exact wrong time or raiding accounts to pay for the aforementioned new car or house.
There’s also the timing aspect to it. I’m a firm believer thoughts of early retirement spike during bull markets. People feel good and their investments are doing great. There’s nothing holding them back! Nobody is looking to retire under 40 when the market is hitting 2009 lows.
Still, it’s expensive to retire in the United States. Life in most of its major cities is expensive. An apartment in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago is as expensive as it gets. Smaller cities are cheaper, but if this thread is any indication, early retirees want nothing to do with rural America.
These folks would rather live in places like Costa Rica, Thailand, or even Mexico. They point to amenities like a cheap cost of living, better climate, and greater access to medical care as perks, as well as focusing on the adventure of living in a foreign country.
That’s all fine and good, but take it from a guy who’s lived abroad. It’s annoying. The only expats you meet are drifters with no sense of direction or English teachers, who are only slightly less insufferable. Getting the right food is annoying, and sometimes all you want are those chips you can only get at home. Even going to the damn store and getting garbage bags can be an adventure. And if you end up in the right country, you’ll get stared at. Constantly.
I don’t regret my year abroad. I can just see it from a different perspective.
Besides, it’s a whole lot of work for not a bunch of benefit. Here’s how you can retire early in rural Canada on the cheap.
First up, housing
Want to buy a decent place for under $100,000? It’s not only possible in rural Canada. It’s easily accomplished.
Here’s an 1100 square foot house in Hanna, Alberta, for $89,900. A one-bedroom condo in Swift Current, Saskatchewan is going for $99,900. A three-bedroom condo will only set you back $90k in Moose Jaw. There are 27 properties in Portage La Prairie under $110,000. Fredericton, St. John, and other places in New Brunswick have hundreds of properties under $100,000, including this brand new mobile home.
And so on.
These places aren’t in the sticks, either. They’re all towns with reasonable amenities. They have hospitals, department stores, decent schools, and are even relatively close to major airports. They might not offer as much to do as a major city, but hobbies in these places don’t cost much anyway. And there are plenty of free things to do, even in places like Swift Current.
Next, health care
I really don’t understand why early retirees are so obsessed with low-cost health care in developing countries. They’re not going to the doctor four times a week.
If you’re a reasonably healthy person in your 30s or 40s, any small town hospital will be enough to keep you healthy. Most things that go wrong when you’re younger are easy to fix anyway. Any moron can do stitches if you fall off your bike.
The big advantage retiring in Canada versus the United States is you don’t have to pay health insurance premiums. Let’s face it. Any health care plan that has a $10,000 deductible is no health plan. It’s an insurance policy only. All you’re protecting is against major injury. So why not come to Canada, where the major stuff is already included and you can get insurance to pay for the minor stuff (dental, eyes, etc.) for less than the price of a terrible U.S. plan.
Good news, Americans. Thanks to our crummy dollar–or your strong one, depending on your perspective–your cash now goes farther than ever.
Only have $800,000 to your name? Convert those bucks to Canadian and you’re suddenly a millionaire with $66,000 left over. If only it were that easy to convert zero dollars to 800,000 of them.
Everyone talks about taking advantage of this when going to sexier abroad countries. Why not Canada?
And finally, let’s talk about taxes. Specifically how you’re going to pay for an early retirement inside the socialist paradise of Canada. Somebody’s gotta pay for that sweet health care.
First of all, you won’t pay much in tax if you’re just receiving dividends and you keep your income under the $50,000 range. It’s even better if you split that income between you and your wife. If you’re both earning $30,000 in dividends and that’s it, there won’t be much tax to pay.
Next up are sales taxes, which are certainly a bigger deal in Canada than in the U.S. Some areas of Canada charge a 13% sales tax. Most places in the U.S. are between 5-8%. If you’re really worried about that, move to Alberta, the only place in the country without a provincial sales tax.
And that’s it
The bottom line? It’s pretty simple. If you’re looking to retire early, rural Canada offers cheap housing, reasonable taxes, access to a decent amount of amenities, and free health care. And your currency goes farther here than in other countries. You could do a whole lot worse.