Q. I’ve heard that tax-wise, moving out of the country when you retire is a good idea. I have no kids so I’m open to the idea. What places — warm weather — could make sense? I would still stay a few months in America.
— Thinking [in New Jersey]
A. Whoa! Moving out of the country to avoid taxes is an extreme move. Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.
“The nice thing about living in New Jersey is that virtually every state in the nation will be less taxing and less expensive to live — maybe with the exception of California, New York and Connecticut, said Jerry Lynch, a certified financial planner with JFL Total Wealth Management in Boonton, New Jersey.
He said you should never move anywhere for tax purposes. Instead, you should move because you really want to and it fits your lifestyle.
Lynch said even if you move out of the country and become a resident of another country, it will not eliminate taxes that you pay in the U.S.
For example, he said, your IRA distributions, pensions and Social Security are still subject to federal income tax.
“Taking your IRAs and pension as a lump sum before you leave means that you will lose half in state and federal income taxes,” he said.
The benefit of many of these warm weather islands is that the cost of living is substantially less then the cost of living in New Jersey, but there are other things to consider, Lynch said.
The number one issue is health care.
“I would not want to have emergency surgery in many of these areas,” he said.
There are other potential drawbacks.
“These islands may have great seafood, but I like a steak and a pizza every once in a while as well,” he said. “Also, getting off these islands when they have big storms is not as easy as it is here. Things are different and you need to see if long-term it fits what you want.”
Lynch suggests you take a few steps before you go any further.
Start with doing a financial plan to see if the numbers work if you stay in New Jersey.
“If yes, and you have no kids to leave your money to, then option No. 1 is stay here,” Lynch said. “Option No. 2 would be if it doesn’t work by staying in New Jersey, can it work in other areas of the U.S. that are less expensive.?”
Next, he said, make a list of what you are looking for in retirement.
“Cost of living is definitely an issue, but medical care, physical activities — golf, tennis, etc. — people your age, etc.,” he said. “You need to take the emotion out of this decision as everyone on vacation never wants to go home.”
He said the reality is living there is much different then visiting for a few weeks.
“If you really do want to move, sit with a certified public accountant who is familiar with these types of moves and develop a long-term tax plan that will discuss the issues and work on some alternatives,” he said.
And if you decide you really want to move outside the U.S., he recommends you rent for a year and make sure it is what you are looking for.
“Stick your toe in before you jump into the deep end,” he said.