7 things I learned when I retired to Dublin


There are many reasons to choose where you will retire. Like so many Americans, many of my ancestors came from Ireland. In my case County Cork and County Clare. My last ancestor, my great-grandmother Ellen, and her mother, Mary, came by boat in 1898.

When my daughter Jackie started her graduate studies in Dublin in 2018, it felt like the family had come full circle. It didn’t take long for me to consider retiring here. We always felt at home.

Gail and Jackie in Dublin (Photo credit: Jackie Mullen)

Here are some of the things that I have found particularly useful when I retire abroad.

1. It’s nice to have your stuff with you, but you don’t need everything

I went from a 4000 square foot house to a 450 square foot furnished apartment. As much as I love my little grand piano, it would have taken up all the living space. I took back what I needed, two suitcases at a time.

I might not need as much as I thought in the US, but I miss my craft room.

Pro tip: If you are shipping your goods, make a checklist of each of your packing boxes and exactly what is in each, along with its value. You will need it for customs.

2. Know the language

In addition to English, many Irish speak the Irish language. They don’t call it Gaelic. I have learned that a few words in this ancient language are very useful. And English idioms too.

“You’re welcome” is a “hello” in someone’s house, not the response to “thank you”.

“What is craic?” (Pronounced “crack”) means “How are you?” or “Where’s the fun?” “

“Is it yourself?” Can be used when you meet someone famous, or someone you haven’t seen in a while. I like to use it when I can’t immediately remember the person’s name.

Fortunately, everyone understands “Can I buy you a pint?” “

A pub in Dublin, Ireland.
A pub in Dublin (Photo credit: Gail Clifford)

3. Calculate the money

The difference between euros and dollars may seem small, and financially it is not. But banking in Ireland is different from the United States. If you are not a student, there is no such thing as a “free” account. They have negative interest rates (which means if you leave money in the bank they deduct money every month) or increasingly higher fees (our bank currently charges 6 euros per month without transaction fees).

Online banking makes a big difference in converting between dollars and euros and any other currency I get from my writing. And I’ve learned to accept ATM fees when I need to withdraw money.

Fortunately, most places accept credit cards. If you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you’re fine. Ireland is not among the countries that accept direct deposits from social Security.

I plan to maintain an account in the United States to accept my Social Security payments (when they are finally available to me) and to pay credit card bills.

I will also have a local savings account, despite the fees, knowing that I have to fill out more US tax forms with this. I’m glad my accountant is taking care of all of this for me.

And it is important. Make sure someone on your finance team – banker, lawyer, financial planner, accountant, or wealth manager – understands the ramifications of your time abroad. This will save you trouble later.

4. Understanding the visa

You cannot be a long-stay tourist (over 90 days) in Ireland. But once you get the right one Visa, you can ask residence after living legally in Ireland for 5 years.

As a employable adult my options became to find a job with an institution that would sponsor my visa or to invest in Ireland – over a million euros for at least 3 years. The Irish government lists healthcare professionals as meeting an ‘essential skills job’ so once I received the appropriate permit I could apply for residency after just 2 years.

Unfortunately Ireland doesn’t have any hospitable people so my skills don’t transfer easily.

Like a retirement, however, I could be accepted, having obtained a D-Reside and O stamp, but I had to prove that I had passive income (like a pension or social security) of $ 50k per year and ‘a lump sum equal to the price of a residence ”in the event of urgent expenditure. As I’m not old enough to receive retirement fund, this was becoming problematic. I had to change my investment strategy and invest in real estate syndications to have stable cash flow. All of this had to be accomplished before entering the country. You cannot enter as a tourist and have your retirement visa approved.

5. Health considerations

Before leaving the United States, you must obtain a complete medical examination, copies of your doctor’s records, and a complete list of your medications. Some of your medicines will not be available in your new country. In Europe, the green plus sign indicates a pharmacy. The pharmacist will be able to help you convert to the best option. Or you’ll need to talk to your doctor and US health insurer to get a one-year supply at a time.

Keep in mind that you may need to provide proof that you need the medicine for customs and excise purposes. And some places will not allow you to take certain medications (Adderall, for example, during a trip to Japan) in their country under all circumstances.

Medicare Does Not Pay For Services Rendered Outside the United States As a physician, I believe we should all maintain our Medicare benefits throughout our lives. But you should talk to your advisor about your specific situation. I know people who live in Belize who are planning to return to the United States for health concerns. They are in their early 60s and it might work for them… until it doesn’t. A stroke or heart attack, for example, requires prompt care. It is therefore important to consider health insurance, especially when your adopted country requires proof of it.

When I moved to Dublin I knew I was not covered by its universal health care. I would have to be a resident to receive these benefits and this currently excludes people entering on the retirement visa. Proof of health insurance was required. Blue Cross / Blue Shield GeoBlue is an option. And others can be found in the private sector.

Sculpture hidden in Iveagh Gardens in Dublin, Ireland.
Sculpture hidden in Iveagh Gardens (Photo credit: Gail Clifford)

6. Go out into nature often

No matter where you are, be sure to get out into the wild. It helps you get to know the area and remember why you moved. It provides mental lift and gives you the ability to meet new people and find new places to explore. It brings the same emotional benefits that you received at home.

In the city, it is easy to enjoy nature with parks scattered everywhere, often out of sight.

I like to go out, sometimes too, far from the city, especially towards the seaside towns a little out of reach of the DARD.

Before leaving the United States, you will be well served in obtaining your international driver’s license. I received mine via my local AAA Office. Having it before you arrive at your new destination will save you time and hassle.

In Dublin, I don’t keep a car because public transport is very convenient in the city. But when I travel around the country, it’s easy to rent a car with my US driver’s license and my international driver’s license (you need both). And I laugh at the way I cursed my dad when he left me with a shifter car in the middle of St. Louis, not knowing how to drive it. Today, 30 years later, I am enjoying the tremendous cost savings and using standard rather than automatic transmission to work across the country.

Pro tip: Buy insurance. What I save by getting a car with a manual transmission rather than an automatic more than makes up for the full coverage for potential damage to the car. It also makes returning the vehicle very quick and easy.

7. Things you probably haven’t thought about

One of the best things I did before I moved abroad permanently was to establish my residence in a state that has no income tax. I’m not an accountant or a financial planner, so check with your own advisor. For me, this will help reduce my tax burden on additional income, retirement funds and social security benefits. And one last tip. You have chosen your new accommodation (rented or purchased) and have an address. One very simple thing you can do before you go is have change of address cards to give to friends and family. If you want to take it a step further, get a self-inking stamp from somewhere like Vista printing and use it to facilitate the transfer of your mail. (It’s also great for things like wedding shows where you sign up for promotional offers). And that’s your return address for all mail you need to send from your new home.

Consider this other retirement tip from Travel Waits:


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