With the cost of living as high as it is, many Americans are exploring the idea of retiring to a less pricey part of the world. If you plan to do a lot of traveling after you retire, “home base” could be just about anywhere.
One option, very worth exploring, is Brazil. Its varied culture and landscape have a lot to offer the expat (that’s you if you’re planning to live abroad).
Brazil Geography and Climate
Brazil isn’t small. At 3.3 million square miles, it’s the largest country in the southern hemisphere and larger than the continental United States. Because it’s such a large country, the weather varies, but it’s mostly a tropical climate. In Rio de Janeiro temperatures are often between 70 and 80 degrees, but other more elevated areas away from the equator may occasionally see snow. If you’re looking for a beach, you have almost 5,000 miles of beaches to choose from and the country has no history of earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes.
The Brazilian Culture
If you’re planning to live in Brazil, brush up on your Portuguese since that’s the official language. Once you learn it, you’ll find Brazilians are friendly and free-spirited. You probably already know that they host one of the most famous parties on earth, Carnival. If you’re a stickler for time and schedules, leave that quirk in America because Brazilians aren’t. Regardless of how much of a rush you’re in, they won’t be.
Cost of Living in Brazil
Expect to find a much more affordable cost of living. Comparing costs in Tampa, Fla., a popular retirement area, to those in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, expect to pay about 19% less overall with food and housing being about 33% cheaper. Clothes are considerably more expensive as is entertainment, but if you go outside of the city to less populated areas, prices drop even more.
You can live a comfortable lifestyle on about $2,300 per month. Divide that amount into $200,000 and you'll see that it would support you for slightly more than seven years. However, nine of ten retired Americans receive Social Security, with the average benefit in 2015 being $1,328 per month. Add in that benefit and a $200k nest egg would last more than 16½ years.
Security and Safety
Brazilians are passionate about their beliefs and hold frequent protests in and around major cities. These can sometimes lead to violence. The murder rate is three times higher than in the United States and there are 209 violent crimes per million people—five times higher than the U.S. rate.
Suzanne Garber, an expat whose family lives in Brazil, says;
Personal safety has always been a concern in Brazil. Gangs sweeping entire beaches are not uncommon, and reading or speaking Portuguese will help keep you up to date through radio stations and various websites that broadcast where the gangs are operating for the day.
Like in any country, some areas are safer than others. Experts advise being extra vigilant when visiting big cities in Brazil and living outside of urban areas. Most people who spend time in Brazil have no problems.
Be sure to sign up for the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to keep abreast of warnings involving Brazil and so that the local U.S. embassy can find you if needed. There were no special travel alerts or warnings about Brazil when this information was posted.
If you become a Brazilian citizen, you won’t have to worry about healthcare. Since 1988, Brazil has offered all citizens healthcare. As in many countries, however, you may get what you pay for. Public healthcare includes comprehensive coverage, such as doctor visits, lab fees, hospitalization, and surgeries for about 70% of the population. But overcrowded hospitals are common and many complain about substandard care.
Garber says, “You will be six to 10 together in a room, and your family is responsible for bringing you food and linens. You might or might not be in the same room with others with infectious diseases.” This leads the more affluent to use private providers through medical insurance.
Expats can get coverage for between $125 and $300 per month. On the other hand, if Americans still have existing healthcare coverage in the United States, it may cover costs while living abroad.
United States citizens need a visa to enter Brazil. If you’re planning to live there for a portion of the year, the tourist visa costs $165 and is good for up to six months. If you want to become a resident, you can get a retiree visa, which covers one additional dependent, if you’re over 60 years of age and make at least $2,000 a month
According to Garber, “Everyone living in Brazil must have documentation. This includes an RNE (registration number of a foreigner). The RNE process takes several hours of waiting in various lines – plan to be in lines at least all day. You'll also want to have a translator with you if you don't speak Portuguese and a lawyer. Both add up, particularly as you fill out the paperwork beforehand and pay the lawyer and translator for their time accompanying you. You'll get your final card in the mail – about six months later.”
You will also need a Cadastro de Pessoa Fisica (CPF), a type of national taxpayer card if you plan to purchase anything large like a home or car, open a bank account or even sign up for a mobile phone plan.
If you have a U.S. driver's license, you can probably exchange it for one in Brazil without taking a driver’s test.
Good news—if you’re living in Brazil, you and your spouse can probably still receive your Social Security benefits as long as you have enough credits. Of course, there are plenty of rules and conditions, so contact a Social Security office to determine your eligibility.
(Also see How To Pay Taxes If You're Overseas.)
The Bottom Line
Brazil is a popular destination for expats because of its beautiful landscape, easygoing people and lower cost of living. Like any country, including the United States, there are areas to avoid and navigating government red tape will be frustrating at first. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. Talk to other expats before making the move. Find out where to live (and not to live) and the government preparations to make prior to moving.