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Welcome back to “Ask an Advisor,” the advice column where real financial professionals answer questions from real people. The topic can be anything in the world of finance, from retirement to taxes to wealth management — or even advice on advising.

In the United States, retirement is expensive. On average, Americans expect to need $1.27 million to retire comfortably, according to one recent study by Northwestern — an estimate that has repeatedly increased since 2020.

One reason for that is inflation, which has reached historic heights in the past two years. Another is the cost of health care, which is particularly expensive in the U.S. The average American spends $5,000 more on health care than a citizen of any other high-income country, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Is the solution to retire somewhere else? Many countries offer a more affordable lifestyle than the U.S. In Vietnam, for example, the average cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City is 170% less than in New York City, according to the fintech company SmartAsset, and the average rent is 538% cheaper.

All this makes retirement as an expat a tempting option for some Americans. One of them, a nurse in New York City, is contemplating a big move in her golden years. Should she take the leap? Or are there other options she hasn’t considered? Here’s what she wrote:

Read more: How financial advisors can work from abroad: two tales

Dear advisors,

I’m a 36-year-old hospital nurse in New York City, and I only just started saving for retirement. I don’t think I’ll be able to afford the post-work lifestyle I want in the U.S. But what if I retire in another country?

I’ve been a registered nurse for eight years now, but expenses have left no room for retirement savings. I only just recently paid off $80,000 in student loans, as well as a down payment for my apartment. And as the mother of a 5-year-old girl, I’m also paying for all the many costs of raising a child in New York.

The upshot of all this is I just started contributing to my 401(k) this year. When I finally retire, I want to live in a nice neighborhood and keep enjoying things like travel and eating out. But this just doesn’t seem within reach in the U.S., where prices are insane and only keep rising. I’ve read about countries where the cost of living is cheaper. Should I start learning Vietnamese?


Questioning in Queens

And here’s what financial advisors wrote back:


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