• My wife and I have lived in Hong Kong for 35 years.
  • Now that I'm 66 and retiring, we want to move to the US for that. 
  • We don't have credit scores or credit cards, and debate whether to rent instead of buying. 

After 35 years of living and working in Hong Kong, my wife, Wendy, and I are returning home to the US. There are so many things to consider as we make plans for retirement.

Setting aside concerns of whether we are jumping from a frying pan into a fire (ongoing crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong versus political ruptures in the US), we have many other issues to grapple with.

We don't have credit scores or credit cards

Take, for example, our credit score: we don't have one. In Hong Kong we have always paid our bills on time and are conscientious consumers. But that means nothing to credit agencies in America, where we don't even have a credit card, let alone a car or home payment.

My wife and I are third-generation Californians, but who retires in LA unless they have a hit record or a reality TV show? Perhaps we would be better off in any number of other states that offer low taxes and affordable housing. This is a decision that many retirees face.

For us, it's also a question of where we will send the big shipping container that will soon be steaming across the Pacific. Wendy and I must decide whether it is worth the extra money to return to the great weather and laid-back lifestyle of our past if it means we will have less money to spend in the future. We've decided that we want to buy a house because we'd like to leave it for our children. But perhaps that's not realistic.

Also, it might be better not to buy a home and rent one instead. Wendy and I are both 66, so we hopefully have another two decades before the inevitable move into an assisted living facility. Like many other retirees, we are calculating how much cash we will need to pay the bills and take a few vacations before that day arrives.

One source of income that most other Americans our age rely on is Social Security. For us, that won't be a significant amount since most of my prime employment years were spent overseas working for Hong Kong companies. I wasn't putting money into Social Security, so I won't get much out. I never had one of those lucrative expatriate packages that paid for an apartment, a car, and the kid's school fees. I loved the work I did, both as a journalist and in the nonprofit sector, but those were never high-paying jobs, and I was always a "local hire."

I'm looking forward to moving back

I have no complaints about the past 35 years and only a feeling of eager anticipation about returning to my homeland.

Being away for so long with only an annual return to visit family has always given me a sense of how special the United States is and how open and helpful Americans are. I hope that's the case when I visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in my new home state and they realize I haven't had a valid driver's license since 1988. I don't expect benevolence when I apply for car insurance, however. No accidents for the last 35 years? Where, you say? I am preparing myself for large premiums.

I share many of the same concerns as Americans my age who have remained in the US. But a few other questions might be peculiar to my situation, like whatever happened to cable TV.

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