International Living Magazine Review: More Hype Than Substance?
Kudos to International Living's marketing machine. You can't possibly do any research online related to retiring abroad without coming across their main site or an article sourced from them. You see they've hit upon a winning formula. Every year they publish a listing of the top retirement places around the world. This list then becomes a free download if you're willing to exchange your e-mail for it. At the same time, a whole bunch of media outlets, hungry for content, repurpose the list which increases International Living's exposure. It's a simple formula that works.
I was one of those that traded an e-mail address for the list. And from then on I received daily updates from International Living about other great opportunities. Nothing I can complain about after all I did sign up for these updates. I also received offers to become a paying member. These offers became increasingly better (i.e. lower cost) until my curiosity got the better of me and I subscribed. In addition to the printed magazine and an archive of previous issues, I also received access to member-only articles.
Unfortunately, it didn't take too long before the shiny veneer began to wear off of International Living. Every article seemed to be the same rose-colored view of retirement in paradise. Real estate deals abounded, food was cheap, and people were all nice. Ummm… really? How could this possibly be true in so many places around the world?
And every e-mail or article included some pitch for a tell-all expensive ebook, conference, or service. Now I get that people need to make money to pay the bills, but there's also the need to maintain editorial integrity. And unlike the NY Times, I couldn't help feel that the advertisers had far too much influence on the content. How else can you explain the near lack of anything negative?
As my suspicions grew, I started to look into what others had written about International Living. Sure enough, posts emerged describing the exaggerations and, according to some, the lies that International Living propagated including glossing over difficulties in some countries, overstating the cheapness of real estate, and an overall lack of balance in their content.
So after a relatively short period as a member, I decided I would cancel. Guess what? The online customer service form didn't work. I thought at first that it might be down due to maintenance, but it didn't work over the course of several days. Next, I called customer service. I didn't get a human on the other end. Instead, a basic IVR system guided me through the cancellation process. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that International Living is actually just one guy in his basement with a bunch of freelance writers sending stuff in for him to publish.
Not all was bad with IL. There were some articles that were truly useful. For example, the one on moving to a state with no income tax prior to moving abroad to save on state taxes was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the signal-to-noise ratio was just too low for my liking. The good news it that with enough digging there are plenty of trustworthy sources on the web and I'll be sharing those in other posts.