THE BLOG
06/18/2013 07:55 am ET Updated Aug 18, 2013

How Does A Permanent Vacation Sound?

We're just back from a short vacation -- good for us, but not so good for friends who confided they are suddenly on "permanent" vacation. As in "laid off" and with no prospects in sight.

They're being forced to explore their options. And suddenly we've become very popular at cocktail parties and other gatherings when we're back in the States.

"Can you really live inexpensively outside the U.S.?" our friends ask. "What's it like to live in a foreign country? Is it safe? Is there Internet? English-language TV? What about health care? And health insurance?"

That last topic... health insurance... is the tipping point in our cocktail party conversations. If we were selling passports and one-way plane tickets to any of the countries that are top of the list for low-cost-but high-quality living, this is when our friends would sign on the dotted line.

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We've recently done some research about health insurance costs, you see, and we've learned that if we were to move back to the States, we'd pay... at a minimum... $800-$1,000/month for a health insurance policy with a high deductible of $5,000 or more. And we're healthy, with no pre-existing conditions.

But, we tell our friends, in many countries around the world, government-sponsored health insurance is either free or available for a minimal cost ($50 a month or less). In most countries, you can purchase a private policy that gives you access to that country's best medical professionals and hospitals. The cost for this private policy will be up to 75% less than you might pay for its equal in the U.S.

The money you save on health insurance costs alone can go a long way to funding your entire cost of living in Latin America.

In fact, if you're old enough to collect Social Security, there may be no better place to live right now than Latin America. We have friends living in Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama.... who are living quite well for $1,500 to $2,000 a month. Some are even able to save enough for some very nice holiday getaways. For them, being on permanent vacation is nothing to fear.