Twelve years ago, we moved from Omaha, Nebraska to Quito, Ecuador. Since then we've lived in seven different locations in four Latin American countries, and we've made friends who are enjoying overseas retirements in countries like France, Ireland, Thailand, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Belize, Italy and more.
We didn't move to retire, although admittedly, we were tired... of doing what we were doing. We were tired of the rat race. And by completely selling out and turning our backs on our mortgage, car payments, and high self-employment health insurance costs, we did -- in a sense -- retire from life as most people know it.
With kids grown, we were able, in a way, to retire from responsibility. Sounds pretty great, doesn't it?
Truth is, 12 years ago, we were admittedly naïve. But we've grown up as we've grown older. And today, we have loads of information to share with those of you who want to follow in our footsteps (or "fall" in them as our son once said).
With retirement savings dwindling, more and more of you may be wondering if you'll be able to retire as planned. Many baby boomers, especially, will have to keep working long past traditional retirement age just to make up for the beating your retirement plans have taken in recent years.
But as we've discovered over the past dozen years, it's quite possible that you can still retire as planned... and maybe even retire earlier than expected... by retiring overseas.
Don't get us wrong... foreign retirement isn't for everyone. Family obligations may be an issue for some people. You may not be comfortable in a place where you don't speak the language. But if you're the adventurous type... or if you've dreamed of living in an exotic location -- maybe on a sultry tropical beach, in a pristine mountain hideaway, or in a sophisticated, culturally rich city -- with better weather, good, affordable health care, and a lower cost of living, retirement overseas may be for you.
In many places around the world, you can enjoy a high-quality (and always interesting) lifestyle for a fraction of what it costs at home. A week's worth of groceries, dinner at a fine restaurant, a night at the symphony, even full-time household help -- like a maid or a gardener -- can be yours for pennies on the dollar. A house on the beach, a mountain villa, or a super-modern city condo can cost you 50 percent to 75 percent less than it might at home.
There are places where you'll pay little or no income taxes. Property taxes, too, are laughably low. (Ours are less than $40, and that's per year). You may qualify for government health care programs. And free prescriptions. For many expats we know living abroad, the affordable-yet-quality medical care alone makes overseas retirement worth it.
However, before making any decisions about moving overseas, you need to assess yourself, and do so pretty ruthlessly.
Here are seven questions to ask yourself to determine if you're cut out for overseas living:
- Do you thrive on change?
- Are you comfortable in new situations and with making new friends?
- Are you okay with not living close to family (although many countries you might consider are only a two-to-four-hour plane ride away)?
- Can you speak (or are you willing to learn) a new language?
- Are you intrigued by foreign cultures and customs?
- Are you single, or if not, is your spouse or partner amenable to moving overseas?
- Are you looking for a way to improve your quality of life while spending less money than you currently do?
If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then living in a foreign country may be for you. Of course, if you've already had the opportunity to live overseas... in the military or because of a career assignment, you know how your life was enriched because of that expatriate experience.
On this blog, we'll examine the best places on earth to retire or live abroad and explore the challenges and rewards of a new life overseas. Despite what you may have heard, the world is still a big, big place... and somewhere in it is almost certainly a spot where you can live a happier, healthier life with better weather and quality medical care for a fraction of your current costs of living.
So far, we've made our home in seven of the best overseas retirement spots, and we'll tell you about all of them and many, many more in the days and weeks to come.
Ecuador may be one of the most inexpensive places to live for retirees on a budget. Not only is the cost of living extremely cheap, according to Fortune magazine, but the South American country also uses the U.S. dollar. One couple interviewed by International Living lived on $600 a month, spending as little as $1.25 per month on gas and $1.70 per month on water. (Image via Flickr, Carly Lyddiard) Correction: A previous version of this slide said that Ecuador was in Central America.
Easy accessibility and excellent health care are two major draws for retirees settling in Panama. According to U.S. News & World Report, the cost of living is not the cheapest -- especially in Panama City -- but the great retirement benefits, travel and entertainment discounts and country-wide use of U.S. currency make up for the extra expenses. (Image via Flickr, Francesco Veronesi)
Since 1985, 25,000 foreign retirees have settled in the Philippines, Global Post reports. Taxes are minimal, so living is very comfortable on a pension of $3,000 per month. Post 50s may have to share the beach with younger folks since the minimum age for ex-pat retirees is 35.. (Image via Flickr, SToto98)
For a tropical climate where English is the official language, retirees should look no further than Belize. The coastal country offers no tax on foreign retirement income and minimal sales and property taxes, according to U.S. News & World Report. (Image via Flickr, Ian Morton)
Some cities in France may be a bit out of the price range of the average retiree -- looking at you, Paris -- but the monthly expenses of other towns in the southwest are more affordable, notes the AARP. For Francophiles looking to settle in France, the history, culture, wine and food are among the biggest enticements. (Photo credit: AP)
With consistently perfect weather and beautiful beaches, Bali joins dozens of other beachfront locations that make for great retirement living. According to The Wall Street Journal, retirees can settle down on the Indonesian island for about $1,000 a month (not including housing), as long as they don't mind trading in a front door for a open entryway -- as is custom in Bali. However, medical care is not the best. (Photo credit: Getty)
With no taxes on foreign retirement income -- according to U.S. News & World Report -- Costa Rica may be one of the ideal places to retire. Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, the cost-friendly country boasts stunning beaches and rain forests. HuffPost bloggers Jeff Jones and Gay Haubner wrote about their experience finding a house in Costa Rica. (Image via Flickr, Dottie Day)
No list of places to retire abroad could be complete without Italy, where Diane Lane's character traveled to in the 2003 film "Under the Tuscan Sun." Settling in Rome is not the most feasible option, but like France, there are several Italian cities that offer a comfortable life of leisure, full of delicious Italian food and wineries, on a budget, AARP reports. (Image via Flickr, Russell Yarwood)
Certain cities in Mexico are not the safest, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border, but there are still parts of the southern country that are increasingly popular with retirees. Campeche, located near Belize, boasts beautiful waterfront properties on the Gulf of Mexico and a low cost of living. A week's worth of market fruit and vegetables cost less than $10, according to International Living. (Photo credit: Flickr/Malias)
While taxes are a bit higher in Argentina than other South American locales according to U.S. News & World Report, the large country offers a wide range of places to settle -- from major tourism hubs to smaller, inexpensive villages. However, retirees should plan on spending a little more on monthly expenses, because of the rising cost of living and devaluation of the U.S. dollar, U.S. News & World Report writes. (Image via Flickr, Luis Fernandez)