THE BLOG
01/05/2013 01:54 am ET | Updated Mar 06, 2013

Retire Early By Retiring Overseas

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If you could retire early, would you? Those of you who enjoy your work may answer "no" to that. But the rest of you -- including those who are being forced into an early retirement -- may want to keep reading. Because there are ways you can retire early, plus continue to live the kind of lifestyle you're accustomed to. In fact, you may end up with a better style of living than you ever thought possible.

Think about it: What if you could live in an oceanfront condo or a house front and center on a laidback white-sand beach, where beers at local restaurants will set you back just a buck or two and a delicious plate of fresh ceviche costs just $3 or $4.

Or maybe city living is more your style. What if you could retire to a beautiful and vibrant city where the weather is absolutely perfect every day? You won't need a car because public transportation is safe and inexpensive, and your full-service health care plan costs you $60 a month or less.

Does any of this sound at all intriguing? Then maybe you should do what we did about 15 years ago. Start researching your retirement options, but by thinking outside the box. Nearly 12 years ago, in our mid-40s, we made it happen. We quit our jobs and moved overseas.

Today, we live more comfortably than ever -- both physically and from a financial standpoint. And if we can do it, so can you.

But let's take a step back and talk about funding your retirement. No matter what your age, you need to start your retirement planning now. If you retire before age 62, you probably won't be eligible yet for any Social Security income. So you'll need to be sure you have enough money saved, or have other sources of income, to finance your retirement.

In this new age of frugality, there's never been a better time to stop spending and start saving. Every little bit of money you sock away now can be enjoyed later -- especially if you invest it wisely. But the point is to continue to build your retirement investment nest egg.

Where to retire can make a big difference. One of the key strategies of your retirement planning should be deciding where you'll spend your retirement years -- places with better weather, lower taxes or lower crime rates than where you may be living now.

But be sure to look at the entire picture. You'll want a place that tops your wish list, but it has to also be a place where you can live very well on your retirement savings, a Social Security income or even less. Do your research and then do it again from every angle. The point is to be as prepared as possible. This is the rest of your life we're talking about -- and the more information you have, the better.

Here's our personal strategy for early retirement: We currently live and work outside the U.S. and plan to continue to do so once we retire. In our adopted country, we qualify for a top-rate but low-cost health insurance policy (better than what we had at home). So far, we couldn't be happier with the medical treatment we've received. (Daresay it's also better than we had at home, especially from the more personal doctor-patient relationship standpoint.)

And overall cost of living? We don't need or want a car here, so all those associated costs have gone out the window. Our annual property taxes are laughably low -- would you believe less than $40?

Overall, we figure our cost of living here in Ecuador is one-fourth to one-fifth what it would be if we were still in the States -- yet we're just a few hours away from home by plane.

Certainly, retiring outside the U.S. isn't for everyone. So consider this: even by spending just part of the year in a lower-cost destination, you may be able to enjoy a far better lifestyle during your retirement years. It's worth investigating.

So should you retire early? If you can, you should. And if you're prepared, you can.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

The World's Top 10 Retirement Havens For 2013, Part 2