According to the latest figures from the U.S. Social Security Administration, U.S. retirees overseas received more than $3 billion in Social Security benefit payments in 2013—an increase of $160 million year-on-year, when compared to 2012. American retirees can receive Social Security benefit checks in almost every country in the world. Statistics reveal that Europe is home to the most U.S. retirees drawing their benefits abroad (154,238), followed by Canada and Mexico (95,767), and Asia (70,586).
When it comes to dream jobs, ours are hard to beat. We get paid to travel and write about the best-value locations on the planet to retire…and this month International Living is giving you a chance to win that dream job (details below). So far, we’ve lived in and reported from seven different communities in four different countries, and visited dozens more.
If the lure of a better life overseas is strong, but you’re worried about the logistics of managing your money in a foreign locale, take heart. It’s not as complicated as you may fear. Bank accounts…Social Security…credit cards…exchange rates…our team of expat experts weighs in here with lessons learned and real-world guidance to help you manage your money abroad with confidence and ease.
Swimming with endangered green sea turtles in Akumal, strolling the cobblestone shopping district in Playa del Carmen, exploring cenotes or ancient Maya ruins or just lazing in a hammock…this is my life today. But it’s a far cry from where my husband Don and I were back in 2008. In the wake of the financial collapse and the deep recession that followed, our comfortable existence was completely upended. At an age when we expected we could begin to slow down, we found ourselves starting over in a very inhospitable economy. Add to that Don’s second heart attack and the loss of his health insurance when his job disappeared, and you have a recipe for real desperation.
The older I get, the more I love technology. It’s supposed to work the other way, I know. The older I get, the more I’m supposed to kvetch and complain about all those dang, newfangled whatchamacallits that were supposed to make our lives easier but ended up making them more complicated and unmanageable. Sorry, but I can’t go there. I love a strong cell signal and a big, fat data pipe that will stream any video and transmit any file I want without a moment’s hesitation. I love having instant access to information about anything, anytime I need it.
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Back in 2001, my wife and I decided to leave the cold climate of Nebraska behind and embark on an epic adventure to find our perfect retirement destination. We traveled to several different countries in search of our dream home, creating incredible memories in the process and opening our eyes to the immense possibilities that living abroad has to offer. On our travels, we enjoyed new food, new locations, made new friends, and lived the kind of happy, healthy retirement few could dream of just a few short decades ago.
From bustling beach towns to small ﬁshing communities, stunning stretches of sand to lush rainforests teeming with life, Costa Rica’s Central Paciﬁc coast has a huge variety of lifestyle choices to offer expats. And thankfully, it has the real estate to match. The name of the game in the Central Paciﬁc is good value. Beachfront and walk to-the-beach properties are bargain-priced compared to anything you’d ﬁnd in popular resort areas of the U.S. And there truly is something for everybody, whether you’re into the vibrant atmosphere of a resort or the peace of a ﬁshing village.
Lorelei Kusin has seen four Panamanian presidents come and go during her 14 years in Panama. But she lives on an island in Bocas del Toro province, and in this part of the Caribbean, time seems to stand still.
Jennifer Blackstone’s newfound tropical lifestyle is a far cry from her childhood in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s a life she didn’t think she could ever have. “Several things fell into place and conspired to get me to Panama,” says Jennifer, who fell in love with the tropics several years ago. “I visited Costa Rica and I loved the tropical feel…the colorful ﬂowers and the warm ocean,” she says. “But the thought of living there…it was a fantasy.
For Hani and Roanne, living part-time in Europe was a long-time dream. After talking about it for many years, in 2008—on their third visit to the French Riviera—they took a spontaneous plunge. “We were on vacation and had some extra time on our hands, and we thought ‘Why not start looking at properties?’” says Hani.
You wake up each morning for your daily walk on the beach. It’s flat, a long curve that runs for two-and-a-half miles, ending on either end in tree-covered cliffs. Your condo is just two blocks or so away. You’re renting, trying out the community before you commit to buying a property. It’s a one-bedroom condo in a gated complex, a nice mix of friendly expats and locals who congregate in the pool. You pay $500 a month during “low” season December through February and $700 the rest of the year. It’s fully furnished. A similar unit to this one with two bedrooms—in another part of the community—is listed for sale at $62,000.
In 2006, even though the U.S. economy was still going strong, I looked around at my life and said, “It’s time to go.” So I quit my job, sold my apartment in New York, and moved abroad. It sounds abrupt, but it actually wasn’t. I’d been thinking about it for years. I’m no financial genius, but I can add as well as anyone, and I can certainly read writing on the wall. And, having hit a milestone birthday, calculated my net assets, and estimated remaining work years, they didn’t add up to a retirement I’d enjoy. I saw absolutely no way to save as much money as financial wonks said I’d need to retire comfortably in the U.S.
Island time. It’s different from time in most of North America. In North America, time is kept with a smart phone, phablet, PDA, or—for the very hip—a trendy and retro watch…albeit one that also tracks how many steps you’ve taken so far in your day and annoys you into taking more if it senses you’ve been sitting longer than it thinks you should. On the island, time is kept by the sun, the moon, and the tides.
The big city versus the little village. It’s an age-old question, and it’s one that potential expats and retirees deal with all the time. Do I want to spend my time enjoying the slower pace and more neighborly atmosphere of a small town somewhere…or do I want to take advantage of all the shopping, entertainment, and modern amenities provided by a big city?
Ever since my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I wrote our book, we’ve been getting the same question from book reviewers and interviewers. The name of the book is The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget: How to Live Well on $25,000 a Year. And the question is: “What do you mean by ‘well’? What kind of lifestyle could you possibly have on just $25,000 a year?”
“You can learn to scuba dive,” my friend said. “You can learn to repair diesel engines. You can learn to do your own taxes. People will teach you how to do just about anything… but nobody teaches you how to retire.” My friend was an attendee at our last Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference in Las Vegas.
This life could be yours. Plenty of everyday people are choosing to live on the water full-time—in their retirement, no less. After a bit of training and hands-on experience at home, they’re tying up beside mega-yachts in the Mediterranean…finding large floating communities of like-minded expat sailors in the Caribbean…and island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand, heading wherever their fancy takes them.
Just three weeks after its official release on March 17, “The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget”—the definitive guide to living a happier, healthier, more affordable life abroad— has sold more than 14,000 copies.
Moving abroad for any reason is a big decision…one that takes some thought and planning. Most people will never seriously consider moving out of their comfort zone in the first place. But for those of us who are willing to go to new places, meet new people, and try new things, the process of picking the right place and moving the right way can seem a little daunting.
We’ve been living overseas since 2001. We’ve lived in seven communities in four countries (and purchased property in a fifth). We’ve bought, renovated and sold two homes in Mexico and bought and renovated a condo in Ecuador, where we now live. We’ve tried out beach life, mountain life, and both big-city and small-town living. So we know something about the expat life…
The couple to my left, in their mid-70s, was a “good-ol’-boy” Texan and his pretty, soft-spoken wife. Both were raised as the children of sharecroppers. Across from them, the octogenarian of the group was a nuclear submarine engineer in his native Canada. And at the end of the table sat a former automotive repair-shop manager from California and his accountant wife.
Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling. We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass.
As we approach our lucky 13th year of living overseas, my husband, Dan Prescher, and I are fortunate to have shared so many wonderful, memorable experiences in so many far-flung corners of the world—from Southeast Asia to Europe, and nearly every country of Latin America. We’ve lived in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Ecuador… In fact, we’ve lived in more than one destination in some of those countries. We’ve learned to speak Spanish, we’ve bought and sold property…
Accurately scoring the world’s top retirement locations is a complex process. So, we’ve broken down each of our categories to give you a “behind the curtain” look at how we put the Index together.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I were married in Costa Rica 14 years ago and have been back for business and pleasure almost every year since. We also lived in Panama in 2006 and, like Costa Rica, have returned nearly every year for International Living events, editorial trips, and vacations. So it is inevitable that…
Advances in technology have opened up the world. Planes, trains and the Internet are all getting faster and—if you know where to look—you can embrace these changes and make your dream of exploring dozens of overseas destinations come true. Right now, living internationally…
We sold our house, re-homed our furniture, and put the rest in a storage unit over two-and-a-half years ago. We’ve been living internationally in rented apartments and houses ever since, and we have never regretted our decision to spend our retirement years exploring the world. By the time we reached Portugal, our ninth country, we were practically on automatic pilot.
Two years ago we were both on the corporate treadmill—my husband Michael as a consulting engineer for some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, and I running my own business. While dealing with the challenges of an ever-increasing workload, a dear friend died. It was then that we realized that we had to find the “off” switch for the treadmill.
Your quality of life could vastly improve if you retire overseas…and you could spend much less than you ever thought possible. In IL’s Annual Retirement Index 2013, 23 countries are covered ranking the best destinations to retire overseas today. Cost of living is one of eight categories in this Index and is an important factor for many who are considering overseas retirement.
“We decided we needed another start,” says expat Hellmut Pedersen. “Our lives in Washington were becoming too complicated. Prices kept going up, bureaucracy became more difficult, and the stress was too much. So we sold just about everything and arrived in Panama in 2005 with five suitcases.”
2013 Fast-Track Your Retirement Overseas Package
Las Vegas, NV – September 2013
If Money Were No Object, What Would Your Dream Retirement Look Like?
While your neighbors tighten their belts and reign in their retirement dreams… you can live with less stress, more freedom, and all the comforts you’ve always imagined.
Discover the world’s best retirement havens – and pinpoint the one that’s right for you.
Costa Rica is one country that may truly have it all: A year-round tropical climate, modern cities, Caribbean beaches, Pacific coastline, rainforests, lush valleys, and majestic mountains.
At ages 67 and 72, we became senior nomads. We had taken stock of our lives and realized that we were happier on the road than anywhere else—and that becoming home-free would give us the flexibility we needed to experience life in other cultures. Since then, we’ve lived in nine countries, and we have no plans to stop until the wheels fall off!
Like a winter coat in a swimming pool, conventional wisdom can drag you down. Don’t have enough to retire on? Work longer, it says. Want to live well? You need a big house, a big car, and a massive budget.
Over the last 11 years of living throughout Latin America, my wife, Suzan, and I have missed lots of things we had back in the States. The first one for me was roasted red peppers. Eight brands in the supermarket back home… none in the first two countries we lived in. (For Suzan, it was Triscuits.)
When my now-grown son was a little boy I used to take him to Baskin Robbins for a cone. He would stare and stare at those 31 flavors. They were all so tempting, and I watched him grow physically agitated as he agonized over his decision. Inevitably he would always pick—chocolate chip. The same thing can happen now to folks scouring the Internet for possible retirement locations.
When my husband, Dan, and I were first married and first started thinking about living overseas, we pored over every issue of International Living and we read every International Living e-postcard. We compared and contrasted, planned and dreamed…Certain we would live in an exotic tropical destination, we wanted it to be relatively close to family and friends back home in the States…
We created our annual Global Retirement Index—in the current issue of International Living magazine—to help you navigate “our world.” It ranks the best destinations for retiring overseas today. And it’s informed as much by on-the-ground intelligence as by statistics—which is to say: It’s our judicious opinion. It’s designed to help you compare and contrast what we believe are your best options for retirement abroad in 2013.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re dreaming of your own slice of paradise overseas. Maybe you fantasize about lounging on a tropical beach…or you long for the culture and convenience of city life…lush green mountain towns…or a little village by a lake…