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…
Louise Orr finds it hard to stay in. Though she retired early at the age of 53, she doesn’t have much free time. “There are days when I say, thank God I don’t have to be anywhere,” she says. “Days when I can just work in the yard, or read a book.” It’s not that Louise is tied down to a business or a job…it’s just that there are so many fun and worthwhile things to do.
Exotic tropical islands, temperate mountain valleys, miles of deserted beaches, First-World cities packed with ultra-modern amenities, and ancient vineyard-shrouded hill towns… Among the top retirement spots in the world this year, you’ll find great variety in the cultural offerings, climates and lifestyles.
Ecuador scored well across all eight categories in the Global Retirement Index. However, there were some areas in which it did extremely well. Ecuador’s climate scored a maximum 100 points thanks to its mild, varied weather that makes for comfortable living year-round. Average daily temperatures reach into the 70s F, and the nights are cool and fresh.
Mexico secured third place in the 2013 Retirement Index. While it scored solidly across all categories, it excelled in two main areas. First up is the Ease of Integration category, in which Mexico clocked up a maximum score of 100 from 100. Mexico is right on the U.S.’s doorstep. And settling in becomes that bit more easy when you’re just a short trip from your family and friends.
Malaysia is something of a surprise package. The Southeast Asian country is not on many peoples’ radars. However, in light of its strong scoring in the Retirement Index 2013, it certainly should be. Malaysia surged into third place in the Index thanks in large part to its high score in the Entertainment and Amenities category, its low cost of living and the ease with which new expats can settle in.
Panama claimed second place in this year’s Retirement Index 2013, in fact it even beat our winner Ecuador across a number of categories. One of the main reasons why Panama scored so well is the selection of benefits it has in place for retirees…known as the pensionado program.
Costa Rica scored well across a number of categories to secure fifth place in this year’s Global Retirement Index (narrowly missing out on fourth to Mexico by less than a point). Two key categories for Costa Rica saw it perform particularly well. First up was the Entertainment and Amenities category, in which Costa Rica scored an excellent 94 points from a possible 100.
We’ve called on our network of experts and in-country editors to reveal their real estate contacts in each of the countries that performed best in our 2013 Global Retirement Index. Knowing the right people will help you negotiate the real estate landscapes in whichever country you’re interested in.
Below is a list (in no particular order) of nine great retirement havens to consider. From the beach to the highlands to city locales, there is something for everyone. All of the destinations are safe, welcoming, and relatively affordable when compared to life in the States. They are spread out around the world, from Latin America to Asia to Europe.
For 32 years we’ve encouraged readers to claim a richer, more fulfilling life – to reclaim their retirement – by looking beyond America’s borders. I’ve been privileged to be involved in International Living’s call to action for more than a decade.
“What happens in Vegas… stays in Vegas.” Well not today! I’m breaking the cardinal rule of Las Vegas. No, I’m not going to reveal wild tales of crazy escapades. Today, I’m spilling the beans on all the valuable expat information and ideas we learned here. When used, these will pay off in a big way as you make your overseas retirement plans.
Even if you don’t think you’re ready to retire… we learned today that ANYTHING is possible…no matter your age… or the size of your bank account. For example, in 2000, Suzan Haskins and her husband Dan Prescher took an early retirement from their marketing jobs. Ten years early, in fact. These Omaha natives had a modest income, some money tucked away and grown children.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I have lived abroad for nearly 12 years now, in seven different locations in four different countries. And at some point during each of those years, in each of those locations, we’ve asked ourselves, “Is it time to go back to the States?” We’ve said “no” every time…but not for the reasons you might think. We didn’t leave the States because we hated it. We love the U.S. and all the family and friends we have there.
“This is frontier country… You won’t find much here. Starbucks hasn’t made it, and there’s no Home Depot. But you will find an open door to immediate residency in Panama,” writes IL Offshore expert, Bob Bauman, in your May issue of International Living magazine. Bob explores an opportunity in Panama’s Darien province and reveals the ideal visa if you want to live in Panama, but don’t qualify as a retiree, or you want to avoid the process needed for an investor’s visa.