When we left Omaha in 2001 to work as editors for International Living magazine in Quito, Ecuador, this idea-that you could live better for less in an overseas locale that closely matched your idea of paradise-was relatively novel. We could pretty much count all the "gringos" living in Ecuador at the time on one hand. Two or three in Cuenca, a handful in Vilcabamba, another handful in Otavalo. Most of the expats in Ecuador lived in Quito and were associated with the petroleum industry. Only a few were baby boomer "retirees."
But over the years, we've met more and more people who've done what we have.
They've left the rat race of the workaday world behind and relocated to places like Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Malaysia, and more…with warmer weather, a better quality of life, less crime, more cultural activities, healthier and less expensive food, better and less expensive health care…and they're enjoying every bit of it for about $2,000 a month or less, all in.
Many of them aren't even of "official" retirement age. Ron and Terresa Moore, for example, have been retired in Ecuador since 2009-long enough for Ron's ponytail to grow all the way down his back. In 2008, though, when Ron was 54 and Terresa was 50, they were struggling. They'd lost a third of their nest egg and were so close to losing their home that all they could do was walk away.
Today they own two homes in Ecuador outright: one in an always-perfect-weather mountain climate and another front and center on a gorgeous stretch of beach where, from their balcony, they watch pelicans bob and dolphins frolic in the surf-not to mention amazing sunsets. (Both homes are just a fraction of a degree from the equator, by the way.)
Believe it or not, to maintain both homes and pay all their utility bills, medical insurance, health care expenses, prescriptions, food, entertainment-everything-Ron and Terresa's monthly expenses average just $1,000 a month!
Gary DeRose, on the other hand, lives with his girlfriend, Kate, in a beautiful, historic Mexican city where he plays in a blues band and acts in local theater productions. He takes in symphony concerts and goes to gallery openings, and, being a gourmet cook, he loves the fresh produce available in the local markets.
Like Ron and Terresa, Gary owns his home outright. It has a swimming pool and a pretty, walled courtyard with a fountain. He's only about 45 minutes from the beach and the weather allows him to swim there or in his pool year-round. By moving overseas, Gary, too, was able to retire at a younger-than-normal age-at just 53. Of course it helps that, as he reports, Gary and Kate's expenses average about $3,000 a month.
These stories are not unique. In case after case, would-be retirees are discovering that by expanding their focus to include options outside the United States and Canada, they're finding a dizzying array of solutions to their financial and lifestyle challenges.
The international lifestyle is not for everybody; it's not even for most people. It takes a huge appetite for novelty, adventure, problem solving, and stepping out of your comfort zone. We've found these to be exactly the things that keep us engaged, active, and feeling young each day. But not everyone feels the same way about the challenges of living abroad.
The truth is, back in 2001 when we made our move, there wasn't a lot of guidance about retiring overseas-at least not readily available on the Internet. (And much of the information you'll find on the Internet today is either outdated or just plain wrong.) So our decision to make the move was based primarily on gut reaction and our personal penchant never to have any regrets in life. We didn't want to look back sometime in the future and wonder, "What if?" And after all, if we could retire to a place with better weather…where we could have a better quality of life but for a greatly reduced cost of living…why wouldn't we?
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget by Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher. Copyright (c) 2014 by International Living Publishing. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.