Real Life Retirement:  what real people are doing after age 55 


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dominican republic sky and beach

A beach not far from Puerto Plata in the  Dominican Republic.  In this area are some  German-speakers.  Spanish, however, is the primary language.  This is one of the most affordable areas to live in the Caribbean.

 Some Pros and Cons About Overseas Retirement

Confession of a HGTV junkie:  we love to watch House Hunters International which often features youngish, attractive retirees searching for homes in places like Costa Rica, Italy, or the Dominican Republic.  On the TV show they always talk about the warm weather and relatively low cost of living.  And it is true that living abroad can be a solution to a future on a limited fixed income--as well as being an exciting adventure. 

On the other hand there appears to be several potential issues that could create problems -- and no one seems to write much about them.  

 Healthcare at home and abroad 

One potential issue is healthcare and getting good medical treatment abroad, particularly in Third World countries.  Move to Italy or France--high cost-of-living countries--and  health care is excellent.  But in a charming little fishing village in Mexico or a small town in Panama, for example, health care, particularly emergency treatment, may not be adequate at all.  While this may not be much of an issue for early retirees or people age 65, by age 75 it probably will be.

New places, new networks

cottages Dominican Republic

A second potential challenge of moving abroad for retirement:  building a network of supportive friends in a new, foreign location.  There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of American expatriate villages around the globe.  Retirees who move into one of these "Little Americas" will have instant friends, or at least, instant acquaintances. 

Outside these retiree colonies, however, it may prove to be far more difficult to build a network of friends and acquaintances among the locals.  The isolation may end up driving you back home. A smart idea is to 'test-drive" a community by renting for a while before you decide to stay.

Money problems

What may seem like a beautiful bargain lifestyle in a warm climate, can turn into being stranded in a country with screamingly high inflation.  Suddenly your income--perhaps only from Social Security--is not enough and returning to the U.S. may become another financial challenge for you.

beach in dominican republic A beach in the Dominican Republic, one of the lowest cost areas to retire in the Caribbean.

Political Changes

Another thing that could drive you back to the U.S. are political changes in the country you move to.  Suddenly your lovely beachfront life in a warm, friendly  climate can become an experience in living in an environment of anger, fear or outright hostility.   Or worse yet, in the midst of a civil war. 

Crime in Paradise

In some low cost countries crime rates have spiraled upward during recent years.  Older Americans can end up being targets.  You may be able to find out more from the U.S. government.  Do a search for 'Travelers Warnings'. 

A Real Life Retirement:

Owners of a very comfortable,  bus-size motor home, Sam and Ellen traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Mexico and Central America.  Sam even took a year long sabbatical from his teaching job so they could spend time searching for a retirement location.  Finally, they found one in a RV park with a lot of Americans next to a marina on the west coast of Mexico where they could go fishing everyday.  Their costs would be so low that retirement at age 62 became realistic.  

Their next step was to find an inexpensive home in the Southwest so they would continue to have a U.S. residence.  It took another year or so.  Searching online real estate listings, they found a fixer on a big lot in a small Arizona town.  Finally came the big leap:  They sold their home in the Pacific Northwest.  Sam left his job.  Ellen works freelance and her clients do not care where she lives so she continues to work.  They first moved into the fixer and fixed it up.  They now live Mexico part of each year.

Other retirees are moving to the Sunbelt.

NOTE:  All names on this site have been changed to protect individual privacy.  
The stories are real, the names are not.  

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