Forget Florida and Arizona. When it comes to retirement, a growing number of Americans are opting to relocate abroad, to places with fabulous weather, stunning scenery, a lower cost of living and welcoming colonies of like-minded people. More than 550,000 Americans now receive their Social Security benefits abroad, an increase from the nearly 400,000 reported in 2000, according to the Social Security Administration.
But is retiring abroad right for you? Those who've taken the plunge urge everyone to do their homework. For example, since Medicare coverage outside the U.S. may be limited, those moving abroad may have to arrange for health care and insurance in their host country. And what about your extended family members? How will it feel to be so far away? Everyone has to answer those questions for themselves. In the end, though, most of the retirees overseas we've spoken with say they have no regrets.
To give you a better sense of what it's like to retire overseas, here are some adventurous souls who've done just that.
Lynn Ann Snellman and Tony DiPiazza -- Retired to Placencia, Belize
Lynn Ann Snellman and Tony DiPiazza
Lynn Ann Snellman and Tony DiPiazza moved from Michigan to Placencia, Belize in 2011. They say they enjoy the healthy, carefree beach lifestyle of Placencia and are involved in many activities, both physical and social. Their favorite outdoor activity is walking their two dogs on the beach every day. “With the sea breezes, regular exercise, healthy food, and lack of job stress, I fall asleep quickly … and sleep deeply, happy and relaxed in Belize,” says Lynn Ann.
Edd and Cynthia Staton -- Retired to Cuenca, Ecuador
Edd and Cynthia Staton
Edd and Cynthia Staton knew what they wanted in an overseas retirement destination -- a low cost of living, ideal weather, proximity to their family in the U.S., quality healthcare, plus cultural amenities and modern conveniences. They found all of this and more in Cuenca, Ecuador. They moved to Cuenca five years ago from Las Vegas and their relocation here has, they say, exceeded all expectations.
Judy and Dwayne Allen -- Retired to Ambergris Caye, Belize
Judy and Dwayne Allen
Judy and Dwayne Allen moved from Tampa, Florida to Ambergris Caye, Belize over 10 years ago. Finding a new talent as an artist, Dwayne creates whimsical art with driftwood and coconut shells, and other materials. “Our view is breathtaking, no matter what time of day it is,” says Judy. “Sitting on our porch watching the sun rise, is a daily pleasure. We meet so many friendly and talkative people -- both vacationers and residents, and they always seem to be dog lovers.” She adds, “Until we moved to Belize, I had no idea that Duane is actually creative."
Melissa Adams -- Retired to Amsterdam, Holland
After spending half a lifetime in sunny Southern California, Melissa Adams was bored and restless. She knew she wanted to move … but where? On a random trip to Amsterdam in 2007, she fell in love -- not with a man, but with a city. In 2010, she bought an apartment in the Jordaan district, where the love affair continues. Amsterdam’s rich history, culture, charm and even weather continue to fascinate. Read more about Melissa’s adventures on her blog.
Paul and Gloria Yeatman -- Retired to the Central Valley, Costa Rica
Paul and Gloria Yeatman
Paul and Gloria Yeatman are originally from Baltimore and now live in San Ramon, a university town in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica. This region is noted for its temperate climate, natural beauty and proximity to San José, the country’s capital. They’re able to keep their cost of living to around $2,000 each month, including housing (they rent), transportation (they own a car), medical care (they make great use of the government-run healthcare system), and all other expenses. They volunteer, travel around the country, and take Spanish lessons. They rigorously track their spending and document their life on their website
Mike and Tricia Lyman -- Retired to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Mike and Tricia Lyman
Mike and Tricia Lyman weathered the economic crisis that began in 2008 … but not well enough to maintain the lifestyle they’d enjoyed at their home in Washington State near the border with Canada. Their goal was to live happily, debt-free, and very well in a place where it never snowed, where they could walk to the beach, and where their cost of living would be just a fraction of what it would be if they stayed in Washington. Their goal was to live on a budget of just $2,000 a month. In November of 2012, they began an exploratory trip that would take them to dozens of likely retirement destinations. In 2014, they put down their retirement roots in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Their blog
chronicles their experiences.
Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher -- Retired to Cotacachi, Ecuador
Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher
Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher said goodbye to cold midwestern winters in 2001, leaving Omaha, Nebraska with their 90-pound Chocolate Lab for the temperate equatorial climate of Ecuador. Still in their 40s at the time, they traded the corporate rat race for a life of carefree adventure where they set the rules. For the past five years, home has been Cotacachi, Ecuador, where they enjoy traveling and blogging about their expat lifestyle.
Ron and Terresa Moore -- Retired to Ecuador
Ron and Terresa Moore
Ron and Terresa Moore retired to Ecuador in 2008, when the Sacramento car dealership where they were executives went out of business. As the economy imploded, their retirement nest egg lost more than half its value. Still in their 50s, starting over from scratch wasn’t possible. After doing some research, they sold everything they could and moved to Ecuador. Today, they own two homes in the South American country … one in the Andean village of Cotacachi and another on the beach in Crucita (pictured here). The Moores say they live on $1,200 a month.
Larry Rose -- Retired to Medellin, Colombia
Larry Rose, a retired school teacher, geologist and actor/musician from San Francisco, settled in Medellin, Colombia in 2011. "It's a big city with great cultural attractions, an inexpensive way of life and perfect weather," he says. "Its medical facilities are rated at the top in Latin America. I found a new family in Medellin as well."
Scot Cave and Kristie Ryder -- Retired to Uvita, Costa Rica
Scot Cave and Kristie Ryder
Scot Cave and Kristie Ryder moved from wintry Michigan to Costa Rica in December 2013 to find a simpler life while still making a livable income and building towards retirement. "We run a small business with cabinas, a small pizza operation and other beach-type rentals in Uvita, Costa Rica," Cave says. "We love it here with the great weather, abundance of active outdoor activities and the wonderful blend of local and expat communities." This is their website
Amy and Darrell Bushnell -- Retired to Nicaragua
Amy and Darrell Bushnell
Amy and Darrell Bushnell moved to Nicaragua in 2006 from Charlotte, N.C. after five years of trips to Nicaragua. They say Nicaragua is different enough to be interesting but not different enough to be bizarre. The cost of living was certainly a reason to come but the beautiful country and people is why they say they stayed. Amy has an art studio and gallery while Darrell writes a weekly community newsletter and has a website to help expats or those thinking of moving to Nicaragua.
Wendy and Darren Howarter -- Retired To Medellin, Colombia
Wendy and Darren Howarter
After years of planning, and especially after enduring the bitter and record-breaking winter of 2013-2014, Wendy and Darren Howarter knew it would be their last winter in scenic Oregon, Illinois. They traded snow shovels for sandals and discovered an easier way of life in Medellin, Colombia. "We have never looked back," Wendy says. "Medellin’s perfect weather, her friendly native people, and a cosmopolitan standard of living on an affordable budget are everything we had hoped for."
David Hammond -- Retired To Montevideo, Uruguay
David Hammond moved from Port Townsend, Washington to Montevideo, Uruguay in 2006. He says he likes the culture, which he finds warm, respectful, and inclusive. “In Uruguay, I am able to live a simpler life. I have no need for a car. I have few recurring bills, and the ones I do have are paid automatically by my bank at no charge," he says. "The terms of my healthcare plan are straightforward and uncomplicated and the cost is reasonable." He says that everything he needs on a regular basis is available within a short walk from his apartment.
Yvonne and Michael Bauche -- Roving Retirees
Yvonne and Michael Bauche
Yvonne and Michael Bauche left beautiful but expensive Vancouver British Colombia in April 2012. They “retired” at 53 and 44, trading hectic schedules and long hours for the freedom to do what they want, when they want. Today they are roving retirees, visiting 35 countries in Europe, the America’s and the Caribbean in the last few years. (The photo is taken in Morocco.) Although “retired” they are far from idyll, augmenting their travels by photography, travel writing, blogging and sharing their house and pet sitting expertise. They are sought-after sitters and are currently starting an eight-month series of sits in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Barbados.
David Morrill -- Retired To Cuenca, Ecuador
After spending most of his life in Florida, David Morrill moved to Cuenca, Ecuador 11 years ago. Today he's a partner in a real estate company and edits an English-language news and features website: CuencaHighLife.com.
He says he loves Ecuador's warm people, temperate climate and low cost of living.
Shyla and Dave Larman -- Retired to Panama
Shyla and Dave Larman
Shyla and Dave Larman moved from Dripping Springs, Texas, outside Austin, to Panama. "In Panama, we found the currency is the U.S. dollar, the power grid is the same as the U.S., the infrastructure is first world, at least where we live in Costa del Este, much like the U.S., but it's much less expensive overall to live here," Shyla says. "And the language barrier is not overly burdensome. In addition, the health care is some of the best in the world with Punta Pacifica Hospital, affiliated with Johns Hopkins, available and very close by."
Cindy and Chris Bouchard -- Retired to Mexico
Cindy and Chris Bouchard
Chris and Cindy Bouchard are expat Canadians living in Vallarta–Nayarit, Mexico. "Having travelled much of the world, we chose Puerto Vallarta because of its complete range of the familiar to the culturally unique. We can shop at Costco or at our Mexican neighbors' Kiki's corner store a block away," they say. "There is a strong and active expat community here, so we're never without something to do! Finally, Vallarta is an extremely easy flight for our friends and family up north, so we're only a few short hours from one another!"
Peg Fairbairn and April Hess -- Retired to Panama
Peg Fairbairn and April Hess
Peg Fairbairn and April Hess sold their home in Austin, Texas and most everything in it in 2012. They traveled around the United States before moving to Pedasi, Panama in 2014, with two dogs and two cats. "In one year’s time we have obtained our permanent residency, designed our new home and learned the ins and outs of expat life in Panama," they say. "Our dreams have come true and we can live at the beach on a teacher’s retirement! We are so excited we can hardly stand it."