More and more, retirement takes Americans abroad

Costa Rica sunset
A couple enjoy the beach at sunset on November 21, 2010 in Puntarenas beach in Costa Rica, some 100 kilometers from San Jose.

If you're nearing retirement, perhaps you've thought about living the next chapter of your life in a more congenial location: Florida or Arizona, say.

Or India.

More likely, though, if you're considering retirement overseas, you're thinking about Medellin, Colombia, a popular spot for American ex-pats.

An increasing number of retirees are looking abroad. In addition to the inherent adventure in moving overseas, Americans are increasingly drawn to the low cost of living in other countries.

"Retirees in the States right now face a serious dilemma," writes Kathleen Peddicord in the introduction to her book, "How to Retire Overseas." "Many have lost much of their retirement savings as a result of recent market downturns ... The cost of quality retirement living choices in the United States is escalating rapidly."

An article on the AARP website lists Argentina, Belize and Costa Rica among the best foreign retirement destinations, chosen for being "warm and sunny, attractively affordable locales with good-to-excellent health care that are hospitable to Americans of retirement age."

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We speak with Sandra Block, senior associate editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance, about the benefits and challenges of retiring overseas.


1) Stay enrolled in Medicare. You can get inexpensive surgery abroad, but you might want to be around family as you recover. Remember, you'll have to travel to the United States to receive the coverage.

2) Learn a foreign language. The key to succeeding economically is to live like a local and the best way to do that is to speak the language.

3) Start with a trial run. Instead of selling your house in the US and buying a place abroad, first rent out a place for a few months to see if living abroad is really for you.

4) You can receive Social Security while you live abroad, but you'll also still owe taxes to the IRS.

5) Go to the State Department website for an honest assessment of risks in different countries and cities.


Where in the World Should You Retire?
Once again, Latin American countries dominated the winners' list, taking six of the top 10 spots. Three countries vaulted into the Top 10: Costa Rica (No. 5), Uruguay (No. 6) and Malta (No. 10), a necklace of seven islands located halfway between Sicily and North Africa. The other world beaters: Panama (No. 2), Malaysia (No. 3), Mexico (No. 4), Colombia (No. 7), Spain (No. 8) and Thailand (No. 9). (Nextavenue)