Jul 08 2015

Why retire outside of the U.S.?

(Originally written May 2008 & updated July 2015)

It all started with a comment I made to my husband, Paul, one afternoon. I said, “You know, I kind of envy you for all of the adventures you’ve had.” Paul lived in Mexico for three years while he was attending college at the University of the Americas. He always talked about those days as if they were yesterday…what it was like living in another culture, so different from our own here in the States.

He went there not knowing the language but he didn’t live in an English speaking expat enclave…he lived in a little town called Cholula on a dirt road at the outskirts of town. He shopped where the locals shopped, ate what they ate, and gradually learned to speak Spanish.

Twelve years ago, on our honeymoon (in Spanish, it’s called luna de miele), we returned to Mexico so that he could introduce me to the places and the people that had made such an impact on him thirty-some years ago. I was impressed by how welcoming and kind the locals were to us, and was sad to leave it all behind and return home.

Since we met and married later in life (I was 46 and Paul was 56), we, like many other Baby Boomers, have been talking about retirement…saving for it, planning for it, and trying to figure out ways to make our savings last and, when we start receiving them, to stretch our Social Security benefits.We lived in the Mid-Atlantic, so we started to think about other American cities that might be less expensive, maybe in South Carolina or Tennessee. We started reading magazines dedicated to retirement living, and talking to people about their own plans for retirement.

And then I made “the comment” – all of a sudden we started talking about retiring someplace else. Someplace where we could both feel a sense of adventure, and where, at the same time, there is a lower cost of living. Mexico immediately came to mind! I surprised myself, that I was really considering living in another country, another culture, and altering our lives so drastically. After all, we both LOVED our life together, just as it was. We loved our house, our friends, and having family nearby. We loved taking advantage of all the cultural offerings in our area. So why change anything?

Our retirement research then took a new direction. We visited our local Barnes & Noble Bookstore and spent some time in the travel section. We found a book called, Choose Mexico for Retirement, and nearby, another book called, Choose Costa Rica for Retirement. They were both Latin countries (so Paul knew the language, at least enough to get us by), and we knew that Americans were retiring in both places. I had visited Costa Rica very briefly back in the late 90s and had always wanted to go back, so it seemed another natural place to start. We bought both books and started reading. What came next, though, is for another day, another blog post.

I have to admit, the thought of living and retiring in another country was a little scary, but exciting at the same time. I like the idea, at this point in my life, of reinventing myself…doing something so totally different than anything I’ve done before. I like the idea of new challenges and learning a new language. I don’t think I would have the courage to do it alone, but together…I was ready for a little adventure!

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