|By Ana Veciana-Suarez, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"I love it," says Gutierrez, 56. "
Gutierrez is just one of thousands of recent retirees who have discovered that the American dollar can buy more overseas. Lured by affordable housing, inexpensive healthcare and vibrant ex-pat communities, more Americans are heading south of the border to spend their golden years. Some are calling
Though no one knows the exact number of retirees moving abroad, some government figures help to define the trend. The number of American retired workers receiving
Yet experts believe these figures account for only part of the actual exodus. Because some retirees continue to bank in the U.S., the
She points to other numbers that underscore the trend. Attendance at the magazine's annual Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas conference in
"The attraction of
Prescher, who with his wife
When Gutierrez ran his numbers, it made all the financial sense in the world to make the
"I live large on
He runs down his monthly budget and gloats about a Panamanian pernsionado program which offers foreigners lifelong residence in
Where does he find the most impressive savings? Healthcare. Though he continues to visit his cardiologist in
"I'm really thinking about this a lot," she adds. "It's exciting but it's also a little scary to sell everything and go."
The exodus of retirees accelerated during the Great Recession, when low interest rates, a plunging stock market and decimated house prices forced workers close to quitting to think of other options for retirement. While three decades ago, retirement might have meant moving to
"There has been a perfect confluence of events to get this started," explains
The revolution in communication has shrunk the globe, providing many options for potential retirees to check out foreign locales and connect with other U.S. ex-pats already living there. Tour companies have sprung up to cater to people thinking of retiring overseas. Blogs about living abroad abound, and once they move, retirees can stay in touch with family through
"It's so much easier to get around the world these days," Peddicord says. "Moving overseas no longer means walking away from your old life completely. You're usually just a plane flight away."
Twenty-first century retirees are different, too. They're healthier and more active than past generations.
"Boomers are retiring a little differently than their parents," says
Not everyone is cut out for an adventure, however, and Redford and others issue this warning repeatedly to starry-eyed explorers. Living abroad may be romantic — until the electricity falters or the bureaucracy becomes an overwhelming obstacle.
"The retirees who are here are gutsier," says
"They have a distinct personality. They're brash. They're not afraid. They're not easily frustrated. They can take a lot of bumps on the road."
And there will be bumps — lots of them. In Macaracas,
"The roads were also horrible when I got here, but they're slowly improving," he adds.
In her trips to Morroco,
When Prescher, 60 — the writer who moved to
When an arrangement doesn't work, it's often due to poor planning, says Ohe, who speaks to clients around the world. He has noticed that some retirees move to a place after only one or two short visits. They don't thoroughly check out visas, tax filing rules, mail service, banking and healthcare. Ohe, for example, first moved his wife and two young children to
"Making friends within the community is very important," he says. "You need to have someone you can go to when you have a question."
Peddicord, the overseas retirement book author, says the small details of a place can mar a retiree's experience. Two common peeves: garbage and poverty. "It may seem like silly things, but it does come as a shock to many Americans," says the
Surprisingly, language doesn't come up as a major obstacle. Most retirees settle in small cities where there is a sizable community of English-speakers. Some speak enough of the language, usually Spanish, for a simple conversation. And there are plenty of classes to help those who want to learn.
"You don't have to become fluent," Peddicord adds, "but it does help the quality of the experience. You should at least know enough to order in a restaurant or to ask a question."
Lewis, now living in
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