NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The clear blue waters of some central American countries are winning the hearts of retirees who are opting for stunning sunsets and rainforests over staid retirement communities in Southern California or Florida.|
More and more retirees are seeking tropical locales in which to settle down in their later years. Retirees are searching for places where they can spend little money, learn another language, and do charitable work in a culture other than the United States, people in the industry say.
"Many people are tired of the U.S. culture and want something different -- a bigger bang for the buck, less violence and road rage," said Ron Seligman of Tropical Retirement Homes Inc. in Toronto.
Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and the Dominican Republic are retirement hot spots thanks to the fairly low cost of living, enjoyable climates, and variety of activities these countries offer.
Where do you want to go?
While many retirees are making a move in their later years rather than staying put, most remain in the United States. However more and more retirees are heading overseas permanently or temporarily for a change of scenery and exposure to a new culture.
Ken Stern, president of Asset Planning Solutions, estimates that between five and eight percent of retirees are choosing international venues for their later years. And that number is growing.
"The world is becoming a smaller place every day with mobile phones and airlines, so it's an exciting new adventure" to retire outside the United States," Stern said.
European countries such as Ireland, France, Spain and Italy are still popular destinations for retirees, however the cost of living can be quite high, especially in major cities. So many are opting for countries in the Caribbean and central America, Stern said.
South of the border
Mexico is quickly becoming a popular destination for retirees thanks to its proximity to the United States, its low cost of living, and generally stable political and economic climate, said Ken Luboff, contributor to the book, "The World's Top Retirement Havens."
"It takes a certain kind of person to become an expatriate," said Luboff. "It's the romance of learning a new culture."
Luboff, 58, a writer who retired in Ajijic just west of Guadalajara, says Mexico offers him a comfortable daily pace. "At this point in my life it's much more pleasant for me to be living in a culture that's more traditional, more family oriented, where values other than money seem to have high priority," he said.
Luboff says he lives on 25 to 50 percent of the income he was used to while living in Santa Fe, N.M.
Click here to learn more about relocating to another country
Seligman, who runs a retirement location service from his home in Toronto, has lived across the globe for the past 25 years.
"I realized the attributes of Third World living aren't all about wars," he said.
Seligman helps middle class retirees settle down in countries like Belize, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Participants spend about $2,000 a month on food, rent, health insurance, meals and other daily expenses.
And retirees are doing more than lying on the beach, he said. They're studying new languages, volunteering, gardening, growing vegetables, or starting new businesses.
What to do
So if you're thinking about settling down outside of the United States experts suggest you take care of some housekeeping at home before you check in at the international flights gate:
- Get international health insurance.
- Discuss with a financial planner the tax consequences of living outside the U.S.
- Try out the new locale for three to six months. Experience the change in climate and different cultural events. Maybe it's too buggy in Central America for you or it rains in Ireland too much for your tastes.
Learn about taxes on income earned abroad
"I don't have to tell you it's a great life," said Seligman.
-- Staff Writer Jennifer Karchmer covers retirement news for CNNfn.com. Click here to send her email.