Moving Abroad in Retirement

How one retired couple decided to relocate from Vermont to Nicaragua.

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About seven years ago Jay and Kathy Snyder came face-to-face with the big, “What’s next?” question. After 40 years building and operating the Landgrove Inn in Vermont, the couple had reached retirement age. But they were not quite ready to retire. “I’d been reading about Central and South America for years and I wanted to see those places for myself,” says Jay. “I could hear a voice saying, ‘Go south, old man’.”

[See America's Best Affordable Places to Retire.]

The couple made a list of countries to explore. Nicaragua was at the top because it was inexpensive and had the shortest flight time back to the U.S. Jay and Kathy visited Granada and enrolled in a Spanish-language immersion program. They lived with a local Nicaraguan family, attended Spanish classes each day for a week, and then took off to explore the rest of the country. At the end of their trip, they felt a strong desire to return to Granada. So they did.

The day before they left the country, Jay and Kathy made an offer on a piece of land in the heart of town where they planned to build a home. "I place a lot of value on the sixth sense, on intuition,” Jay says. “And I liked what my gut told me about Granada. The place felt right. I felt at home.”

Nicaragua offers exactly what a lot of would-be American retirees are looking for right now—an affordable, quality lifestyle with the upside of a chance for adventure. Granada, Nicaragua is home to an established and growing community of expatriates and retirees. Americans moving there will have someone to hang out with who speaks English.

[See The World’s Most Affordable Retirement Haven.]

But Nicaragua? What about the Contras and the Sandinistas? Jay admits that he had these concerns at first. “When we made our decision to buy in Granada and to begin to build a new life there I prepared myself for battle,” says Jay. “I rehearsed responses to the incredulous stares and raised eyebrows I expected from my family.” But his plans were met with enthusiasm, excitement, and encouragement. “The support I've enjoyed from family and friends has had a lot to do with my being able to follow through on the plan I hatched those first days in Granada,” Jay says.

A retirement choice like Granada, Nicaragua is certainly outside the box. But that’s the point. This kind of non-traditional retirement locale makes more sense than ever. By retiring in an off-the-radar place like Nicaragua, your monthly cost of living could be reduced substantially. You could live a rich and full life in Granada on a budget of $1,500 to $2,000 per month.

[See 7 Affordable Places to Retire Abroad.]

The long term payoff is far greater and less quantifiable. Retiring to another country isn’t only about reducing your monthly expenses. This is an opportunity to start over and to reinvent yourself. Retiring overseas can be the best possible response to the, “What’s next?” question. It’s the start of what could be the most interesting and most rewarding phase of your life.

It's tempting to continue on with the status quo and it’s certainly easier than changing your lifestyle. It can be frightening to think about creating a whole new life for yourself in a foreign place. Don’t let that fear keep you from considering the possibilities. After seven years in Granada, Jay says: "All I can tell you now is that we’re thrilled. This has been one of the most satisfying experiences of our lives."

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.