How to Retire At Any Age

This couple launched a new life overseas.

By + More

One of the best things about retiring overseas is that you can do it at any age. You don’t necessarily have to wait until your Social Security payments kick in.

Of course, you’ll need a way to sustain your new life in paradise. But you do have options, especially if you’re entrepreneurially inclined. And you don’t necessarily need a regular pension or significant cash assets.

[See 10 Places to Reinvent Your Life in Retirement .]

As a citizen of the United States, you have a big advantage in the global arena. You’ve grown up in the world’s most competitive marketplace. You have watched niches filled and businesses launched and you have seen innumerable examples of entrepreneurial success and failure. You understand (even if you don’t realize it) why some businesses work and others don’t.

Now imagine yourself in a much less developed environment. Being an industrious American, you can’t help but look around and notice all kinds of market voids. And you may find yourself coming up with ideas to address them. This is what happened to Ann and Mike Kuffner, two successful 40-somethings from the San Francisco Bay area. Ann and Mike weren’t ready to retire in the conventional sense, but they were ready for a change.

[See 7 Affordable Places to Retire Abroad.]

The couple moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, built a house, and began looking for new opportunities. They had savings and retirement funds, but, with decades of healthy living ahead of them, Ann and Mike knew they also needed an income. “We had fun kicking around ideas for businesses we might both enjoy,” Ann says. “And the better we got to know the island, the more niches we saw that needed filling.”

They considered starting a restaurant, building a small hotel, opening a wine specialty store, running eco-tours, and, finally, launching a fitness club. “This was my favorite idea because I’m a health nut,” says Ann. “Mike and I noticed right away that there weren’t any health clubs on the island.” The couple had no development experience and used their savings to finance the business. "I have to admit, I was nervous,” says Ann. “But we felt this was our time to go for it. We were both still relatively young, healthy, and energetic. It might be our last chance to take on this kind of challenge.”

[Visit the U.S. News Retirement site for more planning ideas and advice.]

Now they run the San Pedro Family Fitness Club, which has tennis courts, a 250,000 gallon pool, and a workout facility. But the couple still has plenty of time to explore their new home. “We love the small town environment here,” says Ann. “We don’t have movie theaters, galleries, and the sophisticated things you get in a big city, but the island is truly beautiful.”

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.