5 Luxuries You Can Afford By Retiring Abroad

These indulgences will fit into your retirement budget if you retire overseas.


Retirement overseas isn’t only about the money. The are many benefits of retiring beyond U.S. borders. But choosing to launch this phase of your life on foreign shores means that, even on a modest retirement budget, you can afford luxuries you’d probably never be able to manage back home. Here a few indulgences that may fit into your retirement finances if you retire abroad.

[See 10 Tips for Retirement Overseas.]

Full-time help around the house. In Vietnam, you can have a full-time maid for $60 a month. And in Panama, the world’s number-one overseas retirement haven right now, you can engage full-time household help for as little as $150 a month. For this amount, your house is cleaned, your laundry done, and your meals prepared. I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of having a full-time maid when we first moved to this part of the world. Today, two-and-a-half years later, I can’t imagine how I ever kept up with all the housework and chores on my own.

Additional household help. In Latin America it’s common and super-affordable to hire a gardener, a driver, and an assistant. In Panama, a gardener costs as little as $10 per visit and in Nicaragua the cost is even lower. A full-time, English-speaking personal assistant in Panama can cost $800 a month or less. A driver or a young person to help with running errands, translating, and interpreting costs half that.

[See The World’s Top Retirement Havens For 2011.]

Dine out regularly. While recently enjoying a New Year’s holiday with our children in Medellin, Colombia, we couldn’t get over the number of quality restaurants we had to choose from each evening and especially how affordable dining out every night of the week, even as a family of five, proved to be. One night we had Cuban food, the next Tex-Mex, followed by Thai, French, Italian, Argentine asado, and Colombian. In many cases, the meal—the food, the ambiance, and the service—qualified as five-star. Yet we found we had trouble spending more than $20 per person, including wine, dessert, and tip. If we’d wanted, we could have opted for more local-style options, where our bill would have been half as much or less.

Pamper yourself. A friend living in Managua, Nicaragua, enjoys a weekly massage in her home for one full hour for $20. A friend in Panama City arranges for a girl to come to her apartment once a week to give her a manicure and a pedicure, also for just $20.

Indulge your interests. With all the help around the house you’re going to be able to afford in your new life retired overseas, you’ll have plenty of time to pursue your personal interests. What you’ll discover is that, in many parts of the world, your hobbies can be a bargain. In Ireland, for example, where we lived for seven years when our daughter was young, horses are a part of everyday life in the country. We found we could not only buy and keep a horse, but also arrange private riding lessons for Kaitlin for a fraction of what it would have cost for these things back in the States, where, frankly, this hobby would have been beyond our budget at the time.

[See How to Choose an Overseas Retirement Haven.]

Sport fishing off the Pacific coast of Panama or Nicaragua and snorkeling and diving off the Caribbean islands of Belize or Honduras are local pastimes, not jet-setter indulgences. You can buy a ticket for a first-run movie in English in Medellin, choosing among a dozen of the latest releases in the half-dozen multi-screen theaters in the city, for as little as $3. When you retire overseas, not only will you have time for language lessons, private dance instruction, and golf club memberships, but you could also find them all well within your retirement budget.

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.