How to Overcome Your Greatest Retirement Fears

When living becomes intolerably difficult in one place, consider moving to another.


Would-be retirees face serious dilemmas right now. Many people have lost much of their retirement savings through the recent market downturns and much of the equity they had been building in their homes—equity that they were perhaps counting on to help fund their retirement.

[See 10 Places to Retire on Social Security Alone.]

Big questions also loom regarding the future of both Social Security and health care in the United States. And, even if Social Security continues to pay out promised benefits over the lifetime of your retirement, it’s increasingly difficult to live on Social Security alone.

The cost of quality retirement living choices in the United States is escalating rapidly. Most retirees can’t afford a retirement home, and a lot of people currently working fear that they aren’t going to be able to afford to retire at all. But the situation does not have to be as desperate as some people may fear.

The circumstances of life are always changing. Economies collapse and then recover, values of real estate and stocks fall and then rise again, and financial meltdowns come and go. When living becomes intolerably difficult in one place, consider moving to another. I’m not being flippant. I’m sharing what I believe is the secret to realizing a dream retirement in the current global climate.

The first move is the hardest. So, as you embark on this overseas retirement adventure, you will need help and options. Start with this: You do not have to resign yourself to reducing your standard of living during this important phase of life. You do not have to plan for two or three decades of scraping by and making do. The solution can be found once you begin to think outside the box and beyond your own borders. Do that, and you will discover opportunities for a completely new and improved life available for a bargain price.

[See Places to Live the American Dream Abroad.]

In places like Granada, Nicaragua; Montevideo, Uruguay; Languedoc, France; and Chiang Mai, Thailand, the concerns and struggles in the United States about the cost of living, the cost of housing, and the cost of health care seem far away. These and many other beautiful, safe, and often super-affordable places around the world offer viable and appealing alternatives for Americans at and nearing retirement age who are trying to figure out how they’re going to afford this phase of life.

Paul Terhorst began his overseas adventures more than 25 years ago, when the accounting firm he was working for decided to pull him out of Argentina. Paul and his wife, Vicki, had grown to like Buenos Aires. When his superiors told him that his posting there was over, Paul told them that his retirement had begun.

Paul and Vicki have spent the quarter-century since traveling the world as their wanderlust inspires them and their budget allows. They lived in Paris when the U.S. dollar was strong and Buenos Aires when Argentina was a bargain. Today they’re at home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of the cheapest places in the world to live well right now. Paul made a brave leap, walking away from a good-paying job with a big international firm. But he and Vicki haven’t regretted a minute of their adventures since.

A friend, Lee, also took early retirement eight years ago when the engineering firm he was working for was bought out by a larger one. He saw the corporate restructuring as a chance for a bigger change. Instead of moving up the company ladder, he and his wife, Julie, moved down south, to Cuenca, Ecuador.

[See 5 Critical Issues When Retiring Overseas.]

Lee says Cuenca was a great first move outside the States because it’s a safe, friendly, and comfortable city. But it wasn’t his and Julie’s dream. What Lee and Julie really wanted was a home at the beach. So, from their new base in Cuenca, they launched a search up and down the coasts of Central and South America. Two sun-filled years of beach-scouting led them to Uruguay’s Gold Coast, which today they are delighted to call home.

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.