Take Your Retirement on the Road

How one couple retired early by moving overseas.

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Lee Harrison and Julie Lowrey enjoyed long and successful careers in the nuclear power industry in New York. But as retirement age approached, Harrison began to wonder if he’d have enough money to support the kind of retirement lifestyle he and his wife Julie had long been looking forward to.

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

Harrison made a very good living, but there wasn’t a lot left over after paying for Manhattan living expenses. Then something fortuitous happened. The engineering firm where Harrison and Lowrey were working was bought out by a larger one. Harrison, then age 49, saw the corporate restructuring as a chance for a bigger change.

Just as his company was remaking itself, Harrison began to imagine another approach to retirement. Browsing in a bookstore one afternoon, Harrison discovered a guide to retirement in Costa Rica. This book introduced him to retirement possibilities he’d never before considered.

Costa Rica, and countries like it, offer a desirable retirement lifestyle at a dramatically reduced cost. Retirement aboard also gives you an opportunity for a great adventure, and could allow you to retire years earlier than if you stayed in the U.S.

Harrison and Lowrey eventually decided against moving to Costa Rica. But instead of sticking around to continue moving up the company ladder after the restructuring, they decided to move to Cuenca, Ecuador.

[See The Real Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

But Cuenca was not the last stop in their retirement overseas adventure. After two years in Cuenca, the couple relocated to Uruguay’s Gold Coast. They called Punta del Este home for more than seven years. And now they are in the process of moving to Medellin, Colombia. "Medellin may be the pinnacle of our evolving retire overseas experience,” says Harrison. "I think this may be our last stop. Based on our 10 years of experience living and traveling around both Central and South America, it's hard to imagine somewhere better than here." Harrison and Lowrey have purchased an apartment in central Medellin and are in the process of selling their home in Punta del Este.

Serial retirement isn’t for everyone. There are many challenges associated with moving around to several countries the way Harrison and Lowrey have. But each stage of this journey has contributed to a rich, full, and rewarding retirement experience that continues to unfold.

Perhaps the best part is that Harrison and Lowrey are living what could be called a lifestyle of the rich and famous. They have been moving around from exotic locale to exotic locale, taking in one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines and living in an international jet-set destination.

[See 6 Affordable Places to Retire Abroad in 2012.]

Had they stayed in the U.S., Harrison and Lowrey would be living an average retirement lifestyle at best. They might even still be working. Taking their retirement on the road has allowed them to super-charge their standard of living, while reducing their expenses. They’re discovering some of the best lifestyle options the world has to offer, at a young age, without spending a fortune.

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.