I'm just back from vacation in the U.S. Good for me, but not so good for friends who confided they are suddenly on "permanent" vacation. As in "laid off" and with no prospects in sight.
They're being forced to explore their options. Suddenly, I'd become very popular at cocktail parties and other gatherings.
"Can you really live inexpensively outside the U.S.?" my friends asked. "What's it like to live in a foreign country? Is it safe? Is there Internet? English-language TV? What about health care? And health insurance?"
That last topic...health insurance...is the tipping point in my cocktail party conversations. If I were selling passports and one-way plane tickets to any of the countries that are top of the list for low-cost-but high-quality living, this is when my friends would sign on the dotted line.
Do some research about health insurance costs, and you'll see that the average healthy 60-year-old person pays about $350 a month for an individual health insurance policy with a high deductible ($3,500). For a couple, that's more than $8,000 a year.
But, I tell my friends, in many countries around the world, government-sponsored health insurance is either free or available for a minimal cost ($50/month or less). If I want, I can purchase a private policy that gives me access to my preferred country's best medical professionals and hospitals. The cost for this private policy will be at least 50% less than I would pay for its equal in the U.S.
The money I save on health insurance costs alone goes a long way to funding my entire cost of living in Latin America. (In Ecuador, where I live, I pay $6 for a good haircut and style in a salon, $1 for taxi fare, $2.50 for a more-than-I-can-eat delicious home-cooked meal, including a beverage.)
I also feel that I live a healthier lifestyle in Ecuador where I don't have a car and walk nearly everywhere I go. There aren't as many processed foods here, either, so I tend to eat more fruits and vegetables that I purchase very inexpensively at our local farmer's market.
If you're old enough to collect Social Security, there may be no better place to live right now than Latin America. I have friends living in Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama....that are living quite well for $1,500 to $2,000 a month. Some are even able to save enough for very nice holiday getaways. For them, being on permanent vacation is nothing to fear.
So tell me, if you knew you could live comfortably on your retirement income would you take a permanent vacation? In my next post I'll introduce you to some friends who are doing just that...
Photo of Ecuador, Vendedoras de Frutas y Verduras by Rinaldo W. on Flickr.
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