“Back In The States, We Couldn’t Afford This Lifestyle At All…”
Oct. 3, 2008
Panama City, Panama
n Judy’s Doing It…Leonard’s
Doing It…Paul’s Done It…And You Can, Too…
n How To Take A Shower In
n Golden Frogs…Golden
Altars…Crafts Markets…and Club-hopping…How To Spend Your Days (And Nights)
In Panama City…
n “I Have US$100,000.
Is That Enough To Retire Overseas?”…
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Dear Overseas Opportunity Letter Reader,
“We never imagined we’d be able to afford an island retreat, let alone one
right on a secluded beach,” says Judy Ahern.
“For years, we’d check out the real estate when we were on vacation. We
looked all over Hawaii and in other places on the water. But it was always too
“Yet here we are now on this Caribbean island nearly full-time. We’re
enjoying the open-air house we had built and an incredible quality of life for a
fraction what it would cost us anywhere else nearby. In the States, we couldn’t
afford this lifestyle at all.”
Judy and her husband are originally from California and in their 70s today.
Judy was a teacher and an actress; her husband Bill is still in the
Back in 2002, they traded in their expensive, traffic-clogged life for a
quieter, more affordable one on a lush mountainous island where sand crabs
meander across the roads. You may never have heard of this place…but it’s only a
two-hour flight from Houston.
Judy and Bill are living on the Caribbean Honduran island of Roatan, where
they have access to solid heath care…where they enjoy dinners of fresh-caught
lobster with wine and dessert for less than US$30 whenever they want…where they
enjoy all the comforts of life back in the “real world”…
And where, as Judy explains it, “we’ve changed the way we experience life…for
“There’s a freshness here,” Judy continues. “A quickening of the senses.
“Instead of retreating someplace to retire, we’ve reached out toward new
“I’m keeping busy as the director of a pre-school that serves
underprivileged, working families. And I’m editor of our local island magazine.
“Sure, living here isn’t without its inconveniences. But it’s as if we’re
looking not at the end of our lives now…but at the beginning of another life
Leonard Holden and his wife Jenna aren’t independently wealthy. Not by a long
shot. But they’re not worrying about outliving their retirement nest egg, as are
so many others who are at or nearing retirement age right now. Leonard and his
wife are confident they’ll have more than enough to carry them comfortably
through retirement, no matter what the economy does at home.
Leonard and Jenna used to spend about US$8,000 a month living in Manhattan.
At 49, when Leonard “retired,” he took with him a pension of US$1,800 a month.
They could have stayed in New York. But it would have meant some serious scaling
back, living on savings, or even taking another job.
Only Leonard and his wife were ready to stop working and to start living. And
there was no way they could maintain the lifestyle they’d grown accustomed to on
less than one-quarter of their income.
So they looked for a place where that US$1,800-a-month pension would stretch.
And they found it in a safe, welcoming, warm-weather city in Ecuador, where
they’d be among the community’s wealthiest residents.
There they could afford a 5,000-square-foot house, two cars, and a care-free,
even luxurious lifestyle that included a housekeeper, dinner out a few times a
week, and the time and funds to travel and to explore their new corner of the
Leonard and Jenna are part of what is rapidly becoming a real movement among
adventuresome (and pragmatic) folks. A revolution.
The New Retirement Revolution.
Our own Paul Terhorst was a front-runner of this movement. He and his wife
Vicki retired 25 years ago at the ripe age of 35. Paul dumped the corporate life
and took off with Vicki to discover a new one. In the two-and-a-half decades
since, they’ve lived in Paris, Chiang Mai, and Buenos Aires…and they’ve traveled
from Campeche to Montevideo, from the South of France to the coast of India…
They’ve lived 25 years already on their “retirement fund”…and they’re still
young, healthy, and vibrant today…which means they’re looking at many, many more
years of “retirement” living.
Are they worried the nest egg might run out? Nope.
As Paul explained earlier this week, he and Vicki have been through “a dozen
financial meltdowns…and counting.”
“Vicki and I are perpetual travelers. We move every now and again. We’re used
“But we understand that the first move overseas is the toughest. After you
settle in abroad the first time, though, you’ll move and adjust more easily.
Pretty soon, moving will become a core competence. That’s your advantage over
the poor guy who’s stuck back home.”
Paul and Vicki were well ahead of their time…but the world is finally
catching up with them…and finally catching on.
Seeking and building a new life abroad is not only the most sensible way to
approach retirement in the current global market climate…
It’s not only the best (maybe the only) way to assure yourself that your
retirement funds will carry you all the way through retirement…comfortably and
even in style…
It’s not only the best way to make sure you’re able to sleep at night…that
you’re not kept awake at 3 a.m. by money and budget concerns…
It’s also the start of the greatest adventure of your life. The most fun
you’ll ever have.
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“I couldn’t be happier with my new life in Central America,” writes
Guatemala correspondent Michael Paladin, “but, yes, there are downsides
to living in this part of the world.
take a look at this.
“You may never have encountered something like this, but, throughout Mexico
and Central America, you find these.
“When you do, have no fear. These devices can be intimidating, but they do
“The first rule of taking a shower with this contraption is to inspect it
carefully before turning it on. You’ll find an adjustable slide button on the
front. All the way to the left is usually a black dot. In the middle is a blank
oval. To the right, a half-black/half-blank circle. These are the temperature
“Second rule: Never adjust these while you are in the shower with the water
“The device uses AC electrical current to power a heating coil in the shower
head…something like the heating element you might use to heat a cup of tea.
“Third rule: Note the wiring…but never touch it either. It’s usually
haphazardly wound and taped together, certainly not something you want to fiddle
with while wet.
“Turn on the water slowly, allowing the heating element to do its job and
warm the water to your desired temperature. Then enter the shower and position
yourself under the flow of water. Once in, it is safe to increase or decrease
the water pressure for changes in temperature.
“And, yes, it’s safe, too, to turn the thing off. Carefully…”
Our daughter Kaitlin is coming for a visit next week. We’re making a list of
things to do with her while she’s here in Panama City:
n Go in search of the
country’s famous golden frog. This is Jack’s top choice.
We’ve been directed to El Valle.
n Go bar-hopping along
Calle Uruguay, legendary for its raucousness come Saturday evening.
This is her boyfriend Harry’s top choice. We’ll leave the clubbing to them.
n See the Golden Altar
in Casco Viejo’s Cathedral of San Jose. At the top of my list.
n Visit the La Vieja
ruins of the original Panama City. Lief’s pick. We’ll go Sunday
morning, when there’s a crafts market nearby.
FROM THE MAILBAG:
“I probably only have about US$100,000 to play with right
now. Would this work?
-- Dr. Paul D., United States
It depends, dear reader. If your entire retirement nest egg is US$100,000,
and you have no Social Security, no pension, and no other assets, the honest
answer is…it’ll be hard to make this work as an overseas retirement fund.
But harder to make it work as a non-overseas retirement fund.
That is, no matter how much money you have to retire on, it can buy you a
bigger, better retirement outside the States.
If, though, you’ve got US$100,000 to play with…plus some other ongoing source
of income (Social Security, etc.), then you’re golden. In Ecuador, Uruguay,
Nicaragua, or Argentina, for example, your US$100,000 nut could buy you a
comfortable home…and your monthly Social Security or pension could
afford you a very comfortable life.
It also depends, of course, on your age. If you’re 45 or 50 years old, you’re
looking at many active retirement years, and US$100,000 isn’t likely enough to
carry you through them. You’ll need to supplement with some form of income.
Right now, friends are planning their third annual
How To Fund Your Travels workshop here in Panama. Their ideas could work as
well to help fund a new life overseas…