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“We have committed about five years to Medellin,” Lauren continued. “So far we've been here seven months. We're both completely convinced that coming here was a great decision. We've met a wonderful group of expats of all ages who are active in the community, bringing their own entrepreneurial expertise to Colombia, and making new lives in this beautiful city.”

“I'm from Calgary,” Jason offered, “where I was managing two restaurants. My mom and dad had moved 15 years ago to Nicaragua, so I wasn't a stranger to living in Latin America. I learned early that it can be an ideal life or at least a great experience.”

“I'm from San Francisco, and I loved living there,” smiled Lauren. “San Francisco is truly a unique city, so alive and cosmopolitan, but also so very expensive. I was often working two jobs to pay my bills, a day job at the tech startup and serving tables at night.

“I grew up in the Boston area,” Lauren continued, “where my parents shared their love of travel with me. At Loyola University in Maryland, I majored in Spanish and international business. I did an exchange to Buenos Aires for six months and fell in love with the language and the culture. After this experience I knew I would live in Latin America again. When the opportunity arose to go to Mexico for the tech startup, I jumped on it.”

“What were your first impressions of Medellin?” I asked the couple, “and what do you think of the city now that you've gotten to know it a little better?”

"I love the weather,” Lauren told me. “Who could complain about 75 degrees and sunny every day. The tree-lined streets and green spaces give a tranquility to the city. I also love the people here. Everyone is nice and friendly. The paisas, as Colombians from this part of the country are known, are especially welcoming and willing to help. 

“I have been impressed with the abundance of boutique cafes and restaurants in Poblado, Laureles, and other neighborhoods,” Lauren continued. “This city also has a big health and wellness theme, which is important to me. I am a marathon runner and love to be outside and active. This city and its climate really support that interest, and I have easily found running groups to connect with."

“I immediately liked how easy it is to meet people here,” Jason added. “The expat and excursion groups and the many social media pages dedicated to social, cultural, and business needs and networking make it fun and easy to become involved and connected. 

“We are working now as international reps for a U.S. company, Nu-Skin, Inc. We are also consulting with expats and paisas on business opportunities in Colombia. And Lauren is marketing herself as a running coach, trainer, and nutrition consultant. We've been successful so far supporting ourselves and growing our businesses. Right now we live in a nice and inexpensive neighborhood across the river, but we're thinking about moving to El Poblado because that's where most of our clients are.” 

“In fact,” Lauren interjected, “we're sitting in our office right now.” Then she smiled over at the coffee barista and, pointing down at our table, said, “Nuestra oficina, sí?” 

Sí señora, con gusto!” the server replied. Talk about low overheads. 

“So, what about your longer-term plans,” I asked the couple. “Do you have thoughts to settle down, have a family?”

“Right now and for the foreseeable future, we're flexible,” Lauren explained. “There are lots more places in the world we want to explore. We might have a child here or somewhere else; however, that won't be for a few years.” 

“Living in Asia for a few years is a possibility.” Jason continued. “I don't know how important roots might be, buying land or a home to retreat to, to be grounded in this place or another. Raising our future kids could happen anywhere. 

“Meanwhile we're committed to Medellin and to doing our best here, making some money, making friends, and having a great time...”

Larry Rose

Editor's Note: Larry Rose is an American expat living in Medellin, Colombia. At our Live and Invest in Colombia Conference taking place May 11–13, you'll meet Larry and other real-life expats like Jason and Lauren, all happy to share their stories. 

Why are so many people choosing to reinvent their lives and diversify their portfolios in Colombia? Find out more here.

 

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A condo that was priced at the Colombian peso equivalent of US$140,000 in July could now be yours for just US$95,200.

Same goes for rents, furniture, dining out, groceries, and on and on.

I don't advocate trying to time currency swings or play exchange rates when making overseas property buys because currencies move in two directions, of course; however, if you have any interest in spending time or money in Colombia, this window of opportunity is too good to miss.

And I strongly suggest that you consider the idea of spending time or money in this country that I'm here to tell you is on track to become one of the world's most sought-after destinations, for both retiring and investing.

Colombia is a solid, stable democracy on the move. The country is on a strong economic footing, showing impressive growth, boasting a powerful industrial base, and enjoying an energy surplus, thanks to its abundant natural resources. In 2012, Standard and Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch all upgraded Colombia to "investment grade" status, most recently citing "prudent economic policies and increased resiliency to internal and external shocks." These ratings opened the door to even greater flows of institutional foreign investment.

Meantime, over the past month, The New York Times has listed Medellín among its Places to Go for 2015 (for the second time), and National Geographic included the country on its Best Trips list for 2015. 

The old Colombia stereotypes are falling away, and this country is beginning to take its place among the world's hottest destinations, just as, about seven years ago, I began predicting it would.

It isn't often that such a strong opening presents itself, and it's even less often that we recognize the opportunity when it's on the table. Over the past three decades, I've been on the ground early, urging readers and friends to get in ahead of the crowd in most every market that has emerged as a top retirement and investment haven. But, to be honest, I haven't always taken my own advice, and I've sometimes missed out. That's why I've moved so fast in Colombia. I didn't want to take a chance on missing what may be my biggest find of all.

The opportunities in Colombia are not limited to Medellin (though the values in this pretty city of flowers and cafes jump off the page). Medellin is just one destination of several that are attracting North American expats to this country.

The historic walled city of Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean coast, has been drawing expats for years. Cartagena is Colombia's #1 tourist destination, but it was Colombia's first major expat haven, too, and continues to grow in popularity in this regard.

About 140 miles up the coast from Cartagena is Santa Marta, Colombia's oldest city, offering an amazing array of appealing lifestyles and beautiful beaches, from the newly restored historic center and waterfront to the dancing beat of El Rodadero and from the world-class scuba diving at Taganga to the tranquil beaches of Bello Horizonte.

If you're interested in cooler climes, head up into the mountains, where you find Medellin but also Popayán, a beautifully maintained small-town colonial gem.

Great beaches, great weather, great health care, great culture... Colombia has it all, and, right now, it's all available at a more than 30% discount for dollar-holders. 

How long will this window remain open? Who could say.

Here's what I can tell you: Colombia is worth your attention. Lief and I are invested here. We've made friends here. We visit as often as we can. We're connected for the long term and are behind this country 100%.

It is in that context that we now are planning our fifth Live and Invest in Colombia Conference.

I can't stress strongly enough how great the window of opportunity is right now in this country. Get thee to Colombia, specifically Medellin. We'll meet you there.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Today we officially open registration for our fifth Live and Invest in Colombia Conference taking place May 11–13 in downtown Medellin. 

Register now to take advantage of Early Bird pricing discounts and VIP attendee benefits. You can sign yourself up online here

Or reach our conference department with your questions by phone, toll-free from the United States, at 1-888-627-8834 or by email atColombiaConference@liveandinvestoverseas.com

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I make the point to provide context for the recommendation I'd like to offer now, which may seem like the craziest one of all.

About six years ago I finally took the advice of friends who had been nagging me for a long while to go see for myself a city they knew well, a city they described as pretty and pleasant, sophisticated and chic, welcoming and affordable...a city that was, most of all, they assured me, nothing like what I was probably expecting.

I knew within hours of arriving in Medellin, Colombia, that everything my friends had said was true. Medellin, I became convinced very quickly, was on track to become one of the world's most sought-after destinations, for both retiring and investing.

Specifically, Medellin offers:
  • Pleasant weather, meaning you can leave your windows open to the breeze and dine al fresco year-round...
  • World-class health care, including 5 of the top 35 hospitals in Latin America...
  • A rich cultural scene, with theater, orchestra, art galleries, and festivals that draw crowds from around the world...
  • An affordable cost of living...
  • Real-world infrastructure...living here you don't want for anything...
  • Property costs that are a bargain on a global scale; it's possible to buy at the best addresses in the city for as little as US$1,000 per square meter...
  • Investment upside, both in the form of rental yields and potential capital appreciation...
The best case when going overseas is when you can identify a place that is appealing both as a lifestyle choice and as an investment market. That's the case in Medellin.

During one of my first visits to this city a half-dozen years ago, I sat at a table in a newly opened restaurant. I was with a group of investors and businesspeople who, like me, had come to explore investment potential. The conversation went like this...

"Property values in this city are so undervalued," one of the gentlemen having dinner with us remarked (a real estate professional). "I believe that apartment costs here are the lowest for any cosmopolitan city in the world on a per-square-meter basis.

"This is because Colombia, especially Medellin, is still misunderstood. When you say ‘Medellin' to the average American, he thinks: drugs... gangs...Pablo Escobar...

"It's such a misperception. The current reality of this city is so far removed from all that. But luckily for us, that outdated stereotype is keeping prices down."

It was déjà vu...

I'd heard the same case, made by another group of investors, around a similar table, in Boquete, Panama, back in 1999...10 years before the AARP ranked that mountain town as one of the world's top five retirement destinations.

So I know how this scene plays out.

Three types of people should be paying attention to Colombia right now:

  • The investor: Prices are an absolute, global bargain. Costs of getting in are low, and demand is growing at an accelerating rate. Right now in Medellin, you could buy almost anything and feel confident that you could make money. Rental yields are running from 8% to 14% on good properties...
  • The retiree: This City of Flowers and Eternal Spring is going to become a top destination among North American retirees...mark my words...
  • The second-home buyer: More and more, I'm seeing people who are spending their summers in the United States or Europe but skipping out on the ice and snow by wintering in places where they can leave their windows open day and night, all year. These folks are bypassing the old-school snowbird haunts like Arizona and Florida and opting instead for the romance, the excitement, the adventure, and the affordable high-end lifestyle on offer in cities like Medellin.
We don't always have the vision to jump when opportunity presents itself. Imagine if you had bought in Costa Rica in the mid-1980s...on Ambergris Caye, Belize, later in that decade...or in Panama City 15 years ago...

I recognized the opportunities in all these places at precisely those points in time, and I urged readers and friends to take advantage.

I see that same potential again right now, in Medellin.

The best way to appreciate the opportunity on offer in Medellin (or anywhere) is to come see for yourself. This, of course, is the big idea behind the country conferences that we sponsor each year. This week our team is in Belize, introducing all in attendance to opportunities for living, retiring, investing, and owning property in that beautiful little English-speaking country. Later this year, we'll be hosting similar events in other of our favorite havens, including Panama, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua...and, yes, Colombia.

In fact, we intend to open registration for our 2015 Live and Invest in Colombia Conference within the next two weeks. This week, therefore, is your chance to get your name on the First Alert list for special discounts and VIP attendee status.

You can do that here now.

Could Medellin be the retirement or investment haven you seek? The best place in the world right now for you to think about reinventing and relaunching your life or diversifying your investment portfolio?

I don't know. And right now neither do you. I urge you, though, to make this the year you find out.

Meet me and my team in Medellin...or one of the other world's top retirement, lifestyle, and investment havens where we'll be convening live events this New Year...so we can continue this conversation in person and help you conceive your own retire-overseas plan.

I look forward to it.

Kathleen Peddicord

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#2 Cuenca, Ecuador

If you're looking for the world's best place to retire overseas on a budget and live better for less, Cuenca, Ecuador, will be hard to beat. This is a beautiful colonial city in a fascinating and diverse country. The historic center measures roughly 12 by 20 blocks, big enough to be interesting but contained enough to be manageable without having to invest in owning a car.

Many of the Spanish-colonial structures that line the streets of central Cuenca are given over today to cafes, restaurants, bars, and bookshops, operating alongside the traditional butchers, tailors, repair shops, and bakeries. At the heart of the city is the town square, anchored by the original cathedral at one end (dating to 1557) and the "new" cathedral at the other (dating to the 1800s).

Perhaps the biggest appeal of Cuenca is its cost of living, which is among the lowest in the Americas. Real estate prices, too, are rock bottom, if you're interested in owning a home of your own in retirement. The health care is high quality, honest, and, like everything else here, inexpensive. The climate is temperate 12 months a year, and the city's large and growing expat community is one of the most diverse and well-blended in the world.

#3 George Town, Malaysia

The Malaysian island of Penang, recognized as both the Pearl of the Orient and the Garden of the East, offers retirees one of the best overseas living opportunities in the world and stands out as a top retirement choice in Asia. Retired here, you could while away the hours exploring George Town, Penang's colorful and lively state capital, kick back on the beach, explore the mountains and waterfalls, shop ‘til you drop, and eat out every meal if you wanted. The cuisine is so diverse you'll never tire of it and so affordable you can indulge without worry even if your retirement budget is modest.

George Town's population is about 750,000, small enough that it's easy to make friends and meet your neighbors, yet large enough to support the infrastructure and services of a real city. The center of historic George Town is a maze of 19th-century streets. Even beyond its UNESCO heart, this city is a cornucopia of Chinese shop houses, pagodas, temples, clan-houses, churches, mosques, British colonial buildings, and landscaped parks.

Malaysia offers sophisticated, international-standard health care at an affordable cost and is one of the world's top five destinations for medical tourism. Many private hospitals are internationally accredited.

The Malaysian government actively encourages immigration and welcomes foreign retirees. There is no pressing need for you to learn a second language in Malaysia and even less so in George Town. This is an international destination, and nearly everyone you come in contact with will speak and understand English.

A couple could retire comfortably in George Town on US$1,500 per month.

#4 Northern Belize

Northern Belize is a remote region of tropical rivers, hardwood forests, traditional farms, sleepy rural villages, and breezy Caribbean seashores. This is a refreshingly off-the-radar place where residents embrace a simple, friendly, by-the-sea lifestyle.

It is also the best value destination in Belize and one of the most affordable options for retirement in the Caribbean.

Northern Belize is an area of about 2,500 square miles and the point where the Caribbean and Central America meet. As that geographic juxtaposition suggests, the population is diverse, and it is becoming more so as North American retirees are beginning to recognize what this overlooked part of Belize has to offer and settling here in growing numbers.

Northern Belize's remoteness is part of its appeal, but remote living has its disadvantages, especially in retirement. This is why the proximity of this part of Belize to Chetumal, Mexico, just across the border, is so important. The town of Corozal in Northern Belize is a gateway town to Chetumal and from there to Merida and Cancun beyond. In Northern Belize, you could enjoy a bargain Caribbean lifestyle with easy access to shopping, city distractions, and, very important, medical care in Chetumal.

Belizeans are known for their hospitality. Plus, they all speak English, so new friendships are quickly and easily made. Corozal is home to an established and growing expat community, but this group is well integrated with the local Belizean community. Living here, how would you fill your days? Sailing around Sarteneja, horseback riding at Chan Chich, kayaking at Orchid Bay, fishing at Bacalar Chico, or bird watching at Crooked Tree Lodge, and you wouldn't ever lack for company, Belizean or expat, if you wanted it.

#5 Dumaguete, Philippines

Located along a sheltered coast on the island of Negros, Dumaguete is protected against most of the typhoons that periodically batter many of the Philippines' 7,107 islands. The weather is tropical and balmy, rarely too hot but occasionally cool enough to wear a sweater in the evening. Dumaguete offers excellent medical care, too, care that has been getting even better since the city was named one of the five top retirement destinations in the Philippines.

The Philippines offers one of the best residency programs in the world, helping to explain why more than 5,000 foreigners have chosen to retire here. The financial requirements to qualify are low, and the benefits are globally competitive, including duty-free importation of household belongings and the ability to own a business, work, or go to school.

You can get by comfortably in this part of the world as an English speaker. When Dumagueteños talk to you, they'll speak in English.

The biggest advantage for the retiree in Dumaguete is the cost of living. A couple could retire comfortably here on less than US$1,000 per month.

#6 Pau, France

No border marks the entry to the Basque region, but you'll know when you've entered this part of France. The most obvious change is the architecture. Every house is painted white with accents of Basque red. You buy the paint at any Home Depot-type store; the can will be labeled "Basque Red." In this part of the world, there's just one red. This collective approach to home decor has the effect of making everything appear pristine and cared for. The Basque people also have their own language, music, dance, sport, cuisine (one of the best in France), myths, flag, and even alphabet typeface.

France's Basque region is made up of seven provinces that sit astride the French-Spanish Atlantic border. The geography is intense, bringing to mind a young child's drawing of the countryside where every type of geographic feature is squeezed onto one sheet of paper. Small steep valleys, rolling hills, towering mountains, meandering rivers, a wild coastline, forests and woodland, all crammed into about 31,000 square feet and all gloriously green and lush.

The water in many parts of the bay is shallow, giving rise to spectacular surf. This coastline, specifically Biarritz, was the birthplace of French surfing in the late 1950s.

France is recognized by the World Health Organization as having the world's best healthcare.

The retiree who has dreamt of France but who can't afford Paris should consider Pau. A couple could retire here on as little as US$2,000 per month.

#7 Medellin, Colombia

Medellin is a city of parks and flowers, pretty, tidy, and, despite its checkered past, safe. It's also architecturally consistent and pleasing. Most every building is constructed of red brick and topped with red clay roof tiles. The overall effect is delightful.

Medellin is both an industrial, economic, and financial center for this country and a literary and artistic one. Newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, an annual book fair, and, back in 1971, Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon, all have chosen Medellin as their base.

Thanks to its mountain setting, Medellin is another of a handful of cities around the world that bills themselves as lands of eternal springtime. The cost of living is affordable, though not super-cheap. The medical care is excellent, with 5 of the 35 best hospitals in Latin America located here.

The European undertones in Medellin are strong, from the way the women dress to the way people greet you in passing on the street. This is South America, not Central America, and the differences between the two regions can be striking.

Medellin was named 2013's World's Most Innovative City and is finally beginning to shed its bad-boy image from Pablo Escobar days and to become appreciated for the romantic city it is, with good wines, great coffee, outdoor cafes, and open-air music venues. It's a top choice for chic but affordable city living in retirement. A couple could retire here on as little as US$1,600 per month.

#8 Abruzzo, Italy

It's hard to think of a lovelier corner of Italy than the Abruzzo. The beaches are golden, and the sea rolls out like a giant bolt of turquoise silk. There are mountains, too, meaning that, living here, you'd have both skiing and beach-combing on your doorstep, depending on the season.

This region is one of Italy's secret treasures. No over-crowding, no heavy industry, only castles, vineyards, and villages made of stone. Life in the Abruzzo hasn't changed much over the years, and exploring here is like wandering into a gentler, kinder yesterday, a time with little or no crime and neighbors who watch out for one another.

Old ladies in pinafores bring their chairs outside and sit in gossipy groups, stringing onions into plaits. Instead of playing computer games, young boys are outside playing soccer. Families shop at open-air markets, not hypermarkets, and if they don't produce their own wine, they buy it from local vineyards.

Relatively unknown to foreign visitors, the sparsely populated Abruzzo is where central Italy merges into the languid realms of the deep south. Even though many parts of the area are only an hour's drive from Rome, it clings onto its secret feel.

The main town in the region, Pescara, has one of the best city beaches in Europe and not far away is some of the best skiing outside of the Alps. In spring, it's possible to combine a morning on the Apennine ski slopes with an afternoon at the beach.

Food is important in the Abruzzo, as it is everywhere in Italy. In most trattorie, everything is home-cooked and just like nonna (grandmother) used to make. In fact, sometimes, nonna still makes it. On the coast, dishes feature fish; inland, the cuisine becomes heartier, based on roast kid, baby lamb, and wild boar.

This delightful and culturally rich region of Italy is also one of Europe's best bargains. A couple could retire here on as little as US$2,000 per month or less, including rent.

#9 Pedasi, Panama

Panama's Azuero Peninsula is home to more traditional Panamanian culture and folklore than any other region in the country. The east coast of the peninsula is dotted with quaint villages steeped in history, folklore, and tradition. Queen among them is Pedasi, a town with a village atmosphere where you feel like an active stakeholder in a thriving community.

This gulf coast of Azuero, known as the Arco Seco (Dry Arch) offers some of Panama's best weather. A constant breeze helps to reduce the humidity that can be overwhelming elsewhere in this country.

The waters offshore from Pedasi's "Tuna Coast" provide for some of the world's best big game fishing, and this coast is also one of the best places in the world to see the annual migration of the humpback whale.

Pedasi is the kind of small town where the locals sit outside in oversized wooden rocking chairs and leave their doors open to the street. The old men wear traditional leather sandals and black and white straw hats. Women of all ages wear white pollera dresses during festivals and the annual Carnival celebration.

This is a tidy and charming village with a rural feel and relaxed lifestyle that is beginning to attract attention among North American retirees. Pedasi is today's best beach retirement choice in Panama, the country that continues to stand out overall as perhaps the most foreign retiree-friendly in the world.

#10 Istanbul, Turkey

Megacity Istanbul straddles the shores of both Europe and Asia and is the only city to have been a capital to both Christian and Muslim empires, as evidenced, inside its great Roman walls, by an architectural legacy like nothing else anywhere on earth. Though not the country's capital, Istanbul is Turkey's beating heart, offering the best of any European capital city, from lattes to the latest Hollywood releases in English, but with an edge and an energy that can be lacking in Continental Europe. Istanbul is a place to watch the world go by beneath a skyline of minarets and modern office blocks while ships from across the globe pass up and down the Bosphorus.

Istanbul is a city made for walking. Not only the oldest parts but every region of this city, both Euro and Anatolian, invites you to take off on two feet to explore it up close. When you do, you discover book stores and art galleries, antique shops and boutiques of all descriptions, on and on as far as your curiosity and legs will carry you.

Istanbul is known as the Paris of the East, but it might be fairer to think of Paris as the Istanbul of the West. These two cities have so much in common today. However, Istanbul settled some few hundred years earlier than Paris and developed much quicker, growing to become grand and prosperous when Paris was still swampland.

The best part is that this world-class city is also exceedingly affordable, perhaps the best place in the world to enjoy the best of city living on a budget. A couple could retire here on a budget of as little as US$1,100 per month.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. My far-flung team of international experts and I have identified and ranked the world’s 21 top retirement destinations in our Live and Invest Overseas Annual Retire Overseas Index. Part science, part art, our Retire Overseas Index is the best way to introduce yourself to the exciting but tricky world of overseas retirement. And, as an Overseas Retirement Letter subscriber, you get free and immediate access to this report. Go here now for more information.

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An added bonus of the Languedoc region is that it's just three hours' drive to my joint-favorite European city, Barcelona!

Lief Simon: Medellin and Buenos Aires

I prefer cities over more rural areas. Two of the best cities in Latin America to spend time in, whether it's full- or part-time living, are Medellin, Colombia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In Medellin, the weather is pleasant year-round—though some would argue that it isn't "spring-like" weather as it's generally referenced to be. Temperatures regularly break 80 degrees. Having grown up in Arizona, that's like winter weather for me. In other words, it's all relative.

It's pleasant enough to walk around Medellin, which is important to me, though I wouldn't call this a walking city.

Medellin has First World infrastructure and amenities (also important to me), and museums, festivals, gardens, and parks all add to the variety of activities available in this city of about 3.5 million people. And, to make the point, despite its history, Medellin is fairly calm these days unless you wander into the gang neighborhoods.

Bigger and livelier is Buenos Aires, which also has four seasons. I like change and contrast, so I like this part of the world a lot. Argentina rides an economic roller coaster that cycles harder and faster than economic cycles in any other country I could name, thanks to general and gross mismanagement by the government.

Argentina is right now close to another breaking point. I'm watching for the coming next crisis, which will be another good time to be considering an investment here.

From a lifestyle point of view, Buenos Aries offers all the activities that Medellin does and more. It's a city of about 15 million people (around one-third of the total population of the country). It has a tremendous variety and diversity of restaurants, shopping, museums, and parks and does qualify as a walking city—though it's too big to walk across in one go. For me, Buenos Aries' core neighborhoods of Recoleta and Retiro offer an ideal way of life.

Just be prepared for big ups and downs and lots of drama. For me that's all a big part of the charm of this place.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. The countdown is on. You have three days remaining to register for this year's Retire Overseas Conference in Nashville next month taking advantage of the Early Bird Discount.

More details here.

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Kathleen Peddicord

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.

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