Articles Related to Retirement



"Rule #4: Acknowledge your bad Spanish.

"I've found that this gets you a lot of points. Unless your Spanish is legitimately fluent, begin any conversation with, 'Excuse me, my Spanish is not very good, but...' First, this makes the Spanish-speaker more attentive to what you're saying, but it does something else, too. It lets the person on the other end of the conversation know that you're not a cocky American who's going to barge in and belligerently demand what he wants. It signals instead that you're asking for help. That really puts someone in a different state of mind.

"Rule #5: Pedestrians do not have the right of way, ever.

"Lots of people get run over. One trick when crossing a street with a stop sign is to cross behind the lead car. Locals don't ever cross in front because that car is watching the traffic. When there is an opening to go, they will go whether there is someone in front of the car or not. The pedestrians are just expected to scatter. It takes some getting used to, but you can't expect crosswalks to be honored or for pedestrians ever to have the right of way.

"Rule #6: You've got to drive aggressively.

"If you're a yield-to-the-right-of-way person, you're going to be sitting at the first intersection you come up to until doomsday. Ecuadoreans are very aggressive behind the wheel. They don't let people in and they don't show courtesy, neither to pedestrians nor to other drivers. If you can't drive like them, you're better off not driving. I found it fun, so much more fun than driving in the States, when I got used to it.

"Rule #7: Forget your ideas about personal space.

"We tend to treasure a little space around us and don't touch or rub up against each other in public. Once in this country I was taking the bus and sitting next to a 12-year-old girl on her way home from school. As we were riding along, she fell asleep on my shoulder. When we got to her stop, she woke up and got off. That's a kind of closeness we're not prepared for.

"Rule #8: Don't get in a taxi without agreeing the fare in advance.

"I just read that Cuenca now has metered taxi. Guess what? Cuenca had metered taxis in 2002 when I was living in that city. They became law, but the taxistas refused to use them. They still do. They get away with it because customers don't complain. The taxista just puts a rag over the meter so you can't see it. So you want to get an idea of what the fare should be before getting in.

"About a year ago, I arrived at the Cuenca airport and asked a driver, 'How much to downtown?' He said, 'Six dollars.' I said, 'I don't think so. I live here!' He said, 'Two dollars.'

"Rule #9: Don't wait to be seated and other restaurant etiquette.

"In the United States we wait to be seated, but here you seat yourself. Also, in our culture, a waiter is designated to certain tables, and you only ask your waiter for more water, etc. That doesn't happen here. All the waiters are happy to help. If you need something, don't worry about who took your order, just grab the next guy you see.

"Also, you need to ask for the check. I can't tell you how many times I've seen folks angrily waiting for their checks while the restaurant has wanted to close 20 minutes ago. All the waiters stand shoulder-to-shoulder by the kitchen wishing the people would just ask for the check so they can go home. It's a standoff that happens all the time. It would be rude for a waiter to bring the check before you ask for it. By asking for it, they know you're done. You can say, 'La cuenta, por favor.'

"Restaurant bills here include a 10% tip. If you want to leave something extra, that is fine but not expected. If I know the restaurant owner doesn't distribute tips to the wait staff, I leave cash on the table.

"Rule #10: Bring patience with you.

"Know that nothing will be as efficient as where you're from. Be patient. You're gonna' love it here if you learn to appreciate the differences."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Lee Harrison was master of ceremonies for last week's event in Ecuador. His presentation on Ecuador etiquette was recorded, along with every other presentation. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks from today.

Meantime, you can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.

Climate In Croatia Versus Climate In Portugal

"Dear Team Live and Invest Overseas, I thought this might interest you...

"According to my Weather Pro App (widely used by Irish farmers) we can see that our trip to Dubrovnik next week will be somewhat of a disappointment weather-wise compared with Portugal. I never expected that. Just goes to show your weather reports in your recent Retire Overseas Index report were spot on."

--Bea D., Ireland

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"Right now it's fall in Nebraska. While fall is a beautiful time of year, it's also a sad time because it signifies the end of the growing season. We don't have that here. The growing season is continual. As a kid, I knew what a poinsettia was. It came in a pot, and you bought it at Christmas time. Here poinsettias are trees. Impatiens, which were annuals back in Nebraska, grow to be bushes here.

"I have a house with a yard and a gardener to take care of it, but I'm a Nebraskan. My parents taught me to mow the lawn. My neighbors all think I'm a gringita loca because I like to mow my lawn. They don't know what to make of it. The gardeners here pick something and stick it in the ground and, wow, it grows! There's joy in that.

My second F-word for Ecuador is: Fantastic.

"We tend to throw around the word 'fantastic' to the point where it ceases to have meaning. Fair enough. We should use it only when it really applies. 'Fantastic' means extraordinary.

"I travel with some frequency to Ecuador's three major cities to try to stay on top of my businesses. On any given flight you can have a fantastic experience just looking out the plane window. The Andes...the volcanoes...these are fantastic sights.

"One time in Baños, a little town with hot springs, our guide told us to go across the river and up the mountain and wait. At around 4:30 to 5 p.m., our guide told us, the clouds will part. So we went, and we waited, and, just as the guide had promised, the clouds parted...and there was the volcano. Not only that, but we could feel it rumble. I thought, 'Wow, this is definitely not Nebraska.'

My next F-word is: Frustrating.

"Now we get to the reality of living in a place that is not your home. After living here for nearly 15 years, I still have to remind myself not to become the person who thinks everything in the United States is turn-key, perfect, and efficient and then is unhappy because that's not how things are here in Ecuador.

"Banco Pichincha is one of the largest banks in this country, and nearly everyone has an account there. On the 15th and the 30th of each month, there is a line like you would find at Disney World for their most popular ride that just snakes around and around outside the door of every Banco Pichincha branch. That's because everyone just got paid and is waiting in line to cash their paychecks. For me as a business owner, this can create huge frustrations. I can have to wait in line hours to make a simple deposit. But what are you going to do? Nothing. You just have to roll with it.

"I applied for my citizenship here months ago. My lawyer and I compiled all the required paperwork and went to the immigration office. They told us, 'You're missing this paper.'

"We got that paper and went back to immigration...where they told us that 'this document that you got two weeks ago was only valid for 10 days...'

"After a few visits, even my Ecuadorian lawyer was frustrated. I finally said to him, 'I know what I have to do. Let me see what I can do on my own...'

"I finally went by myself, said a prayer outside the building, and they took my application.

"As I said, you've just gotta roll with it...all of it.

Next F-word: Flexible.

"This has to do with expectations and attitudes going into a new experience. If you expect that living in another country will be like a U.S. experience only in a different place, you'll struggle. But if you go into it with the attitude 'I'm gonna roll with whatever challenges come' and keep your mind flexible with a capital F, you'll be more likely to enjoy your experience.

My final F-word for Ecuador is: Focus.

"One thing that has really helped me make the most of my life here in Ecuador has been shifting my focus so that it's not on me and what I want but on other folks. For me this has led to becoming involved in the local community as a volunteer. Several years ago, in the English language church where I attend, they were asking for volunteers for the women's prison ministry. I raised my hand, and it's been life-changing..."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Thank you to Conference Director Lauren Williamson and Master of Ceremonies Lee Harrison who have co-hosted this week's event in Ecuador for us...and who have provided me with from-the-scenes reports to make it possible for me to share some of the goings-on in Quito with you. More to follow next week...

Meantime, as always, we're recording every presentation of this week's event, including Theresa's introduction to the F-words of Ecuador. We'll bundle this collection of audio-recordings and other materials to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks after the event has finished.

You can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.

Best White-Sand Beaches In Panama

"Kathleen, I'm signed up for your Nicaraguan conference. Do I need a visa to visit Nicaragua?"

--Gary M., United States

You don't need a visa to arrive in Nicaragua, but you will pay a US$10-per-person entry fee upon arrival so make sure that you have some cash on you.

***

"Kathleen, are there any white- or tan-sand beaches without the black sand mix on the Pacific coast of Panama? I'm looking for a beach for my two active teenage sons with all the water activities, restaurants, etc., available within a half-hour drive.

"Every beach around Coronado and Chame seems to have the black sand mix.

"Does such an area with whiter sand exist?"

--Greg C., United States

Right, most of the beaches on Panama's Pacific coast are darker brown sand with black sand mixed in. The Caribbean side of this country, though, has white-sand beaches. Best known on the Caribbean is Bocas del Toro. More accessible from Panama City are the Portobello and Isla Grande areas, which you can drive to on a nice new highway now. It's less than an hour-and-a-half trip to Portobello.
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"I'm from Seattle, born and raised there. I had a 15-year career at Microsoft before I moved down here to Ecuador. In the middle of that career, in 2007, I came to Ecuador and met a lot of people who you're meeting at this conference, including attorney Grace Velastegui and Cuenca real estate expert David Morrill.

"Why did I decide to make the move from the life I had in Seattle to the one I have here now? It was almost a supernatural experience for me, not anything I could quantify.

"I love the Andes in general. That's one thing that attracted me to Ecuador originally.

"I've traveled all around the Andes, not only in Ecuador but also in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. In doing that, I discovered a problem that seemed like an opportunity. It was nearly impossible, when I first started traveling in this part of the world, to find bus or train schedules that crossed borders. So I, along with a few other bus geeks, started a company called AndesTransit. We are now the number-one South American bus and train schedule resource. Next year we'll be expanding to Argentina and Chile. The site works like Kayak and Expedia. You can even use it to find hotels in these countries.

"Bottom line, I came to Ecuador because it felt right. And I'd say that's the most important thing, to choose the place that feels right to you, depending on what you're interested in doing with your time and with your life.

"One great thing about Ecuador is that it's easy to get traction here. I think that it'd take longer in other countries to go through the getting-established process. Getting residency, for example, can be easier. Not easy. Just easier than elsewhere. I loved Colombia so much, but the process of gaining residency seemed more difficult to me.

"Am I happy now that I'm here? No question. Cities are jungles, too. You don't have to go to the jungle to have that experience in this country. Quito is a jungle, too. In a good way. After two years, I've seen only 10% of this town. It amazes me every day, the little corners that have their own traditions and their own interesting things to see. I find this exciting and invigorating.

"Of course, there are downsides living here, as anywhere. Ecuadorians don't have any tradition of personal space, for example. They cut in front of you in lines, and they can be pushy on the street. People walk arm-in-arm on the sidewalks, and you have to walk into traffic to pass them sometimes.

"The flip side of how close people can be with each other here is that there's a great sense of community. Everyone is family.

"Another downside is inefficiency. It's everywhere. The flip side of inefficiency is business opportunity. The bus situation was my opportunity that I identified out of an inefficiency.

"Another challenge is banking. There's no banking infrastructure in this country to speak of. I'm not sure what the flip side to this is. I think you just remind yourself of all the other things that Ecuador does offer!

"Language can be a challenge. Or you can see the limited English spoken as an opportunity for you to learn Spanish.

"And every inconvenience you identify is another excuse for an adventure.

"If you see it that way. That's the key—your perspective.

"Taking the bus, as I think of it, and starting your life over in a new country, Ecuador or somewhere else, isn't easy. But I've not regretted my decision one day since I made it. My life has been completely reinvented, and I know that, living here in Quito, I have so much more adventure to look forward to. I can't wait to find out where this bus takes me next."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Alas, I was unable to be in Ecuador for this week's event. "All is going well," skyped Conference Director Lauren Williamson from the meeting room of the hotel in Quito this morning, "but you're missing out! Really, we're having a great time."

It was Lauren who shared details of Kali's presentation today. Lauren and Lee Harrison, who's acting as emcee for us, promise more from the scene tomorrow.

Meantime, as always, we're recording every presentation of this week's event to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit. This collection of audio recordings and other materials will be available for fulfillment two weeks after the event has finished.

Meantime, you can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.

Living, Retiring, Investing Opportunities On Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast?

 

"Kathleen, I have been reading your letters about Nicaragua and am curious as to why you never mention the Caribbean coast of that country. Is there a reason to stay away from it?"

--Rick W., United States

Nicaragua's Caribbean coast isn't much developed. The majority of this country's population and investment in infrastructure lie in a band between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua.

Read more...
 

Why Cuenca Reason #1: Eye Candy

This city is just plain beautiful. Perhaps some people are content to hang their hats anywhere and attractive surroundings don't rate much attention, but I am a beauty snob. Ecuador has stunning Pacific coast beaches, craggy majestic mountains, and exotic tropical rain forest, all conveniently squashed into a country roughly the size of Wyoming.

The city of Cuenca may be a half-million people, but it doesn't feel big when you are meandering down the cobblestone streets in El Centro. The UNESCO World Heritage city center is charming with block after block of modestly scaled Spanish-colonial architecture and lush, green parks. It's easy to find your way around as the streets are well marked, and, with sidewalks everywhere and perpetually perfect weather, it's pleasant to navigate Cuenca on foot.

Why Cuenca Reason #2: Budget Friendly Basics

Cuenca is easy on the pocketbook. We rented a small, centrally located, furnished two-bedroom apartment for a week for US$300, which was less expensive than two rooms at a nice hotel, and we enjoyed the bonus of having a living room and a kitchen. You could find something even more affordable if you rent for a longer stint. Prices at the SuperMaxi grocery store were not much less than in supermarkets back home for many items, but keep in mind that we live in South Carolina. If you live in California or New York, you may see a larger price gap.

Here are a few sample prices:

Bread: US$1.17 per loaf
Eggs: US$1.85 per dozen
Strawberries: US$1.72 per kilo
Oreos: US$2.92 for the big package
Brahma beer: US$3.41 for a 6 pack

Some of the import liquor was expensive, like Bailey's Irish Cream, which was double or more what we pay back home, but we bought premixed pina coladas for about half what a comparable bottle costs here. Although we didn't stock up at a mercado, we did peruse one of the local markets. Prices on produce were a real bargain, and all of it was local, fresh, and presumably organic.

Why Cuenca Reason #3: Excellent Dining On A Shoestring

You have many options for dining in Cuenca, some places catering to both expats and Cuencanos. The best bargains are fixed-price lunches at almuerzo cafes. We tried several. In each case, the total tab, including taxes and tip, ran from US$6–US$9 for three full plates of food and soft drinks.

We ate at two restaurants catering to expats: The Wind Horse Café on Calle Larga was US$16 for brunch for three people, and the Café Eucalyptus on Gran Colombia set us back US$51 for a luxurious dinner for three, including cocktails, entrées (no appetizers), desserts (try the Bananas Foster), and fruit smoothies. Our other restaurant splurge was Tres Estrellas on Calle Larga. It's the restaurant famous for cuy, and, while we didn't indulge in the grilled guinea pig on this visit (next time?), we did make pigs of ourselves to the tune of a US$45 tariff for three (including two pitchers of their lemonade—it was that good).

The only lousy meal we had was giving the local McDonald's a try. The prices were comparable to those in the States in exchange for too salty burgers and not salty enough limp fries. If you need an American fast-food fix, we had better luck at the food court at the Multicines movie complex at Millennium Plaza. Both Burger King and Subway tasted like home.

By the way, catching the 7 p.m. movie in English cost only US$5.50 per person.

Why Cuenca Reason #4: Appealing Culture

We loved, loved, loved the lifestyle and culture in Cuenca. What's not to like about a perfect spring climate and no bugs? Nothing like being comfortable, not too hot and not too cold, to improve one's outlook on life. But there's more to it than that.

Like you, I have read that being in Cuenca is like stepping back into the 1950s. What does that mean exactly, and is it something you will embrace...or will it drive you nuts? We saw children everywhere. There were wee ones out with their mothers or their fathers or their grandparents. We saw school-aged kids in their uniforms visiting the local confectioner to stock up on after-school snacks (try the sweets shop on Simon Bolivar adjacent to the cathedral—yum!).

The people seem friendly, happy, and helpful. There are dozens of spectacular churches sprinkled throughout the city, and if you poke a nose in the door any day of the week, you find dozens of people quietly lighting candles and praying. Cuenca is faith and family oriented, and Sundays especially are set aside for church and time spent with loved ones. The Catholic Masses are packed in the morning, as are the parks in the afternoon.

Keep in mind that not much is open on Sunday, but you can still get a tasty meal in town at Chicago Pizza on Gran Colombia, conveniently just across the plaza from the church of Santo Domingo for those who want to kill two birds with one stone.

If we had to identify something specific that we didn't care for, it would be graffiti. I assume this is the handiwork of select misdirected youth, but there's lots of it, which is a shame to see in such an otherwise lovely place. To their credit, city employees were out with brushes and pails of soapy water scrubbing away.

Why Cuenca Reason #5: Family-Friendly Visa

In keeping with the strong family orientation we witnessed in Cuenca, Ecuador's pensionado visa is one of the most generous toward families. If you are a single person or an unencumbered couple, this probably won't be of interest for you, but our family dynamic isn't quite so simple. If you, like we, are considering moving abroad with some or all of an extended family, Ecuador should be on your radar.

In many Latin American countries, the best bang for the buck, if you qualify, is a pensionado visa. Ecuador's requires that the pensioner show a monthly income from a pension or Social Security of at least US$800, and then add to that US$100 for each dependent (spouse, child, etc.). Other countries offer similar pensionado visas but usually with restrictions on who qualifies as a dependent. A husband or wife is fine, but only minor children qualify, or, if older than 18, there is an age cap (from 23 to 25, depending on the country) and the grown child must be a full-time college student. What if you have adult kids who would like to join you in your overseas adventure, but they are older than 25 and/or not in college? Either each single or couple must qualify for a different type of visa on their own (expensive, if they can qualify at all), or you need to look seriously at Ecuador or Nicaragua, which has a pensionado program similar to Ecuador's (US$600 per month for the pensioner and US$100 for each dependent, without small print as to whom you can include as your dependent).

One of the issues many face when they retire abroad is being so far away from the rest of the family. In Ecuador you may not have to make that sacrifice. If everyone wants to go, and if everyone establishes a portable career to pay their bills once in their new home country, the residency visa is comparatively simple and inexpensive in Ecuador...for the whole family.

Janet LeBlanc

:

MAILBAG: Assessing Risk When Investing In Property Overseas


"Lief and Kathleen, thank you for sharing the letter from the reader who lost money on overseas real estate deals. And thank you for you candor indicating your own losses. This speaks highly of your integrity.

"Americans can certainly get excited about an overseas project and violate all their own mantras that they would use at home to make a deal. Your candor about your own losses should serve warning to all potential overseas investors that even an experienced, seasoned investor like yourself can lose money on a deal. Few things in life are sure deals; not a real estate purchase overseas or at home (I have experience myself with the at-home variety of loss). But every investment of any kind has risks because we always make a purchase based on some assumptions that may or may not pan out. My real estate mantra is: Do the due diligence, assess the risk based on that, and decide if you're willing to take that risk for the potential gains. If not, move on to the next one.

"I'm writing this because I met the two of you at the Live and Invest Overseas Conference in Nashville and came away with the impression that you are honest, hard-working people after hearing you speak and also having personal conversations with each of you. (I mentioned to you Lief at the conference that I appreciated the bit of sand in your sense of humor, and you said thanks and asked me to put in a plug for you with Kathleen. I did and got the same look I get from my wife. LOL)

"The aforementioned letter just seems to confirm your integrity.

"Please don't ever stop the truth-telling."

--Michael C., United States

 

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Cuenca, Ecuador.

You have heard so much about it. The experts recommend Cuenca, Ecuador, as a fabulous choice for living abroad. The country is mentioned time and again on all the short lists of places to ponder, with Cuenca being the customary crown jewel choice both for retirees and anybody at any age just hoping to escape to a fresh start.

It sounds so exciting, but is it right for you?

Here's your opportunity to hear about what Cuenca has to offer from somebody just like you, rather than another seasoned expert.

I still live in the United States, and, like you, I have been doing research trying to decide if I want to move abroad...and, assuming I do, to where?

Ecuador is currently the top contender on my list, so last month I traveled to Cuenca with one of my daughters and her husband for an initial reconnaissance expedition. My husband and other adult children did not join us; we three were the family's boots-on-the-ground scouts. If we liked what we saw, plans would move forward. If not, it would be back to the drawing board. And the verdict?

We loved it!

So what is so great about Ecuador, Cuenca in particular?

Why Cuenca Reason #1: Eye Candy

This city is just plain beautiful. Perhaps some people are content to hang their hats anywhere and attractive surroundings don't rate much attention, but I am a beauty snob. Ecuador has stunning Pacific coast beaches, craggy majestic mountains, and exotic tropical rain forest, all conveniently squashed into a country roughly the size of Wyoming.

The city of Cuenca may be a half-million people, but it doesn't feel big when you are meandering down the cobblestone streets in El Centro. The UNESCO World Heritage city center is charming with block after block of modestly scaled Spanish-colonial architecture and lush, green parks. It's easy to find your way around as the streets are well marked, and, with sidewalks everywhere and perpetually perfect weather, it's pleasant to navigate Cuenca on foot.

Why Cuenca Reason #2: Budget Friendly Basics

Cuenca is easy on the pocketbook. We rented a small, centrally located, furnished two-bedroom apartment for a week for US$300, which was less expensive than two rooms at a nice hotel, and we enjoyed the bonus of having a living room and a kitchen. You could find something even more affordable if you rent for a longer stint. Prices at the SuperMaxi grocery store were not much less than in supermarkets back home for many items, but keep in mind that we live in South Carolina. If you live in California or New York, you may see a larger price gap.

Here are a few sample prices:

Bread: US$1.17 per loaf
Eggs: US$1.85 per dozen
Strawberries: US$1.72 per kilo
Oreos: US$2.92 for the big package
Brahma beer: US$3.41 for a 6 pack

Some of the import liquor was expensive, like Bailey's Irish Cream, which was double or more what we pay back home, but we bought premixed pina coladas for about half what a comparable bottle costs here. Although we didn't stock up at a mercado, we did peruse one of the local markets. Prices on produce were a real bargain, and all of it was local, fresh, and presumably organic.

Why Cuenca Reason #3: Excellent Dining On A Shoestring

You have many options for dining in Cuenca, some places catering to both expats and Cuencanos. The best bargains are fixed-price lunches at almuerzo cafes. We tried several. In each case, the total tab, including taxes and tip, ran from US$6–US$9 for three full plates of food and soft drinks.

We ate at two restaurants catering to expats: The Wind Horse Café on Calle Larga was US$16 for brunch for three people, and the Café Eucalyptus on Gran Colombia set us back US$51 for a luxurious dinner for three, including cocktails, entrées (no appetizers), desserts (try the Bananas Foster), and fruit smoothies. Our other restaurant splurge was Tres Estrellas on Calle Larga. It's the restaurant famous for cuy, and, while we didn't indulge in the grilled guinea pig on this visit (next time?), we did make pigs of ourselves to the tune of a US$45 tariff for three (including two pitchers of their lemonade—it was that good).

The only lousy meal we had was giving the local McDonald's a try. The prices were comparable to those in the States in exchange for too salty burgers and not salty enough limp fries. If you need an American fast-food fix, we had better luck at the food court at the Multicines movie complex at Millennium Plaza. Both Burger King and Subway tasted like home.

By the way, catching the 7 p.m. movie in English cost only US$5.50 per person.

Why Cuenca Reason #4: Appealing Culture

We loved, loved, loved the lifestyle and culture in Cuenca. What's not to like about a perfect spring climate and no bugs? Nothing like being comfortable, not too hot and not too cold, to improve one's outlook on life. But there's more to it than that.

Like you, I have read that being in Cuenca is like stepping back into the 1950s. What does that mean exactly, and is it something you will embrace...or will it drive you nuts? We saw children everywhere. There were wee ones out with their mothers or their fathers or their grandparents. We saw school-aged kids in their uniforms visiting the local confectioner to stock up on after-school snacks (try the sweets shop on Simon Bolivar adjacent to the cathedral—yum!).

The people seem friendly, happy, and helpful. There are dozens of spectacular churches sprinkled throughout the city, and if you poke a nose in the door any day of the week, you find dozens of people quietly lighting candles and praying. Cuenca is faith and family oriented, and Sundays especially are set aside for church and time spent with loved ones. The Catholic Masses are packed in the morning, as are the parks in the afternoon.

Keep in mind that not much is open on Sunday, but you can still get a tasty meal in town at Chicago Pizza on Gran Colombia, conveniently just across the plaza from the church of Santo Domingo for those who want to kill two birds with one stone.

If we had to identify something specific that we didn't care for, it would be graffiti. I assume this is the handiwork of select misdirected youth, but there's lots of it, which is a shame to see in such an otherwise lovely place. To their credit, city employees were out with brushes and pails of soapy water scrubbing away.

Why Cuenca Reason #5: Family-Friendly Visa

In keeping with the strong family orientation we witnessed in Cuenca, Ecuador's pensionado visa is one of the most generous toward families. If you are a single person or an unencumbered couple, this probably won't be of interest for you, but our family dynamic isn't quite so simple. If you, like we, are considering moving abroad with some or all of an extended family, Ecuador should be on your radar.

In many Latin American countries, the best bang for the buck, if you qualify, is a pensionado visa. Ecuador's requires that the pensioner show a monthly income from a pension or Social Security of at least US$800, and then add to that US$100 for each dependent (spouse, child, etc.). Other countries offer similar pensionado visas but usually with restrictions on who qualifies as a dependent. A husband or wife is fine, but only minor children qualify, or, if older than 18, there is an age cap (from 23 to 25, depending on the country) and the grown child must be a full-time college student. What if you have adult kids who would like to join you in your overseas adventure, but they are older than 25 and/or not in college? Either each single or couple must qualify for a different type of visa on their own (expensive, if they can qualify at all), or you need to look seriously at Ecuador or Nicaragua, which has a pensionado program similar to Ecuador's (US$600 per month for the pensioner and US$100 for each dependent, without small print as to whom you can include as your dependent).

One of the issues many face when they retire abroad is being so far away from the rest of the family. In Ecuador you may not have to make that sacrifice. If everyone wants to go, and if everyone establishes a portable career to pay their bills once in their new home country, the residency visa is comparatively simple and inexpensive in Ecuador...for the whole family.

Janet LeBlanc
Read more...
 

The two countries share many similarities, and Nicaragua has the specter of the Sandinistas hanging over it. Still, it was Nicaragua, not Costa Rica that captured my heart. I was completely infatuated by this little country with such a troubled past, and I remain so. Every visit, I'm won over again. Everywhere I travel in Nicaragua, I find something that pleases me—the red-tile roofs and blue and white church steeples of colonial Granada...the glass-still surface of crater lake Apoyo as it appears from the deck of my little house on the mountainside...the barefoot children playing and laughing in Granada's central plaza...the sounds of the horses' hoofs as they pull their carriages along Granada's cobblestoned streets...

These things can't be quantified. You can't plug "classic colonial architecture" into a formula in a spreadsheet. But these can be the things that matter most. How will you know where in the world you should think about spending your time and your money? You'll just know.

The French speak of the coup de coeur, the blow to your heart you feel at certain times in your life—when, say, shopping for a new house. It's the sudden certainty that this place is it, this place is right. I'm a big believer in the importance of the coup de coeur when shopping for a new country, as well.

So, while, every day, we approach this how to retire overseas question scientifically, making lists and drawing comparisons, in the end, the decision as to where to launch your new life overseas is at least as emotional as it is intellectual or financial, for a place can make perfect sense on paper but appeal not at all in person.

That's why, at some point in your research process, you've got to get on a plane. Do the soul-searching to understand what you're looking for in your new life in retirement overseas. Identify the pluses and the minuses of the world's most appealing overseas retirement havens, as we detail them for you day-by-day in these dispatches. Identify the two or three or four countries that could be the overseas Shangri-la you seek. Then plan an extended visit in each country you think might work for you, staying on, if possible, through the least-agreeable time of year—the hurricane season, the rainy season, the peak tourist season, or the off-season, after all the tourists have gone home and nearly every shop, cafe, and restaurant in town has shut its doors until they return.

No amount of Internet research, reading, or planning can substitute for traveling around a place yourself. You've got to walk the streets, to watch the sunsets, and to meet the people. And, when you do, listen to your gut. Sometimes you'll know within 24 hours of arriving in a country. If you walk out on the street in a new place and feel safe, welcome, and comfortable, then that place could be for you.

We didn't choose Waterford, Ireland, for our first international move. It was chosen for us by my employers at the time. And we didn't visit for an extended time before we made the leap, because we didn't have time to. My husband, my daughter, and I visited for two two-week planning trips, once in July and again in September, then we arrived as full-time residents in Waterford in November.

The first couple of months living overseas is the honeymoon period. The people, the landscape, the view from your bedroom window are all new, exotic, and interesting. Nothing is cliché. You're fully occupied and engaged learning your way around and establishing yourself. After two or three months, though, your surroundings are more familiar. You've developed habits of day-to-day living, and you're able to relax a little. Suddenly, your new life isn't so much exotic and interesting as it is foreign and frustrating. You begin to miss the folks back home. By now you've made new friends in your new home, but your points of common interest are perhaps limited. They don't think like you. They don't talk like you. They don't do things the way you do them.

So it was for us when we moved to Waterford. By February, I was sad. Indescribably sad for no reason I could identify. We were comfortable in our rental cottage on the river. Kaitlin was doing well in school. Our office was established, and our daily commute was a pleasant 15-minute walk into town. All was well, but I was, frankly, miserable.

Then we took a trip to Nicaragua. After a few days on that country's sunny south Pacific coast, my sadness disappeared. What was going on?

The Irish winter. Though I'd traveled in Ireland for years, I'd never lived through an Irish winter. Some days, wintertime in Ireland, the sun rises after 9 a.m. and sets before 4 in the afternoon. In between the hours of 9 and 4, it's typically gray, drizzly, overcast, and damp.

Ireland can be a great place to call home, but before you commit to retirement in the Auld Sod, experience it in winter. Spend time in the country in January and February. Or don't. Ireland is one place that can make good sense as a part-time retirement haven. You could retire to Ireland each summer then spend your winters someplace bright and sunny. That was our strategy. After our first long winter in Waterford, we escaped to the tropics every December and returned to the Emerald Isle early March, just in time to appreciate Irish spring and summer.

Kathleen Peddicord

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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.

Read more here.

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