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By Karla McNeese

Why overseas retirement can happen sooner than you think

Everyone dreams of their retirement. Think of it: sleeping until you awaken naturally to the sound of chirping birds, enjoying fresh coffee, a nice breakfast, then a leisurely stroll outside to enjoy the fresh air. Maybe there's a beach nearby where you can enjoy a nice swim. Or a market where you can pick up fresh seafood and vegetables for tonight's dinner.

Of course, to most people this dream is just that. Reality sets in when you realize that many Americans will not retire until age 70 or older and not have the finances to go anywhere but their own backyard.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Many Americans (and Canadians, too) are taking an early retirement and heading for Ecuador, Panama, Thailand, or other far-off places. There, they start the businesses they always wanted and live the life of their dreams while still in their 40s, 50s or even younger.

Not a bad way to spend the second half of your life.

Their reasons for choosing to leave their homes and start over someplace else are mostly financial. The American dollar goes much further in countries with third-world economies than it does back home. When you can buy a home for less than $100,000 and still afford to eat out every night and hire a maid to clean up after you, all on a social security or pension income, why not take a chance and live like a king?

Still others are able to take their lives back home with them as they travel. In this day and age, operating an online business or having a location independent lifestyle is more common. Younger couples with small families are able to raise their children in much healthier environments and live lifestyles where family comes first without stressing about mortgage payments and traffic.

One of the many benefits mentioned by expatriates is the friendliness of the local people in foreign countries. Overseas areas that are best for accepting expats are used to seeing and hearing Americans, Canadians, and others from English-speaking countries and by all accounts are warm and welcoming to their new neighbors.

While many of these countries have experienced economic depression and poverty, they are relatively safe and crime-free. Expats have reported how secure they feel walking down the street alone, unlike "back home" where crime is more common.

Another bonus to living overseas is the way of life is much different. Expats report their lives are almost completely stress-free. There is no pressure there to buy things or move quickly. They are free to come and go as they please and there's never any hurry to get around town. Even in the more "touristy" areas, people are relaxed and free to enjoy themselves.

Acquiring visas and necessary paperwork can be overwhelming but with a little planning, the transition from current daily life to the life of a retired or semi-retired expat can be a smooth one.

And medical care is top-notch. Many countries, such as Malaysia and Columbia, are recognized all over the world as having superior quality health care at a fraction of the cost back in the States.

Overall, the life of dreams is available sooner than you think. No need to wait until you're 70 or older. The time is now to begin living a healthier, more economic lifestyle.

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