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More Americans Are Retiring Abroad

Dougal Waters | Getty Images

An estimated half a million American seniors have moved overseas to retire in recent years, and that number is growing. Some relocate abroad to get a bigger bang for their ever-shrinking retirement buck. Others go in search of adventure.

Either way, the thought of living outside the U.S. is compelling for many. If you decide to make the move, be sure to do your homework first by looking into everything from medical costs and living expenses to a change in culture. And consider whether learning a foreign language is something you want to do.

Also, make sure you handle visa requirements, find out about taxes and know how to access your Social Security, as it can vary from country to country. One important point is that Medicare doesn’t apply overseas, and that means you will need to buy an international health-care plan to be covered.

Retirees Jay and Kathy Snyder moved to Nicaragua six years ago and haven’t looked back.

What they found in this small lush country in Central America is a beautiful land, populated by beautiful people, and a lifestyle that is good, if not better, than what they had in the States, said Jay. In their adopted country, they run a small hotel and a condominium building in a town called Granada.

The Snyders' relocation has been made easier, thanks to technology, such as email and Skype Internet phone service, that allows them to stay in touch with loved ones cheaply. Better yet, the lower cost of living abroad has taken away anxiety over money that many of their retired friends in the States struggle with chronically.

In fact, you can live comfortably in Nicaragua on Social Security. And if you own your place and have an income of $1,200 a month, you can live well. Add another $600 to that amount, and you will live extremely well.

Europe is another popular destination for retired Americans. Unlike life in Central America, residing in Europe usually comes at a higher price tag.

However, don't be discouraged if the European lifestyle suits you better than a Latin American one. If you're willing to explore, the continent still offers lots of options and affordability, as well.

Ken Budd, the executive editor of AARP Magazine, suggests finding locales that are under the radar. “If you go to a place like Tuscany, it's going to be crazy expensive year-round," he said. "[What] You're looking for [is] 'Tuscany,' before it becomes 'Tuscany.' ”

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