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Retirement abroad can be done in style, but watch out for these things

The end of your work life could be the start of an entirely new life—lived abroad.

For many Americans, retiring to another country is a life change that can fit in a post-paycheck budget.

"You need to have an open mind and an appetite for adventure", author Kathleen Peddicord told CNBC's "On the Money" in a recent interview.

Peddicord, who is founder and publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, said 30 years ago, retiring abroad was considered "a fringe idea, and today it's an increasingly common, mainstream idea." In fact, Peddicord cited three retirement destinations that stand out: Portugal, Belize and Mexico.

"Portugal is a wonderful county and has so much to offer the retiree," she said. "It has great weather, beautiful beaches, and great medieval old towns."

Peddicord specifically likes the scenic beachfront region of Algarve. "It's the best of the Old World and very affordable and very welcoming of foreign retirees right now."

The other two locations are closer to home: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the Central American country of Belize.

"Both have been the most popular destinations for this idea for a long time because they are so nearby so accessible," the author said. She pointed out that "both Belize and Puerto Vallarta offer affordability for cost of living and real estate, if you want to buy a home of your own."

She added that both countries have "established expat communities of other retirees who are already living there, already 'living the dream.'" Peddicord said they can answer your questions and help you get established.

Senior couple Belize
Jennifer Sharp | Getty Images

Once you pick a destination, a big question is whether to rent or buy a home. Live and Invest Overseas estimates the rent for an apartment for two, in any of the three locations, would be between $500 and $600 a month.

"I really strongly recommend [you] rent for 6 to 12 months at first to make sure that the place you've chosen place is the place you want to be and the idea works for you in general," Peddicord told CNBC.

What about health care? "The truth is the standard and quality of health care in many places," she said. "In these three countries in particular, can be as good as or better than in the United States and its definitely going to be more affordable."

But she cautioned that "one consideration is health insurance, what kind of health insurance to choose." Local health insurance is an option, "but they'll only cover you in that country," the author said.

She explained that you need international health insurance if you plan to split your time, or you intend to travel to other countries. There is one key point that should be made clear to all would-be retirees, however.

"The thing to understand is your U.S. health insurance won't travel with you. It won't cover you overseas," Peddicord added.


On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.