Thursday, January 30, 2014

Retire in Lovely La Antigua, Guatemala

Would you like to retire overseas to a small city with an established, English-speaking ex-patriot community?  If so, be sure to investigate La Antigua, Guatemala.  This lovely community has spring-like temperatures the year around and excellent medical care.  In addition, the cost of living is very affordable ... about one-third of what it costs to live in the United States.

Average daytime temperatures in January, one of the coldest months of the year, range from about 53 to 71 degrees Fahrenheit (similar to what we experience here in Southern California).  In May, the warmest month, the temperatures range from about 63 to 78 degrees during the day (somewhat cooler than Southern California in the summer).  As you can see, there is very little difference in La Antigua weather from one season to the next.

This charming colonial Central American city has appealed to visitors for centuries. The Antigua Plaza was first laid out in 1541 and is the heart of the city.  Many of the buildings surrounding the Plaza were also originally erected at about the same time.  There is a large fountain in the center of the Plaza, surrounded by trees, benches and gardens.  You can also take a carriage ride around this elegant Colonial city.

In addition, if you live near the city center, you can walk almost everywhere, eliminating the need to have a car.  Travel back to the United States is also convenient, since it is just a four-hour flight back to Texas.  That's less time than it takes to fly from Boston to San Diego!

The city has a lot to offer new residents, including wonderful restaurants.  It is a popular destination for people from all over the world, including Europe, Asia and North America, especially those who want to study Spanish through an immersion program.  Consequently, there are a number of Spanish language schools in Antigua. The University of San Carlos in Antigua was originally founded in 1687.

In addition to the large community of retirees from the United States who reside in the city, Antigua is also a popular tourist destination.  Cruise ships dock in Guatemala on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the country.  This beautiful city is known for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque architecture and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Your friends and family members will look forward to visiting you in this lovely location.

Frequent religious celebrations and festivals are among the appealing features of the city, including weekly processions through the streets of Antigua during Lent.

Things to Consider When Moving Abroad

I am often asked where to begin if you want to retire abroad.  Before deciding to live in another country, I highly recommend that you take an extended vacation there and tour as many different areas as possible.  It is the single most important action you can take before you make a final decision.  While you are there, meet with Realtors and leasing agents.  Ask them to introduce you to Americans living in the area so that you can get all your questions answered.

You should also consult with a local, English speaking attorney and/or CPA to discuss any legal and financial issues you might encounter in pursuing your goals ... purchasing property, getting a job, starting a business, acquiring medical insurance, etc.

Check out the State Department website for any warnings about visiting or living in the country of your choice.  Visit your local Social Security office and find out what arrangements you will need to make before you move.

It is best to accumulate as much information as possible before you move, rather than experience a nasty surprise after you have given up your home in the United States and resettled in a foreign country!

Other Articles You May Want to Read:

How to Access International Travel Warnings and Alerts

How to Collect Social Security and Retire Overseas

The Risks of Living Abroad

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Housing Options When Your Spouse is Ill

Whether Baby Boomers like to think about it or not, you could reach retirement age and discover that either you or your spouse has a health or mobility issue that may make it difficult to live comfortably and safely in your current home or in the typical over-55 community.  Because of that, I thought it would be helpful to talk about some of the other living arrangements that are available as we age.

Remodeling Your Current Home

Probably the most common option is to simply remodel the place where you currently live.  Many people will make the necessary accommodations for their spouse for as long as they can.  They may add a chair lift to help them get up and down the stairs.  Ramps can be added to front doors, bars and walk-in bathtubs can be added to bathrooms, and other adjustments can be added to homes to make them handicap accessible.

People can also buy and lease hospital beds, wheelchairs, and other items that will make it easier for family members with mobility issues.

However, there are some problems that you may not be able to deal with by simply remodeling your current home.  For example, if you have a loved one with dementia, you could be concerned about what the future might bring.  Will they wander away from the house when you're not watching, or leave a burner on while they are trying to cook?  If the ill partner has physical problems and is unable to stand up, will the caregiver spouse be able to help them shower or perform other daily tasks?

In situations like these, the couple may decide that they need to move to a location where they can stay together but get some assistance.

Assisted Living Communities Like Garden Spot Village

When I posted last year about Garden Spot Village in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania, I revealed a community that has housing options that range from independent living villas and apartments to assisted living and dementia care options.  This community also features an indoor swimming pool, garden atrium, post office and branch bank in the main building.  There are exercise classes, art programs and a variety of interesting activities available daily.  This tremendous community is ideal for people who want to move somewhere while they are still healthy and remain there as they age and need more assistance.  A couple can both live there even if one does not need assistance but their partner does.

This wonderful community, however, is only one example of the many types of similar facilities that are available across the country.  Many Baby Boomers will want to seriously consider moving to one of these communities, especially if they or their spouse has a chronic illness that could limit their ability to live independently in the coming years.

Holiday Homes

An option that is similar to Garden Spot Village, but more widely available, is offered by Holiday Homes, a company that has over 300 communities across the United States and Canada.  All of them offer independent living apartments and about 70 of the communities also offer separate cottages for those people who do not need personal assistance at this time.

There are certain advantages offered by organizations like Holiday that can make their communities especially appealing to aging Boomers.  In particular, you may be interested in the Holiday Touch Travel Program that allows you to stay up to seven nights per visit in one of their other communities in the United States or Canada.  Your guest room, meals and other amenities are included at no additional charge beyond what you are paying to stay in your home residence.  This is perfect if you occasionally want to travel to a warm location during the winter or go visit your grandchildren in another part of the country.

Holiday communities offer meals prepared by a chef and served in a restaurant style dining room, a variety of activities, including outings and exercise classes, 24-hour assistance for those who need it, on-site dementia facilities, and personal security.  Every apartment is equipped with an emergency call system.

These are not sterile nursing homes, but true residential living facilities.  You are encouraged to bring your own furniture and decorate your apartment however you choose.  There is no long-term commitment.  You pay a monthly rental fee based on the services you need ... for example, whether you or your spouse needs any assisted living services. 

There are Holiday communities in nearly every state in the continental United States, as well as several in Canada.  Whether you want to live near your family and friends, or you wish to move somewhere warm like Florida, Arizona or Southern California, there is almost certain to be a location that will meet your needs.

To get more information or arrange a visit, use the phone number or website below: 


If you are interested in other interesting places to live, use the tabs at the top of this article to find links to more articles about wonderful places to retire in the United States and overseas, as well as additional information of interest to retirees.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cut Your Stroke Risk Now!

Baby Boomers are starting to reach the age when they are at a higher risk for strokes.  In fact, having a stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and it is the number one cause of disabilities.  Anyone can have a stroke at almost any age.  However, once you reach the age of 55 your risk doubles ... and this year the last of the Baby Boomers are reaching the age of 50!  (Yes, nearly all the Baby Boomers are now considered senior citizens.)

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when a blood vessel leading to the brain either becomes blocked or it bursts.  When this happens, the brain cells begin to die.  Patients need to be treated quickly or they can die or become seriously disabled.

Symptoms of a Stroke

If you suspect that you or someone you know is having a stroke, here is a quick way to check.  Ask the person to smile, speak or raise their hands above their head.  If their smile is uneven, their words or slurred, or they cannot raise both hands above their head, call an ambulance or rush them to the hospital immediately.

Other symptoms include trouble walking, difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said to them, paralysis or numbness in the face, leg or arm, trouble seeing in either one or both of your eyes, or a severe headache, often with dizziness or vomiting.

Treatment for Strokes

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, it is important that you get to the hospital quickly.  If you arrive in time, they will administer a clot-busting intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).  It is essential that this drug be given within three hours after the symptoms of a stroke first become visible.  When tPA is given quickly enough, one out of three patients will see major improvement and, in come cases, the symptoms are completely eliminated.

Unfortunately, only about 10% of patients receive tPA because they arrive to late for it to help, or because they are on blood thinners or they have had recent surgery.  In those cases, a device may be inserted into an artery in the groin and snaked up to the brain in order to remove a clot or stop the bleeding in the brain.

A stroke kills about 2 million brain cells a minute, so it is extremely important that action is taken quickly..

How to Prevent a Stroke

Once you understand the risks of a stroke, you can easily understand how important it is to do everything you can to protect yourself.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing a stroke:

Keep your blood pressure under control.  Take medication, if necessary.

Keep your cholesterol levels low.  Use medication if you cannot lower it through food and exercise.

If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels carefully.

If you are overweight, lose as much of it as possible.  This will also make it easier to deal with your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Get exercise.  It will help with your weight.  In addition, physical inactivity is considered a risk factor for strokes.

Limit your consumption of alcohol.  No more than two modest sized alcoholic drinks a day for men, and no more than one for women.

DO NOT SMOKE.  There is a high correlation between smoking and your risk of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation ... if you have a heart rhythm disorder, work with your doctor to come up with a strategy to treat it.

More Risk Factors

Your risk of having a stroke doubles EVERY TEN YEARS after the age of 55.

African-Americans are at a higher risk

You have an increased risk if you have is a family history of strokes or if you have ever had a stroke or heart attack.


"Saddleback Adds Advanced Stroke Care,"  Laguna Woods Globe, Orange County Register, November 21, 2013.

If you are retired or nearing retirement age, you may also want to check out the hundreds of other helpful articles on this website.  Use the tabs at the top of the page to find links to articles on family relationships, medical issues, places to retire in the United States or overseas, and financial information.  There is a wide range of information available to you!

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Costa Rica Has Become a Top Retirement Destination

Costa Rica is now considered one of the best countries in Central America for both the elderly and retirees to live, according to a report released by HelpAge International.  The report ranked 90 different countries on their treatment of residents who are age 60 and older.  Costa Rica came in 28th on their list, ranking well on this list of the more developed countries, including some Asian nations, European countries, the United States, popular Central and South American destinations, and a few other locations around the world.

How Costa Rica Scored

The rankings were based on four categories including health status, income security, employment and education, and an enabling environment (integrating the elderly into the rest of society.)

Costa Rica ranked especially high in health status.  It was listed in 11th place for healthcare, which is interesting when you consider that the United States only ranked 24th out of the countries studied.  In fact, Costa Rica has become a popular destination for medical tourism.  There are a number of high quality medical facilities in the country, including the Hospital Alajuela, pictured above.  

On the other hand, Costa Rica's score was hurt because it ranked only 48th for employment and education.  Of course, these are not issues that concern most retirees as much as healthcare does.  Consequently, for retirees who are looking for a beautiful, tropical and affordable place to live, Costa Rica should certainly be high on their list.

In addition to high quality healthcare, medical attention in the country in also very affordable, which contributes to its medical tourism. It also has recently begun to improve its accessibility for people who are physically disabled, which is an important consideration for people who are planning to live there for the long term, possibility the rest of their lives.

An American Living in Costa Rica

A friend of one of our daughters moved to Costa Rica to teach school about four years ago.  A few months ago she married a Costa Rican businessman and plans to remain in the country for the rest of her life.  She has been very happy with her lifestyle in Costa Rica.  Her original teaching position was at an elementary school located in the mountains and she is now working at a school along the coast.  Her original salary was only $500 a month, but she was able to rent a tiny cottage and live comfortably in the mountains on that amount.  Now living near the coast, her income has increased to $1000 a month. Her husband earns a bit less.  The two of them are able to lease a large, comfortable duplex apartment only a short drive to the beach.  They have two cars and a pleasant lifestyle, living well on about $1800 a month income for the two of them.

The fact that this young woman enjoys living there so much brings up another advantage for those of you who have family in the United States.  Costa Rica is a popular vacation destination for many Americans of all ages, so no doubt your family members will enjoy visiting you in your new location.  In the case of this young woman, she returns to the United States about once a year, and her family members also take frequent trips to see her.

Precautions to Take When Moving Overseas

As always, when you are considering moving overseas I suggest that you check with the State Department website for up-to-date alerts about crime and areas which you may want to avoid.  Our daughter's friend has experienced a home burglary, so I advise retirees to be as cautious in Costa Rica as they would be in any American city.

If you are planning to retire in Costa Rica, be sure to read more articles from this blog, using the tabs at the top of the page.  I have written a number of helpful articles about collecting Social Security when living overseas, things to consider when living abroad, and other countries that you also may want to consider.

More Helpful Information

You may want to check out the full article from the Tico Times using the link below.  You can use their interactive map to see how other South and Central American countries did in their analysis of the various countries.

If you are planning to retire either overseas or in the United States, you will want to use the tabs at the top if this page where you will find links to hundreds of additional articles about where to retire, financial issues, medical issues and possible family problems after retirement.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Important Dates for Baby Boomers in 2014

As we begin a new year, many of us are already entering significant dates into our calendars for 2014.  While, of course, you will want to make sure that you have birthdays, vacations and holidays entered into your calendar, here are a few more dates that you will not want to forget:

January 1 - Your new insurance plan will have gone into effect, if you made a change to your Medicare plan during the open enrollment period in 2013, or if you purchased a new health plan through one of the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges (which is true for tens of thousands of younger spouses of Medicare recipients.)

February 2 - Super Bowl XLVIII (You did want to know that, didn't you?)

February 7 - The Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia

March 31 - Open enrollment ends for the health insurance exchange.  After March 31, you can only enroll without penalty if you have a major life event, such as a job loss, divorce or birth of a child.  However, if one of these events does happen in your life, it is important to remember that you will now be entitled to purchase health insurance through one of these online marketplaces and, if the major life event has also caused a substantial decrease in your income, you may qualify for financial assistance to pay for the new health insurance policy.

April 15 - The last day to file your 2013 tax returns, unless you file for an extension.

Mid-summer - If you still work and pay into Social Security, while collecting it at the same time, your Social Security benefits should be adjusted mid-summer.  If you don't get an adjustment and you expect one, you can go into your local Social Security office and request it.

September 7 - Grandparents Day!  It's nice to have our own special day, isn't it?

Mid-October - The Social Security Administration will anounce the cost-of-living adjustment for 2015.

October 15 - Open enrollment begins for both Medicare and the health insurance marketplace exchanges.  If you are unhappy with your current insurance carrier, you can make a change during the open enrollment period.  You will not have to worry about pre-existing conditions, which has kept many people from changing insurance carriers in the past.

November 4 - Federal elections.  Even though 2014 is not a presidential election year, this will be a major election.  Americans will be voting on all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 33 of the 100 members of the Senate, and 36 state governors.  No matter which party you support, this election will be significant since it could result in a change in the current balance of power.

December 7 - Open enrollment ends for both Medicare and health insurance policies purchased through the health insurance exchanges. 

If you are retired or planning your retirement, you may also want to use the tabs at the top of this post to find links to hundreds of articles about where to retire in the United States, where to retire abroad, financial planning, health concerns, family issues, travel and more.

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