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Flickr / Simon Allardice.

Despite the economic doldrums of the past few years, many baby boomers are able to retire well, finding that they can live a very comfortable lifestyle on less money than anyone had thought possible. In fact, some boomers are even retiring as much as 10 years early.

How are they managing this feat? In some cases, boomers are retiring to areas outside of the United States, where the cost of living is lower, health care is accessible and inexpensive, and the weather is spectacular.

Latin America: truly a retirement hot spot
For American retirees, the movement to places beyond U.S. borders has sped up over the past 12 years. According to the Social Security Administration, over 613,000 U.S. retirees have their monthly benefit checks sent to countries other than the U.S. these days, compared to a mere 242,000 or so back in 2002.

For years, places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama were retiree favorites, but boomers are spreading out into other Latin American countries like Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, as well. What makes these destinations so attractive? 

Many things draw boomers to these countries – but financial considerations appear to top the list. These areas are so cheap to live in that boomers can live the good life for a fraction of the cost of retirement here in the U.S.

International Living gives some excellent reasons for boomers to move to countries like Panama, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. The editors of the online magazine, Dan Prescher and Suzan Haskins, currently live in Ecuador, and claim that total living expenses of $1,500 to $1,800 per month gives retirees the opportunity to live it up while spending very little.

A big part of those lower living expenses involve health care costs. Prescher and Haskins note that monthly health care premiums in Costa Rica run between $30 and $90 per person, and prescriptions – as well as surgery – are included in that cost. In Panama, private insurance is so cheap that most U.S. expatriates don't use the country's public health system.

Retiree-friendly
If you worry about the difficulties of emigration, you can put your mind to rest. Immigration to Panama is open to anyone with a government or corporate pension of $1,000 per month or more, and new, relaxed visa rules make moving to Panama easier for those without pensions, as well.

Costa Rica, long a favorite of American retirees, has a similar pension policy, as well a large ex-pat population to welcome newcomers to the country.

Latin American countries aren't the only places luring American retirees. European destinations such as Spain, Italy and France also make the list of the top 24 places to spend your Golden Years, as well as Asian spots like Malaysia, which actually ranks No. 3, one place higher than Costa Rica.

Even if you have never considered retiring outside of the U.S. the idea certainly sounds enticing – and spotlights just how expensive it is for persons of limited means to live here. If gorgeous weather and an early retirement are core ingredients of your retirement plan, you might want to research the ex-pat lifestyle a bit more deeply. After all, over a half-million retirees can't be wrong.

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