Save Money with Great Groupon Deals

 

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Caring for Your Vision: Turmeric for Overall Health On-the-Go

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Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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Taking Advantage of Great Groupon Deals

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Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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Enjoying Luxury Travel- Benefits for Everyone

 

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Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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Comparing Panajachel, Guatemala to Oaxaca, Mexico as a Retirement Destination

Q&A with a Reader

Camera-shy Maya Indigenous at a market in Panajachel

Hi,

If you had to choose, would you favor Panajachel over Oaxaca as a place to live? If possible could you give the main reasons for your choice, please?

Thank you! I find your blog very interesting.

John D.

All of our books lead to adventure. Don’t miss out on yours!

Hi John!

Thanks for taking the time to write.

In regards to your question – which might be the better choice for a retirement destination, Oaxaca, Mexico or Panajachel, Guatemala let me first say that these are two very different locations in all kinds of ways.

Colonial architecture of the big city, Oaxaca

Oaxaca is in Mexico, of course, and there are different rules for retirement visas and how to go about getting them. If, while you are deciding on this city you want to take your time, you will receive 180 days visitor’s visa upon arrival, versus the 90 day visitor visa you would receive in Guatemala.

Oaxaca is a very large Colonial city known for its cuisine, theater, art, and gardens, with expert medical care readily available in the city.

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Panajachel is a funky, artsy, musical village, with a large Mayan presence and the spectacular natural beauty of the Lake and volcanoes. There is little to do in the way of museums or theater, but there is one botanical garden just right out of town which people do like to wander through.

Wooden dock at Lake Atitlan

Cuisine is “international” in that there is one Mexican restaurant which is pretty good, 2 Japanese options, a couple of Italian places, BBQ, all sorts of bakeries and restaurants that serve traditional food. Medical care here is adequate for day-to-day stuff — colds, flu, dentists and stuff like that, and there are several pharmacies. Anything of major significance (dialysis, heart surgery, eye surgery, cancer treatment) all need to be done in either of 3 other cities, Guatemala City (the capital with the best selection) Xela (which is closer and has a good selection of hospitals and doctors) or Antigua (which has some special medical procedures available like tooth implants and plastic surgery).

So those are big differences between these two places.

Restaurant Quinta Real in Oaxaca

The indigenous are incredible. Friendly, innocent, colorful and ready to engage in conversation, their culture is a boon to the whole Lake Atitlan area. You will definitely know you are in a foreign country when you are in Pana. Panajachel is also a small village with a very small expat population who live around the lake, and generally speaking, someone sneezes here, and the word gets around the lake very quickly. If you have a disagreement with someone or want to date someone… soon “everyone” will know. It’s a bit like the sitcom “Cheers” – everyone knows your name (and your business.)

In Oaxaca, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of places to hide or discover or plant yourself. No one will know your name unless you assertively build friendships. It’s a big city (but people are friendly also).

Santiago Cathedral, Oaxaca, Mexico

Pana is walker-friendly and everything is within walking distance. If you are in a hurry you can grab a tuk-tuk to take you somewhere, and if you want to visit another village, you simply get on board a lancha, which will take you across the lake in less than an hour. Oaxaca has traffic, taxis, and buses. There are large malls and plazas in which to do your shopping as well as little tiendas. Pana’s shopping is more than adequate for just about anything you might want, but not on this large of a scale.

I think in general, Pana’s weather is a bit better, more reliable and the air is clean (except for volcano dust!)

Sunset at Lake Atitlan

In terms of where we would choose to retire, Oaxaca or Pana… the jury is still out on that one. We tend to prefer large towns over big cities, but we do enjoy visiting Oaxaca for all that it offers. Pana can be a bit small in terms of medical options, but we are not bored there. We enjoy the Mayan locals and the Expats. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to sit in and enjoy the food and company. And the lake is stunning.

You might need to review your preferences in lifestyle to see which place might work for you. Both places are excellent in their own ways.

I hope you find this information to be useful towards making  your decision. You might need to visit both to find out for yourself which places fits better.

Best of luck!

And thanks again for writing.

Akaisha

Monte Alban Mayan Ruins in Oaxaca, Mexico

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Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US? Medicare Part B isn’t free

By the Medicare Gal – reprinted with permission

Sometimes my client is doing extensive traveling.  Other times someone is physically moving to another country. And…sometimes I get asked this question from a person who is already living in another country.

Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US?

The long answer is that you need to consider the potential costs. You typically cannot use Medicare outside of the USA. So if you don’t have a USA address it makes it a little more difficult to decide, but not impossible.

I recommend that my own clients who travel should maintain a local state/US address. There are many services out there that will accept mail then scan it and email it to you. By keeping a service like this while you travel, you are less likely to lose your benefits. We talked about traveling in an RV in a previous article.

There is no age qualification for financial independence.

Now… back to foreign travel or living abroad. Here’s the issue:

You typically cannot use your Medicare benefits overseas, and many times you can get great care in other countries for a fraction of what it would cost in the USA. Most people do not pay for Part A (because they pre-paid for it while they were working) but must pay for Part B.

The standard Part B premium in 2017 is $134 or more if you are a high income earner. That can take a big bite out of your budget.

Not only that, but when you start Part B, your ability to get a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan without having to answer medical questions is limited to six months. After that, you might not be able to get it because of a pre-existing condition.

So to answer the question, “Do I need Medicare if I don’t live in the US”, we must look at the circumstances.

  1. Do you intend to return to the USA to live?

Do you need Medicare if you never return to the US?  If you never return to the USA then you probably won’t need the coverage.

  1. If you do return to the USA, will you be able to get a short term policy that will cover you through the gap?

You will only be able to sign up for Part B during General Open Enrollment, which is January 1- March 31 of every year and is different from the MAPD open enrollment. Additionally, your coverage will not start until July 1st. So there could be a huge period of time where you have NO medical insurance. Of course you will still have hospitalization and Skilled Nursing insurance through Part A, but beware of the deductibles, copays and limitations.

  1. Have you calculated what your Part B penalty might be?

When you do finally sign up for Part B, there will likely be a penalty of 10% for every year that you were eligible and didn’t enroll.  This penalty is lifetime, it doesn’t go away.

  1. Don’t forget the Part D (drug plan) penalty of 1% for every MONTH you were eligible and didn’t enroll.

This is also a lifetime penalty.

  1. Do you intend to return to the USA for extended visits?

Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US but visit for several months at a time?  You might need insurance coverage while you are in the US. Does your foreign insurance cover travel inside the US? If not, then you’ll want to consider Medicare insurance.

  1. Are you eligible for Social Security?

If NOT, then you might not need to enroll in Medicare until you return to the USA. You won’t have to pay a higher premium as long as you enroll in Part B within 3 months of returning and establishing a residence.

So in closing, only YOU can answer the question, Do you need Medicare if you don’t live in the US.  As long as you understand the penalties and potential pitfalls, you should be able to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing Medicare insurance and then make a decision. Personally, if I were eligible for Social Security and planning to ever return to the US I would go ahead and buy it along with a drug plan because the penalties are so high. If I wasn’t eligible for social security then I would hold off on purchasing it. But that’s just me. Talk with your financial adviser about your specific situation.

This article is not intended to be legal or financial advice.  Please discuss your personal situation with an attorney or financial adviser.

Other Related stories and links

Our Medical Insurance, Private, International and Medicare Page

Our Medical Self-Education Page

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How Do I Find an Active Adult Retirement Community?

Q&A with a Reader

I am interested in retirement simple living in a small manufactured home or park model in an active retirement community.

How can I find the right community?

It should be affordable.

The climate should not be extremely cold or extremely hot all year.

It should be in the U.S., particularly in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico.

Thank you,

Donna

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Hi Donna,

Thank you for taking the time to write.

I have some links here that you can research to get lots of information on active adult communities. There are many of them around, especially in the sunbelt of the US.

If you Google Active Adult Communities you will get pages of listings. For narrowing down your results, just put in a state and many will show up for that location. Then you can communicate with those communities directly, getting more pertinent information for your needs.

On our Housing Page there are several listings for active adult communities, including Top Retirements which offers a directory of active adult communities for the nation and for the states you listed in your email.

The more you know about what you want, what is important to you (climate, international airport, restaurants, activities), how much you want to pay for the manufactured home, if you want to own the land underneath the home or lease the land, and whether or not you want a small, medium or large community, the easier it is to find your “perfect place.”

We recommend that before you purchase a home in one of these locations, that you go to visit in person and stay a season or two. There is no rush. You need to know if you like your neighbors, the community itself, and if it is close by the things that are important to you such as grocery stores, movie houses, an airport or anything else that might be on your list. If you can, purchase from a previous owner and you will save some money. The best time to look for houses for sale is just before the annual lifestyle fees or rent is due. For many personal reasons (illness, a death in the family, becoming elderly, not being able to afford two homes anymore, etc.) people might choose to not renew their lease and their home goes up for sale.

Another important decision to make is whether or not you want to own the property on which the home sits or if you will be comfortable owning the home and leasing the property. The difference in these two options are thousands and thousands of dollars – not just at the time of purchase, but also in the cost of annual home insurance. Find out what your maintenance responsibilities are. If you own the land, chances are that the maintenance requirements are higher. If you lease the land, often the community has a budget which pays for tree trimming, watering and so on.

Take your time. It’s exciting to be looking for a community where you might fit in and have a good time for years to come.

Good luck. I hope you find this information to be useful to you.

All the best,

Akaisha

Related stories and links

Worry Free Housing

Our Relocation Page

Our Housing Alternatives Page

Our Retirement Lifestyle Choices Page

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My Volunteer Experience in Cuba

Lynn Lotkowictz for Global Volunteers

In mid-January, I flew from Tampa to Havana on a trip that would introduce me to a country that has been off limits for me (and most Americans) for most of my life. I participated in a one-week service program in Cuba with Global Volunteers, a non-profit, NGO based in Minneapolis.

Classic old cars are seen everywhere

Along with 19 other volunteers ages 30-78, I spent a week on various work projects that included painting a fence at our base (The Cuban Council of Churches), spending time with seniors at a senior care center and working with students on English in an evening program. Another team did crocheting with a women’s group for part of the day.

Every afternoon we had a few hours of free time before working with students practicing English for about two hours. Later we all met for dinner, with our excellent team leader, Stephanie, at various locations.  The trip was a combination of helping our host community and a wonderful cultural learning experience for a group of Americans, most of whom, had never been to Cuba.

For more information on Volunteer opportunities click here!

Living with the Locals

We stayed in Miramar, a nice residential suburb of Havana near many of the city’s foreign embassies. All 20 volunteers stayed in guest houses within three or four blocks of each other. We were two blocks from the water and near our base at the Council where we met each morning around 9:00.

Cuban Vendor

The joy of staying in a suburb is that you have the opportunity to observe people going to work and school and regularly interact with the locals. Put simply, it is a more authentic experience than staying in a hotel. You feel like a part of the community, particularly since you are there to help in some small way.

We walked throughout the area every day and night.  I never felt nervous nor did we see anything that looked questionable. The only danger I encountered was the uneven sidewalks which, like many of the buildings, are in disrepair. Also in the evenings many streets did not have lights so we walked with caution and used flashlights when necessary.

Getting Connected

There is very little internet on the island. Missing connectivity, we asked our hosts about options. They told us there was an “Internet Park” about a twenty minute walk from my casa. There, they said, we could purchase a card from a mini mart or store, but we were told there are long lines and forms to fill out along with passport information. The alternative was to walk to a certain small park and connect with a young gentlemen and his pals who our hosts said would sell us a card for 5 Kooks (approx $5.00 ) for one hour of internet. The card provides a password and username.

Local Taxi

My three new Global Volunteer friends and I decided to visit the park. It was trashed with empty beer cans and bottles and many young people on their phones sitting on the ground. There was a group of men standing around who possibly looked like our connection.

We approached the young men,  and they immediately offered each of us an internet card. With our $5. purchase complete we took a photo together with the “sellers”  and then enjoyed the internet for about 30 minutes. (We kept the card for another day’s use.) Mission accomplished. As we walked back to our work site I wondered, would I even consider walking up to a stranger in, let’s say, Central Park or Chicago and purchasing an “off the grid” card with the hope it worked? And then take a photo with them? Probably not.

Music, Art and Entertainment

If you choose to stay the weekend, you have the option of adding on the weekend package of people-to-people activities. Or you can make your own plans for the weekend. The Global Volunteers program includes a tour of the Ernest Hemingway House, art galleries, Old Havana and a morning lecture from two local professionals who discuss history, education and some politics. All and all it’s a great value that includes meals and accommodations.

Visiting a Senior Home

My favorite weekend activity was the excellent quality live music everywhere day or night. Street entertainers, restaurants and bars and coffee shops all have talented solo or group performers. Artwork is plentiful and there is a wide variety of architecture including colonial, Spanish, Art Deco and contemporary.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

My students on two evenings were a young couple in their early 20s. Allen is an independent contractor at a tour company and is eager to learn English so he can better communicate with visitors. His wife Daniella takes care of the home. She knew some English and is eager to help him. We review his tour prices, look at what’s included and add some language to make the tours more appealing. We go over phrases such as, “Welcome to Havana, my name is Allen and I would love to show you my country. What is your name?

After some competitive analysis, we determine that he is competing with the fancy old American cars that all the tourists seem to love. Their hourly rate is $50 per hour.   We work on an appropriate response. “Yes, those old American cars are beautiful, however, instead of $50 per hour you might want to consider my van at only $15 per hour.” Allen masters three or four sentences that we work on intensely for two nights.  They are sure to enhance his business opportunities.

Touring in style

It’s a pleasure to see a 23-year-old happily married, entrepreneur with such enthusiasm and eagerness to succeed. When we finished the second night, he looked at me and said “God Bless you and thank you.” I was beginning to see how individuals can make a small but significant impact in a short time and, more importantly, understand these very warm and welcoming people.

In addition  there are people who are operating and creating small businesses out of their homes or garages that are serving meals, coffee/beer and other small businesses like repair shops and such. Homes are renting out rooms to visitors for additional income. This is all new and Cubans seem very happy with new opportunities.

Yes, the streets, sidewalks and many buildings are in disrepair, run down and there is much need for improved infrastructure, painting, plumbing, and electrical. Litter is an issue in some neighborhoods. For many, work is hard to find and salaries are low.  Supplies of every kind are limited. Many of the local grocery store shelves are sparsely stocked.

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Looking Ahead

The refreshing thing is you sense the change that is coming. In a lively conversation with one of our casa owners, she described it like this. “It started like the snowball on top of the mountain, it’s rolling down and getting bigger and bigger and you cannot stop it.”

Tourists from all over world have been visiting Havana for years and now there are many American visitors. In Havana we saw a cruise ship, red double-decker tour buses and souvenir shops. Colorful flora and fauna are everywhere and a walk along the Malecon — a walkway along the sea wall — is the perfect place to people watch.

Havana, a city of three million, is bursting with activity and a colorful history that people want to experience.  It’s old, it’s new, it’s Spanish, European, modern, young and fun!

I only saw a small part of Cuba on this trip. But I’m sure I’ll return again to visit Varadero, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad and other places on this fascinating island.

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Best Loan Options for Retirees

 

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The 6 best tips to reduce morning anxiety

Thank you for visiting the RetireEarlyLifestyle Blog!

This post is no longer live, but if you want to know more about financial independence, world travel and medical tourism, please visit our website.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

Thank you!

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