“I have a dream, MummyJi, a most brilliant one. To outsource old age! And it is not just for the British, there are many other countries where they don’t like old people too!”

– Sonny, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

If you haven’t seen the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is about a group of elderly retirees who, in need of more affordable accommodations than they could find in Britain, find themselves in a retirement community in India. Culture clash, hilarity, and touching moments ensue, but what about the premise? Are retirees flocking to less expensive climes? They are indeed.

You don’t need to be a 20-something anymore to high-tail it to exotic places for years at a time. Retired couples are doing it by the thousands every month. As of now, more than five million Americans are currently living the good life abroad. The appeal, other than satisfying wanderlust, is reduced cost of living that can dramatically improve quality of life.

According to the new report from InternationalLiving.com, the three top spots in 2014 for North American Retirees are: Panama, Ecuador, and Malaysia. The factors considered include real estate, health care, ease of integration, the price of groceries, average temperature, utility costs, and friendliness of the locals. Panama’s top spot was earned because it uses the U.S. dollar, has excellent health care, has a vibrant city, tropical beaches, and easy access by air to nearly everywhere. Most importantly, the country is very interested in attracting foreign retirees and offers a number of visa options, and gives the same property rights to foreigners as locals. The AARP List of the “Best Places to Retire Abroad” also spotlights lands far South of the border, like Argentina, Belize, and Costa Rica, using similar criteria.

However, for every retired couple who forge new lives abroad, many discover that their perpetual beach vacation isn’t all they thought it would be. Hawaiians call it “island fever” – but it’s just as contagious in Costa Rica. How do you know if retirement abroad is the right choice for you? The keys to success are knowing what you value most, and the ability to manage your expectations.

All Retirement Plans Should Start with Honesty

Whatever your retirement plans may be, and wherever they may lead you, the first step is for you and your significant other to be completely honest about what you value most, enjoy most, and what irritates you the most. If you enjoy getting together with your friends, and communicating in a foreign language to accomplish even the simplest transaction would be grating, then you want a vacation – not permanent move.

Facing Facts

Even the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean can have sand fleas, and even the most beautiful mansion on the bluff can come with lousy neighbors. No place is perfect. Such is life! Manage expectations accordingly.

If you haven’t seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, let me tell you how it ends. One of the retirees can’t leave India fast enough! But the rest learn to embrace their new lives abroad as an adventure that keeps them feeling young and