The basic story seems to be that these folks had a keen interest in wine making. They ran the numbers on doing this in California and could not make their math work with California wine country prices so they spent a couple of years figuring out that for them Argentina was the answer. Forgetting the politics and inflation for a moment, stuff can grow in that part of the world--I wonder if they looked at Uruguay. maybe it was too expensive?
Since setting up shop they have also created some sort of business where they appear to lease out some if their land to people who are interested in owning a vineyard but on a small scale. The Phelans (the featured couple) provide the workers for the leased land (if lease is the correct word) and I'm guessing it is cash flow positive and puts a few more dollars in their pocket. The details as presented were very thin.
At this level the story speaks to a thread frequently mentioned here of monetizing a hobby, or maybe in this case passion is a better word and applying some ingenuity to make the venture more sustainable. Good for them if all of the above was interpreted correctly from the article.
Of the couple of dozen comments I did read at Yahoo quite a few jumped all over this quote from the article
...they were facing a bleak reality: The $150,000 they'd managed to stash for their golden years wasn't going to stretch very far in the states.
The article says they spent $132,000 buying their vineyard. The numbers given along with what few details were written make this hard to envision. Readers at BI also wondered about this and the way I read Mr. Phelan's comments there did not seem to be a definitive answer from him. Even more puzzling was that the article said he was "an international speaker on IRA investments" which lead to more comments of disbelief as to only having $150,000. In the comments at BI he clarified that he speaks about buying real estate in IRA accounts. There was also talk of building a resort on their property.
Only having $150,000 given the circumstance described is difficult to understand so if this post makes its way to your news feed or alerts, Mr Phelan I think people would be curious. No one would reasonably expect you to divulge detailed personal information but based on the comment threads on both versions of the article I think people would like to know is the $150,000, plus social security, the totality of your financial picture?
The part where they have monetized their passion has seemed obvious to me for many years probably inspired by my neighbor and his backhoe. It seems like the Phelans only needed a couple of years to figure this out which if correct is pretty quick. I might expect it would take longer to work something out but on the other side of the coin some folks will fall into something by accident that works out very well. My older brother's inlaws retired to Santa Fe and ended up as caretakers on an estate for many years. While I don't know their particulars a free place to stay, small stipend and light work would be ideal for some people.
There was another comment thread about people needing to leave the country in order to afford retirement. These comments were more of an indictment of the current state of things in the US. A point made here in the past is that moving to another country is intriguing on some level to just about everyone in varying degrees. For some people it stops with a comment during House Hunters International, some folks might visit countries they hear are good places for Americans just to see and and some goes as far as "living" some place for six months to really check it out.
Some people love it and so it is right for them. My father has lived in Spain since 1980. He'll be 86 later this month, is quite fit but has had a couple of medical things come up that he's needed to get taken care of and he's done so there just fine. Medical care is one of the first things anyone thinks about in considering living abroad, I don't know what the reputation or perception is about Spain but so far so good for my father.
Medical care in the US can be dreadful in some places (I'm not sure I would get stitches at the hospital in Prescott) and patients can be just unlucky in hospitals with great reputations (Dick Schaap at Lenox Hill Hospital comes to mind).
The movie The Hangover Part 2 took place in Thailand and there was a joke in there when one of the characters got what I think was eight stitches for $6 and he asked "how do they do that?" The reality might be that the medical care will be fine except when it isn't and that definitely also applies here in the US too.
The people profiled in the above article (questions about money notwithstanding) found a solution that works for them which is the bottom line. This is something we all must do for ourselves. The part from this story that resonates personally is monetizing a hobby/passion, less so moving to another country.