A considerable proportion of the expat population around the world is made up of retirees, often living on their pensions and savings. The reasons are varied – the lower cost of living in a place is certainly one of the most important factors, since every retiree wants to stretch their limited finances to the maximum, but there are many other reasons too.A love for the culture, language, and lifestyle in a location is often a considerable draw, as is the climate, especially for people who come from countries with extremes of hot, cold, or rainy. Then there are factors such as safety, taxes, and infrastructure, particularly healthcare. While these aren’t usually reasons why someone would move to another country to retire, they’re certainly important considerations. In the negative, such considerations can often outweigh all the possible positives that may exist.
No matter how great the weather and how low the cost of living, no one wants to retire to a place where they constantly need to worry about being burgled or mugged, or where they need to travel back to their home country every time they’re suffering from anything more than a common cold.
Keeping in mind all these considerations and more, here are the ten most popular retirement destinations for the coming year. There is no way to account for highly personal preferences that can make or break a choice, but in terms of the factors that most people are concerned about, these places score extremely well.
Argentina is known for its beauty and for its rich and varied culture. In addition, the country has been particularly attractive to foreign retirees for many years due to its low cost of living. The economic crisis that struck Argentina roughly a decade ago turned out to be quite a boon for retirees in this respect, and although the economy now seems to be steadily recovering and prices are going up, the cost of living remains low when compared to the home countries of most retirees from the US and Europe.
The public healthcare system here is excellent, but it is sometimes insufficient to meet demand, leading to long waits for certain treatments. As a result, many expats choose to use private healthcare, which is still cheaper than it would be back home. Crime is a bit of a problem in Argentina, but it is usually limited to certain areas. The popular expat areas are usually safe, with a prominent police presence. Political instability is also a problem in Argentina, but the demonstrations and strikes are more of an inconvenience than a threat.
Located to the south of Mexico, Belize too has been popular among expats for quite a while, although the northern parts of the country have only recently been discovered by the expat crowd. One of the great advantages of Belize for English-speaking expats is that this is the only country in Latin America where English is not just widely spoken but is the official language. In addition, as a former British colony, the culture of Belize tends to be fairly familiar to many expats, including areas such as the bureaucracy and the legal system.
The cost of living in Belize is fairly low, although certain areas are expensive. The Corazol district is now the ideal place for retirees, as housing and other prices are still quite low here. In addition, depending on your exact location, it’s often possible to hop across the border to Mexico to take advantage of the still lower prices there. Taxes too are quite low in Belize, but more importantly, the government has a program with some great benefits for retirees, including tax breaks and residency.
Ecuador is often described as the best place in the world to retire, and this isn’t hyperbole. The country is definitely one of the most affordable places in the world, but unlike most other locations where that holds true, the quality of life here is also great. Ecuador’s cities are beautiful, and the countryside is positively stunning. The climate is pretty much perfect – in most parts of the country, it’s never too hot or too cold.
The country’s economy is usually described as developing, but the in spite of this, the infrastructure is fairly good, especially the healthcare system, which most expats say they are very happy with. Crime is a problem in some parts of the country, but by no means in all areas. It’s possible to rent a decent-sized house in a good neighborhood, eat out now and then, and even travel a bit for very little money. One additional bonus for American retirees is that Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency.
The cost of living in Malaysia is extremely low, and since remittances from outside the country are not taxed, most retirees find that their pensions go a surprisingly long way here. Rents are low, eating out is also cheap, and there is a variety of delicious local cuisine to explore, along with a considerable number of international options. Alcohol and vehicles are two things that are quite expensive in Malaysia. However, with restaurants being as cheap as they are, the cost of alcohol is somewhat offset for most expats, and the government offers a scheme by which foreigners can import one car without duties and taxes. As a result, these aren’t as much of a problem as they might seem to be.
Malaysia also has excellent infrastructure, particularly in terms of transport, telecommunications, and healthcare, all of which are reliable and high quality but cheap. The country is economically and politically stable, and although the climate is quite warm, it rarely sees the oppressive heat that many other places in the region have.
Nicaragua is a beautiful country that is a fairly popular tourist destination, but not a particularly important expat location, probably because of its unfortunate reputation for poverty and turmoil. However, the country is now fairly stable, both politically and economically, and although there is still a great deal of progress to be made, it is doing quite well and is a great place to live. Nicaragua is a gorgeous and diverse country in terms of both its landscape and its culture, the people are friendly and welcoming, and the climate is warm but comfortable (although it too is quite varied across the country).
The country has been described as one of the safest in Central and Latin America, and also one of the cheapest places to live in the world with a high quality of life. Some of the more established, popular expat locations can be a bit expensive, but this is only in comparison with the rest of the country. Nicaragua also has an excellent retiree program that offers foreign retirees some great perks and benefits.
Panama is another Central American country that is a great retirement option, with its mix of natural beauty, a modern economy, and highly developed cities and infrastructure. In fact, in many ways, it is far more advanced and stable than any other country in the region, making it the top retirement destination in most people’s books. Due to its location and history, Panama is incredibly diverse, making it easy for expats from anywhere in the world to settle in.
The country is no longer among the cheapest to retire to, but it still does offer plenty of fairly cheap options. Panama City is probably where the majority of expats and retirees choose to live, but this is where life is most expensive, and quite a few expats also head out to the more touristy areas or to the countryside, to live by the beach or near plantations. Panama also has a great retiree program with some excellent benefits, and once again, a currency that is tied to the US dollar, making it quite convenient for US expats.
Most of the developed nations in Europe are known to be expensive places to live, but there are a few, like Portugal, that are cheap while offering a great quality of life. Housing, utilities, and food and drink are extremely cheap compared to most neighboring countries, and Portugal also has an excellent healthcare system, one of the best in the world. The big cities and the resort towns can be a bit expensive, but are still considerably cheaper than similar locations in countries like the UK or France.
The overall situation in Portugal has deteriorated somewhat since the financial crisis, with some expats complaining about poorly maintained roads and other infrastructure, but the country remains a good place to retire. Portugal is known for its rich history, its beautiful architecture, and its wonderfully mild, mostly Mediterranean climate. Many people across the world are also familiar with Portuguese music and cuisine, and those who follow soccer will be aware of Portugal’s contribution to the sport.
The economic crisis of the last few years has meant a lot of trouble for Spain, and also, very often, for the expats there. However, the country still has among the largest expat communities in Europe, and if you research and plan your retirement thoroughly, it’s still a great location to move to. Many of the expats who struggle are younger expats who have to deal with a poor job market and high unemployment rates. For retirees of course, this isn’t a problem.
Housing prices have dropped even lower than they used to be in Spain, thanks to the slump in the economy, and in general, the cost of living is extremely low. This is true even in some of the popular tourist and expat areas. Spain’s its rich history, vibrant culture, great natural beauty, fantastic food and wine, and wonderful weather all through the year make it an excellent destination.
There’s no doubt that Thailand is a beautiful, vibrant, and welcoming country, but the biggest advantage it has as a retirement option is the incredibly low cost of living. Thailand is one of the cheapest retirement locations in the world, with a cost of living that’s roughly a third of that in the US, but a quality of life that is still great.
The country has excellent infrastructure for transport and communication, and the healthcare system is also world class, as indicated by the fact that the country is one of the biggest centers for medical tourism in Asia. However, expats need to get private health insurance, and this can be quite expensive for people over the age of 60, although the cost of healthcare itself is quite low. Thailand does suffer from major income inequality, which is partly responsible for the high crime rate in some areas, but expat retirees can easily avoid any such worries by living in the safer parts of Thailand’s cities, or in the countryside where expenses will be even lower.
In the last couple of decades, in spite of its turbulent history, Vietnam has gradually opened up and implemented reforms that have helped it see massive amounts of growth and development. The country has turned into a major tourist destination, and in recent years, it has also started to become a popular choice among retirees and other expats. The low cost of living in Vietnam is one of biggest attractions for expats – even in the cities, modern apartments with a range of amenities and facilities are highly affordable, and food, alcohol, and recreation in general are also cheap.
Infrastructure in the cities is a bit strained, with severe traffic congestion and pollution being particularly troublesome. However, it is possible to live a quieter life on the outskirts of the cities while still having access to everything that they offer. For expats who are happy to live a still quieter life, the Vietnamese countryside offers many options that are stunningly beautiful and also much cheaper than the cities. Healthcare is the one area where Vietnam is lacking, making it necessary to either travel home or to a neighboring country like Thailand for any major medical issues or treatments.
Are you planning to retire abroad this year? Where are you moving to and why? Let us know in the comments!