If you had $20,000 a month to retire on — you could live lavishly pretty much anywhere on the planet. But we’re interested in the places where you can live that lifestyle on one-tenth the budget…
Places where you can have a maid clean for you…hire a gardener… wake up to a view…have great health care, eat well, enjoy the finer things in life — for less than $2,000 a month. You may be surprised how many there are…
Months ago, our far-flung editors and in-country advisers began collecting all the data and details that inform our annual Retirement Index.
To compile it, we evaluate and rank countries around the world according to eight crucial categories: real estate, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate.
This is a qualitative assessment, based on real-world data gathered on the ground. For each category in our Index, we looked closely at what matters most to you when you’re considering an overseas retirement spot — everything from the price of bread to how easy it is to make friends or stay in touch with family.
We considered a vast range of data points, from the average humidity to the cost of a taxi. And with costs in mind, we examined prices for real estate, rentals, and utilities like water, electricity, and cable TV. We looked at costs for groceries, eating out, even specific medical procedures. We took into account what kind of discounts retirees can get on travel, taxes and entertainment. And we considered whether there were direct flights back home…how many and how long they are, too.
And we asked: What is the Internet like? Do you need a car? Can you catch a movie in English? Are the people friendly? Does it rain? In effect, we asked all the questions you should ask when you’re considering a retirement overseas. This year’s Top 19 foreign locations are listed below:
Numbers and rankings don’t tell the whole story, of course. When it comes to relocating overseas, there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” So the staff and global correspondents of International Living also recorded a wide range of boots-on-the-ground testimonials from folks who have retired to these various foreign locales.
Take Daphne Newman, who lives in Caribbean Honduras. She’s spending just $1,400 a month to live yards from a white-sand beach on the island of Roatan. Only a three-hour flight from the US, English-speaking Roatan with its world-class reef just offshore, is an easy place to make friends and fit in. It lands mid-table in this year’s Index.
Jack Griffin and his wife Margaret have opted, by contrast, for city life in Nicaragua. When the stock market crashed and the value of their home in the States plummeted by 30%, they began to worry about how to fund their retirement. The final straw came with a 37% hike in their annual health-insurance premium. At age 60, they felt they deserved the retirement they had worked for all their lives, so they found a new home in Managua, the country’s capital.
Today their international medical insurance costs them 62% less than their policy did back home (yet their local hospital is internationally accredited and the doctors speak English). Retired now without money worries, they spend their days exploring, horseback riding, going to the beach or gym, and doing yoga. They have a full-time maid and a gardener and, says Jack, “We do it all for less than half the cost of a moderate lifestyle back home in Atlanta, Georgia.”
Chuck and Jamie Bilbe, ready to retire in Florida, found themselves in a situation similar to the Griffins’. “We were concerned that our retirement savings wouldn’t see us through, so we began looking overseas for a place where our ever-shrinking nest egg might last longer,” says Chuck. Now they live in Corozal, Belize, their cost of living is much lower than it was in the States, but that’s not the greatest appeal. What they say they like most is the Old-World lifestyle. “Like Florida in the 1950’s,” they say. “We’re eating better, sleeping better and enjoying social activity much more now than we did before.”
It’s not just destinations south of the States that appeal. Pam Griner Leavy and her husband Jim are just two of the more than 100,000 American expats living in France. They’re retired in Paris on a reasonable $3,149 a month. “There are so many things for free here, or reasonably priced…big-city life is good,” says Pam.
In Asia you can live comfortably for less than $1,000 a month on a powder-sand beach in Thailand. Up the budget just a bit and you can afford First-World comforts and conveniences in colonial Penang Island, Malaysia. Keith Hockton and his wife Lisa live there, where they rent a sea-view apartment for $1,000 a month — it comes with a shared pool and gym — and they eat out five nights a week, keep a small sailboat, enjoy cycling through the botanic gardens. Their total budget is $1,719 a month.
In Brazil, expats with $2,150 a month can live a block from the country’s best beaches in Fortaleza. In Boquete, Panama, Karl and Liz Parker need just $2,000 a month to fund their life in a place that provides lavish highland views in a near-perfect climate. Panama’s retiree-benefit program provides them discounts on nearly everything, too, which helps keep their costs down.
In Cuenca, Ecuador, Douglas Willis, his wife and two children live on just $1,000 a month. In Costa Rica’s Central Valley, Sharon and Lee Harris bought a townhouse in Heredia for $75,000, and pay only $40 a month for healthcare coverage as members of the Caja, the country’s excellent national healthcare system.
Wherever the locale they’ve chosen — beach, city, highland, valley — these expats all have one thing in common: They’re living the lives they’ve always wanted for much less than they ever dreamt they could.
This 2012 Retirement Index covers all the bases, revealing a wealth of choices when it comes to comfortable retirement living abroad. Choices you don’t have to be wealthy to take advantage of.
The International Living Teamfor The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning occasionally features commentary from financial analysts, experts, gold bugs, economists and an array of contributors from various fields and occupations. Their diverse insights and contrarian investing ideas are hand selected by your Daily Reckoning editors.
The Costa Rican health care system (CAJA) is an underfunded system where you have to wait for items immediately available on a lot of other public health care networks.
We have lived here for eight years and only use the CAJA for routine and emergency care.
I would say Portugal is a safe place with great quality of food, wine, sun, beaches and ease of integration.
That is cash transaction over the counter where goodness is derived for immediate delivery. Everyone hope for a predictable market to throw in their whole life remaining stake. Let’s not have the wishful thinking of any economic or political syndrome that could reshape the landscape anytime soon – out of the wilderness.
How about Indonesia ?
It’s all paradise until the Shinning Path or some other guerilla organization shows-up to rectify centuries of inequity. And therein lies the short-coming of most the destinations in your list: If you look like a gringo, everyone there is going to know you’re a gringo. And while you can protest that you’ve never been in the fruit export business, chances are the locals aren’t going to care as they even the score.
But even in the abscence of war, why would anyone want to live in a country like Columbia, a nation with the world’s highest murder rate? If cost is the main consideration, squatting in an abandoned house in Detroit would make more sense than some of the countries on this list.
The big problem with lists such as these is that they generalize what in fact is very difficult if not impossible to generalize. For example, in Mexico, the climates vary from eternal spring to always hot and humid to desert with a continental climate: each climate zone will contain perfectly attractive places to live. Or take costs: living in Los Cabos or Cancun or Cozumel is one level of cost; living in the better neighborhoods of Mexico City is another, and so on and on. There is just too much variation. Or take Colombia, if you love to sweat, you’ll love the Caribbean coast there, but the highlands climate is as good as it gets–comparable to the highlands in Costa Rica and anywhere else near the equator. In the tropics, climate depends on altitude more than anything else; after that, you want to check days of sunshine and days with rain. The Panama highlands for example are often unpleasantly damp and cloudy, whereas Colombia is sunnier. I have no idea why Italy rates 100 in climate. Where in Italy? And how could you possibly compare the winter in the Meditarranean area (let alone in Milano, for instance) with the winter climate in almost any Latin country, unless too far north or south, as in southern Argentina or Chile or Northern Mexico. The same could be said for the rating given New Zealand. How can you compare the North and South islands? Or take Uruguay. Have you actually spent a winter in Uruguay? It is cold and damp. And summers can be muggy. Some figures seem to make no sense. For example, despite inflation, Thailand is a very inexpensive country (as the example in Bonner’s article would indicate), and yet the score is not good.
I could go on for almost every category, but you get the picture. The chart just isn’t really very helpful at all, and even misleading in some respects, despite a few very broadly applicable numbers here and there. I think would have to be more complex to be truly useful charts, and would go by zones and cities in different countries.
Oops, last sentence should read:
I think charts would have to be more complex to be truly useful, and would go by zones and cities in different countries.
Ever heard of democracy, rule of law, civil rights?
Sue the Fed : http://www.suethefed.com/ The more people join the more we can sue the Fed for ! PLEASE SUPPORT THIS WORTHY CAUSE AND AT LEAST CHECK IT OUT TO IMPROVE ITS GOOGLE RATINGS !
How did Mexico slip into this list? I guess crime was not a factor in this survey
What Jim said.
The charts are basically useless – even dishonest. The perfect score for Italy’s climate is a joke. It’s like saying, “The US has perfect weather.” Where? In San Diego… or Alaska?
NOT what Bruce Walker said.
Brucie, you’ve spent too much time in Kansas (Missouri – same thing!).
I recently visited British friends in Cartagena and it is magnificent there. Very safe: we walked around at 2 AM and there were people milling about cafes and bars everywhere. It was very safe and well-lit.
I have expat friends in Peru and Chile, and there is no threat of random guerrilla violence as you claim – at least not in the swank neighbourhoods of the capital cities.
Brucie, you need to get out more. There’s a whole world out there!
What appeals to me about is that Mexico ain’t afraid to stand up to the big bad ole USA
Lots of great places to retire in Asia. I’m not talkin tho’.
Lots of great places to retire in Asia. I’m not talkin tho’.
Ok Tom, I’ll bite. In fact I want to bite.
How about a hint or two or a clue.
Malaysia should trump as the 1st place.multicultural because you wont be alienated as there are pocket communities of various nationalities,infrastructure is good, transportation is cheap,homes still cheap with many choices,international schools and various UK/US university campuses,a variety of cheap food and stabile climate.The conomy is also very resiliant,not fantastic like Korea or China,just intermediate meaning it wont be drastically impacted by an ecomomy downturn so no need to do silly stuff like prepping.The population is relatively small so you can still have excursion outside urban centres and enjoy nature and the beach on the East Coast or Borneo Malaysia.
The Malaysia government has a programe ‘Malaysia My 2nd Home’ programme which makes it easier for people to retire in Malaysia minus the red tape, you get tax break,unlimited visa that is to be renewed every ten years and a permit to bring an imported car withouyt the crippling taxes.The program is so good that my uncle forfeited his Malaysian citizenship for Swiss and plans to retire on this program which is silly but works for him because despite being an iT specialist with 5 figure pay he still cant afford a house in Switzerland.
Mexico is ONE of the MOST DANGEROUS places for AMERICANS to retire all the cartels have an “OPEN SEASON” on any AMERICAN orders from the TOP drug dealers !last time I went to Mexico was the eve of 2000 in Puerto Vallarta and has never go back there, the DEVIL roams free from North to South , East to West . and you are skipping Philippines there are an American colony were Clark base used to be and all over the country !!!remember YOU were WARNED about MEXICO here !!!
Ed, you really need to calm down. Mexico is a big country. Would you like to live near the “projects” in southside Chicago or in Gary, Indiana? Or would you prefer Coronado in San Diego, or Beverly Hills? There are perfectly safe regions in Mexico–safer from violent crime than in the US, in fact. It is above all the border towns that have violence, as well as a few other interior places.
LOL @ mexico being on this list.. Rapings, Murder, Kidnappings, Beheadings, Drug violence, Corrupt military/police…
I don’t think I can trust a single thing on this list if you weren’t aware how dangerous Mexico is. And they just widened the scope of their warning about Mexico.
I agree with LOL. If it’s safe where you are now living, why go dangerous?
Funny….Asia is not even on the list. There is Philippines with cost of living totaling less than $300.00 a month. English speaking country. There is also Singapore and more.
Mexico has many safe areas and it gets a bad rap. I’ve lived there and the worst we saw was a drunk guy who wanted to speak English to us. But I wonder why no Asia on the list!! That’s a valid concern for bias.
Crap like this is why I gave up on the “Daily Reckoning website several years ago.
I think the chart is a beginning. Missing in the chart is gender what would single ladies want? What would single males want? We also can’t outcast what would gay people want? Which countries treat people with total equality and which ones don’t. Put these into the spreadsheet with a survey asking the appropriate questions and offering the top four choices and many seniors would be more than glad to pay you $2.50 each, you could make some money for your honest research.
Do you people do not have kids and grandkids? Does family not come first at any cost? That is what is wrong with the world today!
I have raised my kids. I will keep a downsized home here in the northeast for 3-4 months a year. No different to my inlaws that go to Florida for 9 months a year.
And for the people that are wondering why there is no Asia on the list, if you are that ignorant about world geography then you should stay home. Asia is not a country and there are multiple countries in Asia on the list
Spain should not be on the list. I vacation there every summer (I have family there) and can tell you it is by far the most expensive country on this list. Portugal would be as nice and much cheaper.
Honduras? Are you kidding? The most dangerous country in the world with the highest murder rate of them all. Get serious folks.
What Juan Ramon said. I lived there for many years before coming to the USA. Here is the best.
Belize is next to the country of Honduras. And Belize City is very dangerous if you are living more than a half mile from the tourist areas.
Keep in mind that you can’t just “move-in” to places like New Zealand. You have to demonstrate financial wealth before you can be a citizen and then you can participate in public health programs. Same is true for Canada, and Australia. Why would the other countries be any different? I mean, (rhetorically)how wealthy are any of us going to be in our old age? Also, does MediCARE pay for health providers in New Zealand? Highly unlikely.
Afraid of being robbed, mugged or worse anywhere?
Remember: FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real.
Doesn’t help? Then, don’t go.
Chances are, if you feel afraid in a strange place,
you’ll be more of a target and become a victim.
Realize there is a difference in being a “traveler”
rather than being a “tourist”.
Travelers seem to fit in and look at home most
anywhere. Tourists, well, don’t
The bottom line is live in your comfort zone
but for goodness sake, get out there occasionally!
What about retiring in Romania, do you know anything about?
The single most important factor in successfully living in a foreign country is to learn the language. If you cannot talk to them in their language, it probably won’t be that great for you. If you can do so, you will make friends, and everything will go a lot smoother. It’s worth it to make the effort.
I guess it is great to go away to retire if you have no family or friends, and want to spend 100% of the time with your girlfriend or wife.
Oh wait- I know that place. it’s called Hell.
Having lived in Livorno, Italy for a year, I am grateful to be back in Colorado.
Italy is one of the filthiest countries I visited in Western Europe.
Two detriments of Italy are the weather and unpredictable fluctuations in the money exchange rate. Hot & muggy in the summer, cold and damp in the winter with mold on the walls being common. Rent can fluctuate $100 or more per month depending on the exchange rate. Oh. . .and those beautiful beaches along the coast. The water is polluted several miles out as most toilets flush out to sea. Your first walk along the beach is nice until you take a close look and figure out what those little brown things are along the water line.
Italy is not even a nice place to visit anymore!
Bruce, you ignorant dolt, ColOmbia does not have the highest murder rate in the world anymore, that would now be Honduras.
I noticed New Zealand is only sixth on the list. This would definitely be worth investigating.
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Well, what about Germany? It`s save, clean and the people are friendly and they love us citizens. Flats are cheap, food too.
Where do places such as South Africa and Mauritius come on your list?
New Zealand, which is on the list, is rather difficult to gain residence in.
mexico,there trying to kill the people.
Justtired retired – Last I checked Malaysia and Thailand are in Asia.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we should pack up and go to any of the places on the list. You need to do your own research, even if it’s just for a vacation. And you need to visit, maybe find a bar where some ex-pats hang out and ask them about their experiences. Both my kids (and all my grandkids) live across the US, so we don’t see them very much. We have talked about moving abroad and the first thing they have said, “Is wow, we can’t wait to visit?”.
To Bruce Walker – Before you go condeming a place I’d bet you’ve never been, please at least learn to spell it correctly.
It’s C-O-L-O-M-B-I-A! Two 0′s and NO U’S! So, if you don’t know how to spell it, chances are you are not up to date on the improvements in Colombia, such as this article suggests, that it is now one of the most favored places to retire. I have seen this mentioned in several articles by several authors so it can’t be a fluke ocmment or mistake. If all you know about the country is that, sadly for sure, it was once dangerous, because that is what the news presents, matters that will draw attention and draw listeners, that is too bad. Do you realize retirement experts are now even menitoning Medillin, Colombia, once the center of the country’s drug kingpins, as a specific retirement city because of all its positive attributes? Maybe before condemning things in the future just off the top of your head, you hsould actually find out a little about them.
Bruce is dead on with Colombia..the highland
areas are great..people are great. Cartegena
is fine for those who like the south Florida
climate..not for me. No different safety wise than any other place..don’t flash money and jewelry, and don’t be a a know it
all Gringo. Como siempre, aprende el idioma.
Regarding Colombia. My Medical Insurance Co.(BC/BS)sent out a survey.One question was what countries we would consider going to for medical procedures. The survey seemed to center around Colombia. The medical facilities, cost of treatment, and doctors expertise may be one reason to consider going there.
Does anyone realize that you need a visa to go and live in many of these countries. You can’t just turn up in New Zealand, Spain, or Italy, and say I want to live here. Get real!
If after reading this you STILL INSIST ON LIVING IN THE USA, try Mallard Landing Retirement Community in Salisbury Maryland…where you can live in luxury, comfort, and security for $1400 a month.
http://www.mallardlanding.com. Check it out.
Who needs a maid and gardener? Having visited most of those places listed, I’d rather live in California under a bridge than any of them!
Say anything you want! I will go to the Philippines, where you live easily with about $300 a month; hire a caregiver for about $100, an apartment for about the same, and another $100 for all the food you can eat. Practically no crime in central region and visit the US or Europe every 3 months in 16 hours, with all the money saved.
Wow, I am glad I read these comments. Will travel the USA and stay in the USA.
I’ve spent time in 16 of the countries listed here. I’ve been back to a few of them numerous times. I would definitely suggest learning the language if you plan on living somewhere without a large expat community. Also, start researching the top 3 countries you are interested in & then plan to spend a month in each of them to get the “feel of the land”. I’m only 42 yrs old, but I’ve already been exploring many of the countries i have an interest in retiring to. I’m a huge “foodie” & outdoor adventurer, so my top 5 countries have gr8 food & lots of activities to keep me busy. )
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Bruce you should not critique people’s spelling when you seem to have a problem with spelling also.
I’ve read all your comments and I don’t see anything about money exchange mentioned. Looks like Panama uses the US dollar. So you’d have to exchange your money if you chose other countries… AND you’d have to study their money so you don’t get cheated in transactions.
Lern how to spell “should”. eh!
Really Charlie? Everyone has an opinion, right? Your the classical “panties to tight kind of person”.
Retirement and Good Living just released its list of best places to retire in 2013 both overseas
and in the US
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Given a choice, Bernanke will likely strangle the currency (your money)... in favor of “strengthening” the economy.
Eventually, economic reality and markets will collide -- unfortunately, the higher the market, the harder the fall.
How certain business practices wind up jacking up costs before sticking you with the bill.
The Japanese Nikkei fell flat on its face overnight.
While Bernanke Runs Wild, Let’s Talk Ponies