For many people, the dream of retirement includes travel to exotic destinations around the world. Saving money for a global adventure is the goal of a sizeable percentage of Americans, who plan to hit the road once their careers come to a halt. In order to maximize retirement savings, and to live a comfortable life well into the future, moving to a new country can offer both adventure and an improved lifestyle. It’s really the best of both worlds: stretching retirement finances and seeing the world in a whole new perspective.
Does retiring halfway around the world sound appealing to you? It can be a smart financial move. Here are the ten best places to retire overseas according to Synergistic Life Services, with information about estimated cost of living in each location to help you make informed decisions about your retirement future.
Cost of Living: The Key to a Comfortable Retirement
Before diving into our top 10 overseas retirement destinations, it is important to understand the concept of “cost of living”. This metric can be calculated in many different ways, and there are dozens of online tools that allow an individual to compare his or her financial goals with estimated cost of living in cities across the globe. Some even provide tools to compare one’s current living situation with that of living in a foreign country; simply plug in the information into the tool and the calculation is done for you, taking into account aspects like one’s annual income and lifestyle choices.
Cost of living itself is typically calculated by compiling figures based on:
- Food expenses (monthly)
- Housing expenses (monthly or annually)
- Utility costs (monthly)
- Transportation expenses (including both public transit options as well as vehicle ownership and taxi services)
- Healthcare costs
Most of the online cost of living calculators ask for one’s annual income. Upon reaching retirement, some people may wonder how to input a figure for this field. Annual income after retirement includes any benefits, payments, and investment distributions one may have, such as:
- Required minimum distributions (RMDs) from employer-sponsored retirement plans and certain IRAs
- Benefit payments from employer pensions
- Government benefit payments from Social Security
- Distributions from IRAs, including Roth and Traditional IRA accounts
- Investment income, such as gains from selling stocks and bonds
- Rental income if you own a house or houses and rent them to others
10 Best Places to Retire
Now that we understand cost of living, let’s take a look at our favorite worldwide destinations to retire to, in no particular order.
Thailand is an exotic destination, filled with a rich history going back thousands of years and blessed with warm tropical weather. It is a peaceful country, attracting tourists from around the world – including a huge and ever-growing expat population — and providing relatively safe living at a fraction of the cost of other destinations. Sun-kissed beaches, abundant natural beauty, and many activities make Thailand a welcoming place to spend one’s retirement years. Some of the most popular areas to retire to in Thailand include:
- Bangkok, which offers big-city living and all the hustle and bustle of a global urban center.
- Chiang Mai, which blends both traditional and modern lifestyles into a wonderful mixture of adventure.
- Koh Samui, a resort island that is as laid-back as it comes.
Estimated cost of living in Thailand is $1365 per month.
Retiring to France may not seem like an affordable choice, but depending on the area one chooses, it can be surprisingly cost-effective. Languedoc – a region in the south of France — is a perfect solution, offering all the old-world amenities and lifestyles of Europe but at a fraction of the cost of other parts of France. The region is known for its wine production; in fact, more than a third of grapes grown in France come from the Languedoc region. Because it has coastal access to the Mediterranean, seafood is abundant in the area.
Languedoc has a rich and long history, and even boasts its own regional language, which is still taught in area schools. It is also relatively easy to travel to other parts of France and greater Europe, thanks to a network of trains that serve the region.
Estimated cost of living in the Languedoc region of France is $1590 per month.
Located in northwest South America, Ecuador has long been known for affordable living. The city of Cuenca is truly special. Nestled in the Andean foothills, the city predates Inca influence and is regarded by many to be the most European-style city in all of Ecuador. Historical buildings dot the city, which is complemented by public squares and landmark destinations like cathedrals, fountains, and colonial settlements dating back hundreds of years.
Estimated cost of living in Cuenca, Ecuador is $1135 per month.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Close the equator, Malaysia is a tropical destination that blends ancient Asian cultures with a surprisingly modern feel. Kuala Lumpur is the country’s largest city, attracting tourists and expats in droves. Skyscrapers dot the skyline here, yet just outside of the busy downtown corridor exist quiet communities rich in history and a laid-back atmosphere. Travel to other Asian destinations is easy and relatively inexpensive, thanks to abundant airlines in the region.
Estimated cost of living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is $1580 per month.
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a popular and surprisingly affordable tourist destination. It shares a border with Haiti and is part of the greater Caribbean region, offering sun-soaked beaches, warm clear ocean waters, and a laid-back tropical lifestyle. Las Terrenas, located on the northeast coast of the country, adds a dose of cosmopolitan life to the tropical getaway vibe, providing great living at affordable rates.
Estimated cost of living in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic is $1500 per month.
Like France, relocating to Italy may not seem like a financially-sound retirement move. However, the Abruzzo region is relatively affordable, especially when compared to other European regions. Real estate is undervalued here, allowing retirees to live comfortably. It offers both mountains and coastal areas, ensuring plenty of outdoor activities throughout the year. Flights and train travel to other areas of Europe is easy and inexpensive.
Estimated cost of living in Abruzzo, Italy is $1500 per month.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
The Caribbean is warm all year long, and in recent years, Belize has become a top tourist destination, especially for those who love snorkeling, scuba diving, and other watersports. Ambergris Caye is as laid-back as they come, with very few cars on the island. Despite the small size of the island, there is a rich expat community here, bringing a sophisticated nature that complements the island vibe.
Estimated cost of living in Ambergris Caye, Belize is $2170 per month.
On Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Mazatlán has miles and miles of uncrowded beaches right within city limits. The city has a Spanish feel, blending a historic vibe with European sensibilities. It is often thought of as one of Mexico’s underappreciated destinations, and offers something for everyone. Of course, living here can be very cost-effective.
Estimated cost of living in Mazatlán, Mexico is $1370 per month.
After the end of Colombia’s troubled history, Medellin has made an impressive comeback. It is Colombia’s second-largest city, boasting international sensibilities with a distinctively South American flair. Many historical sites await travelers here. Large corporations from around the world are headquartered in Medellin, which was voted the most innovative city in the world by the Urban Land Institute in 2013. A favorable dollar to peso exchange rate allows people to live a very comfortable lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of other world cities.
Estimated cost of living in Medellin, Colombia is $1900 per month.
Portugal is one of Europe’s less-appreciated countries, yet it boasts all the charm and cosmopolitan activities of more popular destinations. Algarve is a region along the Atlantic coast, with several smaller cities like Silves, Lagoa, and Ferragudo. Abundant sunny weather and a low cost of living make this a great place to retire to.
Estimated cost of living in Algarve, Portugal is $1835 per month.