Dan Prescher, senior editor at International Living Magazine and coauthor of Live Richer, Spend Less: International Living’s Ultimate Guide to Retiring Overseas. InternationalLiving.com
Bottom Line: These six countries excel in low costs, climate and health care
Each year, International Living magazine ranks the best foreign countries for Americans to retire to based on a dozen criteria including costs, health care, climate and more. Among the leaders from the 2018 rankings are these six countries where a retired couple can live very well for $2,000 to $2,500 a month…
Costa Rica offers miles of sandy beaches, a stable government and modern health care. Tens of thousands of American expats live there, so you won’t feel isolated. What you will feel is wealthy—two-bedroom homes in desirable areas are available to rent for $500 to $800 a month. Options include the beach towns Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, Ojochal and Dominical…and the Central Valley area surrounding the capital of San José, which has year-round springlike weather and great airport access.
Mexico is just a short hop from the US, so it’s easy to get back as often as you’d like. Crime is a concern, but it is concentrated mainly in a few regions. Safe, desirable and affordable areas include Mérida on the Yucatán Peninsula…and Lake Chapala in Mexico’s central highlands. Health care is much less expensive than in the US—you can get house calls for between $50 to $100—and there are modern hospitals and doctors who trained in the US, especially near big cities or areas with many American and Canadian expats.
Panama is very safe and extremely welcoming of Americans. Very good health care is available at affordable prices, especially around Panama City, a modern city where a significant percentage of the population speaks English.
Malaysia lets retirees stretch their budget further than perhaps any other desirable retirement destination in the world—a retired couple can live a comfortable life in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, for around $1,500 a month including rent, food, health insurance and the cost of exploring the region. Malaysia has incredible beaches, great food and many English speakers—it’s a former British colony. It’s a long way from the US, however, so flying back and forth to the US will be time consuming and expensive. The health care is so good and so affordable that hundreds of thousands of people who do not live in the country travel there for treatment—most doctors and dentists speak English, and many trained in the US, UK or Australia.
Portugal is affordable by Western European standards, particularly if you don’t settle right in Lisbon, the country’s capital and largest city. A two-bedroom apartment in a desirable area such as Vila Nova de Famalicão can be had for around $500 a month. Portugal is very safe and friendly to Americans.
Spain offers a warm, sunny climate and costs comparable to Portugal. It’s safe and friendly toward Americans and very cosmopolitan—Spain attracts retirees from throughout the European Union. Consider Malaga and Costa del Sol on Spain’s south Atlantic coast if you’re looking for a charming beach town…or Valencia if you want an urban European lifestyle on a modest budget. Spain’s health-care system is ranked among the best in the world by the World Health Organization.