Every year Americans relocate to warmer, less expensive destinations to live out their retirement. And many retirees are migrating beyond the borders of the U.S. in search of affordable retirement living overseas, according to a new report.
“Retiring abroad is easier and more affordable than ever before,” notes International Living (IL), which recently launched its Annual Global Retirement Index for 2016.
The Index is the product of months-long research with the help of IL’s team of correspondents, edits and contributors living all over the world. Each year, IL refines the Index, relying on data and “on-the-ground” insights from its correspondents living in various countries.
This year, across 10 categories, IL scored destinations for a variety of criteria including cost of living, rental prices, climate, entertainment, visas and residence, health care, benefits and discounts, healthy lifestyle, infrastructure and the ability for ex-pats to “fit-in” to their new surroundings.
Earning top honors in this year’s index, Panama ranked highest for benefits and discounts, visas and residence, as well as entertainment and activities. The Central American city also scored highly in the categories of fitting-in (97), healthy lifestyle (95) and infrastructure (90).
Approximately 50,000 U.S. expats have found a new home in Panama, attracted to the country’s various benefits for retirees, tropical climate and relatively lower cost of living than the U.S., according to IL.
“Panama has long been a favorite of retirees,” notes International Living. “You’ll find them along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, on white-sand islands, living contentedly nestled in mountain valleys, and along the glittering promenade of Panama City. Panama has hands down the best package of retirement benefits in the world.”
Panama’s proximity to the U.S., approximately a three-hour flight from Miami, is another alluring feature of the country for Americans who might not want to travel extreme distances for their retirement relocation.
“A couple can manage on as little as $750 a month here, if they own their home,” said expat Carl Conway, who relocated to Panama’s mountain town of Santa Fe.
Utilities are also relatively low, Conway told IL, at around $100 a month for electricity, water, trash pickup, Internet and even cellphone cards.
Panama also scored high for health care, achieving a Global Retirement Index of 89.
“Panama’s cities are home to world-class hospitals and many medical professionals trained in the U.S.,” writes IL. “A Pensionado Visa can further lower your costs by providing discounts off the already low fees for care.”
The Pensionado Visa is available for retirees who are receiving a pension of at least $1,000 per month. With this benefit, retirees are eligible for 50% off entertainment, including movie tickets, concerts and plays; 25% off electricity; 25% off restaurants and 25% discounts on airline tickets purchased in Panama, according to IL. Beneficiaries may also receive discounts on hospital bills, medical consultations and prescription medicines with the Pensionado Visa.
Panama offers a variety of benefits and attractive features for retirees looking to spend their non-working years abroad, but it’s not the only place.
For retirees who want to get the most of their real estate money, they might want to consider Ecuador, which scored highest on IL’s Global Retirement Index in the category of buying and renting (and second only to Panama for benefits and discounts).
“In the colonial city of Cuenca, you can rent a two-bedroom apartment for $500 or less, while the same property in the popular mountain town of Cotacachi will set you back $450 to $600 a month (although you can find rentals for much cheaper if you shop around),” writes IL. “Even in the capital, Quito—where you have great healthcare and amenities within easy reach—rentals can be had for under $1,000.”
Sitting smack dab on the equator, Ecuador also scored a perfect index reading of 100 for its climate, and scored highly for entertainment and amenities (95), healthy lifestyle (95), fitting-in (92) and cost of living (90).
Retirees looking for cheap housing don’t necessarily have to flock south of the border. Countries like Malaysia (94), Thailand (90), Spain (82), Portugal (82) and Ireland (80) could be other worthwhile options. These places also scored highly for cost of living, too.
To see what other countries make ideal retirement destinations, view International Living’s Global Retirement Index.
Written by Jason Oliva