On the lookout for the cheapest places to retire abroad? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Retiring abroad on a white sandy beach might be a dream, or it can be a necessity. None of us have the nest eggs our parents did, and living in the US isn’t getting any cheaper. There are beautiful places where your social security and pension will buy you luxury.
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Luckily, you can have those white sandy beaches and an affordable retirement at the same time, if you know where to move. There are beautiful places in the world where your annual expenditures are much lower. There are two main ways to find the cheapest places to retire abroad:
- Look for developing economies that offer all the amenities a western expat needs.
- Look at the cost of living index for western countries where the housing market has become very affordable.
But you don’t need to do the legwork yourself. We’ve got the exclusive on the best ones around the world. Here are 15 of the cheapest places to retire abroad, ranked by affordability.
15. Lille, France
Lille is is in the Northern part of the country and shares a border with Belgium. It has a has all four seasons with a warm summer and some snow in winter. Rent in Lille is very affordable for European standards, running only 540 US dollars a month for a one bedroom apartment outside of city center.
Cost of Living Index: 67.99
14. Sliema, Malta
Sliema is world famous for its consistently warm, but not sweltering, sunny weather. You can rent a 1-bedroom apartment outside of city centre for 700 euros, on average. It’s a great place to retire if you like the outdoors, and you can take plenty of short trips to other great places around the country, such as Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cost of Living Index: 66.01
13. Naples, Italy
Naples is the third largest city in Italy, with much milder winters than Rome. With it you get access to world-class opera, a prominent view of Mount Vesuvius, and more. According to Numbeo, a single person living in Naples would spend about $771 a month altogether before rent. Manage to purchase a home, and you’ll be looking at very low monthly expenses throughout retirement.
Cost of Living Index: 62.03
12. Panama City, Panama
Panama City is one of those places where you can spend a lot or a little, depending on how much you want to integrate into local life, food, and culture. An expat with little know-how can spend $40 on a meal for two, or $9.50, depending on where you go.
If you’re concerned about healthcare in retirement (aren’t we all?), Panama City gives you access to top international providers, with both public and private healthcare systems available. Regardless of which you choose to use, it will come at a fraction of the cost of healthcare in the US.
Cost of Living Index: 55.17
You might also enjoy the Red Pill Retirement Podcast. Hear me discuss my personal Retirement Crisis and the steps I took to fix it.
11. San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica is a great retirement locale for a lot of reasons. Nestled in the Central Valley of the country, San Jose has all the basics you’ll need for Pura Vida, including medical care, shopping, and an international airport. You can get reasonably fast internet (60 mbps or more) for less than $50 a month, great if you want to run an online business in retirement.
Cost of Living Index: 54.79
10. Valencia, Spain
Despite being in Europe, the cost of living in parts of Spain is surprisingly low. Valencia is one great example, where a single person can get by on $656/month before rent. And housing itself is not expensive, thanks to the 2008 property crisis. You can find affordable apartments in city center for a song, or go all out and buy a place. Valencia has great weather year-round, and many other great retirement attractions besides affordability.
Cost of Living Index: 54.53
9. Córdoba, Argentina
Cordoba is a safer, quieter alternative to living in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. It’s also much more affordable. A one bedroom flat can be had for less than $300/month. Prices for everyday expenses are very reasonable once you get settled in and know where to shop (AKA, avoid the tourist zones).
Cost of Living Index: 54.31
8. Coimbra, Portugal
If you like the idea of retiring in a university town, Coimbra is a great option in Portugal. Its university town identity dates back to the 1500’s. In Coimbra, a single person can get by on $580/month without rent. Thanks to the large number of students in the town, there is also plenty of affordable temporary housing available, if you want to test the place out for 6 months or a year before deciding to stay for good.
Cost of Living Index: 50.07
7. Phuket, Thailand
If you picture yourself retired on a white sandy beach and don’t mind humidity, Phuket is the place to go. It’s a prime destination in Thailand for tourists and expats alike, and very affordable. Thinking of renting an apartment in Phuket? The going rate is less than $300 per month for a one bedroom outside the city center.
Cost of Living Index: 47.51
6. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo is considered the oldest permanent European settlement in the New World, and comes with breathtaking colonial architecture. It also has everything you’ll need in terms of entertainment (museums, theaters, and stadiums). Santo Domingo is another one of those places where you can live very cheaply if you know where to go. You can get a meal out for as little as $7, or $42 at a mid-range restaurant. Home prices are low in Santo Domingo outside the city center.
Cost of Living Index: 45.65
5. Guatemala City, Guatemala
Guatemala City makes the list because it’s the only city in Guatemala with clear cost of living data available. But if you venture outside the capital, you’re likely to find even more affordable retirement locales. That said, Guatemala City is still much more affordable than living in the US, and it also offers the most amenities in the country.
Cost of Living Index: 43.28
4. Penang, Malaysia
Want to retire on a tropical island? Penang is a veritable paradise off the coast of mainland Malaysia. As a former British colony, English is widely spoken in the country, making it even more attractive to expat retirees. Rent in Penang is super affordable ($159/month, on average). If you’re brave enough to try street food, you can get some of the best in Southeast Asia, all very cheaply.
Cost of Living Index: 42.46
3. Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca is a quaint, colonial town nestled in the southern sierra of Ecuador. It’s the country’s third largest city, and has already built quite the expat population. Stay outside the historic center (called New Town), and you can live very affordably. You can get a meal at a local restaurant for as little as $3.00! Median home prices are quite low in the city center.
Cost of Living Index: 35.87
2. Bogotá, Colombia
Colombia is a great place to live if you’re worried about keeping up ties at home. It’s in the same time zone as much of the US (Central or Eastern time), making it easy to set up calls with people at home. If you live in Bogota (or many other cities around the country), you can get direct international flights right out of the city. A single person in Bogota spends around $280/month on a one bedroom apartment outside the city center.
Cost of Living Index: 37.83
1. And the winner is…. Merida, México
Merida, Mexico takes the cake in this list of the cheapest places to retire abroad. Merida is one of the most affordable places to retire in the world and it’s on sale. There are many opportunities to purchase property in the city. And if you don’t want to commit, a 1-bedroom apartment outside of city center averages less than $167 per month. Pair that with great entertainment and fine dining, what more could you want in a retirement locale?
Cost of Living Index: 30.86
If you’re on the lookout for the most affordable places to retire abroad, there’s never been as many attractive opportunities as now. Many developing countries have quickly become middle income, turning them into paradise retirement destinations that are both affordable and beautiful. On the other side, thanks to economic downturns of the last decade, you can find affordable homes in ancient Europe to spend your retirement years as well.
All you have to do is find a place that interests you and meets your retirement budget needs. Take these 15 suggestions as a starting point to find your cheapest places to retire!
If your funds are short for your retirement abroad, check out our post on ways to finance your move abroad.
Note: All cost of living data for this post came from Numbeo, one of my favorite tools on the internet. You can use it to compare the cost of living in different cities around the world, and find your own cheapest places to retire.
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Ian Bond is a private banking senior executive with over three decades of experience in wealth and asset management with Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Citigroup. He has built major businesses on four continents.
Despite his professional responsibility for assets over $100B and revenues over $1B, after the 2008 crash Ian was personally going broke. Within five years he destroyed his debt, became an expat in 2014, and built multiple streams of income to fund his imminent retirement. Ian is also the founder of MyRetirementRehab.me created to help other executives and professionals rehabilitate their finances and make a prosperous, enduring retirement a reality.