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The Cheapest and Safest Places to Retire Outside of the U.S.

Panama - Pros

Panama is ranked 47 out of 163 in the Global Peace Index. It isn’t the safest country out there, but it’s not too bad (and safer than the United States). The perks of moving to Panama is that the cost of living is super low. According to Investopedia, it’s possible to live on $500 per month, although more is always better. Not to mention, Panama has good, affordable healthcare. Local health insurance costs about $145 per month for a couple.

Panama - Cons

There’s some important stuff to mention about Panama. Before visiting, the CDC recommends that travelers are up to date on their routine vaccinations. Hep B, malaria, rabies, and yellow fever vaccinations are also recommended. Culturally, Panama is also a little slower. People aren’t in a rush, but that could be a benefit for someone that wants to relax after retiring.  

Uruguay - Pros

Uruguay is ranked 34 out of 163 in the Global Peace Index. According to U.S. News, Uruguay is one of the world’s top retirement havens. It’s got friendly people, great weather, and reliable infrastructure. For a monthly income of $2,000, a couple can live comfortably in the country. Huffington Post also reported that it’s possible to get quality healthcare at an affordable price.

Uruguay - Cons

If you’re planning on retiring in Uruguay, learning proper Spanish is pretty important. Locals are patient and happy to teach, but even bilingual Texans have had trouble in the past. Culture in Uruguay is also a little different. For example, restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:30 pm. Like many other places, it may take a bit of time for culture shock to pass.

Costa Rica - Pros

Costa Rica is ranked 33 out of 163 in the Global Peace Index. Vittana reports that living in Costa Rica costs about $18,000 per year, which breaks down to be about $1,500 per month for an individual retiree. Costa Rica also has universal healthcare called Caja. The cost of Caja depends on your monthly income, but it covers doctor’s visits, medication, and even surgeries.

Costa Rica - Cons

Costa Rica has a few cons. Budget-conscious retirees will likely need to live outside of the city. In fact, it’s extremely easy to spend more than intended. Retirees will also need to buy and consume local goods almost all the time. Importing is expensive, so don’t expect to use the same brands. Finally, there can be long waits at public hospitals, even if it’s an emergency situation.  

Spain - Pros

Spain’s GPI sits at 32 out of 163. Spain is a tricky one. It can be both very expensive and very cheap to live in the country depending on the area. SmartAsset reported that it was possible to retire in Spain for roughly $25,000 per year per person. Outside the city, it’s possible to pay as little as $450 for rent, although an apartment in Madrid will set you back $900. Public healthcare is also accessible to retirees who become a resident of Spain.  

Spain - Cons

Here’s some stuff to think about before choosing Spain. Private healthcare is a little on the higher side ($200 per month) if retirees don’t qualify for public healthcare. Property taxes are also very high for those that wish to own a home. The culture is also quite different, so long lines and slow service is just part of daily life, especially when the government is concerned.

Chile - Pros

Chile’s GPI is 27 out of 163. Out of all the countries in Latin America, Chile has the highest standard of living. Thankfully, it doesn’t cost a lot for a retiree to live there. To retire comfortably, a person needs about $1,500 per month. Establishing residency is also pretty easy, partially because Chile is a part of the United State’s Visa Wavier Program.  

Chile - Cons

There are some considerations to keep in mind. While medical care is pretty good within the city, the city itself is pretty expensive. Retirees will need a lot more money to live in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Like with any major city, it has a lot of smog, traffic, and it can seem too populated at times. It may be best to live outside the city and travel when necessary.

Bulgaria - Pros

Bulgaria is ranked 26 out of 163 on the GPI. There are many reasons Bulgaria is attractive to expats. First, Bulgaria has a flat tax rate of 10%. Second, the cost of living is substantially lower than in other countries. DispatchesEurope stated that it was possible to live comfortably on $500 per month per person. Finally, medical care is affordable while also being good quality with minimal wait times.

Bulgaria - Cons

Now onto the cons. Sofia is filled with expats who know English, so language won’t be a major problem—although we do suggest you learn some Bulgarian. Buying property in Bulgaria may also be an issue since it’s a very complicated process. Many expats choose to rent their residence because it’s cheap and much easier.

Romania - Pros

Romania’s GPI is 25 out of 163. According to RomaniaExperience, living in Romania is incredibly cheap. It’s possible to buy a one-bedroom apartment for as low as $33,000 or rent for $200 per month. It’s possible to retire in the country for as little as $1,000 per month per person. On top of that, private healthcare is cheap. Doctors are as low as $20, and private hospitals are very modern.

Romania - Cons

Life is a little slower in Romania, so take that how you will. Most towns will be dead by 10 PM, so don’t expect a lot of nightlife. Customer service is also lacking, according to some bloggers. Public hospitals are cheaper than private, but they’re old, understaffed, and crowded. Romania also has poor public transportation, but taxis are cheap. 

Malaysia - Pros

Malaysia has risen in the GPI recently, meaning it’s becoming safer. The current GPI is 16 out of 163. Retirees love Malaysia because the cost of living is so low. It’s possible to retire with $1,000 per month. Because it’s a rapidly developing country, there’s an emphasis on healthcare, meaning it’s pretty good while not costing an arm and a leg. Malaysia also makes it easy to obtain a 10-year visa, something that’s very difficult in other countries.

Malaysia - Cons

Living in Malaysia isn’t ideal for everyone. Seasonally, there can be poor air quality, meaning those with lung problems may not want to choose this country. Importing anything non-Malaysian is also very expensive, as well. Customer service is lacking, especially compared to the United States. Finally, the temperature swings can be a lot, even for those that are used to frigid winters.  

Australia - Pros

Australia’s GPI is 13 out of 163. Australia isn’t the cheapest on this list, but for what you get, it isn’t too bad. It’s possible to retire in the country comfortably for around $40,000 per year for a couple. To cut down on costs, owning your own home and staying out of big cities is your best bet. Australia also has a Medicare system that covers quite a bit, but it requires expats to become permanent residents.

Australia - Cons

Australia is more than just beaches and good weather. We would be remiss not to mention the wildlife, which can be out of control. Putting that aside, without becoming a permanent resident, retirees will need to purchase their own private insurance. Housing can also be expensive if you choose to stay in or near a big city. It’s easy to blow through savings in a short amount of time without a strict budget.

Ireland - Pros

Irelands GPI is 12 out of 163. We couldn’t leave out Ireland but be aware when we say “Ireland” we don’t mean “Dublin,” as living in the city is extremely expensive. It’s possible to retire in the Emerald Isle for as little as $30,000 per year, according to U.S. News, but only if you live in smaller, cheaper towns. As far as healthcare, Ireland is top-notch, but non-EU citizens do have to purchase healthcare in two parts.

Ireland - Cons

As we said, Ireland can be expensive. If you plan on living in Dublin, your retirement income won’t last very long. While we mentioned the healthcare system is top-notch, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It’s accessible to everyone, so there are long wait times for some medical procedures. Fuel is also costly, and buying property can be incredibly difficult.  

Czech Republic - Pros

The Czech Republic, or Czechia, has GPI of 10. The country is pretty cheap to live, and it’s possible to be comfortable on $1,000 per month. Granted, you may need to spend a little more if you live in Prague. The healthcare system is very reasonably priced. While each district has a doctor, retirees are allowed to choose their personal physician.

Czech Republic - Cons

Gas can be extremely expensive, as it is all over Europe. Additionally, rent can be a bit more for expats, but bargains can be found as long as you have a keen eye. While many people know English, it’s still pretty important for retirees to learn Czech. Finally, getting a driver’s license in the country can be a bit difficult since it requires a written and practical exam as well as driving school.  

Slovenia - Pros

Slovenia has a GPI of eight – that means we’re getting into the single digits! Even if you chose to live in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, you could live comfortably with a little over $2,000 per month per person. Naturally, if you move further out, it’ll be much cheaper. As far as healthcare, Slovenia’s hospitals are of high quality, and the insurance is pretty cheap.

Slovenia - Cons

There are some cons. First of all, manners are a bit different when compared to the United States. Taxes are also tricky to understand, but there are tax breaks for U.S. expats that have retired in Slovenia. Finally, the day ends pretty early there. It isn’t unusual for shops to close at 6 pm during the weekday while barely being open on Sundays.  

Portugal - Pros

Would you guess that Portugal had a GPI of three? Portugal is also fairly inexpensive. A retiree can live pretty comfortably on just $1,400 but having a budget of $2,000 per month per individual ensures a luxurious lifestyle. Gaining a residency permit in Portugal is pretty easy, and retirement income is free from taxation.

Portugal - Cons

There are a few cons. Namely, you have to have health insurance before you move to Portugal. Once you become a permanent retiree, you can get Portuguese health insurance, but it may not be worth it. Many U.S. companies offer insurance benefits in Portugal. Another con is that the bureaucracy of Portugal can be extremely tedious and frustrating.

Austria - Pros

Austria’s GPI is four out of 163. Aiming on the high side, it’s possible to retire comfortably in Austria for around $1,500 per month per person, according to Best Citizenships. Naturally, the further you are from the big city, the cheaper it’ll be. As far as healthcare, Austria has excellent medical facilities and doctors. Private health insurance can be a bit expensive but becoming a resident access to universal coverage.

Austria - Cons

Austria is on the higher end of the spectrum as far as price. Considering how safe it is, we would be remiss if we didn’t add it. One con we do want to mention is that it can be hard to settle in the country due to lack of “friendliness.” The culture is a bit different, so people may not seem as inviting as they do in the States. We do want to mention that it has a high standard of living, which means it’s easy to blow through your nest egg pretty quickly if a strict budget isn’t followed.

New Zealand - Pros

New Zealand has a GPI of two out of 163, making it the safest option on the list. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive on the list. Residing outside the city is the best option, and that means more quiet, rolling hills! A couple can live pretty comfortably on $2,500. The healthcare system is also pretty good, especially for permanent residents. Options are often free or only cost a small amount.

New Zealand - Cons

Living in the country may make it a bit more challenging to see a doctor within a short wait time. Living in the city could cost the same amount if a couple strictly budgets and avoids a lifestyle full of frills. New Zealand is also far from everything, so visiting family members will be an extremely costly task. Because it’s so far away from everything, imported goods are also quite expensive.