While the absolute numbers are still relatively small, an increasing number of retirees are choosing to retire outside of the United States. It might seem extreme, but there can be some significant advantages to retiring abroad. The basic costs of living (rent and food) are much less in most parts of the world, health care costs are often vastly lower than in the U.S., and retirees can choose whatever climate or geography suits their personal tastes.
In addition, some foreign countries have seized upon this trend and now welcome retirees in a number of different ways, including allowing U.S. retirees to buy into their national healthcare plans for a minimal fee, and by making it easier for them to rent or purchase property.
Here are some of the best (and most popular) places to retire around the globe:
Central America. Unfortunately, many soon-to-be retirees still equate much of Central America with the political instability and turmoil that existed there in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But while there are still some areas of the region that require a bit of extra caution when visiting, Central America contains a number of countries that are safe, affordable, and very welcoming to U.S. retirees. Among the most popular are Panama (which uses the U.S. dollar as its currency and sponsors a number of incentive programs to make living expenses even more reasonable for retirees), Belize (which does not tax foreign income and has generous residency requirements), Nicaragua, Ecuador and Colombia (all of which are very affordable).
Europe. While many Eastern European countries have become popular retiree destinations over the past, recent political developments and instability may have tarnished their appeal. Fortunately, it’s possible to find affordable retirement options in countries such as France. It’s true that Paris and the Provence region are quite expensive, but just west of Provence is the Languedoc-Roussillon region, which is significantly less costly.
Asia. Thailand has long been a destination for U.S. retirees and other budget travelers. The city of Chiang Mai has established itself as a hub for foreign residents, and boosts a wide range of restaurants and other services that will be valuable to retirees. Of particular significance is the fact that the health care industry in Thailand is very well developed and very inexpensive.
Of course, even if when they choose to retire abroad, many retirees still want to be sure that they have the resources (both in terms of their own personal finances as well as the infrastructure in the country they’re living in) to stay in contact with friends and family back in the U.S. While this will mean different things to different retirees, most will want to choose a retirement destination that has reliable telephone and/or Internet access, as well as travel options that are not overly expensive.
Make sure you do your research before settling on a retirement destination before you commit, and visit there before moving, if at all possible. As in the U.S., local economies are always subject to change, and research from just a few years ago may be a bit out of date by the time your retirement comes.