After a life of hard work many people find themselves confronted with a complex question: Where to retire? Several factors are involved including cost of living, access to healthcare, hours of sunlight, food, transportation, etc. Given the array of factors, plus the value that each individual will give to them, a matrix is often necessary to see which options are the ones that best suit us.
In a globalized world, more and more people make the decision to retire abroad, or at least spend some months away from home. But how to get relevant information about the different places? One very handy option is International Living’s 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index.
Based on the feedback from several people on site, the guide can help make that choice a little less daunting. The Index compiles hundreds of opinions and real-life experiences from people around the world. Here are the top 4 locations according to International Living.
As one of only three carbon-negative countries in the world, Panama is serious about protecting this environment. The construction of the Panama canal has led to major infrastructure works and the development of the region’s busiest flight hub.
A verdant park and recreation area stretches from the center of town to the romantic historic quarter known as Casco Viejo. At the other end of the city is Tocumen International Airport, known as the “Hub of the Americas.” There are direct flights to Panama from all over the US, as well as several cities in Canada and Europe.
One of the most popular destinations is Boquete. It’s almost as far as you can get from Panama City, about six hours by car. There are plenty of hospitals all over the country. Residents can find a hospital within a one-hour-drive radius. These days the country is busy welcoming tourists, new residents, as well as much needed investment.
2. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for its tropical climate, lower cost of living, friendly people, affordable medical care, and its natural beauty. Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has had a stable economy for many years.
LGBTQ same-sex marriage is legal and women’s rights are mandated. Gun laws are considered strict and possession is only legal for citizens and legal immigrants with permanent residency status. Background and criminal checks, psychological tests, and gun training are mandatory.
There are two healthcare systems within Costa Rica: public and private. Residents pay approximately 7% to 11% of your reported monthly income into the “Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social” healthcare system. Individuals have the option to blend public healthcare with private medical care either through out-of-pocket self-insuring or with the purchase of private insurance policies. Individuals will find three JCI-accredited private hospitals in the San José area, as well as numerous private clinics throughout the country. The public system has over 29 hospitals and nearly 250 regional clinics, making it easy to find healthcare no matter where you choose to settle.
Costa Rica has many climate zones and hundreds of microclimates. Many people prefer the temperate “eternal spring” climate of the capital and the surrounding Central Valley. Others prefer the beaches of Guanacaste, or the green areas in the south and Caribbean side.
The country has launched initiatives such as the new digital nomad visa as well as an updated law to attract retirees: there is a lower threshold for investors – lowered to $150,000 (130,000 euros) from $200,000 (175,000 euros). It is possible to import a shipping container of home goods tax-free, as well as two vehicles without import costs.
In Mexico there’s low-cost, good quality healthcare. The weather is overall very pleasant. There’s high-speed internet, good highways, reliable electric and water, good cellphone service, and stores where global goods can be found. More than 1 million Americans and about a half-million Canadians live in Mexico either full time or part of the year. Some of the favorite destinations are San Miguel de Allende, Tepoztlan, Guanajuato, Taxco, and some of the coastal towns.
The large expat population has become a benefit for those who come later. English is widely spoken in large cities and touristic destinations. Other expats can help find a rental home or a specialist doctor, recommend restaurants, a lawyer to help secure residence, among other things. Many travelers and retirees find that Mexicans are welcoming, they are eager to teach them about their country’s history.
On average, a retired couple could live in Mexico for about $2,000 (1,700 euros) a month. That covers housing, transportation, healthcare, utilities, food. It’s relatively easy to become a resident. There two categories many people apply for: monthly income of around $2,100 (1,750 euros) a month or $36,000 (31,700 euros) in the bank for temporary residence; or $2,700 (2,500 euros) a month or $149,000 (131,000 euros) in the bank for permanent residence. With a residence card, there is no requirement to stay a certain number of days out of each year in Mexico.
A big part of the lower cost of living in Mexico is the healthcare. There are two government-run programs, including one (INSABI) that is basically free to Mexican citizens and foreigners with residence (there can sometimes be some small out-of-pocket expenses). This system is designed for those without the means to pay for any other healthcare and has facilities all around the country. Another government option is called IMSS, which costs about $500 per year per person.
For many years Portugal has topped the charts for the best places to retire. It has vibrant cities, gorgeous beaches, rolling hills, good healthcare, low cost of living, and it is safe.
English is taught in schools from the sixth-grade level so many Portuguese speak English. The government offers free Portuguese language classes at schools throughout the country to encourage those who are considering retiring in the country. The courses run in conjunction with the school year and provide immigrants with an elementary level of understanding and communication skills in the local language.
Portugal has an excellent long-distance bus and train system, also making it easy to visit other areas of the country. Lisbon and Porto have plenty of expats and, because of tourism, many people speak English.
South of Lisbon is the Alentejo region that includes the cities of Beja and Évora. The largest and most rural region of the country, it is famous for the fields of wildflowers, cork oaks, and historic towns.
The southernmost region of Portugal is the Algarve. Known for its Atlantic beaches, fishing villages, golf resorts, water parks, hot, dry summers, and tourists. Due to its long history of British tourists coming here on holiday, English is widely spoken.
A couple can live comfortably in Portugal on $2,500 (2,200 euros) per month. If you want to live in Lisbon, Porto, Cascais, or the Algarve, the amount would be rather $3,000 (2,600 euros).