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10 Places To Retire with a High Quality of Life to Cost of Living Balance

Retirement is a significant milestone in a person’s life. As you wave goodbye to hectic work stress and the daily rush hour, you may want to shift to a serene and calm place to spend your retired life. Although there are many cheap US states which can still offer an affordable retirement, we have curated our rankings for those individuals looking for options beyond North America.

1. Panama  

Panama is one of the top retirement destinations in the world. From tax benefits and cosmopolitan cities to beachfront and mountain towns, you have several things for a relaxed life. We can go as far as to say it has everything you need for a comfortable retired life, including outstanding health facilities, American-style grocery stores, banks, cafés, and restaurants.

Panama has specific retiree programs for expats in the world. It is called the Pensionado Visa.

You will need to do this with the help of a lawyer in Panama. The applicants must have an income or pension of only $1,000.00 per month and $250.00 for each dependent. If unsure, you can go there on a tourist visa and change the status later.

Panama has a two-tiered healthcare system – the public healthcare system and the private healthcare system. While government healthcare is equipped with every facility, private healthcare players provide more privacy, a greater range of specialists, and shorter wait times. Panama has a warm tropical climate with vast coastlines, beautiful beaches, mountain retreats, island getaways, and sunshine.

2. China 

If you want to retire early but don’t have much saved, you can look into China. It is a highly cheap country that offers a variety of experiences. China’s economy has been growing very steadily, but housing here is 45% cheaper than you would pay in the US. While China is ranked a low-threat region for low crime rates by the US Department of State, it remains a state where you cannot use the internet freely and has considerable pollution problems.

Though China does not have a specific visa for retirees, you can opt for a permanent resident visa to relocate there. The medical facilities in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are comparable to the hospitals in the US. Many doctors and nurses are fluent in English.

The weather here varies depending on the region. Generally, the summers are hot and humid, while the winters are cold.

3. Portugal 

Portugal is one of the best places to retire because it has excellent weather, soft sand beaches, and great city life. It is also one of the safest places to live and is ranked sixth by the Global Peace Index.

The Portugal Golden and D7 visas are the most popular Portugal retirement visas. You can apply for Portuguese citizenship after five years of holding either of these visas.

Under Portugal’s NHR Scheme, people retiring in Portugal are exempt from paying local taxes for the next ten years. NHR also offers a 20% income tax rate to people in high-value professions and the potential to receive foreign income, like property gains or pensions, free from certain Portuguese taxes.

You can use Portugal’s public healthcare system if you are on a Golden or D7 Visa. You can have private insurance for extra coverage. Portugal is known for its mild weather. It is neither too hot nor too cold. If you decide to retire in Portugal, enjoy a relaxed lifestyle with plenty of sun, fresh seafood, watersports, and golf, and enjoy the beautiful architecture.

4. Ecuador 

Ecuador is a tiny country in South America sandwiched between Columbia and Peru. Its natural beauty spans from snow-capped volcanoes to the famous Galapagos islands. The cost of living here is considerably less than in the US, which is good if you are looking for a place to retire.

In Ecuador, pensioners can qualify for a visa even if they are younger than 65. For pensioners, Ecuador mandates a minimum pension or income of $800 each month and an additional $100 for each dependent.

All residents, regardless of income, have access to public health insurance. You also have the option of private health care. You can enjoy the cool sea breeze with temperatures between 70°F and 80°F.

5. Costa Rica 

Costa Rica has one of the highest living standards in Latin America. Its fantastic weather, beautiful beaches, rich culture, and affordability make it a popular destination for retirees. Besides all of this, the cost of living in Costa Rica is 30% lower than in the US.

To retire here, you need a Pensionado visa. To qualify for a Pensionado visa, you must have a monthly retirement pension of $1000. There is no minimum age requirement for this visa. A Pensionado visa is valid for two years, and you can apply for an extension after this.

Costa Rica boasts of the best healthcare in Latin America. Expats can access private healthcare or Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social(CCSS). As a retired expat, you have to pay for the use of the public healthcare system.

Costa Rica has two seasons – the dry summer season begins in December and ends in May, and the rainy season (winter) starts in May and ends in November. The temperature ranges from 70° to 80°.

6. Malaysia 

Malaysia is a popular retirement destination that has a fast-growing expat population. Its sandy beaches, extensive rainforests, and stunning city of Kuala Lumpur make it one of the best places to retire.

The Malaysia “My Second Home” visa grants expats a 10-year multiple entry visa. If you are above 50 years, you must deposit 150,000 MYR (33,000 USD) into a bank in Malaysia or prove that you have a monthly income of 10,000 MYR (2,200 USD) from a government pension. The money you bring into Malaysia is tax-exempt.

After spending a year in Malaysia on an MM2H visa, you can withdraw up to 50,000 MYR (11,000 USD) for medical expenses, children’s education, or purchasing a car or home. Malaysia only taxes income earned in Malaysia. So, if you earn income from your pension, you don’t have a tax burden.

Malaysia is known for its high-quality, affordable healthcare. Many of the doctors speak English, and they adhere to Western medical standards. The climate here is tropical. It’s hot and humid with rainy and dry seasons. Overall, a great retirement destination.

7. Greece 

Thanks to its great weather, sumptuous food, and fabulous culture, Greece makes it to our list of the best places to retire. Besides its colorful fishing villages and ancient ruins, it is also one of the most affordable countries in Europe.

If you have citizenship in one of the EU’s 28 member states, you can live in Greece without a visa or residence permit. Others will need a residence permit if they plan to retire in Greece. A visa allows you to stay in Greece for 90 days, during which you can apply for a residence permit. The essential requirement for the residence permit includes the following:

  • A passport.
  • Proof of current medical insurance.
  • Proof of either a regular income of 2,000 euros per month or 24,000 euros in the bank as retirement savings.

You can also opt for the Greece Golden Visa, a residency by investment program. According to a 2020 law, all foreigners who move to Greece and make it their tax residency must pay a 7% tax on their retirement income.

The cost of living is comparatively lower than in the US here. Daily essentials like groceries and transportation are 20 % less, while rentals are 70% lower than in the US. You can live comfortably on 2000 Euros monthly and find many retirement communities.

8. Spain 

Many people choose Spain as their retirement destination because it offers quality services like an excellent healthcare system, good transportation, a unique culture, and a low cost of living.

Retiring in Spain requires a visa, existing health insurance, and financial resources. If you are from the EU or EEA, you can live in Spain without a visa or permit.

You must apply for a Non-lucrative or Golden Visa if you are not from an EU country. A Golden Visa requires significant investment in Spain, while a Non-lucrative Visa requires 27,793 euros of passive income annually. The Golden visa grants you permanent residency, while a non-lucrative visa allows you to stay for one year.

As an expat retiree with a non-lucrative or Golden visa, you will initially use Spain’s private healthcare. After five years, you can become a permanent resident and automatically enter the public system. Spain’s public healthcare also has a medical interpreter system that allows non-Spanish speakers to use interpreters for any appointment.

The freshness and the low prices of food make it a popular destination. The Mediterranean diet’s fresh fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year. Eating out is cheap, and you can enjoy a three-course meal for the equivalent of $20.

9. France 

France’s appeal as a retirement destination lies in its history, culture, climate, and food. The people here work to live and not live to work, which seems perfect for an idyllic retired lifestyle.

As someone who wants to retire in France, you will need a long-stay visa, carte de séjour temporaire visiteur. Once you have that and lived for a few years, you can apply for Carte de Sejour. When you become a tax resident of France, you must fill out your annual tax declaration and pay tax on your worldwide income. France has agreements with many countries worldwide, so you need not pay tax twice.

You have to take the public healthcare insurance mandatorily. They provide quality healthcare, and the French government reimburses 70%. The winters are cool, and the summers are mild in France. The climate is warmer in the south, but the average temperature ranges from 40° in the winter to 70° in the summer.

10. Indonesia 

Indonesia’s climate, warm hospitality, gorgeous natural surroundings, and low cost of living have made it an ideal retirement destination. The province of Bali has become home to numerous expatriates.

Indonesia has a specific visa for retirees. To get this visa, you must be 55 years or older and have a domicile form and proof that you have enough funds to support yourself. The visa costs $1000 and $800 for renewal. This visa lasts one year and can be renewed for five years. After this, you become a permanent resident.

Expats are not covered under the national health care system. Public hospitals here are overcrowded, doctors don’t speak English, and hence, most expats find public healthcare inaccessible. Generally, expats come here with international health insurance and use private health facilities.

Indonesia has a tropical climate. The warm waters that comprise 81% of Indonesia’s area ensure that land temperatures remain relatively constant. The temperatures in coastal plains average 28°C; in the inland and mountain areas, it averages 26 °C; and in the higher mountain regions, it is around 23 °C.

Chhavi Agarwal

Chhavi is a lawyer who quit her job to become a full-time work-from-home blogger. She shares tips and tricks on making money online, side hustles, freelancing, and blogging through her blog, Mrs. Daaku Studio. Besides blogging, she works as a freelance coach and shares her expertise on YouTube and Instagram. When not blogging, she is traveling, sketching, or doing yoga.