The 5 Best Places to Retire Abroad

The 5 Best Places to Retire Abroad
Retire Abroad: Is Your Chaise Waiting?
Retire Abroad: Is Your Chaise Waiting?

Are you worried about making ends meet for an American retirement? Then you may be among the 3.3 million pre-retirees who are planning to retire abroad, seeking destinations that offer not only more bang for their buck, but accessibility, favorable climates and rich cultural experiences.

For some in this cohort, retiring abroad is all about the newfound freedom and possibilities that their post-career days will provide.

“They’re looking for a sense of adventure — they’ve spent so many years behind a desk and now they’re looking at an opportunity to lead out the adventure they’ve been reading about,” says Jeffrey Christakos, partner at Christakos Financial Group. “This is their time.”

Are you interested in retiring abroad but can’t find the perfect destination? Look no farther.

In its latest Global Retirement Index, International Living has ranked the top-10 overseas destinations to call home in retirement. Based on criteria such as climate, cost of living, safety, infrastructure and accessibility of health care, the publication named Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama and Ecuador among the top five locales.

Costa Rica  

From long stretches of undeveloped beaches and green-carpeted mountains to volcanoes and dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife, this Central American country is a “nature-lover’s dream,” the publication writes.

Ranked No. 5 on International Living’s list, Costa Rica offers a number of benefits for American retirees, including:

  • Top-quality, affordable health care
  • Inexpensive housing
  • A year-round tropical climate

Resources for learning more about retirement in Costa Rica: Retire for less in Costa Rica, The Real Costa Rica


A “cross-cultural melting pot of customs, dress, architecture and cuisine” awaits you in Malaysia, ranked No. 4 on the list of top global retirement destinations.

Here, you will access:

  • Public and private health care on par with that in western countries, and medical facilities staffed by English-speaking professionals
  • Low cost of living
  • Internet coverage on a par with services in France and Italy

Resources for retirement in Malaysia: RetirePedia, Retired in Malaysia


For those dreaming of a relaxed and romantic new life abroad, Mexico can offer that and much more. Indulge in fine dining at elegant cafes, browse upscale shops or visit ancient colonial towns set in the rugged Sierras.

Ranked No. 3, our neighbor to the south provides retirees:

  • Better quality of life
  • A safe haven where the crime rate is low
  • Low cost of living

Resources for retiring in Mexico:  Mexperience, International Living


This destination “packs a surprisingly large variety of landscapes into one tiny country,” International Living writes. From sleepy mountain towns to tropical beaches to its capital, the only true First World city in Central America, Panama offers a comfortable retirement solution.

Ranked No. 2 on the list, here’s what you’ll access:

  • The best health care and infrastructure in Central America
  • A safe, stable and friendly environment
  • Lower cost of living
  • Unrivaled climate
  • A government-backed pension program that will virtually pay for your retirement

Resources for retiring to Panama: Panama Info, 8 Things to Know About Retirement in Panama


With its “breathtaking natural beauty,” you’ll find the perfect combination of climate, culture and affordability to make your retirement dreams come true, International Living writes.

Ranked No. 1 in the list, this South American country is gentle, safe, healthy and civil, and offers American retirees:

  • Low cost of living
  • Affordable real estate
  • Inexpensive health care
  • High quality of life
  • “Perfect” weather, ranging from 77 degrees during the day to 50 degrees at night

Resources for learning about Ecuador: Retirement in Ecuador, Pro Ecuador

Sold on One of the Best Places to Retire Abroad?  Consider These Factors Before Packing Up

Now that you’ve gotten a sense for what international life could be like, it’s time for a little bit of a reality check. While these foreign countries may offer incredible experiences, you must first take into consideration a number of factors before making the move, Christakos says.

“You have to really be careful when you’re making these major decisions at advanced ages when you don’t have new income coming in,” he says. “Decisions at later ages are much more critical. You can make a lot more mistakes in your 20s than you can in your 70s.”

If you’re interested in retiring abroad, first consider the following factors:

Health Care

Although health care may be more affordable in foreign countries, make sure it’s also accessible, Christakos says. And don’t just consider medical care.

“You’ll need additional care in retirement — home health care, senior housing — so you want to pick a country that has these things available,” he says.

Additionally, be sure to check if the countries you’re looking at accept Medicare.


Will you still have access to similar activities and quality of life as you currently enjoy?

“When you think about a new place to live, you have to be focused in on whether you will able to replace what you have here,” Christakos says. “Make sure you can get involved in similar types of programs — similar churches, volunteer opportunities and other groups or activities.”

But keep your age and health in mind as you are planning ahead. While you may initially enjoy a more “adventurous” lifestyle abroad, as you age in retirement you may not be able to take part in certain activities.


Given Americans’ plugged-in nature, taking into account things like Wi-Fi and Internet connectability could make or break a comfortable retirement.

When moving to a distant part of the world, this is especially important in order to stay connected with family members and friends back home.

While amenities, lifestyle and health care often get overlooked by international destinations’ beautiful landscapes and ideal climates, they are increasingly important for Americans to consider when retiring abroad.

What Do Your Finances Really Look Like?

Before making any big decision about retirement, it is critically important to understand your current retirement plan or situation.  How much do you have?  How much do you need to live here or live abroad? Do you have enough? What risks do you face?

Meeting with a financial planner can be a good move.  Or, use an online retirement calculator to take stock of your situation.

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