Getting ready to relocate in retirement but think Florida's just not far away — or exotic — enough for you? Or are you too cash-strapped after throwing in the career towel to continue living in the manner to which you have become accustomed? Either way, relocation outside the 50 states might be the right answer for you.
Combining exoticism with economy, foreign retirement meccas are drawing ever more Americans south — and west and east — of the border. International Living magazine has compiled its 2016 list of "World's Top 10 Retirement Havens." CNBC.com shares the publication's top 10 picks — which exhibit a definite Latin and Asian bias— adding our own commentary and some cost-of-living (including rent) data for 2016 from Numbeo.com.
— By Kenneth Kiesnoski, CNBC.com
Posted 15 January 2016
Good weather, great food, friendly locals and a surprisingly low cost of living earn Portugal — one of only two European countries on International Living's list — the No. 10 spot. Looking to buy? A three-bedroom home with a yard in the Alentejo region will set you back just under $100,000, and homes and apartments can be rented from only $190 to just under $1,000 a month. Utilities and other expenses are just as reasonable, with a three-course lunch and carafe of wine averaging about $12, according to the magazine.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Porto, Portugal: 32.79 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Porto waterfront, Portugal
Spain comes in just ahead of neighboring Portugal at No. 9 on International Living's list. This Iberian cultural and culinary behemoth has long appealed to both vacationers and retirees from farther north in Europe, who flock to its sun-soaked Mediterranean beaches, but there's a lot to appeal to American retirees, too.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Malaga, Spain: 35.17 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Mojácar village, Andalucia, Spain
Many Americans of a certain age hear "Nicaragua" and think "Sandinista," "Iran-Contra" and general instability. Hence, this beautiful Central American country is both misunderstood and underappreciated, meaning that there are loads of bargains available for those whom International Living calls "forward-thinking international investors." Land lots can be had for as little as $3,000, and homes can often be furnished, decorated and landscaped for under $1,000 total. But despite the financial incentive, the real pull of Nicaragua for retirees is the generous welcome from locals, according to the magazine.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Managua, Nicaragua: N/A (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Granada, Nicaragua
Life can be a permanent vacation when you retire in Thailand, one of the world's top holiday spots. In addition to remote white-sand beaches and tracts of jungle dotted with Buddhist temples, this Southeast Asian country offers first-world-quality amenities — including modern health-care facilities — in cosmopolitan capital city Bangkok. International Living reports that a full check-up by a U.S.-trained physician can cost retirees less than $40. Rents average about $500 a month nationwide.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Bangkok: 36.83 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Ko Poda island, Thailand
Located where South America meets the Caribbean, just three hours by air from the south of Miami, Colombia is well connected to the U.S. — with scores of flights to Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena — and is more developed than many neighboring countries. If you can get over the country's acknowledged bad press (its tourism slogan was once "Colombia: It's worth the risk"), it offers "low cost of living, inexpensive properties and a colorful and diverse culture," writes International Living.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Bogotá: 23.18 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: La Merced neighborhood, Bogotá
Talk about exotic. Malaysia is likely way off most Americans' retirement radar. But this former British colony in Southeast Asia has a lot to offer, from advanced health-care facilities with Western-trained staff to friendly English-speaking locals, a heady ethnic mix that encourages tolerance, and gorgeous natural scenery. Most Western expats head for capital city Kuala Lumpur or Bohemian mecca Penang Island.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Kuala Lumpur: 30.20 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Kuala Lumpur city center
If you crave stability in your golden years, Costa Rica may be the perfect fit for you. Surrounded by more restive Central American nations, such as Nicaragua and Guatemala, Costa Rica has enjoyed six decades of peaceful, uninterrupted democracy. It also offers unspoiled, lush scenery; modern health-care facilities; innumerable activity and cultural opportunities and a relatively low cost of living. Another plus: You can finally live that "bicoastal" life, as Costa Rica's eastern Caribbean Sea and western Pacific Ocean coasts lie within easy reach of each other, only 125 miles or so apart.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for San Jose, Costa Rica: 40.74 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Mexico is one of America's favorite travel destinations; some 26 million of us vacationed there in 2014, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. It's also one of our preferred places to retire. In fact, the tourism board publishes an online retirement directory at its tourism website. Despite widely reported outbreaks of drug-related crimes and violence in some regions, many parts of Mexico remain safe and welcoming for U.S. retirees.
Regions popular with retirees include the states of Yucatán and Quintana Roo (home to Cancun and Cozumel) on Mexico's east coast, and resorts such as Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan on the Pacific. All the usual clichés about low costs, friendly locals and stunning scenery farther south in Latin America apply in Mexico, too.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Puerto Vallarta: 24.45 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Mayan ruins, Tulum, Mexico
When it comes to Ecuador, No. 2 on International Living's list, everything positive about retirement south of the border applies — but even more so. As the magazine's report puts it, "low cost of living, but with no lifestyle sacrifices; affordable real estate (whether you're renting or buying); good-quality, inexpensive health care; and a quality of life that's hard to beat." Die-hard U.S. conservatives will have to swallow a bitter geopolitical pill, however, if they move there, as the country has elected far-left, anti-American politician Eduardo Correa president for three consecutive terms since 2007.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Quito, Ecuador: 30.39 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Chile Street, Quito
This Central American gem tops the retirement haven list, thanks to safety, stability, friendliness, First World amenities and facilities, and enticing incentives aimed at attracting foreign retirees. Just 2.5 hours by air from Miami, capital Panama City is a skyscraper-rich world-class metropolis offering all the financial, cultural, medical and culinary must-haves you had back in the U.S. Attractions outside the city range from palm-lined white-sand beaches to verdant and lush rain forests and mountain ranges.
But Panama's biggest attraction may be its famed Pensionado Program, under which a government or corporate pension worth at least $1,000 monthly guarantees you residency in the country, no matter what your age. The program subsidizes retirees' hospital visits and prescriptions, cuts taxes on homes and automobiles and offers discounts on dining, entertainment and travel.
Consumer Price Plus Rent Index for Panama City, Panama: 47.36 (New York City = 100)
Sources: International Living, Numbeo.com. Pictured: Waterfront, Casco Viejo, Panama