FA Playbook

Nothing saved? You can retire here for $1,500 a month


Living off Social Security alone

Emmanuel Faure | Getty Images

Despite financial advisors' best efforts, the average American doesn't have very much saved for retirement. The typical U.S. resident between ages 55 and 64 has just $104,000 "in the bank" for those fast-approaching golden years, according to the federal General Accountability Office.

In fact, far too many Americans will actually rely on slim Social Security benefits as a major portion of — or their only — income. Even in America's most affordable places to live — typically Midwest cities such as Dayton, Ohio, and Wichita, Kansas — retirees would be hard-pressed to get by on such little income. So what's a strapped soon-to-be senior to do?

Packing up and heading abroad could be the answer, according to website InternationalLiving.com. The online global retirement and relocation emporium has researched five countries where American retirees can live comfortably for just $1,200 to $1,500 a month — per couple — which covers housing, health care, food and entertainment. "In some of these havens, it's possible to live well off a modest Social Security check alone," the site claimed.

CNBC.com takes a look at the top five most affordable retirement spots worldwide.

— By CNBC's Kenneth Kiesnoski
Posted 7 April 2016


Peru, Machu Picchu region
West End61 | Getty Images

Peru offers a host of contrasts, from mountaintop ancient ruins like Macchu Picchu (pictured) and Colonial-era cities to pristine ocean beaches. But there's also one constant: affordability. InternationalLiving.com correspondent David Hammond called the country one of Latin America's most affordable.

"The cities I visited in Peru offer the highest standard of living for the lowest price that I've seen, especially for singles," he said. "Expat couples can live comfortably in Peru for $1,000 to $1,200 a month, including everything." Hammond said unpartnered transplants he met in Peru live well in cities such as Cusco for just $500 to $600 a month, including rent and utilities, home Wi-Fi access, regular dining out and prepaid cellphone service.

Source: InternationalLiving.com


House tops in Cambodia
Andy Teo | Getty Images

Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh — a cosmopolitan mix of Chinese, French and local Khmer influences — boasts rental prices ranging from $200 to $350-plus a month. Restaurant meals are served up for as little as $2.50, and a beer might set you back 50 cents. Even custom-made clothing costs next to nothing here, with leather shoes and dresses made to measure running about $22.

Source: InternationalLiving.com


Antigua, Guatemala
Jeremy Woodhouse | Holly Willmeth | Getty Images

Guatemala is not as developed a country as nearby popular expat draws Panama and Costa Rica, but the upside is that it means it's more affordable. According to InternationalLiving.com, a couple can get by easily on $1,500 a month, including rent and utilities, groceries, maid and gardener services ($3 per hour), regular three-course meals out ($20) and even massages ($10).

In the Colonial city of Antigua (pictured), furnished one-bedroom apartments rent from $300 a month. A furnished three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in a gated community with garden and rooftop patio runs only $700 a month. And capital Guatemala City boasts world-class health care at a fraction of U.S. costs.

Source: InternationalLiving.com


Colors and Shapes of Underwater World | Getty Images

Like Guatemala, Nicaragua offers the same retirement pluses as more well-known neighbors Costa Rica and Panama — but at a significant savings. InternationalLiving.com correspondent Bonnie Hayman lives in San Juan del Sur in a two-bed, two-bath home on an acre with ocean views that she bought for $132,000. "I would never have been able to live in an ocean-view home in the States," she said, noting she only pays $151 a year in real estate tax.

Rentals are also affordable, reported Hayman. Furnished one-bedroom apartments and vacation homes can be had for as little as $300 a month, including water, electricity and Wi-Fi service. Typical restaurant meals, with wine, cost about $16.

Source: InternationalLiving.com


Daniel Garzón Herazo | EyeEm | Getty Images

You've likely been drinking Colombian coffee most of your life, so why not try retiring at the source, in the country's so-called "Coffee Triangle" region of Paisa? Rents in the city of Manizales range from about $130 a month for a home in a working-class neighborhood to $430 for a modern three-bedroom, two-bath apartment in upscale districts such as Milan. Retirees can hire housekeepers for under $20 a day, a lunch out runs $3 to $5, and a loaf of bread and liter of milk will set you back less than $4.

Not in the best shape? Good news: Quality health care of North American standards can be had in Colombia for pennies on the dollar, reports InternationalLiving.com.

Source: InternationalLiving.com