Four countries south of the border have really rolled out the red carpet and welcome mat for U.S. retirees, according to the Global Retirement Index 2017 from online overseas retirement and relocation website InternationalLiving.com. They're looking to woo moneyed Americans of a certain age — not just with warm weather, sunshine and sandy shores but lower costs of living and special benefits and discounts (including tax breaks and discounts on basic necessities such as movie tickets, airfares and medical consultations).
"Discounts and preferred treatment for retirees can have a huge positive effect on an expat's overall quality of life," said Jennifer Stevens, executive editor at InternationalLiving.com. "In some countries the respect and deference shown older folks comes paired with significant savings and convenience." In the following slides, CNBC.com shares InternationalLiving.com's top four foreign locales for U.S. retirees.
— By CNBC.com's Kenneth Kiesnoski
Posted 15 February 2017
Got guaranteed retirement income, such as Social Security or a corporate pension, coming in? Then Panama may be the place for you. Simply submit an application with proof of income through the Central American country's much vaunted "pensionado" program and you're virtually guaranteed a quick residence permit. Your new Panama ID qualifies you for what InternationalLiving.com describes as "a host of government-mandated retiree discounts," including 20 percent off medical consultations; 25 percent off power bills, restaurant meals and airplane tickets; and a whopping 50 percent off movie and show tickets.
Don't have a pension? Don't worry. Simply hitting Panama's own retirement age of 55 for women and 60 for men will qualify you for other benefits.
According to InternationalLiving.com, retirees are referred to as Third Agers in Ecuador, and that status entitles you to a lot of respect and a raft of valuable perks and discounts. First off, Third Agers customarily are allowed to go to the head of the line in government offices, grocery stores, banks and other businesses, according to senior editor Dan Prescher. "It's part of the respect for elders that is still a common cultural trait throughout much of Latin America," he said.
In terms of monetary benefits, retirees age 65 and older pay half price for public transportation, cultural events, movies and airline flights originating in the South American country. They also enjoy a 50 percent discount on utility bills, discounts on property taxes and rebates on value-added tax on most purchases.
Expat seniors at least 60 years of age who have valid residence permits for Mexico enjoy all the (significant) benefits local retirees enjoy, according to InternationalLiving.com Mexico editor Glynna Prentice. The perks range from senior discount-card savings from 5 percent up to 50 percent off "everyday goods and services."
"The program is administered by a government agency called INAPAM, for Instituto Nacional de Personas Adultas Mayores (National Institute of Senior Adults)," said Prentice. "To sign up (which is free), just take your passport and your Mexican residence card to the INAPAM office in the Mexican state you live in. You'll likely be issued your INAPAM card — complete with photo — right on the spot."
Card in hand, enjoy slashed rates on everything from theater tickets and bus fares to medical device costs and museum entrance fees.
The only English-speaking country south of the border on this list, Belize has crafted a special scheme — the Qualified Retired Persons program — to attract potential expat residents. The QRP plan is a sort of fast-track permanent residence program for retirees that streamlines the otherwise lengthy application process. Cases are often resolved within months, according to InternationalLiving.com.
And no need to wait 'til you're 60; even Americans as young as 45 are eligible to apply for the QRP plan. So-called QRPs are not taxed on international income or capital gains, and are authorized to open both international and domestic bank accounts in Belize. The authorities also make relocation as easy on expats retirees as possible. Expat QRPs Cliver and Janet Brewster told InternationalLiving.com that they saved significantly on moving costs.
"We were able to ship virtually all of our household belongings to Belize duty-free," said Clive Brewster. "We also had the option to ship a vehicle but declined to do so and bought a golf cart instead. And since the company in Belize purchased it outside the country, we were also able to get it duty-free, too."