Personal Finance

Five European cities where you can retire on $35,000 a year

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Living well on less is a constant in retirement planning.

If life in the U.S. seems as if it would overstretch your assets, you might want to consider moving abroad. Moving overseas takes planning and research. You'll want to check visa and residency requirements, and health-care access. Remember, you'll still be taxed as a U.S. citizen by Uncle Sam.

International Living, which publishes information about life abroad — including firsthand accounts — has a new report on five European cities where retirees can live large on just $35,000 a year or even less.

Social Security is the major source of income for most older Americans, according to the Social Security Administration, with an average benefit check for retired workers of $1,404.

If a couple brings in two checks per month, that totals $33,696, not including other assets.

So grab your passport and shopping bag for the outdoor markets. Low-cost airlines have remarkably cheap flight deals, making Europe more accessible and affordable than ever. Here are five spots where you can retire on $35,000 a year — or less.

1. Porto, Portugal

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The second-largest city in Portugal, Porto offers Old World charm and First World convenience.

For all Porto's natural and architectural beauty, fine food and wine, and pleasurable pastimes, life is surprisingly affordable, with a monthly budget for a couple estimated at $1,550.

Many museums and sites have senior discounts, and prices are reasonable: a three-course lunch for two including wine at a midrange restaurant will cost you just $20.

2. Basilicata, Italy

Southern Italy landscape.
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The food, the sparkling clear gulf, the hiking trails, the history are just the top four reasons that make this southern Italian city so attractive.

While big cities in Italy command big prices, the farther you wander into the Italian countryside, the lower costs go. The culture and amenities more than make up for any loss of urban sophistication.

A monthly budget for a couple in Basilicata comes to $1,600. Ex-pat Valerie Fortney Schneider describes her life there as "shockingly cheap."

3. Alicante, Spain

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A port city on Spain's southeast Costa Blanca, Alicante (population 330,000) offers comfortable city living and a relaxed country vibe. Beaches in nearby San Juan on the Mediterranean have sugar-white sand. If you need a hit of big city life, Valencia is just an hour and a half away by train.

Living here is affordable.Spain's long growing season makes even luxury produce such as artichokes and doughnut peaches inexpensive. A couple can live well in Alicante on $2,390 per month.

4. Valletta, Malta

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From countryside farmhouses to ancient walled cities and breathtaking coastal pathways to quirky, hidden-gem restaurants, the tiny island nation of Malta has a little something for everyone.

Malta boasts affordable charges for medical consultations. "A walk-in visit to the hospital for a muscle strain cost my husband $22, and a routine dental exam and cleaning ran us each about $40," said Tricia Mitchell, an American freelance writer who lived in Valletta.

Dollars can go far here, with couples living comfortably on $2,600 per month.

5. Aix-en-Provence, France

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Provence may be the top retirement dream locale. Rolling lavender fields, stone medieval villages and daily blue skies are the essence of a picture-postcard life.

Aix, with a population of 142,000, is also a lively university city dotted with fountains and winding medieval streets. A couple can enjoy a great retirement on $2,695 per month in this picturesque town about 20 miles north of Marseille and the Mediterranean coast.