Personal Finance

Retiring abroad in 2019? Consider these top 5 locations

Key Points
  • Panama is the top destination abroad for retirees, thanks to its affordability and the availability of senior discounts, International Living found.
  • Factors to consider when choosing a home in a foreign country include the accessibility to health care, the cost of living and the community.
Star fish beach in Bocas Del Toro, Panama
John Crux Photography | Moment Open | Getty Images

If you're leaving the U.S. in search of a retirement paradise, be sure to look south.

That's because the top retirement haven for globe-trotting retirees is Panama, according to a new report from International Living.

Using its Annual Global Retirement Index and evaluating countries based on 13 categories, including the cost of living, retiree benefits and more, the travel website ranked its top destinations for retirees.

"There are three or four perennial favorites in the top, including Mexico and Panama," said Dan Prescher, senior editor at International Living.

"These places are just so logistically easy to get to, and they have established expat communities, so they're easy to settle into," he said.

Just be sure that you give your financial planner and accountant a ring before you board the plane. You should know how a move overseas could affect your taxes.

You should also be prepared to navigate the health-care system in the country you choose.

"Realize that the health care will be more available, affordable and personal than health care in the U.S.," said Prescher, who has lived in four Latin American countries. "But you may have to negotiate bureaucracy and you may have to learn the language."

Here are the top 5 locations to consider if you're retiring in 2019, according to International Living.


Panoramic view of a park in Panama City and older apartment buildings of the Old Quarter called Casco Viejo.
Instants | E+ | Getty Images

Come for the warm weather and stay for the retiree benefits.

This Central American nation took the top prize in 2019. Snowbirds will appreciate the fact that Panama City averages a balmy 89 degrees in January.

Seniors will also benefit from the country's Pensionado program, a visa available to individuals with lifetime pensions of over $1,000 a month, International Living found. The program offers retirees discounts on a variety of services, too.

A two-person household can expect to spend about $1,765 to $2,890 per month to live in Panama City, the travel site found.

Costa Rica

Tourist on a suspended bridge, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Matteo Colombo | Moment Open | Getty Images

Costa Rica took second place in International Living's list of best retirement destinations. It scored top marks in the "healthy lifestyle" category.

That's because Costa Ricans have a range of outdoor activities at their disposal, including fishing, horseback riding, diving and yoga.

Affordability is also another key area for this Central American country: A single person can live in Costa Rica on $1,400 to $1,700 a month, according to International Living.


San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.
Ferrantraite | Getty iamges

Mexico placed third among the countries ranked by International Living, taking high scores in the "benefits and discounts" and "entertainment and amenities" categories.

The travel website estimates that a retired couple can live comfortably on about $2,500 a month — and still enjoy dinners out and entertainment.

Health care is also affordable, with office visits running from $30 to $43, International Living found.


Garden cloister in Quito, Ecuador.
Steve Allen | Stockbyte | Getty Images

A couple can retire on less than $18,000 a year in Ecuador, International Living found.

The country also took top scores in "benefits and discounts" available to seniors.

Indeed, some of the benefits available to older residents include affordable health care and exemptions on certain taxes, International Living found.


Straits Quay and Quayside during sunrise, Tanjong Tokong, Penang, Malaysia
Jordan Lye | Moment | Getty Images

This Southeast Asian country garnered high scores in the "healthy lifestyle" and "health-care" categories, according to International Living's analysis.

A first-time visit with a doctor or specialist ranges from $15 to $65, while follow-up visits will cost $11 to $28, the travel site found. The country has a two-tier health-care system: One is run by the government and the other is private, according to International Living.

Retirees who seek the high-life — a condo overlooking the ocean on Penang, for instance — can live well on $2,500 a month, International Living found.

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