Personal Finance

3 retiree havens where you can stretch your dollar the most

Key Points
  • Want to retire abroad? Don’t forget to research discount programs for older residents at your destination.
  • Panama’s pensionado program places it at the top of the list in terms of benefits and discounts, according to International Living.
Star fish beach in Bocas Del Toro, Panama
John Crux Photography | Moment Open | Getty Images

As you're scouting your dream retirement locale abroad, don't forget to ask about those senior discounts.

Retiree discount programs are available, for example, in a number of Central and South American countries. These programs offer senior citizens a range of perks, including affordable health care, reduced costs on travel and lower taxes.

There's a catch of course: Countries that offer these senior programs have requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify.

Generally, this means you may have to be a property owner or legal resident of that country (as opposed to just a part-time visitor) with a minimum level of income from a stable source — via a pension, for instance.

"Every country is going to be different, but in macro, countries want you to show that you won't be dependent on their largesse," said Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living.

"Be aware of these requirements before you buy your ticket and head out, or you may find that you'll have to come back," she said.

You should also hire a lawyer who is familiar with the visa and residency requirements of your destination country, Stevens said.

Here are the locales with the best senior discount programs, according to an analysis by International Living.


The historic architecture in the Casco Viejo area of Old Town Panama City, Panama.
L. Toshio Kishiyama | Moment | Getty Images

This Central American nation won the top spot in International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index, largely because of the special benefits it offers retirees.

The Panamanian pensionado program offers a 50 percent discount on entertainment costs and reduced rates on airline tickets and hotel stays, as well as lower prices on energy bills.

Though you don't need to own real estate in Panama in order to qualify, you do need to draw a pension of at least $1,000 each month. If you have a spouse or children under age 18, you'll need to have an additional $250 per month for each dependent.


The hidden beach in Marietas Islands, Puerto Vallarta. Mexico.
Ferrantraite | Getty Images

American retirees like Mexico because they can easily drop by for up to 180 days at a time on a tourist visa, said Stevens.

"There are a lot of people who go part time," she said. "It's close and you can stay for six months without going through any visa rigmarole."

Once you decide to become a legal resident, however, you become eligible for the same discounts Mexican retirees may access. That includes reduced prices on theater tickets and museums, as well as lower costs on medications.

Retirees hailing from the U.S. can apply for a temporary resident visa in Mexico and maintain it for up to four years.


Quito, Ecuador
Mike Matthews Photography | Getty Images

Retirees can apply for a pensioner visa in order to become residents, but they must show proof of income of at least $800 a month from a stable source, according to International Living.

Residents who are over age 65 can enjoy relatively affordable health care (compared to the U.S.), breaks on certain municipal and utility taxes, and steep discounts on transportation across the country.

More from Personal Finance
These red flags on your 2018 tax return may spark IRS interest
Failed to withhold enough in 2018? The IRS has a surprise for you
The new tax law has a bunch of changes. What you need to know

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.