With spiraling costs compelling more and more North Americans to retire overseas, retiring abroad has never been more attractive. But finding the right location among the myriad options available can be daunting. That’s what our Annual Global Retirement Index does. Using input from our team of correspondents on the ground all over the world, we combine real-world insights about climate, health care, cost of living, and much more to draw up a comprehensive list of the best bang-for-your buck retirement destinations on the planet. Keep in mind that, even though only 25 countries feature on our list, all of them are worth your attention. We selected them from among all the countries in the world for their qualities as retirement hot-spots, so even the lowest-ranked nation on our index is still very much an option worth considering.
The original Riviera (from the Italian word for “seashore”) sprang up in southern France and the bordering region of Italy. Upper-crust Brits, northern Europeans, and—later—well-heeled Americans flocked here for the beach resorts, casinos, and parties. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald had a villa here in the Jazz Age, although it’s said he was a horrible party guest. The term riviera has been adopted by regions all over the world, in places where the sun, surf, and vacation vibe live on. And when we hit the new-school rivieras in the developing world, expect to get a real bang for your real estate buck.
Carlos stares into the afternoon sky, scans the horizon, and glances at his cell phone to check for messages. Then, using his machete and with a few deft flicks of his wrist, he slices through the scrub. Brightly colored butterflies float on the breeze. Whenever they come close, Carlos gently brushes them away from us and away from any danger to them. Carlos, though hardly five feet tall, wears the wide smile common among Mayans. It’s contagious. He’s one of the most successful developers on the Riviera Maya but here in the scrub, he’s a world away from bustling Mexico City where he spends a lot of his time. In the Riviera Maya is where he’s at his happiest—not in any boardroom or first class airline seat.
Our tumble from a very nice, safe, and secure middle-class life began when my second heart attack struck in 2009—right in the middle of a global financial crisis. I lost my upper-level management position and the health insurance that came with it. Try as I might, I was unable to find a good job for the first time in my life. I was unemployed, uninsured, and recovering from a serious heart attack with ongoing medical expenses every week. I did what work I could find, but my earnings combined with those from my wife Diane’s job barely managed to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.
After living in fast-paced, high-pressure California and working in the aerospace industry, moving to Ajijic was exactly what the couple needed. “Life here is like it was in the U.S. in the 1950s—simple and laidback. The significantly slower pace of life is probably the biggest benefit of daily life here,” says Walter. “We eat better, we get more exercise, and our health has improved. “Most people can live here on their Social Security alone. We only dip into our savings to travel to see our family. Our home cost us less than 25% of the cost of a similar home in the Bay Area of California. Our property taxes are about $150 per year.
The enticing smell of bratwurst and gingerbread wafts through the city. Everywhere you’ll see stalls adorned with medieval regalia and in the old quarter you’ll find an old-fashioned carousel. Welcome to Nuremburg, home to Germany’s most famous Christmas market. It lasts until December 24. While northern Europe might be caked in snow throughout much of December, in the southern hemisphere summer is in full swing. Head Down Under to soak up some rays at Australia’s National Cherry Festival, which takes place from December 5 to 7 in the town of Young in New South Wales.
Oil prices have fallen hard this year. The same thing happened in the first half of last year due to soaring production. The reasons for the decline in price are fourfold. Last year, U.S. production rose to its highest levels since the 1990s. Furthermore, OPEC saw its production leap to a nearly two-year high in September, averaging 30.96 million bpd (barrels per day). Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has cut its global oil growth forecasts for 2015 as a result of second quarter consumption sliding to a 2.5-year low.
When you’re moving to Mexico, it helps to get the scoop on your new home city from expats who live there. They’ve already figured out which plumber is most reliable, which carpenter does the best work, and which market has the best produce and prices. They may also become your first friends in your new home. But where do you find the expats? There are lots of ways to seek them out. For instance, a useful first step is to search online before you ever leave for Mexico.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s most popular retirement haven, but it’s not the only one you’ll find in the Andean country. Thousands of expats have chosen from locations all over the country…Pacific coast beach towns, vibrant culture-filled cities, highland farm towns, and more. Ecuador harbors huge variety and whether you’re in search of adventure, planning to start a business, or just want to relax and watch the world go by, it’s got something to offer you.
“The developer here is in jail…” is something I heard a lot. It was alarming…but in a way, it was reassuring, too. Puerto Vallarta—one of Mexico’s most popular expat destinations— is home to an estimated 10,000 North Americans living here full-time. They chose Puerto Vallarta for good reasons. Puerto Vallarta sits at the foot of the grand Sierra Madre mountains that sweep down to the Bay of Banderas. It’s a warm and sunny spot with tropical beaches, fresh ocean breezes, and temperatures that average 73° F to 83° F all year.
No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free… But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go? You could spend half the year in your own cottage on the beach…work in the mornings and snorkel and relax in the afternoons.
The couple explored Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. As their trips were part of a search for a new home, it made sense to stay awhile and get beneath the surface of a place. Ellen explains, “Extended stays make sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the cost of moving about.” But after three years of having no permanent base, they realized that it was actually this roving retirement lifestyle that suited them.
We were sitting in a rustic beach bar in the small town of Puerto Morelos on Mexican’s Mayan Riviera sampling what the bartender promised was the best margarita in town. The temperature was about 85 F and the ever-present sea breeze was wafting in from the Caribbean. Shore birds were circling overhead in a cloudless blue sky.
Getting into retail without having to invest in stock is a great way to cut down on your initial investment and more quickly make a profit. And it can be very easy. Consignment shopping fits right into that mold. And, as a very American concept, there’s not a lot of competition for it in other parts of the world. If you’re gathering what others don’t want—and finding a market for it—you have a good business model for short-term or long-term retailing. Essentially, with a consignment store you offer a space for others to sell their items in exchange for a cut of the money when the product sells.
With more than a million expats estimated to live there, Mexico is far and away the most popular destination for North Americans looking to move abroad. But—with so many places to choose from—where in Mexico should you move? It’s a very large country, after all. Much depends, of course, on what you’re looking for.
Rodney Evans’ tale of wanderlust includes midnight buses through Tijuana, Mexico…traveling around Europe and the Americas, making friends and playing music. Along the way he taught English in Spain and elsewhere. If you like Europe and its history…its romance and culture…then where better to base yourself with a live-anywhere income like teaching English than Spain?
Douz, in south Tunisia, hosts the International Festival of the Sahara on October 1. Taking place at the gateway to the great desert, the event was founded as a camelracing festival in 1910. But you can expect horse races, poetry contests, and Bedouin weddings, as well.
To some folks, home is a place on a map or a house filled with memories and possessions. But for Ellen and Hank Barone, “home, it turns out, is something internal and portable. We’ve traveled to all 50 states and six continents and are curious and comfortable in the world,” says Ellen. “So in 2011, when we began looking for a new place to live—it wasn’t restricted to the U.S.”
No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free… But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go? You could spend half the year in your own cottage on the beach…work in the mornings and snorkel and relax in the afternoons. Maybe spend the other half of the year up in the mountains where it’s cool…and get paid while you’re at it…
The spread of the British Empire through trade, colonization, and conquest brought the English language to far-flung corners of the globe. But even as that empire declined and shrank, the language was left behind. And with English becoming the language of business and diplomacy, that influence is in no danger of going away.
I speak Spanish. I honed it in Spain. Living in Mexico as I do, though, I found things really took off when I learned a little Mexican. But wait, you say: Both Spain and Mexico speak Spanish.
Sarah Booth was only 23 when she bought her first vacation rental. It was a tiny studio in a ski resort village in Canada, but it was the beginning of a portfolio that now includes properties in Panama, Colombia, and Mexico…and an income that allows Sarah to enjoy a wonderful lifestyle from her home in Coronado, Panama. “Ultimately, my rentals have funded my lifestyle and my travels,” says Sarah. “I live for free and enjoy awesome rental yields.”
For most folks looking to move abroad, health care is a huge consideration. You want care at least as good as what you get at home…but preferably without that U.S.-sized price tag. But how can you judge which doctors and hospitals are good in another country? And, when you’re looking at a country as big as Mexico, how do you winnow down the choices?
While on our way to a serious shopping day at the infamous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, a large, ceramic, intricately-painted fish in the window of a gallery caught my eye. I drew my two travel companions inside for a quick look. And thus we entered into one of those unexpected experiences you have in the import-export craft business.
Argentina has welcomed its fair share of Italian immigrants down through the years. So it’s fitting that natives of the southern- Italian city of Naples will celebrate the tango with the Tanotango Festival from September 4 to 7. Theaters, bars, and streets across this ancient city will be packed with dancers, demonstrations, and music. Take a visit to the Cape Coast, Ghana, on September 6 to catch Oguaa Fetu Afahye, when local chiefs dressed in traditional garb lead a procession through the streets imploring the gods to keep the town healthy.
Romania acceded to the European Union back in 2007… just in time for the global financial crisis to bite it in the neck. GDP growth, which at a robust 6% to 7% during the previous few years had been among the highest on the continent, promptly collapsed. The economy contracted by a whopping 6.5% in 2009 and remained in the red the following year. It’s been in a state of tentative recovery ever since.
With the cost of living rising in the U.S., Walter and his wife Nancy began looking at their overseas options. Mexico and the tranquil lakeside town of Ajijic stood out after the couple’s first visit. “The fact that we could retire comfortably financially, afford to pay our own health care, and have sufficient funds to visit our children and grandchildren back in the U.S. was a major factor in deciding to make the move,” says Walter.
There are thousands of foreigners dotted about Guatemala quietly doing their thing. Lorenzo Gottschamer is one of them. “I was only supposed to be here for three days,” says Lorenzo. “Yet I’m still here over 30 years later.” Originally from Redwood River, California, the 68-year-old Lorenzo first decided to make the move overseas after an accident ended his career as a professional firefighter.
Whatever you dream about, come with that in mind. And dream big. Because at our Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference in Las Vegas, we’ll pinpoint for you on a map the places where you can turn your dream into reality…for a small fraction of what you’d pay at home.
“Won’t you miss your family and friends if you move overseas?” That’s a question we at IL get asked a lot, and the answer is… “Of course you will.” It’s something my husband Dan and I have experience of. We didn’t think about it too much when we moved to Ecuador back in 2001. With the exception of Dan’s mother, none of our family—my parents and our siblings—lived in the same city as we did.
When I made the decision I was going to retire in Latin America, I decided to learn the language. A brief stint living in Mexico in my early 30s with zero Spanish skills made me realize I was missing out on the full experience…and I didn’t want a repeat. After three years and four scouting trips to Latin American, I am thankful I took the time to learn.
I’m single. And you wouldn’t believe all the questions I get about living abroad on my own. “How do you do it?” people ask, as though there was some secret formula. And, yes, “What’s the secret?” is another question I get. In part I get so many questions because so many singles are thinking of moving abroad. And to them I have one short, sweet piece of advice: Just do it.
Mexico City is like a large European city with a tropical jungle twist. It’s also one of the largest cities in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from the cool, calm atmosphere that presides over the Roma Norte neighborhood where I am staying for a few nights. My life has a travel writer takes me to great places like this all the time. I’ve explored the bohemian cafes of Prague…the seductive beaches of Portugal…a seaside village in Turkey…and the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.
Do you have any regrets? That’s a question I often ask my friends who are living overseas. And I’d venture that 99.9 percent of the time I get the same answer. “I wish I’d done it sooner,” they say. “If I’d only known back then what I know now…”
If money were no object, what would your dream retirement look like? This fall, we’ll show you where you can easily make that dream your reality…for a lot less than you think. Your own cottage on a quiet beach…an apartment in a city vibrant with concerts and cafés…a mountain villa where the air is crisp…
Warm and sunny days…beautiful people lounging on the sand as surfers vie for choice waves… palm tree-lined boardwalks in picturesque beachside towns, dramatic craggy cliffs…the California coast has certainly captured the popular imagination. No wonder; it’s one of the most pleasant places in the world to live. But on the flip side, it also has some of the most expensive real estate in the world and a high cost of living.
When I tell people I import products from overseas and sell them back in the States for a profit, they immediately think one of two things…1. If they’re well-traveled, they think I’m going to places like Mexico and Ecuador and bringing back suitcases full of leather goods, handmade dolls, jewelry, and handicrafts.
Land in the Tulum area on the southern edge of Mexico’s Riviera Maya can be a strong opportunity…as long as it’s the right land. On my recent scouting trip I put boots on the ground at more than a dozen interesting communities (including some planned lot communities). As long-time readers of Real Estate Trend Alert know, Tulum is stunning. It’s home to some of the world’s finest white-powder beaches…backed by palm trees that rustle in the Caribbean breezes.
The crystal-clear emerald surf rolls gently onto the white sandy beach. Combined with the pungent salty air and gentle sea breeze, it’s nearly lulling me to sleep on my towel under one of the empty palapas on the oceanfront. Except for a local dog frolicking along the water, I’m the only one on this stretch of beach, as far as I can see. That’s not because I’m here in “low” season. The town of Progreso, Mexico, is on the Gulf of Mexico, and it hardly matters when you go to the beach. With a yearly average high temperature of 83 F and average low of 73 F, there are no bad beach days in this paradise.
I spend up to two weeks a month scouting out the best real estate opportunities for Pathfinder. It’s part of my job. And I enjoy every minute of it. Because I spend so much time on the road, I’m a huge fan of vacation rentals. I get more space than a hotel room and a lot more privacy. And I get to experience life as a local, buying groceries and eating at cafés and restaurants close by.