Imagine a place where sunshine is ubiquitous, a high-quality lifestyle won’t cost the earth, and as a retiree, you’re treated like a VIP…you’ll get a red carpet welcome and be rewarded for your age and experience.
Places like this exist…and International Living has ranked the best of them in the Benefits and Discounts category of its just-released 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index, where the top three countries by this measure are Panama, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.
These special places actively attract expat retirees by offering benefits and discounts like tax breaks, lower-prices for services, and easy residency requirements.
Below you can read more about why these three countries have earned the top spot in our Index this year for their treatment of retirees…
3. Costa Rica
In third place, with 88 points out of 100, is Costa Rica, Central America’s retirement gem.
“Once you have acquired legal residency in Costa Rica, a number of discounted opportunities await,” says IL Costa Rica correspondent, Kathleen Evans.
“All of the national parks and some of the museums and attractions offer discounts for Costa Rican residents. It can be anywhere from 25% to 75% depending on the venue. At certain times of year, some of the national airlines also offer a “locals” rate for domestic flights within the country. You have to go to the Costa Rica version of the website in Spanish to book the ticket, not the tourist version. You will need your cedula (Costa Rican ID) when you check in to confirm the price.”
Costa Rica is a country where the older generation is treated with respect by custom. And things like head-of-line privileges at banks and government offices are inscribed in the law. But there is also a government program available to those age 65 or older that gives discounts on a variety of products and services.
With a Ciudadano de Oro, or Gold Citizen, card, you get free bus rides on local buses, as well as 5% to 50% discounts (although most are between 5% and 20%) on prescription and over-the-counter medication, groceries, eyeglasses, clothing, and more. The number of businesses offering discounts in the beach communities is limited but growing daily. To qualify, you must be a legal resident 65+ years old and up to date with your Caja (healthcare) payments.
“Even without residency, some expat community’s restaurants will offer a local night cash discount where food and drinks can be as much as 25% off regular prices,” says Kathleen.
“All of this adds up to some pretty incredible money-saving benefits.”
Ecuador, the Land of Eternal Spring, takes second place in this category with 95 points. Here, not only can you retire on little money, you can also live very well.
Although Ecuador does not have a specific incentive program for foreign residents, such as Panama’s pensionado program, it does offer significant benefits to all residents age 65 and older.
The best of the benefits for most expats in this category are discounted rates on international and domestic airline tickets. For foreign residents traveling to the U.K., Canada, or the West Coast of the U.S., savings can amount to thousands of dollars a year. To take advantage of the discount, international flights must originate in, and return to, Ecuador.
Other 65-and-older savings include:
- 50% reduction on public transportation, such as buses;
- 50% reductions on admission to sporting and cultural events, including movies;
- A reduction on utility bills (if you own your residence).
“I have never been happier than when I turned 65 and was able to take advantage of Ecuadorian benefits,” says Donna Stiteler, International Living’s Cuenca, Ecuador, correspondent.
“One of my favorite things is seniors don’t have to wait in long lines at banks, government offices, and grocery stores. If you’re a senior citizen, you can use the much shorter Preferencia line…so you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your retirement in Ecuador.”
Panama claims top ranking in the Benefits and Discounts category, scoring 96 points out of 100.
“One area where Panama excels for retirees is the benefits and discounts it offers,” says Jessica Ramesch, IL’s Panama Editor.
“The country’s famed Pensionado Program is one of the best retiree programs in the world today and it’s open to everyone. The program entitles pension-holding retirees to a long list of discounts…and I’m talking across the board.
Thanks to her Pensionado discounts, IL Chiriquí Correspondent Nanette Witmer lives the retirement she always wanted…on just $1,100 a month. She found what she was looking for in Panama—largely thanks to those special Pensionado discounts she receives.
“I went for a mid-week outing to the beach and asked for my Pensionado discount at the hotel. I was told the rack rate was $95, so I was charged $47.50 plus tax for an overnight stay. Not bad for an ocean-view room.”
Plus, says Nanette, she gets discounts on public transportation…and on domestic flights within the country, and even saves on international flights that originate in Panama. She gets 15% off services in hospitals and private clinics. Medical doctors’ fees are reduced by 20%. Dentists give a 15% discount. Prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines get a 10% discount.
“One of my favorite discounts is on my electric bill. When it’s hot and I put on the air conditioning, I don’t think about how much it is costing me because I get a hefty 25% discount on my monthly bill.”
The entertainment discounts are great too, Nanette says. “I get 50% off tickets to movies, theaters, and sporting events, so first-run movies that normally cost $3.50 set me back just $1.75 here in Panama.”