Can a single woman safely retire overseas on $1200 a month?

Can A Single Woman Safely Retire Overseas On $1200 A Month?

Bonnie Hayman - IL Nicaragua Correspondent

Hi Sarah,

The answer to your question is a resounding yes! I moved to Nicaragua 8 and a half years ago alone, without knowing anyone here and it's the best decision I've made in my life! I don't have to worry about money anymore because it's so economical to live here, and $1200 a month for a single is very do-able. But beyond that, I'm living a dream retirement in Nicaragua that would never have been possible in the U.S. I have an ocean view home, lots of new friends, and so many activities that I might have to slow down, but not yet! When you live here, you can take water aerobics; marimba and/or dance lessons; all sorts of art classes.

You can "give back" and volunteer in one of many different volunteer opportunities. The weather is warm, there's no traffic to deal with, you don't have to keep up with the Joneses and can be the real you! Life is so fulfilling here that I feel like I'm 22 again. If you want the happiest retirement possible, I suggest you consider moving abroad. Attend one of IL's conferences to help pinpoint where you want to live...and then go! You'll be happier and healthier living abroad. (Also, consider Nicaragua - it's fabulous!)

Jason Holland - IL Roving Latin America Editor

Hi Sarah,

Costa Rica is, of course, one of the most popular spots for folks to retire abroad. Expat retirees have been coming down for more than three decades.

It's safe and stable in just about every region. You have warm temperatures year-round, with the coasts being more hot and humid (too much for some people but perfect for others) and the inland mountainous regions very temperate.

Many single women live in Costa Rica. You find plenty of active expat communities with all sorts of clubs, activities, parties, volunteer opportunities and more. And Costa Ricans are also very welcoming and you can easily integrate with your neighbors and soon be invited to local fiestas and celebrations.

Living on a budget of $1,200 is doable but a bit difficult. It would depend on where you live (touristy beach areas tend to be more expensive overall), how much your rent is, and what your lifestyle is. If you shop and eat out like a local, you can live cheaply. If you patronize the restaurants and shops geared to tourists full of imported items... you'll find yourself spending a lot of money.

But overall, Costa Rica is a great country to live in and thousands of North American expats call it home. To find out more about Costa Rica, you can get a ton of top-notch, free information here: Costa Rica

Wendy Dechambeau - IL Ecuador Highlands Correspondent

Hi Sarah,

I live in Ecuador and can tell you there are many single women happily and safely enjoying life here. It can absolutely be done for $1200/month, though if you prefer a more luxurious lifestyle your cost of living will go up. But with cheap and readily available public transportation, fresh produce available year round at low prices, and no need for air conditioning (in the highlands) or heating you can live on much less than in the U.S. or Canada.

I'm not sure what you mean by "good weather" but the mountain areas of Ecuador are renowned for their all year springlike climate. The coast is warmer of course, but if you leave on or near the beach you'll get refreshing ocean breezes to cool you down.

You might also consider Colombia. There are many areas of the country that are attracting expats including Medellin. Even though it's a large city there are many beautiful and safe neighborhoods throughout and it's a place that I wouldn't hesitate to live. In fact I visited a few months ago as a solo female traveler and I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable in the city. The great exchange rate between the Colombian peso and US Dollar makes it appealing as well and a single person could certainly get by on under $1200/month without worry.

Jessica Ramesch - IL Panama Editor

Hi Sarah,

Living on $1200 a month is possible in a great many locations…and the countries we cover in IL publications are home to plenty of single female expats of all ages, many of whom say they feel safer in their new hometowns than they did back home.

As IL’s Panama Editor I can tell you that the single biggest consideration will be whether or not you pay rent. If you are able to buy a home outright, then you can live on $1200 a month pretty much anywhere in Panama. If you need to factor in the cost of rent, then there are certain areas that may not work. Most expats in Panama City, Coronado, and Boquete live on at least $2,500 a month, with up to half of that going toward rent. However, there are plenty of towns like Volcan and Las Tablas where expats are living on as little as $1200 a month, with rents being as low as $300 to $400 a month.

As for nice weather, that’s really subjective. I love the weather at sea level in Panama. Daytime temperatures in Panama City, where I live, average about 88 F. Evenings are typically about ten degrees cooler. It’s very humid and that suits me and my skin type. The Azuero region is slightly drier. Mountain areas like Boquete and Volcan are five to ten degrees cooler. There really is something for everyone here.

With so many countries offering low living costs and nice climates, it’s important to make a list of other criteria important to you (for example currency, proximity to the US, language, etc) before narrowing it down and perhaps planning a visit to see how comfortable you feel on the ground. You’ll find plenty of free information on Panama at to help you in your search.

Best of luck,

IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch

Keith Hockton - IL Malaysia Correspondent

Hi Sarah,

You can certainly do that in Penang, Malaysia. There are a fair few single women here and there are organisations here, like the International Womens Organisation, who can happily give you information and point you in the right direction.It's a safe friendly place to live and you can rent places on the beach for $500 a month.

Let me know if you need any more information.



Steven Lepoidevin - IL Peru Correspondent

Hi Sarah,

If you decide to go ahead with this dream, you will be joining a growing number of single women retiring abroad. And the ones I have met are all having a great time!

Here in Northern Thailand, it would be more doable if you were able to purchase a small condo. With rent included in that monthly budget, it would be become a little more difficult but possible. Furnished studio condos can be found for less than $300 per month and monthly utility bills are small.

Living near the beaches in the south would be much more difficult. However, for less than $50 you can fly from Chiang Mai to many of these seaside resorts when the urge strikes.

One of the first things that strikes most single women that move here is how safe and comfortable they feel, even at night. i have been told many times to stress that to any single women thinking of retiring to this part of the world.

Here we have a vibrant expat community with many activities and festivals that take place throughout the year. These provide ample opportunity to get out and get involved with the community while making new long-lasting friendships.

With a monthly retirement income of $1200, you would need another $8000 deposited in a Thai bank account in order to obtain a retirement visa.

The best way to find out if it is doable and if you will like it is to make the leap and go for it. Do your homework, attend an IL conference if you can, pick a spot and go. After living abroad for the last ten years, I can assure you that you probably won't look back!