The World’s Best Right Now

April 5, 2012, Medellin, Colombia: Here are the best places in the world today to live, retire, invest, and do business overseas

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

We've welcomed a great many new readers recently, so it seems a good time to regroup.

Looking at the world map from our live, retire, and invest overseas vantage point, here's what we see:

Perennial Bests

World's Top Retirement Haven: Panama

Yes, still, Panama. Panama City is no longer cheap, but elsewhere in the country sure can be. And, for such a little country, Panama serves up tremendous diversity, meaning you can find almost any retirement lifestyle you might be looking for, from cosmopolitan Panama City to Caribbean island hideaways, Pacific coast fishing villages, colonial cities, mountain towns, and expat enclaves.

In addition, Panama offers more than a dozen options for establishing residency, international-standard and very affordable health care, downright cheap health insurance (if you qualify), and the best infrastructure in the region. This country is safe, stable, and accessible...everything a retiree could be looking for. Plus it uses the U.S. dollar, meaning no currency exchange risk. Panama also qualifies as a tax haven, meaning it's possible to live and do business here without paying any local tax.

Downsides include the weather, the traffic, and the never-ending construction in Panama City (including, now, a new city metro system).

World's Most Affordable Retirement Haven: Ecuador

We don't rank Ecuador best retirement option overall, because it's less developed and more Third World than Panama. Also, technically, this country taxes residents on their worldwide income. (I say technically, because, though the law is on the books, it isn't currently enforced. But it could be...if the local tax collectors ever got around to it.)

All that said, Ecuador offers diverse and appealing lifestyle options, from big-city Quito to Andes mountain towns and (our favorite choice) colonial Cuenca, where a couple could retire very comfortably on less than US$1,000 per month.

Best Luxury Beach Retirement Choice: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

If your budget is a bit bigger, and you've dreamt your whole life of retiring to the Pacific coast, our perennial pick for luxury coastal retirement remains Puerto Vallarta. This stretch of Pacific coast offers the best of the Southern California lifestyle, supported by marinas, golf courses, international-standard shopping and dining, a charming old town center, and a growing expat base. Puerto Vallarta isn't a super-cheap choice but a best-lifestyle-for-the-cost choice. A couple could retire here and enjoy all the amenities and diversions on a budget of US$2,500 to US$3,000 per month, depending on your rental expense.

Best Caribbean Retirement Choice: Ambergris Caye, Belize

Quintessential Caribbean, established and growing expat community, and an affordable cost of living and of real estate, certainly compared with more developed Caribbean options.

Best Old World Retirement Choice: France

Not everyone is looking to retire to the tropics or the developing world. For the best of life on the Continent, look to southwestern France, where life can be as good as it gets and more affordable than you might think.

Best Place To Escape The World: Cayo, Belize

Back-to-basics, off the grid, and under the radar. This is the appeal of this beautiful frontier region of rivers, ruins, and rain forest.

World's Best Place To Start A Business: Panama

Again, as we've been reporting for the past five years at least, Panama has been and remains the best place in the world to base an international or Internet business. Set yourself up properly, and your business will pay no local tax (and, perhaps, depending on your situation, no tax, period).

Panama also offers a good pool of educated, English-speaking labor (evidenced by our own Panama City-based staff) and international-standard telecommunications and is a global travel hub. The country checks every box on the would-be entrepreneur's wish list.

Best Place To Open An Offshore Bank Account: Belize

You don't even need to travel to Belize to do it. This is one of the few places in the world where a non-resident can open a bank account from a distance. It's also one of the remaining jurisdictions that respects banking privacy (though we don't think this will last much longer). The process of opening an account is straightforward and relatively hassle-free, even if you're an American. Also important, Belize remains an under-the-radar choice. No one is paying much attention to what's going on with Belize banks (or Belize anything else). That has its advantages.

Emerging Bests

Top Property Investment Pick: Medellin, Colombia

We're not the only ones who've identified Colombia, specifically Medellin, as an emerging top investment haven. Legendary real estate investor Sam Zell says "Colombia is the next star of Latin America." His company has invested US$75 million and is looking to invest more.

We're not Sam Zell, but we've bought, too, for the yield (as well as personal use...Medellin is a great place to spend not only money but time right now).

Top Resort Investment Pick: Philippines

The Philippines offers many good resort rental investment options from Manila to Cebu to Boracay, and its appeal as a vacation destination for Asians, especially South Koreans, continues to expand, giving the Western investor diversification in currency and economics.

Top Currency Investment Opportunity: China

Correspondent Paul Terhorst says you should consider getting a piece of the yuan action...and he has an interesting strategy for how. Read more here.

Top Retirement Haven Of The Future: China

Correspondent Paul Terhorst, who has spent more than three decades perpetually retired, much of that time in Asia, also says that now is the best time in our lifetimes to see this part of the world...and that China, specifically, is emerging as one of the world's best retirement options. Paul tells you more here.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. We'll be discussing current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing in each of these destinations, along with more than a dozen others, live and in person, with the help of experts and expats with firsthand experience in each one, during our Retire Overseas Conference taking place in Scottsdale at the end of this month. Full details of the program we're planning are here.Continuing Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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