Your retirement income will determine what type of lifestyle you are able to lead. But how much more would your retirement income buy you if you were to retire overseas?
Your cost of living anywhere is highly controllable and depends not only on where you live, but also how you live. This means that choosing where to live isn’t as easy as picking a country. Life in Panama City is nothing like life in Las Tablas on this country’s Pacific coast or in Boquete in Panama‘s highlands. Living in Paris bears little resemblance, in terms of cost or almost anything else, to living in France‘s rural southwest. Ambergris Caye, Belize, isn’t Cayo, Belize. Chiang Mai, Thailand, isn’t Bangkok.
To decide whether you can afford to live in a specific overseas haven, you need to thin-slice your options. A budget for living in Uruguay, Malaysia, or Croatia is only a starting point. You need to refine your budget depending on the city or region within a country where you’re interested in settling. Some costs can be comparable countrywide, such as the cost of cable or phone service. Other costs, notably rent and transportation, which typically amount to the biggest share of overall monthly expenses living anywhere in the world, can differ dramatically.
It will cost you US$1,000 to US$1,500 to rent a nice two-bedroom apartment in a good neighborhood of Panama City. But you could rent a two-bedroom house within a few minutes’ walk of the beach on the Pacific coast near Las Tablas for US$300 to US$500 per month or a two-bedroom house on the Pacific coast of Panama’s Veraguas Province for US$150 per month. In other words, your cost of housing in Veraguas could be one-tenth your cost of housing in Panama City.
Likewise, expenses for food, entertainment, and travel vary dramatically from one region of a country to another. Your entertainment budget in Paris could be 10 times that of your entertainment budget living in a small French country town. Your weekly visit to the local farmer’s market in Loja, Ecuador, could yield you a cornucopia of interesting, healthy, tasty foods for, again, a fraction the cost of a trip to the supermarket in Quito. You can take the local Metrobus bus from one end of Panama City to the other for 25 cents or a taxi across town for US$10. The bus ride from Boquete to Panama City costs US$15.25, while the one-way plane fare is US$96.
It’s a balancing act between how you want to live and the standard of living your monthly retirement budget might afford you. To help you focus your attention geographically and determine where you could afford to retire overseas, here are cost guidelines for some of the world’s top retirement havens.
Retiring with less than US$1,000 per month. If you’re making your move on a strict and fixed budget of less than US$1,000 per month, focus your attention on the following destinations. In each of these places, you could enjoy a comfortable, interesting life even if your nest egg is very modest:
Nha Trang, Vietnam: US$660
Kuching, Malaysia: US$870
Dumaguete, Philippines: US$910
Chiang Mai, Thailand: US$920
Loja, Ecuador: US$1,000
Retiring with US$1,000 to US$2,000 per month. If your total monthly retirement budget amounts to US$1,000 to US$2,000, you could live in any of these destinations:
Granada, Nicaragua: US$1,040
Samana, Dominican Republic: US$1,155
Cayo, Belize: US$1,220
Algarve, Portugal: US$1,500
Pedasi, Panama: US$1,500
Buenos Aires, Argentina: US$1,510
Medellin, Colombia: US$1,530
Barcelona, Spain: US$1,725
Costa de Oro, Uruguay: US$1,800
Abruzzo, Italy: US$1,815
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: US$1,920
Pau, France: US$1,930
Retiring with more than US$2,000 per month. With a monthly retirement budget of more than US$2,000, you have many options that include the world’s most appealing places to call home. In addition to any of the places mentioned above, you could also consider:
Ambergris Caye, Belize: US$2,100
Istria, Croatia: US$2,150
Copper Coast, Ireland: US$2,150
Christchurch, New Zealand: US$2,700
Paris, France: US$4,000
Note that in every case, these budget amounts are examples. I don’t imagine (and you shouldn’t either) that it would cost you exactly US$1,815 per month to live in Abruzzo, Italy. Your cost of living in any of these places could vary dramatically from the figures I show here, but these budgets give you a starting point and a baseline.
Kathleen Peddicord is the publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, offering retirement and overseas living advice in her free daily Overseas Opportunity Letter and the monthly Overseas Retirement Letter. Her preceding essay originally appeared on US News & World Report.