The World’s Best Places To Retire Overseas In 2014

This Just In: 2014 Retire Overseas Index

“There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
–Mark Twain

This week we reveal the results of our 2014 Retire Overseas Index, our annual survey that rates and ranks the 21 destinations worldwide we have identified as offering the best current options for the would-be retiree overseas.

As we remind you often, though, in fact, it’s impossible to name a single world’s best place to retire. There’s no such thing. It’s a matter of priorities and preferences. No place is perfect. The advantages we perceive in one place could be turnoffs for you, and things that make a particular place intolerable for you could be the very reasons we enjoy spending time there.

But that sounds like a cop-out, doesn’t it? We think so, too. That’s why for this Annual Retire Overseas Index we set aside the disclaimers and take firm stands. This place is better than that one for these reasons, we say in this once-a-year survey, and this place is best of all.

To produce this Retire Overseas Index, our editors spend months collecting data, crunching numbers, questioning statistics, arguing results, and defending favorites.

For each of the 21 locations featured, we count doctors, hospitals, miles of paved road, frequency and duration of power outages, international airports, road accidents, cellphone providers, inches of rainfall each year, sunny days per annum, theaters, museums, libraries, residency visa options, burglaries, the number of expats in residence, the percentage of the population that speaks English…

And on and on.

In all, we compile thousands of statistics related to the following 12 categories of consideration:

  • Climate
  • Cost of Living
  • Crime
  • English Spoken
  • Entertainment
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Existing Expat Community
  • Health Care
  • Infrastructure
  • Real Estate
  • Residency Options
  • Taxes

As Mr. Twain suggested long ago, though, statistics are a funny thing. Some pieces of data we’ve collected for each locale in our Index are straightforward enough—number of international airports, for example. Others less so. What’s a museum? How many books does a building need to house before it’s a library?

Some data points beg doubt. Who’s counting the expats in residence in each of these places? Or surveying the local population to confirm who does and who does not speak English…and at what level?

In a country like Belize, for example, with three paved highways (in this case, that was one statistic I could confirm from my own experience), there’s not a lot of room in the budget for polling and census taking. Coincidentally, I was in Cayo, Belize, as we finalized this year’s Index. Driving to meet a friend one day, we passed the Statistical Institute of Belize. It’s a single-room wooden shack that didn’t appear to have electricity.

For this survey each year, we start with recognized sources—including the CIA Factbook, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and, for example. Our team in our Panama City headquarters spends weeks plugging numbers thus collected into spreadsheets, then figuring averages and ranking results.

That work done, they present their findings to Lief and me. We call in reinforcements, sharing those early results with key correspondents around the globe.

“How can you say that the per-square-meter cost of an apartment is greater in Medellin, Colombia, than in the City Beaches of Panama,” wondered Overseas Property Alert Editor Lee Harrison after reviewing this year’s initial figures…

“Those expat population figures can’t be right,” Lief responded…

“It’s easier to establish residency in Thailand than these rankings indicate,” Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice pointed out, “and I’d say that the residency program offered by the Philippines is one of the best anywhere…”

“The City Beaches of Panama can’t finish that high in the rankings this year,” I commented. “The cost of living in the extended Panama City region has risen too much for that to make sense…”

And so on.

Full disclosure: When our personal experience differed from what the statistics suggested…we went with our personal experience.

“Next year, maybe we should short-cut the whole thing,” Managing Editor Kat Kalashian, who has directed and overseen this mammoth project, suggested when all was said and done. “Maybe we should forget the statistics and jump straight to our experience.”

We won’t go that far. The published, formal statistics, such as they are, provide a foundation and give us something to react to. We know we must start there, then overlay some judgment.

Bottom line, where did all that figuring and comparative analysis land us this year?

We’ve shared our hot-off-the-presses 2014 Retire Overseas Index first with subscribers to my Overseas Retirement Letter. It comprises our bumper August issue, in subscribers’ inboxes now.

Next, we’ll reveal the results to attendees at this week’s Retire Overseas Conference in Nashville. If you’re among the hundreds of readers preparing to meet us in Music City, watch your inbox for a special email from Conference Director Lauren Williamson containing a link to the complete 2014 Retire Overseas Index online, including fully detailed budgets for each of the 21 destinations featured.

In addition, of course, we intend to detail the survey results for you, too, dear reader.

Watch this space.

Kathleen Peddicord

French Course Online