Top Six Retirement Havens On A Budget Of US$1,650 A Month
“I’ve been reading your letters for about six months, Kathleen, and I still don’t have a clue where to retire on my US$1,650 a month Social Security income. All your e-mails are jumbled and out-of-synch. Am I missing something? Please advise.”
Today, dear reader, I’ll be more direct.
With US$1,650 a month to spend on your retirement, look at:
- El Valle, Panama, my top pick for cool, mountain escape…
“We fell in love with El Valle the moment we set foot here,” writes Correspondent Lucy Culpepper. “We’d visited the usual spots in Panama: Panama City, Boquete, Vulcan Baru, and Santa Fe. But there was just something magical about this place, and we connected with it immediately.
“El Valle de Anton sits in a volcanic crater. That may conjure up a picture of cramped (even hazardous) living conditions with mountains towering over you in every direction. Not so El Valle…
“The crater floor, where the town is situated, is three by five miles wide, and was formed by a volcanic eruption some five million years ago. The vistas that truly take your breath away…”
“For a decade, I’d been observing this country from 30,000 feet, en route to yet another Latin American country, in search of the perfect paradise,” writes Correspondent Michael Paladin.
“Once on the ground in Antigua, Guatemala, I realized I’d finally found my new home. Two weeks later, with nothing but a few suitcases and my golf clubs, I set down roots in this charming country of volcanoes, vivacious people, and never-ending delights.
“Antigua’s nightlife and vibrant cultural scene runs smoothly alongside its quaint tile roofs, cobblestone streets, and various shades of pastel stucco exteriors. Dining al fresco at one of the city’s superb restaurants, there are moments in the afternoon or early evening that the light and air are reminiscent of Santorini.
“Purple and red bougainvillea branches overhang walls on every street. The city is a riot of textures and colors…
“Antigua has been described as one of the world’s best preserved colonial cities. In my opinion, it ranks above Havana, Cuba; Granada, Nicaragua; and Merida, Mexico. It’s also called ‘Land of Eternal Spring’…”
- Mendoza, Argentina, my top pick for the good life among the vines…
“‘Beyond my vineyard, I can see the towering, white-capped Andes. As I sip a glass of fabulous local wine, my cook is creating something in the kitchen that smells truly divine.’
“My friend can barely contain himself,” writes Correspondent Siri Lise Doub. “He has just relocated to the Mendoza region of Argentina. His reports are so tempting, I’m ready to jump on a plane and head down there right away.
“He goes on, practically gushing:
“‘My garden is bursting at the seams–though I don’t look after it. My gardener does. Honestly, it’s a feast for the eyes. The luscious grapes that hang from the vines around me are going to produce wine with my name on it. You’ve got to see this place to believe it.’
“He is so pampered here, he says, that he feels like a guest in his own home.
“Can all this beauty, service, and quality of life be affordable, too? Surprisingly, yes. Your gardener’s salary? US$100 a month. Grandchildren coming to visit? A full-time nanny costs US$400 a month; a full-time maid the same. A round of golf is US$4; a cup of coffee is 95 cents. A good table wine is US$2–a really good one, maybe US$5…”
- Languedoc, France, my top pick for the best of French country living (yes, on US$1,650 a month, you could afford to live here)…
“This part of France is colorful, eclectic, always changing, never following a formula, and very open to retirees,” writes Correspondent Lucy Culpepper. “The village dates from prehistoric times, but the main feel is medieval, with the church dominating the center and the tower of Le Donjon looking down from above.
“On my first visit, with every step around the village, I found more that appealed, from winding medieval passageways to the original public water source–called the Font Sucrée…”
- Hangzhou, China, my top pick for a life of beauty and peace in Asia that’s also ultra exotic and super cheap…
“Harmony, family life, exercise, good food…China, surprisingly, could be the perfect place to retire,” writes Correspondent Siri Lise Doub.
“First off, retirees here are extremely active in mind and body. Biking, walking, and early-morning exercising are all common for retirees. Secondly, retirees are considered an integral part of the community. You can go to just about any public park throughout China and see retirees practicing martial arts, hiking, sipping tea, and chatting. Community centers, chess clubs, and neighborhood associations, all revolve around retirees.
“Furthermore, living in Hangzhou will cost you about 50% less than it costs to live in the United States. The average annual income is less than CN¥10,247 (US$1,500); most college graduates make an average of CN¥40,988 (US$6,000) a year. If you live like the Chinese on rice and vegetables you can easily live on CN¥683 (US$100) or less a month…”
- The Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic, my top pick for the best of Caribbean beach life…
“The Dominican Republic is small,” writes Editorial Assistant Rebecca Tyre, “about twice the size of the state of New Hampshire, yet it offers an estimated 1,000 miles of pristine, white-sand beaches, most of them completely empty of people. Sure, in the resort areas, the beaches are filled with tourists, but walk just a few short miles away in either direction and you can find yourself completely alone on some of the most picturesque stretches of sand you will ever lay eyes on.
“Dominicans are extremely friendly and hospitable people. I know that sounds like a cliché, but they truly are warm and welcoming. I felt safe walking the streets of Las Terrenas, a town on the Samana Peninsula, at night, by myself. I believe it is increasingly difficult to get this feeling in many places around the globe. The Dominican Republic is still one place where you are not targeted because you are obviously a foreigner.
“I spent a lot of time driving around the country, which is one of the best ways to get to know a country. The landscape is breathtaking. From the big, tree-covered mountains in Los Haitises National Park to the green Caribbean Sea splashing on to the white sand along the miles of coastline, every turn in the road brings you an ever-more-awesome view.
“The cost of living is much less than in the United States or Europe. You could rent a comfortable one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the beach for about US$400 a month…”