With real estate prices and health care rising, and with interest rates on an upward spike as the U.S. economy gathers significant strength in 2017, retirees - and near-retirees - may wonder just how far their household dollar may stretch in retirement, especially here in the U.S.
One antidote is to do what 400,000 retirement-minded Americans are doing and find a comfortable, affordable landing spot overseas.
After all, Florida and Arizona aren't the only places on earth with plenty of warm sunshine, palm trees, good food and friendly people - they just happen to be among the most expensive retirement destinations.
Change that dynamic, passport in hand, by opting for one of the global locales to add some international luster to your golden years - straight from the mouths of ex-pats who live there.
Editors' pick: Originally published June 8.
This scenic jungle paradise has an undeserved reputation for gangland drugs and violence, but that rap is outdated and unfair to one of the most beautiful countries on earth. "Colombia offers a great climate, low cost of living (you could live comfortably on $1,000 a month), wonderful people, a stable and well-connected infrastructure," notes Peter Lombard. a business owner and resident of Colombia. "And the best part, it falls within the U.S. time zones."
Robert Glaze, a self-proclaimed "globophile" from Chicago, has owned a home in this scenic Mexican resort city located in the mountains of Central Mexico for 12 years. "It's the perfect place to retire," he says. Glaze says San Miguel de Allende has a great climate, culture, art, restaurants, music, volunteer opportunities and an amazing and interesting group of expats. "You can find great places to rent or buy at any price range, and you can afford housekeepers/cooks and the health care is very good," he says.
The "Red Dragon" may seem light years away geography-wise, if not culturally, yet it's actually an ex-pat's retirement dream landing spot, says Matthew Massee, a marketing specialist with a Salt Lake City, Ut. law firm. "I spent five years living in China and would definitely consider moving back someday when I retire," Massee says. Health care is ultra-affordable (he once spent a grand total of $15 in China for a specialist visit that included a cancer scan), and the quality of life is off the charts, he says. "Food is both high-quality and affordable -- a fresh basket of vegetables is under $1 -- and the climate is conducive to a comfortable retirement," Massee notes. "Southern China, especially, is a great place for elderly people because the winters are mild and the summers are hot. Consider it like Florida, only with a lower cost of living."
High in the uplands of Bali, Indonesia lies Ubud, one of the most scenic locales in the Far East - and a wonderful place to call home for U.S. ex-pats, notes Ryan Ver Berkmoes, an author and travel expert who has lived in the area on a part-time basis for "many, many years." "It's affordable - you can live a fairly lavish life there at a fraction of U.S. prices," Ver Berkmoes says. "Ubud also has a large U.S. ex-pat population, and many are artists and writers, professions -- as we know -- that don't often come with pensions and savings. As long as you live like a local, you can live comfortably." Berkmoes says the Balinese hold older people "in high regard" and that even retirees with very modest means can easily afford people to help with cooking, shopping, driving, cleaning, and gardening.
For a more metropolitan Mexican retirement experience, try the biggest city of them all - Mexico City. "It's a great place to retire for ex-pat urbanites who want the amazing culture, great food, and world-class art of a city while enjoying the low rents -- comparably -- and laid-back lifestyle of Mexico," says Lydia Carey, a travel writer, ex-pat, and author of the book Mexico City Streets: La Roma." As with most foreign bourses, it's best to try and learn the local language, but one million Americans can't be wrong - that's how many of made the move to Mexico in recent years.
The home of Usain Bolt - fastest man in the world - has many exciting prospects for ex-pats seeking a sun haven - with almost near-perfect weather all year round, notes Keisha Blair, a globe-trotter who spent a year on sabbatical in the country. "Unlike other top picks for retirement such as Mexico, Columbia and Nicaragua, Jamaica is an English-speaking country," Blair points out. "Structurally, the country has built up its broadband and transportation infrastructure with many new highways." You can live large, if you spend money like a local, says Blair. "During my sabbatical, I managed to pay off $40,000 in debt," she says. "The trick is living like a local and buying and eating mostly locally-produced food - which is extremely healthy and cost-effective." Blair says Jamaica's DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) - was voted the healthiest diet in 2015 and 2016 by U.S. News and World Report. "Plus, the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is also the best coffee in the world," Blair says.
Wedged between Guatemala to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Mexico to the north, Belize can be a forgotten destination spot for ex-pats - but that shouldn't be the case, says Andreas Johansson, who co-ordinates the moves of U.S. and Canadian retirees to Belize. An English-speaking country where the Belizean dollar closely aligns with the U.S. dollar, currency-wise, Belize is "an ideal choice" for retirees, Johansson says, as the country offers affordable property prices, "that are much lower" than the Caribbean islands. "Additionally, the country's QRP (Qualified Retired Person) Visa is relatively easy to obtain and is one of few pure retirement visas in the world," he adds. "Plus, Belize is still close to home - Miami is about two hours away and the Dallas/Houston area is less than three hours with daily flights."
Another option for U.S. ex-pats. Don't go south - go east across the Atlantic, to Germany, right in the middle of the European continent. "I've lived in Germany for the past 17 years, and I would highly recommend it as a place for Americans to retire," says Guy Arthur Canino, a Stuttgart resident and founder of the Guy Arthur School of English. "Germany offers great medical care and insurance is cheaper than in the U.S.," he adds. "Also, most people speak English so you won't be forced to learn another language right off the bat, and there are loads of Americans here so you have the chance to mingle with other Americans." You're also within easy driving distance of countries like Italy and France, so you always have the chance to see something new, Canino says.
Majorca, also known as Mallorca, is one of Spain's Balearic Islands located in the Mediterranean. The island is well-known for its lush beach resorts, island coves, and scenic limestone mountains. "It's an amazing place to retire," says Dale Janée, founder of the lifestyle and travel site SavvySpice.com. "The weather is warm, similar to the climate in Orange, County Calif., and the people are friendly, family orientated and the island is safe. Food is fresh, delicious and there are plenty of the world's most amazing beaches, plus culture, history, tennis courts and sight-seeing." Majorca is also very affordable and only a short 30-minute flight to Barcelona to go sightseeing on the mainland, she adds.
Just west of Spain lies Portugal, "one of the most desirable places to retire in the world," says Ian Wright, founder of MoverDB.com, an international moving comparison website. "You have lots of sun, great food, friendly locals and a very low cost of living," Wright says. "Plus, you're a short plane ride away from the rest of Europe." Overall consumer prices are approximately one-third lower in Portugal compared to the U.S., and you can buy a decent 1-2 bed apartment in Lisbon starting from around €60k (Euro - the current exchange rate is 1.117 USD / EUR.) "You can also fly from Lisbon to New York in around eight hours," Wright says.
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