Some people retire early due to job uncertainty; others hope to work longer to make up for tapping retirement savings during pandemic-related job losses.
For some, going overseas might be the place to find a balanced and affordable life style for your golden years, according to International Living magazine, a monthly subscription-based publication that recently ranked its top countries for overseas retirement for 2024.
International Living averaged scores in these seven categories important to retirees:
- Cost of living
- Affinity rating (how easy it is to make friends and fit in)
- Health care
If you go overseas, you won’t be alone. The Social Security Administration sent more than 450,000 benefit checks to retired workers in foreign countries as of December 2022.
It’s important to note that if you’re planning to retire abroad in the near future, you need to check with the State Department for important advisories about health and safety.
Here are International Living’s top 10 rankings for 2024, its scores and what it and others say about the countries. Take a peek and see if any appeal to you.
Average index score for this country: 74.71
Category in which this country scored highest: Cost of living (98)
Showcasing areas of the Amazon rainforest, the Andes mountains and both Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea coastlines, Colombia is more naturally diverse than most any other place on Earth.
Colombia’s population of 49 million is found mostly in the north and west of the country, which is twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas. With its easy residency requirements, you can enjoy seaside living, the friendly big city of Medellin or smaller mountain-nestled villages filled with Spanish colonial architecture.
Average index score for this country: 74.85
Category in which this country scored highest: Development and governance (88)
Retirees can find life tres magnifique in France. Hundreds of museums and galleries, historic sites, cafe culture and revered cuisine may draw you to the romance of pricey Paris, home of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Arc de Triomphe. Or you can find a variety of lifestyles and living costs from small Provence villages to the French Riviera’s Mediterranean beaches, experts such as Live and Invest Overseas say.
Average index score for this country: 75.71
Category in which this country scored highest: Cost of living (96)
This country of 34 million is slightly larger than the U.S. state of New Mexico and enjoys a year-round tropical climate akin to Florida’s. Instead of hurricane season, though, take note of monsoon season — the months for which vary (either April-October or October-February) depending on where in the country you live.
Whether you settle for affordable urban living in the capital of Kuala Lumpur, island life in the expat hub of George Town or Singapore-adjacent Johor Bahru, you’ll find a delightful and welcoming people and a “world-renowned foodie haven,” says Live and Invest Overseas.
Average index score for this country: 77
Category in which this country scored highest: Affinity rating (86)
Greece, known for its ancient wonders and breathtaking vistas, is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Alabama. About 10.5 million people live here, many of them older — the median age is 46 and about 23% of the population are seniors.
Temperatures range from the upper 50s to the mid-90s, and many people speak English thanks to a robust tourism industry. The cost of living varies from island to island, “but about $1,500 a month should be enough for a couple to live comfortably in Mediterranean paradise,” says Live and Invest Overseas.
Average index score for this country: 77.42
Category in which this country scored highest: Cost of living (91)
Facing the Pacific Ocean and lying directly on the equator in the northwestern corner of South America, low-cost Ecuador offers T-shirt weather and sandy beaches year-round. You’ll find cooler climates as you move up into its mountains.
In an area slightly smaller than Nevada and with a population of 17 million, Ecuador uses the American dollar as its currency, the CIA World Factbook notes. You can explore Incan and colonial architecture, hike in the Andes mountains or the Amazon rainforest, or hit the beach.
Average index score for this country: 79.71
Category in which this country scored highest: Affinity rating (89)
With 300-plus days of sunshine and 3,000 miles of coastline along the cool Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Ocean to the north and the warm Mediterranean to the south, this Iberian Peninsula country in the southwest corner of Europe delights retirees from many lands, travel publishers say.
Spain’s diverse geography creates diverse climates, landscapes including beautiful mountains as well as sunny beaches, and enchanting culture-rich towns and cities worth exploring. Its population of 47 million is densest around Madrid, the capital, and the popular port city of Barcelona.
Parts of Spain offer luxury living on a Social Security budget.
Average index score for this country: 82.85
Category in which this country scored highest: Visas/benefits (98)
Best known for the canal that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific, Panama lures visitors with its natural splendor of coastal beaches, unique jungle plants and animals, and a tax-advantaged retiree program that includes discounts on a lifestyle already discounted compared with U.S. costs.
While Panama is slightly smaller than South Carolina, about half of its population of nearly 4 million clusters mainly around the capital, Panama City. Smaller cities attracting expats include Santa Fe in the highlands and the sleepy beach city Las Tablas.
The country uses U.S. currency, so there’s no worrying about exchange rates.
Average index score for this country: 83
Category in which this country scored highest: Visas/benefits (89)
With two coastlines boasting beautiful beaches, mild year-round temperatures and a budget-stretching cost of living, it’s no wonder our southern neighbor, Mexico, is already home to 1.6 million Americans.
About 130 million people live in the culturally and historically rich country nearly three times the size of Texas.
Top-notch affordable health care, zesty food-and-fun-filled festivals, proximity to the U.S. and easy residency requirements are all part of Mexico’s lure. That is true whether you are in expat havens like beachside Mazatlán or closer to the capital, Mexico City.
Average index score for this country: 83.28
Category in which this country scored highest: Development/governance (93)
Portugal offers lots of sunshine, plenty of beaches along its sliver of Europe’s coastline and relatively bargain-level prices, especially away from its big cities such as Lisbon, says Live and Invest Overseas.
Despite its medieval cobblestone appearance, Portugal is full of modern conveniences. English is commonly spoken in the Algarve region, where many European retirees live.
The country of 10 million is about the size of Virginia.
1. Costa Rica
Average index score for this country: 83.57
Category in which this country scored highest: Affinity rating (96)
You don’t have to be rich to retire comfortably in Costa Rica, which literally means “rich coast” in Spanish.
Although prices are rising along with the popularity of the Central American country of beaches, rainforests and mountains, you can still live there for less than in the U.S., especially away from its capital, San Jose. In 2021, Costa Rica passed a law that lowered the minimum investment for residency to $150,000, introduced 100% tax exemptions on imported vehicles and household goods and eliminated tax on money earned abroad.