5 Best Countries for Americans to Live Abroad

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America, love it or leave it. But you can still love it and move for the savings. Here's a primer.

The following post comes from Nicholas Pell at partner site Mintlife.

It’s not for everyone, but some Americans prefer to live abroad, particularly as they reach retirement age. Retiring abroad can be a way to live in luxury on a budget, making it perfect for those on fixed incomes.

However, not all international destinations are created equally. If you’re looking to live in the lap of luxury on a modest income, these are the places you should be house hunting.

Non-economic considerations

Before choosing a country overseas to make your home, you need to consider factors other than the exchange rate. When selecting the right place for you, think about culture, language, crime rates, and political stability. Remember that you’re going to live there, possibly for years. This means a lot more planning goes in than simply having a vacation.

1. Ecuador

You might not be thinking “Ecuador” when looking for a retirement home, but you might want to. Not only is the cost of living low – common in Latin America – real estate is also very reasonably priced (more exotic).

International Living reports that a couple with a spartan lifestyle can get by on about $800 monthly, while those looking to live in the lap of luxury will be hard pressed to spend more than $1,500. It’s easy to get by with nothing but the Queen’s English and there are a number of benefits for retired people, such as discounted utilities, transportation, and entry to artistic and cultural events.

2. Mexico

South of the border is another place you likely hadn’t thought of retiring, but consider the following: Not only is real estate cheap, the weather is great and there’s a huge expatriate community. The largest is around Lake Chapala, where there are more than 80 interest groups for expats living in Mexico.

Perhaps the best part? You can just drive there. Load up your minivan, get yourself a place with hired help who speaks English, and start living the good life.

3. Malaysia

Malaysia isn’t just a place where you can retire on the cheap. The big cities also have all the amenities that Americans need when they decide to retire abroad.

Good cell phone coverage? Check. High-speed Internet? Of course. Quality, easily traversed roads? Yep.

Perhaps most attractive of all, Malaysia can be an easy place for Westerners to integrate. Malaysians are eager to practice their English, and American film is quite popular over there. The government has a program called My Second Home designed to encourage foreigners to retire in Malaysia, so take advantage.

4. New Zealand

Looking for a place to retire where you don’t have to learn a new language or try and decipher what people speaking English as a second language are trying to say? New Zealand might just be the place for you.

If you’ve ever seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you know just how beautiful New Zealand can be. The land of the Kiwis also appeals to the active health nut, and it’s one of the least-polluted countries in the world.

Got money to throw around? Split your time between the U.S. and New Zealand — it’s winter here when it’s summer there and vice versa.

5. Spain

Spain was the only country in Europe to be identified as a top place for expat retirees by International Living. Not only is it inexpensive, it also offers much in the way of cultural and artistic pursuits for the retired person looking to stay active. Art and architecture are literally everywhere, and you can score a top-notch, three-course meal for a $20 bill.

One word of caution: The European debt crisis could easily make this one of the worst places for expats to live. For the time being, however, you can get great food and a taste of international culture on a shoe-string budget.


Getting you, your family, and your stuff abroad can be a challenge. However, with the costs of living as cheap as they are in the above-listed countries, you might find it more prudent to sell the farm lock, stock, and barrel, purchasing new stuff when you get to your destination. Always investigate local immigration and visa laws to ensure that your stay is fully legal.

Then enjoy the benefits of living somewhere the dollar is still strong.

Stacy Johnson

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