Cheap, Modern Health Care Makes This Country No. 1 for Retirees

This tropical nation is practically perfect for anyone open to leaving the U.S. in hopes of dramatically cutting costs.

Cheap, Modern Health Care Makes This Country No. 1 for Retirees Photo by Ruslan Guzov /

One nation located in Ibero-America tops the list of destinations for retirees.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Ibero-America — I hadn’t until I studied it in college — but you might want familiarize yourself with the region.

Nine of the top 10 countries in International Living’s latest Annual Global Retirement Index are located in that region. The one exception is Malaysia, which came in at No. 5.

Ibero-America is generally considered to comprise the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries and territories of the Americas. Many also include Spain and Portugal themselves as part of the region. “Ibero” refers to Europe’s Iberian peninsula, which is home to Spain and Portugal.

International Living’s retirement index dates back 26 years. This year, it’s a ranking of 25 countries based on an analysis of 12 factors:

  • Buying and investing
  • Renting
  • Benefits and discounts
  • Visas and residence
  • Cost of living
  • Fitting in
  • Entertainment and amenities
  • Health care
  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Development
  • Climate
  • Governance

Each of the 25 countries received a score for each of these categories as well as a “final score.” The countries were ranked based on their final scores, with the top 10 nations being:

  1. Costa Rica: Final score of 91.3
  2. Mexico: 91.2
  3. Panama: 91.1
  4. Ecuador: 88.3
  5. Malaysia: 87.7
  6. Colombia: 85.7
  7. Portugal: 85.5
  8. Nicaragua: 83.9
  9. Spain: 83.6
  10. Peru: 82.8

Ibero-American nations have featured prominently on similar rankings and analyses in recent years.

Eight of the top 10 countries — and all of the top five countries — on International Living’s 2017 retirement index were Ibero-American nations. Costa Rica was No. 4 last year.

Meanwhile, the publication Live and Invest Overseas has its own annual Overseas Retirement Index, which was dominated by cities in Portugal last year.

Considering Costa Rica

If you worry about covering health care costs in retirement — or even before then — you might want to consider moving to Costa Rica. Health care has a lot to do with why International Living ranked it as the No. 1 country for overseas retirement this year.

In the category of healthy lifestyle, the Spanish-speaking country in Central America earned a score of 100. In the health care category, it earned a 99. Those are the two highest scores Costa Rica earned in any of the 12 categories.

Get this: Costa Rica has no army. The nation abolished it in 1949, after a brief but bloody civil war traumatized the country, and put the money that would go to the military instead toward education and health care. The national health care system is open to residents from other nations, too — costing a couple $95 per month, on average.

International Living editor Jason Holland continues:

“Good modern healthcare coverage, plus traditional and herbal medicine, natural foods, including abundant fresh fruits and vegetables — you can grow your own, thanks to the fertile soil — and a more active lifestyle (it never gets cold, so you can exercise outdoors year-round) combine to help many expats feel healthier than they have in years. Some have even found relief from chronic conditions.”

So, what’s your take? Would you consider retiring to Costa Rica or another foreign country? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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