10 Countries That Are Cheap and Safe for Retirees

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How about an extended international vacation? That seems to be the choice for more and more Americans who are moving to other countries.

The Social Security Administration reports that more than a half-million people are receiving their retirement benefits outside the United States.

Among the many reasons to take this plunge are: adventure, friendlier tax laws, lower cost of living, less crime and a change of pace.

Investopedia has compiled a list of affordable countries that rank high for safety using this data:

  • Safety. Based on the 2018 Global Peace Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace, a nonprofit think tank, this index uses 23 qualitative and quantitative measurements to rank 163 nations for “peacefulness,” from the calmest (No. 1, Iceland) to the least-peaceful (No. 163, Syria.)
  • Affordability. Numbeo’s 2019 Cost of Living Index identifies affordable locations, ranking them by comparing their cost of living (including groceries, restaurants, transportation and utilities, but not housing) with costs in New York City. If a country’s score is 92.40, for example, its cost of living is 92.4% of NYC’s.

The following, in alphabetical order, are Investopedia’s choices for a cheap, safe retirement abroad.

Austria

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Peacefulness: No. 3

Cost of Living Index: 71.79

Austria’s government offers information on relocating, including permanent immigration and working.

Once you’re past the red tape, you can enjoy this land of tradition and culture. The country’s location in Europe — Austria shares borders with eight countries — can’t be beat.

Says the U.S. Embassy in Austria:

“Rents for unfurnished apartments in Vienna or other major cities and towns may vary between $700 and $3,000 up per month for a two-bedroom apartment with bathroom and kitchen (utilities not included).”

Australia

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Peacefulness: No. 13

Cost of Living Index: 72.08

Life in the land of kangaroos and koalas can be pricey in the big cities. Numbeo estimates life in Sydney, for example, to run just under $3,500 per month for a family of four, excluding rent.

Moving permanently to Australia became more complex in 2018, when the country abolished its Investor Retirement visa for self-funded retirees. But Expatra has a detailed breakdown with alternative approaches for retiring there.

Chile

Santiago, Chile
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Peacefulness: No. 28

Cost of Living Index: 47.73

Rent in this South American coastal nation is 60% lower than the average rent in the U.S., according to Numbeo.

With an unusual shape, Chile is nearly 2,700 miles long from its northern border with Peru to the tip of the South American continent but averages just 110 miles across. Chile has the world’s driest desert (Atacama Desert) and had the biggest earthquake on record — 9.5 on the Richter scale — in 1960.

Costa Rica

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Peacefulness: No. 40

Cost of Living Index: 50.89

A reliable pension or income stream is one requirement for getting a “pensionado visa” to retire to this Central American country, Investopedia says.

Spanish-speaking Costa Rica is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea on the east. A promoter of peace, it is home to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the University for Peace of the United Nations and the Earth Council, according to the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington, D.C.

Czech Republic

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Peacefulness: No. 7

Cost of Living Index: 45.12

This European nation is surrounded by Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, affording plenty of weekend travel opportunities. That may be one reason this land of many castles has become a top retirement destination.

ExpatFocus recommends consulting an international tax expert to determine your retirement income tax liability.

Malaysia

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Peacefulness: No. 35

Cost of Living Index: 39.38

This island nation in Southeast Asia is a popular destination for retirees and expats. Most people here speak English, eating out is cheap, you can buy property and expats can get 10-year multiple entry visas, according to International Living.

A one-bedroom apartment in George Town can be found for less than $200 and a meal for less than $2, Investopedia says.

Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal
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Peacefulness: No. 4

Cost of Living Index: 50.39

This Iberian Peninsula nation is a big draw for retirees from the U.S. and Europe. It has lots of beaches, sun and affordable housing, from cheaper villages to the much-pricier capital, Lisbon.

Expatica supplies an in-depth playbook on putting down stakes in Portugal, with information on residence permits, buying property and drawing money from your retirement plan or pension.

Slovenia

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Peacefulness: No. 11

Cost of Living Index: 52.51

In this country, at the crossroads of southeast and central Europe, renting a home is 60% cheaper than in the U.S., on average, according to Numbeo. The money saved can allow retirees to check out the many historical and cultural attractions.

The U.S. Embassy in Slovenia gives details on getting residence permits.

Spain

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Peacefulness: No. 30

Cost of Living Index: 54.70

Living in the land of flamenco and tapas requires prior authorization and a visa, according to the Spanish government.

Currently, life in Spain can be affordable for Americans because of the real estate downturn following the 2008 banking crash and the U.S. dollar’s relative strength against the euro.

Uruguay

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Peacefulness: No. 37

Cost of Living Index: 57.31

This South American nation’s climate, culture and lack of crime lure many American retirees, says Investopedia.

Uruguay’s cost of living is 22.5% lower than the U.S., not including rent, Numbeo says. But living here is not dirt cheap: Milk is nearly $3 a gallon, a pair of Levi’s can cost almost $80, and you can expect to pay more than $11 for an inexpensive restaurant meal.

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