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.
People in huge numbers see themselves at a crossroads, says Jennifer Stevens, executive editor at International Living magazine, a monthly subscription-based publication that recently ranked their top 10 countries for overseas retirement for 2022.
“Going overseas can provide a path to that better-balanced, more affordable life folks are craving,” Stevens says.
Using statistics and on-the-scene journalists, International Living averages scores on these 10 areas important to retirees:
- Cost of living
- Health care
- Retiree benefits
- Visa/residence requirements
- Fitting in/entertainment
- Opportunity — even as a retiree, you might want to start a new career.
If you go, you won’t be alone. The Social Security Administration sent more than 441,000 benefit checks to retired workers in foreign countries as of December 2020, the latest month for which figures are available. That’s up from more than 333,000 sent 10 years earlier.
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 safety and COVID-19.
Here are International Living’s Top 10 rankings for 2022, its scores and what it and others say about the countries. Take a peek and see if any appeal to you.
Average index score: 74.6
If spectacular beaches, warm climate and friendly locals top your wish list, check out this Spanish-speaking country sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina on southern South America’s Atlantic coast where January and February are mid-summer months.
Freezing temperatures are almost unknown and clean drinking water is abundant in the country that’s about the size of Virginia and West Virginia combined, says the CIA’s World Factbook. Nearly half the population of 3.4 million lives in and around the capital of Montevideo.
Uruguay’s colonial heritage, strong economy and historic Italian influence give the country a European feel, says international travel publisher Live and Invest Overseas.
Outside of high import duties on cars, the cost of living runs less than in the U.S. but higher than other popular retiree destinations.
Average index score: 75.3
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 47.3 million is densest around Madrid, the capital, and Barcelona, the popular port city.
Parts of Spain offer luxury living on a Social Security budget.
Average index score: 75.7
This Mediterranean nation of three tiny islands south of Italy boasts plenty of sunshine amid architectural treasures left from the many cultures that once ruled the ancient shipping pitstop.
About 15% of the nation’s half-million residents are expats, says International Living. Its capital, Valletta, was the 2018 European Capital of Culture.
Dramatic cliffs, picturesque fishing harbors and vineyards of wine grapes abound. Food from bakeries, fishmongers and local cafes runs cheaper than in the U.S., says International Living, but you’ll pay a premium for sea-view homes.
As a British colony that gained independence in 1964, Malta lists English along with Maltese as the official languages.
Average index score: 78.3
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: 81.7
Showcasing 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 50 million is found mostly in the north and west of the country twice the size of Texas. With its easy residency requirements, you can enjoy seaside living, the friendly big city of Medellín or smaller mountain-nestled villages filled with Spanish colonial architecture.
Average index score: 83.1
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. Explore Incan and colonial architecture, hike in the Andes mountains or the rainforest, or hit the beach.
Average index score: 83.3
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.
Average index score: 83.8
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.
2. Costa Rica
Average index score: 85.1
You don’t have to be rich to retire comfortably in Costa Rica, which literally means “rich coast.”
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.
Average index score: 86.1
Best known for the canal connecting 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 to 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.