5 places you can retire abroad on the cheap

  • By Sarah Max,
  • Barron's
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Retiring to a pied-à-terre on the coast of southern Europe might sound like an extravagant way to spend your golden years. But low costs of living, affordable health care, and residency programs not only make it feasible to put down roots overseas—for many people it’s a practical strategy to get the most out of their retirement dollars.

With that in mind, Live and Invest Overseas recently unveiled its annual index of top overseas destinations for retirement—based on affordability, residency options, health care, safety, and lifestyle, among other factors.

Leading the list is a perennial favorite, Algarve, Portugal. “It checks all the boxes,” says Kathleen Peddicord, founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. “It has great weather, beautiful beaches, superb health care, English is widely spoken, and it’s affordable.” Like many lesser-known places in Europe, she adds, the real estate market is relatively under-developed—and a strong U.S. dollar only sweetens the deal.

Every year, Peddicord—an American who splits her time between France and Panama—enlists dozens of expat contributors to nominate and vet spots around the world. They eventually cull the index to 21 global retirement destinations.

Here are five notable spots, on three different continents, that made the top 10.

1. Algarve, Portugal

Tucked on Portugal’s southwestern coast, this city of about 440,000 people is known for its sandy beaches, world-class golf, and stunning culture. It’s also been a highly-ranked retirement destination for six years straight. Thanks to a strong dollar and a relatively weak real estate market, retirees can snag a two-bedroom rental starting at about $700 a month—or buy a small flat for $150,000. Live and Invest Overseas estimates that a couple could live in the city for about $2,100 a month.

The area’s warm temperatures and Mediterranean cuisine are conducive to healthy living, and high-quality health care is accessible and affordable. The World Health Organization rank’s Portugal’s public health care as 12th in the world (versus 37th for the U.S.), and private health care in the country is also world class, Peddicord notes.

2. Canggu, Bali

A newcomer to this index—and ranked fourth overall—this coastal town of about 40,000 people (pronounced “changoo”) is known for its Buddhist temples, lush jungle, and surf sanctuaries. The country is also bargain. Live and Invest Overseas estimates that a couple could live comfortably in Bali for about $1,600 a month.

3. Città Sant’Angelo, Italy

This historic hamlet in Italy’s Abruzzo region oozes charm—and has real estate prices sitting around 30% to 70% less than property in Tuscany or Umbria. Couples who opt to rent can live in the region for about $1,700 a month.

While Italy’s food and wine needs no explanation, Abruzzo’s landscape deserves a mention. For beach lovers, there’s the Adriatic Sea. Outdoor aficionados can explore a plethora of nearby national parks and nature reserves. It’s away from it all, and yet easily accessible. Several low-cost carriers fly into nearby Pescara, and Rome is about a three-hour drive due west.

4. Cuenca, Ecuador

Coming in at seventh on this year’s index, this colonial city at the base of the Andes mountains has been a retirement hot spot for years. While the surrounding peaks and Tomebamba River paint an impressive scene, Cuenca’s picturesque central plaza is home to two stunning cathedrals, and a collection of cute cafes with inexpensive food. Live and Invest Overseas figures a couple can live well in the city for about $1,000 a month.

The city’s high elevation—8,200 feet above sea level—will require a little acclamation. But on the bright side, average temperatures range from a low of 50 degrees to a high of 70 degrees.

5. Da Lat, Vietnam

Da Lat, a city of about 400,000 people in Central Vietnam’s southern highlands, is a growing tourist destination and an ideal base camp for retirees. It’s known for its mild temperatures, a wonderland of recreational opportunities and French-inspired charm—hence the nickname Le Petit Paris. It’s also extremely inexpensive, making it possible for a couple to live on about $1,000 a month. “Dinner at a local restaurant might cost you a few dollars per person,” Peddicord says.

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