Top Countries to Stretch a Retirement Dollar

'Life is good' in these out-of-the-way spots

401k, retirement, dollar, livingSunny beach on the Nicaraguan coast.

“Nicaragua saved my life,” says Bonnie Hayman, who relocated to the beach town of San Juan del Sur from San Diego, California. “I went from a no-retirement-ever scenario in the U.S. to living in an ocean-view home with no financial worries—just by moving here.”

“I was able to actually retire…and I can live here comfortably forever. I can eat out whenever I want, go sailing or fishing, or just lie in a hammock and read. Life here costs me about an eighth of what it did in San Diego. And it’s so much more peaceful.”

In the world’s best-value retirement destinations, baby boomers like Hayman report they can improve their quality of life, lower their stress levels, and live comfortably in safe, beautiful, warm-weather communities on a budget of less than $2,000 a month.

“No question, in the U.S. there exist wonderful cities and towns that provide a rich quality of life for retirees and don’t, perhaps, cost as much as many bigger cities do,” says Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living.

“However, even though these places may represent good value when compared to San Francisco or New York, those values pale in comparison to what you can get on the same budget in the right places overseas, where dollars stretch two, three, sometimes as much as 10-times further.

Beyond our borders in places as diverse as Nicaragua, Mexico, and Vietnam, for instance, retirees can live large on a Social Security income alone.

Prices are lower overseas for all kinds of things—from housing to food to medical care, according to an International Living report.

“I can’t believe the low cost of medical care, dental care, and prescriptions,” says Florida-native Diane Murray, who now lives in Cancun, Mexico. “The prescription costs are about one-third or less the cost in the States.”

“The medical care here is so inexpensive that we just pay out-of-pocket for prescriptions and regular appointments. My husband, Don and I both had some dental work done and saved about 70 percent over the costs in the States.”

In Puerto Vallarta, the low cost of living means Jack Bramy’s quality of life has improved immensely when compared to the way he lived in the U.S.

“I have a much better lifestyle here than I ever did in the San Francisco Bay Area. My rent alone, for a comparable apartment in San Francisco, would be around $4,000 a month. Here I spend under $2,000 per month—for everything.

“Life is good here. Lots of entertainment options. Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta are excellent. I go out often to the more upscale spots. The average meal, say a filet mignon steak, and a couple of martinis, runs under $25. I lease a two-bedroom fully furnished apartment a half a block from the beach in a desirable neighborhood for about $625 per month.”

Colombia is another of Latin America’s low-cost retirement hotspots with many cities offering first-world retirement living for significantly less than a comparable lifestyle would cost in the U.S.

Florida-native Aaron Brabham, lives in Medellín. He rents a 1,625-square-foot, three-story penthouse apartment in the trendy, tranquil Provenza area for less than $2,000 a month. The third floor has a guest bedroom and a deck, with a private Jacuzzi, that looks out over the city.

“The apartment came fully furnished, right down to the towels and silverware,” he says. “This apartment would rent for close to $10,000 a month in San Diego, California, or South Beach, Florida—and that’s if you could even find something like it.”

It’s not just rent that’s affordable. As Brabham explains, “I have had a chef prepare five gourmet meals per week. He did the shopping for the ingredients, came to my home to cook the meals, and cleaned up afterward. All this for about $50 per week,” he says. Keeping his home clean and tidy doesn’t break the bank, either. “I have a maid come twice a week, Brabham says. “She cleans, does the laundry and ironing, and runs any errands I ask, for only $15 per day.”

Peru is another of the least-expensive countries to retire to—and a place where residents needn’t compromise on comforts.

“My food is about 50-75 percent less than in the U.S. and I eat much healthier,” says expat and current Lima resident Karl Muse. “My cholesterol has dropped from over 200 to under 180…I eat much better for less money.”

Southeast Asia is another region that offers great value for money and a cost-of-living much lower than in the United States. San Diego-native Tom Richter lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“This country has made me feel 15 years younger, compared with living in the States,” says Richter. “I made the right decision coming here, and I know it.

“My check from Social Security comes to just over $1,000 per month. But in Phnom Penh that’s a sizable amount …What I like most is that there is a very local vibe that comes from people in Phnom Penh. Apart from being extremely friendly and happy to meet foreigners, it is just really cool to be able to go to the street corner in the morning to grab a fresh coconut and a newspaper, while shooting the breeze with some of the tuk-tuk drivers who speak good English.”

Pat Cox, originally from New Jersey and now living in retirement in Da Nang, Vietnam, says he recently bought a six-month membership at a gym for himself and his girlfriend and paid just $200 total.

“Back home, a gym membership would have cost over $300 per person. Everything is cheaper here.”

Liam Doyle is digital editor of International Living. It was this inquisitive nature that led him to study—and gain a degree in—journalism, followed by another in multimedia. It has also given him an insatiable urge to see the world. So far he has traveled to the U.S., Canada, Panama, and throughout Europe.

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