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The Cheapest and Most Expensive Places to Retire in the World

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

February 16, 2021 — Last week on this Blog we posed the question, “How Much Is Enough for Retirement“. So when we came across this new study on the cheapest and most expensive places to retire from NetCredit, it seemed like the perfect follow-up.

As most retirees in the US or UK are figuring out, retiring in their own country means they are going to need over half a million dollars in the bank to do it comfortably. If that sounds unreasonable, then retiring abroad might be the next best option. NetCredit’s new study crunched the numbers to find out what it would cost to retire comfortably in (almost) every country around the world.

Key Findings
– The most expensive country in the world to retire is Bermuda, where you would need $1,065,697.
– Pakistan is the cheapest country to retire. You would need $182,018 to maintain the example lifestyle there.
– Fourteen years of retirement in the US would cost $601,489.63 according to the NetCredit metric: $40,917.66 per year or $2,841.50 per month.
– It found 125 countries where retirement is cheaper than in the US and only 13 that are more expensive.

The most expensive countries in the world for retirement are the usual suspects – countries known for the high cost of living. Overall in the world, the most expensive country is Bermuda, followed by two Asian economic powerhouses – Singapore and Hong Kong. Switzerland is the most expensive European country to retire in (4th overall), requiring an estimated pot of $842,000.

Elsewhere, Mexico ($257,000) followed by El Salvador are the most inexpensive places to retire in the North America. In South America, Columbia is the cheapest at $215,493 and Uruguay the most expensive at $351,480. Israel is the most expensive country for retirement in the Middle East – it would cost you $632,000 there.

Assumptions

Methodology

NetCredit’s calculations are based on the average American retirement age of 64 years and the average American life expectancy of 78.4 years. Calculations of monthly living costs were completed in USD using Numbeo based on the following assumptions:

  •  Members of your household = 1
  •  Eating lunch or dinner in restaurants = 15%, Choosing inexpensive restaurants = 70%
  •  Drinking coffee outside your home = moderate
  •  Going out = once per week
  •  Smoking = no, Alcoholic beverages = moderate
  •  At home, we are eating = Western
  •  Driving car = moderate, Taking taxi = no
  •  Public transport = 2 round trips weekly
  •  Sports memberships = all household members
  •  Vacation and travel = two per year
  •  Buying clothes and shoes = moderate
  •  Rent = Apartment (1 bedroom) in city center
  •  No children

Bottom line

For adventurous people who are facing a shortfall in their retirement savings, retiring abroad might be a good idea. A country like Mexico or somewhere in South America might provide a great lifestyle on a combination of Social Security and modest savings. But on the other hand, retiring abroad only for money is usually a terrible idea. Knowing the language, wanting to engage with the local culture, and being adventurous are much better harbingers of success for an expat retirement. Please feel free to share your Comments below.

Posted by Admin on February 15th, 2021

5 Comments »

  1. Absolutely agree with economics being a poor idea for why to retire to another country. Being terrible at learning another language is why I haven’t. If you can’t speak their language you will never fit in. Also, in my travels I see Americans living in gated communities that consist entirely of other Americans. No thanks. I can definitely say these are not the kind of people I want to hang out with.

    by Bob — February 17, 2021

  2. Bob – Exactly, I am with you. Why would anyone choose to move to a foreign country just to live cheaply with people of the same. If money is the only reason, then, if one looks carefully, there are many places in the US that one can live on almost any budget. And, you can still use your Medicare without traveling back to the States. Also, it is never as inexpensive to live in a foreign country as you may think.

    If one doesn’t speak the local language, then that adds another hardship when unexpected situations arise. If you are still bent on this lifestyle, then try renting a place with a kitchen for a month or two (not in a touristy hotel or area) and experience the locals. Shop in their markets and eat at local restaurants. If it works for you, then you might have a chance. Keep an open mind and respect local lifestyles and customs because you are the foreigner, not them.

    by Roland — February 17, 2021

  3. This advice could be very misleading. Retirement lifestyle should be based on income, not assets. What happens when you live longer than the average? As many people do. I use the raw data from Numbeo to assess cost of living in different places. I take my available capital value and assume a conservative five percent return on investment. Then add the value of my superannuation return and voila, that’s how much you have as an income. An example would be, you have one million to invest. That should generate an average return of fifty thousand dollars at five percent. Add superannuation income of thirty thousand. Total income of eighty thousand. My preferred option is to rent furnished properties wherever I go. I don’t need capital gain on owning properties, and the agony of buying and selling properties in some countries is daunting to say the least.

    by Peter Saunders — February 17, 2021

  4. There are many good points in the article and the above comments. I’d like to add two more.

    It’s easy to look at a study like this and assume you can retire to any of these countries, but you can’t just go live anywhere. After doing quite a bit of research on visa requirements for my book, I came up with only about 30 countries that offer either a retirement visa, or a visa that simply considers the amount of income you have. Most countries only offer a visa for work, study, or family reunification. You can get into a few others with a very substantial investment in property or a business.

    The other point is healthcare. This is one of the primary ways you might save money by living elsewhere. As you know, healthcare is ridiculously expensive in the US but much cheaper and of comparable quality in all other developed (and some developing) countries. But once you pass 65 and qualify for Medicare, this advantage shrinks.

    The bottom line is that you should only go live somewhere else if you believe that you will be truly happy living there. The culture shocks and bureaucratic hassles are considerable.

    Dave Hughes
    Author, The Quest for Retirement Utopia

    by Dave Hughes — February 20, 2021

  5. Having lived in both the Netherlands and Scotland – living abroad is not quite a daunting as it seems IF you truly want to be there! The language issue isn’t as bad as you think either – especially if you make an effort. Taking another language in a US classroom is the worst way to learn. Speaking to people and having to rely on that conversation to survive every day makes it much easier to pick up. Plus, there are usually classes available to help you get acclimated.

    Also – I am not sure if I’m reading the above information correctly. Does that mean we would have to have that much in savings to be able to move? Several countries, I’ve looked up, want a guaranteed ANNUAL income PER PERSON and/or you have to be able to bring a certain amount to deposit in a local bank. Most of that has been just out of reach for us but we’ve thought about it. I really enjoyed my time in Europe – you just have to understand that they may do things a little differently – sometimes WAY better than the US.

    by HEF — February 21, 2021

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