5 places to retire abroad comfortably

Global Citizen By Albert McKeon December 18, 2019

This article was created in partnership with Western Union.

Dreaming of retirement? Whether you’re 12 months or 12 years away from calling the workplace quits, have a little fun and consider spending retirement far from home.

If you retire abroad, you’re able to chase the pursuits, culture and cuisine of a land that has been foreign for most of your life without worrying about catching a plane back home. If you have your finances in order to enjoy a post-career life comfortably in the U.S., you should also be able to retire overseas.

The world is vast, but if you want to put down new international roots, here are five countries worth considering.

1. Canada

If you don’t want to venture too far from America, look due north to Canada. With vast territories and wildlife to its west, a sparkling city in Toronto and the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada feels like America in some ways but like a foreign land in others.

Canada can be a Catch-22 regarding costs. Housing and health care costs are generally lower than in the U.S. but, as U.S. News & World Report observes, almost everything else is more costly — from imported foods (from the U.S.) to sales taxes. To determine the top cities in the country to retire, Maclean’s magazine ranked Canadian cities by property tax as a percentage of income and family doctors per 100,000 people in a region. Toronto came out as the top pick.

2. Ecuador

This Latin American country makes many lists of best places to retire. The financial advice website Investopedia recently summarized why: Ecuador adopted the U.S. dollar as its currency, health care is solid and affordable and seniors are eligible for lower property taxes and 50% off public transportation, sporting events and even their electricity bills.

U.S. News & World Report points to the walkable city of Cuenca as a place to consider settling down. A couple could live there on a budget of less than $1,000 per month while enjoying its charming cobblestone streets and mild weather.

3. Ireland

The Emerald Isle is a country full of green vegetation, a pub (or two) in almost every town, lively music, standout theater, golf courses and lots of what the Irish call “craic,” the Gaelic term for “fun.” You’ll have enough time to explore any of Ireland’s hundreds of ancient castles or listen to traditional music in a cozy neighborhood pub.

While all is not as pretty as the landscape — Irish Central reports that petty and residential crime is more common than in the U.S., and Social Security payments are often taxable — medical cardholders receive nearly all health care for free, and non-cardholders qualify for free hospital care but have to pay for other services.

4. Malta

A Mediterranean island is what many picture when conjuring their wildest retirement dreams. Malta consists of five islands and is 100 miles south of Sicily, Italy. There’s a lot to see and you’ll have plenty of light to see it by — the country averages 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.

First and foremost, this Mediterranean island is widely considered an inexpensive place to retire. According to International Living, American expats can subsist in Malta for as little as $2,600 per month. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs about $800 per month, and basic grocery items such as bread typically cost around 35 cents. If you want to go out for dinner locally, a meal and glass of wine at a mid-range restaurant will run about $50 for two people.

5. Thailand

Known as the “Land of Smiles,” if you retire abroad in Thailand, you’ll have ample reason to be happy.

First, the cost of living in Thailand is 40% lower than in the U.S., according to Investopedia. You can rent a one-bedroom apartment in a city center for around $370 per month. The air might be humid, but there are plenty of tropical beaches to plunk a chair on. The country is also a plane-ride away from Japan and China. It’s worth noting that the country is home to a rising expat population that includes nearly 73,000 retirees, per the Thailand Migration Report 2019, and that Thai food in Thailand is spicier than its counterparts in the U.S.

How to handle finances when retiring abroad

Accessing your hard-earned retirement nest egg shouldn’t be a concern when abroad. ATM networks and money-sharing apps work globally, and Social Security checks can be directly deposited into bank accounts across the world.

Even if you’re having a grand time enjoying retirement abroad, there will be moments when you’ll need to connect with friends and family back home. You’ll want to make sure you have a fast, reliable way to send or receive money from overseas when needed. To prepare for those instances, consider downloading the Western Union® app so you’ll have the peace of mind and time to enjoy another great meal or that windsurfing class you dreamed of in the office every day.