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15 best foreign countries for retirement: 2015

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Paying for retirement is a daunting prospect for many workers who are now approaching the end of their careers. Longer life spans, money lost in the stock market plunge and fears about the efficacy of Social Security are enough to make anyone nervous.

One way many are stretching their retirement dollars is by leaving the U.S. to spend the golden years in a place that is less expensive. There are obviously a lot of places, and selecting the right one is a challenge. Every January, we turn to International Living magazine’s Global Retirement Index to see which destinations top their list.

(For last year’s rankings, check out Top 15 Best Foreign Countries for Retirement: 2014.)

As in the past, the magazine used eight categories — real estate, special benefits, cost of living, fitting in, entertainment and amenities, health, retirement infrastructure and climate — as rated by their correspondents in 25 countries.

For the “special benefits” category, IL looked at discounts offered to foreign retirees. These can include breaks on property taxes, airfare and other items. For “fitting in,” factors like language and friendliness of locals toward expats was considered.

IL says it considered safety when deciding which countries to recommend, but that anyone deciding to move to a foreign country should do their own analysis of security concerns and take the appropriate steps.

One factor complicating any move to retire abroad is changes to tax laws. For a look at some of the problems, check out Retiring Abroad: Is Paradise Losing Its Luster?

For the record, the country at the bottom of this year’s list is Vietnam, with a rating of 67.3.

Check out our countdown of the Top 15 Best Foreign Countries for Retirement: 2015.

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15. New Zealand: 81

• Real Estate: 64

• Special Benefits: 72

• Cost of Living: 57

• Fitting In: 100

• Entertainment and Amenities: 100

• Health Care: 83

• Retirement Infrastructure: 91

• Climate: 83

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14. Nicaragua: 81.7

• Real Estate: 92

• Special Benefits: 70

• Cost of Living: 100

• Fitting In: 90

• Entertainment and Amenities: 75

• Health Care: 79

• Retirement Infrastructure: 68

• Climate: 80

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13. Belize: 81.9

• Real Estate: 83

• Special Benefits: 84

• Cost of Living: 92

• Fitting In: 100

• Entertainment and Amenities: 74

• Health Care: 80

• Retirement Infrastructure: 66

• Climate: 78

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12. Uruguay: 82

• Real Estate: 68

• Special Benefits: 70

• Cost of Living: 62

• Fitting In: 92

• Entertainment and Amenities: 97

• Health Care: 89

• Retirement Infrastructure: 90

• Climate: 86

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11. Italy: 82.9

• Real Estate: 73

• Special Benefits: 69

• Cost of Living: 82

• Fitting In: 84

• Entertainment and Amenities: 100

• Health Care: 83

• Retirement Infrastructure: 95

• Climate: 79

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10. Thailand: 84.6

• Real Estate: 76

• Special Benefits: 68

• Cost of Living: 92

• Fitting In: 94

• Entertainment and Amenities: 100

• Health Care: 89

• Retirement Infrastructure: 79

• Climate: 79

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9. Portugal: 84.8

• Real Estate: 79

• Special Benefits: 74

• Cost of Living: 90

• Fitting In: 86

• Entertainment and Amenities: 88

• Health Care: 81

• Retirement Infrastructure: 98

• Climate: 82

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8. Colombia: 85.4

• Real Estate: 84

• Special Benefits: 68

• Cost of Living: 90

• Fitting In: 82

• Entertainment and Amenities: 91

• Health Care: 88

• Retirement Infrastructure: 85

• Climate: 95

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6 (tie). Malta: 86.1

• Real Estate: 78

• Special Benefits: 84

• Cost of Living: 87

• Fitting In: 100

• Entertainment and Amenities: 78

• Health Care: 86

• Retirement Infrastructure: 93

• Climate: 82

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6 (tie). Spain: 86.1

• Real Estate: 84

• Special Benefits: 70

• Cost of Living: 89

• Fitting In: 84

• Entertainment and Amenities: 93

• Health Care: 87

• Retirement Infrastructure: 100

• Climate: 83

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5. Costa Rica: 86.6

• Real Estate: 84

• Special Benefits: 76

• Cost of Living: 90

• Fitting In: 97

• Entertainment and Amenities: 97

• Health Care: 89

• Retirement Infrastructure: 82

• Climate: 78

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4. Malaysia: 86.8

• Real Estate: 81

• Special Benefits: 66

• Cost of Living: 90

• Fitting In: 97

• Entertainment and Amenities: 96

• Health Care: 94

• Retirement Infrastructure: 95

• Climate: 76

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3. Mexico: 87.6

• Real Estate: 80

• Special Benefits: 80

• Cost of Living: 90

• Fitting In: 95

• Entertainment and Amenities: 97

• Health Care: 84

• Retirement Infrastructure: 85

• Climate: 89

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2. Panama: 90.6

• Real Estate: 80

• Special Benefits: 100

• Cost of Living: 91

• Fitting In: 97

• Entertainment and Amenities: 100

• Health Care: 89

• Retirement Infrastructure: 84

• Climate: 85

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1. Ecuador: 92.7

• Real Estate: 100

• Special Benefits: 96

• Cost of Living: 92

• Fitting In: 95

• Entertainment and Amenities: 98

• Health Care: 82

• Retirement Infrastructure: 78

• Climate: 100