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12 Best Foreign Cities for Retirement: 2016

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A modest retirement nest egg doesn’t necessarily mean one has to retire modestly.

A new list published by Live and Invest Overseas looks at where retirees can get the most bang for their buck.

And the stats show that more and more retirees will have less to begin with.

According to Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, many people ages 50 to 64 will likely not have enough retirement assets to maintain their standard of living when they reach their mid-sixties.

The same SCEPA research shows that 75% of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.

“Take your retirement global and you can maximize your quality-of-life return for every dollar spent,” writes Kathleen Peddicord, editor and publisher of Live and Invest Overseas.

Here are the magazine’s 12 best foreign cities for retirement:

Casco Viejo, Panama. 

12. City Beaches, Panama

According to Live and Invest Overseas, Panama has held the position of world’s best country for retirement for more than a dozen years.

“This former weekend retreat is evolving into a full-fledged retirement community with an established population of full-time foreign residents supported by a developed infrastructure, including good medical facilities,” Peddicord says.

One big advantage of Panama for retirees: Its currency is the U.S. dollar.

“[R]etirees with retirement incomes in U.S. dollars have no currency-exchange risk or worry,” Peddicord says.

In addition, medical care in Panama City is international-standard and affordable, and the country offers a gold-standard retiree residency visa program.

Coronado, which is about an hour outside Panama City, may offer the most developed, established, and fully appointed beach community in Panama, according to Peddicord.

While Coronado is an affordable place to live, it’s not as cheap as other top beach choices in this country.

“The trade-off is access,” Peddicord says. “The more affordable choices are also more distant from Panama City.”

Granada Square, Nicaragua.

11. Granada, Nicaragua

Granada is a Spanish-colonial city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.

“At the heart of this city, radiating from the central square, is a great variety of classic and charming Spanish-colonial homes with high ceilings, painted tiles, and private center courtyards,” writes Peddicord. “The best part is that you can own one for as little as $40,000.”

The city also has connections to the United States from the nearby international airport at Managua, which is a little less than an hour to the north. Miami is two hours away from the airport.

Granada qualifies as one of the world’s most affordable retirement locations, according to Live and Invest Overseas.

“A retired couple could live here comfortably on a budget of as little as $1,200 per month,” Peddicord writes. “And Nicaragua offers the world’s most affordable retiree residency visa program; you qualify with as little as $600 per month of retirement income.”

Puerto Vallarta skyline. 

10. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, is known for its beaches, water sports and nightlife scene, as well as an historic, cobblestoned city center.

While Mexico is “no longer a super-cheap option,” it is Live and Invest Overseas’ top pick for enjoying a luxury coastal lifestyle on a budget.

“Puerto Vallarta is more expensive than other places where you might consider living or retiring overseas, but in Puerto Vallarta that’s not the point,” Peddicord writes. “This isn’t developing-world living. This stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coastline has already been developed to a high level.”

Puerto Vallarta is home to more than 40,000 expats and foreign retirees, according to Live and Invest Overseas.

“You probably won’t be able to live well here on Social Security income alone; however, if your retirement budget is a bit bigger and you dream of retirement on the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta deserves your attention,” Peddicord says.

The Royal Pavilion in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

9. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, a city in mountainous northern Thailand that dates back to the 1200s, still retains its history in its Old City area, where remnants of walls, moats and hundreds of elaborate temples remain.

Thailand has one of the world’s lowest costs of living, according to Live and Invest Overseas. Chiang Mai’s modern infrastructure and abundance of Western amenities are also big pluses for foreign retirees.

The city also offers high-quality health care and health-related services – as well as job opportunities.

“Chiang Mai is a place where it can be possible for foreign retirees to find work if they’re interested in supplementing their retirement nest eggs or simply looking to become involved in their new community; many Westerners are employed in Chiang Mai in language schools, universities, medical facilities, and tourist-related industries,” Peddicord writes.

While it used to be possible to stay indefinitely in Thailand with a tourist visa – making visa runs to a neighboring country every month or so – a foreigner who wants to live in Thailand long term now needs a residency visa.

“No problem, as Thailand now offers several attractive residency visa options,” Peddicord writes.

Cuenca, Ecuador.

8. Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, a historic city, is known for its charming cobblestone streets, old-world cathedrals, colonial parks, urban rivers – and its low cost of living.

“Perhaps the biggest appeal of Cuenca is its cost of living, which is among the lowest in the Americas,” Peddicord writes. “Real estate prices, too, are rock bottom, if you’re interested in owning a home of your own in retirement. The health care is high quality, honest, and, like everything else here, inexpensive.”

However, Cuenca does not rank among Live and Invest Overseas’ top 5 picks for 2016.

“A soaring U.S. dollar makes other more fully appointed lifestyle options more affordable than they’ve been in many years and more affordable than Cuenca is today,” Peddicord writes.

She also says the infrastructure of Ecuador can’t compete with that in Portugal, Colombia, France or Italy, all of which make Live and Invest Overseas’ top 5 this year.

Las Terrenas beach in the Dominican Republic. 

7. Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Las Terrenas, a town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic, is known for its scenic landscapes, white sand beaches and clear waters.

According to Live and Invest Overseas, the Dominican Republic makes establishing residency easy, and even rewards foreign investors through incentives.

“Residents are eligible for local home financing, can import household goods and a car tax-free, and can qualify for citizenship (and thus a second passport),” Peddicord writes.

In addition, residents can and do work in Las Terrenas.

“Some expats own and operate gyms, hotels, boating and surfing schools, restaurants, boutiques,” Peddicord says. “Others capitalize on skills from previous lives and careers, skills that are often much needed and valued locally (pool building, architecture, mechanics, etc.). Others offer consulting services for overseas clients or run websites with overseas client bases. These enterprises often fully fund the expat’s local lifestyle.”

Costs in Las Terrenas have remained local, and by Peddicord’s estimations a couple could live on just $1,200 a month there.

Buying property in Las Terrenas also remains affordable. Its property market bubbled through 2008 then crashed, and prices remain low.

“You could buy a loft-style apartment, ready to move into, for less than $100,000, a townhouse in a gated community for less than $200,000, or a private villa for as little as $250,000,” Peddicord writes.

Wat Chayamangkalaram temple in George Town, Penang, Malaysia.

6. George Town, Malaysia

Live and Invest Overseas considers historic George Town, the capital of the state of Penang, a great place for the would-be expat and foreign retiree.

“Malaysian immigration laws are welcoming, including for retirees,” Peddicord writes. “For these reasons, thousands of foreigners, both working and retired, have settled in the area, creating a network of support for others who’d like to follow in their footsteps.”

The low cost of everything is a big part of George Town’s appeal; foreigners also pay the same prices as the locals.

“Unless you’re eating in an upscale restaurant, you can eat very well for about $3 per person,” Peddicord says.

In addition, health care is first-rate, public transportation is modern and efficient, and the tap water is safe to drink.

Navelli, a medieval town in Abruzzo, Italy.

5. Abruzzo, Italy

The sparsely populated Abruzzo is relatively unknown to foreign visitors, according to Peddicord.

Abruzzo, in central Italy, is located east of Rome on the Adriatic coast and is home to national parks, nature reserves, and medieval and Renaissance towns.

“Even though many parts of the area are only an hour’s drive from Rome, it clings onto its secret feel,” she says. “This region is one of Italy’s secret treasures. No over-crowding, no heavy industry, only castles, vineyards, and villages made of stone.”

This region of Italy is also one of Europe’s best bargains. Peddicord says a couple could retire here on as little as $2,000 per month or less, including rent.

Boulevard of Pyrenees in Pau, France.

4. Pau, France

France is recognized by the World Health Organization as having the world’s best health care.

“The retiree who has dreamt of France but who can’t afford Paris should consider Pau,” writes Peddicord.

Pau – in the region of Aquitaine within France’s Basque country – sits on the northern edge of the Pyrenees.

By Peddicord’s estimations, a couple could retire here on as little as $2,000 per month.

Peddicord describes the geography of the Basque region as “small steep valleys, rolling hills, towering mountains, meandering rivers, a wild coastline, forests and woodland, all crammed into about 31,000 square feet and all gloriously green and lush.”

According to Peddicord, the Basque people also have their own language, music, dance, sport, cuisine, flag and alphabet typeface.

Modern Square in Medellin, Colombia.

3. Medellín, Colombia

Medellín, which is the capital of Colombia’s mountainous Antioquia province, is known for its temperate weather, earning it the nickname the “City of Eternal Spring.”

Once drug- and crime-ridden, Medellín is now considered one of the world’s best places to retire.

“Medellín is not only no longer unsafe or unsavory, but it is establishing a name for itself as one of the world’s most progressive cities,” Peddicord writes.

The Wall Street Journal named Medellín the Most Innovative City in the world in 2012.

Medellín is now considered an industrial, economic and financial center for Colombia as well as an a literary and artistic one.

Thanks to the current exchange rate between the Colombian peso and the U.S. dollar, Medellín is a more affordable place to live and to purchase property than Cuenca, Ecuador (see No. 8), which Peddicord says had long been “recognized as one of the world’s most affordable retirement havens.”

Cahal Pech Ruins in Cayo, Belize.

2. Cayo, Belize

Cayo, a district in western Belize, is rich with pre-Columbian archaeological sites and ruins.

According to Live and Invest Overseas, Belize is one of the easiest places in the world to establish foreign residency, as well as a “banking and a tax haven.”

“You could live and run a business here tax-free,” writes Peddicord.

English is also the country’s official language, and the country is easily accessible from the U.S.

Because Belize is a small country, Peddicord describes most of the infrastructure as “developing.”

“The cost of living can be affordable, even low, but not if you want to live a more ‘developed world’ lifestyle that would mean buying lots of things not available or produced locally,” she says. “Anything imported comes at an inflated price.”

Carvoeiro beach in Algarve, Portugal.

1. Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve, which is Portugal’s southernmost region, is known for its sunny Mediterranean climate and its beach and golf resorts.

For the third year running, Algarve is Live and Invest Overseas’ pick for the world’s best place to retire. This is largely thanks to its low cost of living, low cost of real estate, great weather, established expat community, as well as a user-friendly and low-cost retiree residency program.

“In addition, you can get by speaking only English (thanks to the region’s strong historic and cultural links with England), and I’d say that the stunningly beautiful Algarve coast is one of the safest places on earth right now,” writes Peddicord.

Algarve is home to more than 100,000 resident foreign retirees. And, according to Live and Invest Overseas, its health care is international-standard.

The cost of living in Portugal is on average 30% lower than in any other country in Europe, according to Peddicord.

Because the affordable cost of living and real estate is compounded right now by a weak euro, Peddicord estimates a retired couple could live here comfortably on a budget of as little as $1,500 per month.

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