Craving a touch of excitement when you leave the workplace for good?
Needing a place where retirement money will stretch a bit farther while still allowing you a piña colada on a sunny beach every now and then?
Or maybe you have a craving for some peace and quiet far away from the madding crowd, where you can paint landscapes or sketch ancient temples or even wander through jungles seeking strange species of animals or plants.
Well, look no further, because the kind folks at Live and Invest Overseas have come up with what they say are the 12 best countries in which to retire—if you’re determined not to stay in the good old U.S. of A.
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Among the amenities boasted by these locations are those sunny beaches, skiing, restaurants in which to laze away the hours over exotic cuisine, and places where you can tend your own olive trees.
Here’s a look at this delectable dozen.
1. Algarve, Portugal
Not only is Algarve the top finisher among choice ex-U.S. retirement spots, it’s won Live and Invest Overseas’ top spot for the third year in a row.
What makes it so attractive?
Lots of things, including the “low cost of living, low cost of real estate, great weather, established expat community, user-friendly and low-cost retiree residency program” and the ability to get along in English rather than have to polish up one’s foreign language skills.
That cost of living runs 30 percent lower than anywhere else on the European continent, and a weak euro coupled with low real estate costs mean “a retired couple could live here comfortably on a budget of as little as $1,500 per month.”
2. Cayo, Belize
Both Central American and Caribbean in flavor, Cayo also offers English speakers lots of incentives—although infrastructure isn’t one of them, since it’s “most kindly referred to as ‘developing,’” according to LIO.
But if you’ve a mind to run a post-retirement business, you can do it here tax free—or, on the other hand, you can wander the rivers and the rainforest.
Just bear in mind that if you want more than the basics, your otherwise-low cost of living will go up substantially—since anything not grown or produced locally will cost you big time.
3. Medellín, Colombia
Yes, you read that correctly. Formerly the haven of drug kingpins, Medellín has undergone a renaissance that’s resulted in the title of Most Innovative City in 2012 from no less an authority than The Wall Street Journal.
It boasts literary and artistic delights and excellent medical care in a climate that requires neither heating nor air conditioning—thus keeping utility costs down.
A favorable exchange rate means that “[i]t’s possible today to enjoy a luxury-level retirement … on even a modest retirement budget.”
4. Pau, France
Pau, in the Basque region, offers more than just ambiance.
With spectacular scenery, culture, and cuisine that are unique to the region, and France’s health care—according to the World Health Organization, the best in the world—Pau offers retirees low-cost living that still provides sunny beaches on the Atlantic, surfing (think Biarritz) and the chance to visit Paris without crossing either a continent or an ocean.
5. Abruzzo, Italy
Picture the open-air markets at which you buy locally produced wines and fresh foods—or the restaurants that will tempt you to try all sorts of local specialties.
Couple that with a low cost of living, beaches for sunbathing and mountains for skiing, and it’s hard to envision a more delightful place to spend one’s retirement years.
LIO estimates that, even including rent, a couple could retire here on $2,000 a month or less.
6. George Town, Malaysia
If you want to venture really far afield, consider George Town, the capital of Penang in Malaysia.
Kind immigration laws, combined with a culture that can offer you exposure to Chinese and Indian neighborhoods as well as Malaysian, in a city that began its life as a British colonial outpost some two centuries ago, can provide enough variety to satisfy even the most adventurous retiree.