The average Social Security payment doesn't go far in the US, but it could make a great life elsewhere.
Who doesn't love dreaming of a life in another country? Often the tendency is to write off those dreams as impossible, but they might be closer than you realize. Many of the places we idealize in our minds are more affordable to live than our home country. So much so, in fact, that it might even make sense to retire to a foreign country in order to make your savings stretch further.
MoneyWise compiled an interesting list of 20 countries where a couple could, in theory, retire with only $150,000 in savings. These are countries where the cost of living is low enough that the monthly Social Security payment that the average American received in 2018 -- $1,404 -- would be sufficient to rent a home, pay for food, get adequate health care, and live in safety.From that list, I've chosen the countries that surprised me the most. There are plenty of lists out there that describe great places to retire, but the same destinations pop up all the time, such as Mexico, Panama, Malaysia, and Ecuador. These, however, are different.
Dubbed "the new Tuscany," there is good reason why people are tripping over themselves to get to Croatia these days. It is gorgeous, with drastically different landscapes contained within a country the size of West Virginia. From mountains to beaches to Roman castles to islands, waterfalls and lakes, you can find it all within Croatia's borders. You need a temporary residency visa to start, but after five years you can apply for permanent residency. In addition:
"You’ll need various documents and a stated reason for wanting to live in Croatia. This can be related to an investment, a business, family, employment, study, or real estate rental or purchase. Having a yacht moored in a Croatian marina also qualifies as a reason for being granted a residency permit." (via International Living)
Italy might not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking of affordable retirement destinations, but if you get off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps, you might be surprised at what you can find. In the southern region of Basilicata, a home in a village goes for $32,000. Or, as MoneyWise writes, "In the eastern Puglia region, renowned for its sunny beaches and fresh seafood, the cost of living is even lower." Who could resist that temptation?
In order to get an elective residency visa, you have to prove an annual income of $35,000 as a single person or between $40,000 and $70,00 if you're two people. Health care is administered nationally and costs around $400/year.
People love Vietnam not only for its food, scenery, culture, and people, but also for the fact that it's so affordable. Even with limited money, the entire country is accessible. If you have a bit more money, you can live a life of luxury at a fraction of what it would cost to maintain the same standard of living in North America or Europe. Things cost about half of what they would back home, and anywhere from 5 to 25 percent of what they cost in other south Asian countries.
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the most expensive places to live, but a comfy middle-class life costs only around $1,100 per month, $500 if you're really pinching pennies. Outside those hot spots, though, life is even cheaper. Da Nang is a fast-growing city with a huge expat community, where $1,000 will get you a lovely house with utilities, a housekeeper, groceries, and meals out.
While it's not among the cheapest Latin American countries, Uruguay's appeal comes from its relative stability, low crime rates, gorgeous weather, and friendly people. Housing prices range from pricey in the capital city of Montevideo to only $800 per month in the smaller city of Salto. A seaside apartment in the fanciest beach town can go for $1,000 per month, whereas in a less popular spot it's only $500 for oceanfront.
Uruguay has a world-class medical system, and everyone is allowed to access it, even foreign residents. This makes it attractive to many retirees. Investopedia estimates that it's reasonable to live a pleasant, middle-class life on $2,000 per month in Uruguay.
If you retire in Ireland, you'll never have to worry about learning another language, only getting comfortable with the accent! Ireland can be affordable if you're outside of Dublin, and you'll be able to enjoy stunning scenery, rich history, and easy access to the rest of Europe. From MoneyWise:
"There are still plenty of perfect places for a lower-cost and low-key retirement on the Emerald Isle. In County Mayo, Roscommon or Monaghan, homes sell for under $100,000."
If you have an annual income of $58,000 and savings to buy a home or car, you should be able to apply for a visa that allows you to stay for three months. Then you can apply to stay as a "person of independent means."
Slovenia is a beautiful, mountainous country in eastern Europe. It is becoming a more popular tourist destination, as people discover its Mediterranean coast, snowy Alps, elaborate caves, and cobblestone streets. Most people speak some English, currency is the Euro, and medical services are good. Housing is affordable, with a one-bedroom apartment in the capital city of Ljubljana costing around $550/month.
Slovenia offers a year-long temporary residence visa for non-citizens. It would need to be renewed every year, but after five years you could apply for permanent residency. MoneyWise says, "To apply for temporary residency, you’d have to show you have an income at least equal to the basic minimal income in Slovenia, which is currently equivalent to about $1,000 per month."
Many people assume France would be too expensive to live, but as International Living points out, there are many towns and villages where it's easy to buy a house for under $160,000. Whether you prefer mountains and cool temperatures, or the warmth of the southern region with its proximity to the Mediterranean, don't overlook the possibilities in France!
You would need to apply for a temporary residence visa from a French consulate; this can be renewed for three years, at which point you can apply for a 10-year permanent residency card. You must also provide documentation that guarantees financial stability.
Want a real adventure? Consider moving to Thailand when you retire. All you need is $24,000 in savings and you have to report to the immigration office once every three months. The country is fairly stable, with a world-class medical system and modern amenities in cities. You can easily live on $1,500-$2,000 per month, including rent, and the food is very cheap, not to mention delicious.