10 Best Places To Retire Abroad

Have you long dreamed of someday retiring to a quiet, sandy beach, or a lively city with friendly locals and deep historical roots? You can make that dream a reality – there’s a literal world of possibilities. Live your best expat life in a beautiful, affordable destination.

Retiring abroad can be a cost-effective option for your golden years, as many foreign countries have lower costs of living. It’s not as risky or unconventional as you might think. The U. S. Social Security Administration sent checks to nearly 700,000 retirees living abroad as of December 2019.

Each year International Living compiles its Annual Global Retirement Index and spotlights the best places to retire abroad based on factors such as housing, benefits and discounts, cost of living, health care, development, climate and more.

Here are the 10 best places to retire abroad in 2020, according to the latest index.

  1. Portugal – Portugal took the top spot as the best place to retire abroad thanks to its year-round pleasant weather, low cost of living and rich culture. Locals are also extremely welcoming to visitors and expats. And the gorgeous landscapes don’t hurt, either.
  2. Panama – The weather is warm and tropical in Panama, but it’s outside of the hurricane belt. The U.S. dollar is the local currency and many citizens speak English, so acclimating to your new surroundings is easier. The country’s Pensionado Program is known as one of the best retiree programs in the world, offering generous discounts to pension-holding retirees on expenses ranging from medical expenses to entertainment.
  3. Costa Rica – Costa Rica is also known as the “Switzerland of Central America” thanks to its neutrality, safety and stable banking system. The locals are warm and welcoming, living according to the Pura Vida lifestyle. There’s a rich outdoor culture with plenty of hiking, diving, fishing, yoga and other healthy activities. Plus, the country boasts a progressive government and is LGBTQ+ friendly.
  4. Mexico – Mexico stands out as a top retirement destination because of its low cost of living, national health care plan, vibrant culture and diverse landscapes. Whether you want to live along the coastline or in the midst of a bustling city, Mexico has something for virtually everyone.
  5. Colombia – As the second-most biodiverse country in the world, there’s an environment to suit just about anyone’s preference, from warm beaches to temperate mountain communities. Even big cities have a small town feel because of the friendly, welcoming locals. Cost of living varies depending on what part of the country you live in, but it’s generally quite affordable.
  6. Ecuador – Ecuador is home to all-around amazing weather, with varying climates depending on its region. The cost of living is highly affordable; local mercados sell high-quality produce at low prices, services like haircuts and pedicures cost only a few dollars and you can even hire household help for just $10 to $20 a day.
  7. Malaysia – Malaysia is home to hundreds of white, sandy beaches, as well as warm weather and plenty of outdoor actives. Living is very affordable, including health care costs. And because Malaysian law is based on the British system, you’ll find plenty of English speakers and signs.
  8. Spain – Thanks to Spain’s warm Mediterranean climate, the nation’s beach life and food options are above par. Transportation is also a breeze, with a vast rail and bus system, plus inexpensive ride-sharing options. There are plenty of expat beach communities where you can rely on English to get settled, though venturing out of these areas will require you to pick up a bit of Spanish.
  9. France – If vineyards and meadows are more your speed, consider retiring in France. Despite what you might think, the country is an affordable place to live. Home to amazing wine, cheese, freshly baked baguettes and other culinary delights, foodies will feel right at home. And with an excellent health care system, a thriving fashion scene and abundant culture, you shouldn’t ever feel isolated or bored.
  10. Vietnam – The nation ravaged by war several decades ago boasts an exceptionally low cost of living and one of the strongest economies in Asia. It’s home to both rapidly developing urban areas and ancient temples and tombs. Plus, the people are exceptionally friendly and English is widely spoken.

Growth of the Backyard Bungalow

Accessory dwelling units are popping up in more backyards, CNBC reports. These stand-alone housing units are either serving as rentals to generate extra income for homeowners or extra space for aging parents or adult children who move back home.

The growing interest in ADUs has sparked changes to local and state zoning rules to allow for more construction. Some communities are even pointing to ADUs as a solution for a lack of affordable housing. For example, the city of Portland, Ore., waived impact fees in 2010, making it significantly less expensive to build ADUs in the city. It also prompted construction to soar: The number of ADU permits rose from 86 in 2010 to 660 in 2018, accessorydwellings.org reports.

“ADU is still, for the most part, an affluent homeowner product, meaning you have to have cash on hand to take this on,” Steve Vallejos, CEO of Prefab ADU, told CNBC. His company’s most popular ADU model is a 288-square-foot home that costs about $105,000 to build. ADUs are “addressing financing, it’s addressing standardizing products within cities, and then also it’s creating partner relationships with contractors, architects, and even other builders,” Vallejos says. “There are many different scenarios that people look into based on income, lot size, different zoning rules – so we build ADUs that start at about 150 square feet going up to 1,200 square feet.”

Some homeowners view ADUs as a rental income generator. Some are even turning their ADUs into a retirement plan. Homeowner Lisa Puchalla of Washington, D.C., told CNBC that she and her husband can envision themselves retiring one day in their ADU. The District of Columbia is another city that recently relaxed its building codes to allow for more ADUs. The Puchallas have an ADU in the side yard of their home and rent the ADU out on a monthly basis. “I can definitely see us hanging out there, retiring and traveling, and then renting the main house,” she says.