4 Exciting World Cities You Can Afford to Retire In

By Damian Davila on 9 January 2015 2 comments

Hello pension, goodbye tension!

You've worked hard, so it makes perfect sense to reward yourself in your retirement years. For some people, the easiest way to afford a comfortable retirement is to jump on a plane and go abroad. (See also: This Is the Basic Intro to Having a Retirement Fund That Everyone Needs to Read)

Living better for less, having access to generous tax breaks, and enjoying beautiful locales and ideal weather conditions are some of the benefits of living abroad. Here are four international cities to consider retiring in.

1. Panama City, Panama

When considering retiring abroad, most people think that they have to travel halfway across the world to find the perfect spot. Panama City proves that this is not always the case. Located just a short two and half hour flight from Miami, Panama City has nonstop flight options from four other U.S. cities, such as Atlanta, Denver, Houston, and Newark. In fact, it's such a hot destination for retirees that the Denver flight started in December 2014 to accommodate more U.S. travelers.

Panama allows U.S. retirees with a Social Security pension of at least $1,000 per month to become permanent residents. Benefits from this visa program include 50% off entertainment (such as movies and sporting events), 25% off airline tickets, 15% off hospital bills, and 50% off closing costs for home loans. Once you qualify for Panama's "pensionado" visa program, you never have to renew your status.

2. Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca offers several advantages to U.S. retirees, including the fact that Ecuador's official currency is the U.S. dollar. This means that you don't have to worry about conversion rates and can have an easier time budgeting expenses.

Another major plus is Cuenca's low cost living. English-speaking retired couples in Cuenca report living comfortably for about $1,500 to $1,800 a month. Some publications report the average monthly rent around $300 to $400. Given the small size of the city, you don't need to buy a car. Traveling by taxi is about $2 to $3 per trip. Plus, retirees can get back the 12% value added tax on qualifying goods and services purchased in Ecuador.

The weather is also great. Cuenca is located in the sierra (highlands) region and maintains an average daytime temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This spring-like climate minimizes your need for air conditioning and heating, effectively reducing your electricity bill.

History and culture buffs love that Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site. Surrounded by Spanish colonial architecture, Cuenca offers rich intellectual and artistic experiences year round. Additionally, there are several opportunities for domestic travel. Ecuador has a very diverse geography and offers beaches (such as Salinas and Manglaralto), islands (the famous Galapagos Islands), rainforests, and much more.

3. Malaga, Spain

The ongoing economic woes of the European Union have made retiring in the Old World suddenly a more feasible prospect for American retirees. Spain stands out from other European nations because it offers affordable real estate that can compete with prices found in Latin America. For example, you can find a one-bedroom apartment in Malaga's historic center starting at $182,000. Or, you can rent a nice place for about $950 per month.

Besides its attractive real estate market and low cost of living, Malaga provides retirees a great balance between big city life and laidback charm. The city is chock-full of art installations and exhibitions — after all, the world-famous artist Picasso was born there. Malaga is also the gateway to the Costa del Sol (literally, the "Coast of the Sun"), which offers several beaches within driving distance.

Malaga's cuisine has Spanish, Jewish, and Arabic influences. This eclectic mix makes eating in Malaga a great experience for foodies. On long summer evenings, you can enjoy great food in outdoor restaurants well past midnight.

4. Penang Island, Malaysia

If your idea of retiring abroad involves exotic destinations, then Penang Island in Malaysia may be the right choice for you. Just like Panama, Malaysia offers a visa pension program (known as Malaysia My Second Home, renewable every five to 10 years) that offers several benefits, such as help for importing your car and household items for virtually nothing, transporting your pet, and hiring a live-in housekeeper.

English is the official second language of Malaysia, facilitating communication. There are plenty of English-speaking locals and the estimated expat population is above 40,000, according to expat organizations such as the American Association of Malaysia.

Hospital facilities in Malaysia have such an excellent reputation that "medical tourism" is a driving economic force. Retirees report that many doctors and dentists are trained in the U.S. or UK and that appointments cost as little as $11.

Retiring abroad isn't for everyone. It requires a love for adventure and a passion for the lifestyle of your retirement haven. Before making a permanent move overseas, consider spending at least three to six months visiting. If the benefits keep you charmed during that trial period, you can be confident you're making the right decision.

Are you planning to retire abroad? Where?

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Guest's picture

Yes I would love and some day will retire abroad... Ecuador would be nice since I have family there but all the areas seem to have nice draw.

Damian Davila's picture

Are you from Ecuador? I was born in Guayaquil but I left when I turn 20. I'm currently living in Hawaii.