World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #1: Panama
What surprises me at this point about Panama is how this country manages to become more appealing all the time. This land of potential is realizing more of it every day thanks to new President Ricardo Martinelli. After only eight months in office, Martinelli has engineered more change than most leaders manage to accomplish over their entire terms. Martinelli’s approval rating is better than 90% as he pushes ahead with his flat tax proposal, his labor reforms, his zero-tolerance anti-corruption-in-politics campaign, his Panama City metro system, his new international airports, and on and on.
The Panamanian government recently issued US$1 billion in 10-year notes yielding 5.224%. The issuance coincided with S&P’s upgrade of Panama’s credit rating, which is now one level below investment grade. US$1 billion is a lot of money for a country this size, and Martinelli seems keen to make sure it is well-spent.
For the foreign expat, retiree, investor, and businessperson, all this translates to a great big Welcome! sign. Panama City is no longer super-cheap, but the rest of the country can be. If you haven’t looked closely yet at what Panama has to offer, I ask you now, what in the world could you be waiting for?
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #2: France
World’s best quality of life, world’s best health care, world’s best infrastructure, world’s most romantic city…France is a country that begs superlatives. Downsides are a draconian approach to taxation (so don’t become a legal resident); a cultural distaste for entrepreneurial activity (so don’t consider any business in this country that’d require local hires or a local shop front); and the currency exchange concern if your nest egg is denominated in U.S. dollars.
On the other hand, retirement in France can be more affordable than you might imagine, certainly when you consider the country beyond Paris. As a friend wrote from Buenos Aires recently, “Argentina has gotten expensive again. The South of France would be more affordable right now…”
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #3: Uruguay
The banking, residency, and tax advantages of Panama without the chaos or the construction dust. While Panama is running on over-drive right now, making sure the world realizes she’s open for business, Uruguay is, as always, content to sip her Maté from the sidelines. Uruguay is an ideal choice if you’re considering a move with children. On the other hand, retired way down south to not-so-accessible Uruguay, you might not get back home to North America to visit your grandchildren as often as you’d like. And, frankly, you might get bored.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #4: Dominican Republic
Easy foreign residency, a favorable approach to foreign taxation, and, right now, a down real estate market that has created great crisis buy opportunities. For this reason primarily, the DR is my top 2010 pick in the Caribbean. Also, there’s an interesting and welcoming expat community on this island, including an established French population.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #5: Argentina
Buenos Aires is the most cosmopolitan city in Latin America and the only city in Central or South America where you could enjoy a lifestyle that could be described as “luxury” according to a real-world definition of that word. With few exceptions, anything available in Paris (the world’s number-one deluxe destination) is available as well in Buenos Aires, at lesser cost and with a Latin edge, including five-star restaurants, nightclubs, comedy clubs, open-air cafes, world-class live theater and ballet, art galleries, museums, indoor shopping malls and outdoor antiques markets, European-style parks, plazas, and gardens, plus classic architecture of the kind found in but a handful of cities around the world. If you want to live a life filled with art and history, culture and interesting company, but you can’t afford Paris and its euro, look to Buenos Aires.
A basic budget for retirement in one of this eclectic city’s best neighborhoods could be as little as US$3,000 a month, with about half that given over to rent (and not including a maid). You could build out your luxury lifestyle budget from there.
Argentina also boasts Mendoza, one of the world’s top wine regions. Argentines enjoy great food, good vino, and interesting conversation, and, here, in the interior of this country, these things are the priorities of life.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #6: Malaysia
Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur is my top pick in Asia for living the very good life on a budget. K.L. is an affordable choice, but Malaysia outside its capital city is one of the cheapest retirement havens on earth right now.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #7: Chile
Beachfront, wine country, and First World services. Chile also boasts the lowest violent crime rate and the highest GDP per capita in Latin America. Such a high standard of living usually comes at a high cost, but not so in most of Chile. This country has not gotten the attention it deserves.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #8: Belize
Safe, stable, and English-speaking. Caribbean Belize isn’t as affordable as the Dominican Republic, but, inland, the Cayo (my favorite part of this country) can still be described as cheap. Belize in general is my top get-away-from-it-all, back-to-nature, retire-off-the-grid pick. It’s also one of the world’s top banking havens right now, a place where privacy still matters.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #9: Croatia
The cobalt blue of the Adriatic Sea off Istria’s coast is almost other-worldly. Onshore, the Istrian peninsula is a fairy-tale land of fortresses and bell towers that so attracted and impressed the Romans they invested in some of their best building here, including, for example, a large and largely intact coliseum at Pula where lions and Christians once entertained. Later, this region was ruled by the Venetians, who also left an architectural legacy. In Istria, both Nature and man have worked together over many centuries to create something very special, almost magical. In fact, the ancient Romans named it “Terra Magica.”
I defy you not to fall in love with this region, whose landscapes and way of life rival the best of Tuscany or the French and Italian rivieras, but this place is still undiscovered and therefore affordable. Renovation projects (centuries-old stone farmhouses on hillsides overlooking valleys of olive groves and vineyards) start at US$50,000.
World’s Top Overseas Retirement Haven #10: Vietnam
As a friend who knows this country well explains, “Vietnam is an emerging market that has only recently moved beyond the dark transition following the war. Now this country is changing almost daily. The population is youthful, and energy permeates everything. This is a land of beautiful beaches, cool mountain retreats, and cities seething with vitality. Many Westerners head to Vietnam and love it. Others complain about the hustle, the noise, and the lack of Western influence, particularly in the northern part of the country (Hanoi). On the other hand, the cost of living is temptingly low.”
About the author: Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of liveandinvestoverseas.com. A full-time expat herself, Peddicord lived in Ireland with her family for several years before relocating to Paris and, most recently, Panama, where she currently lives with her husband and son.
Note from the Editor: Retiring overseas is not a decision to be made lightly. If this life changing move is one that you are seriously considering undertaking, dreaming about or on the verge making the transition you may think you have thought of everything. Then again, you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of packing up and moving overseas to the point where you decide to stay put and give up on your dream of a better retirement.
Whatever your circumstances, Escape From America Magazine recommends that you buy the new book by Kathleen Peddicord, HOW TO RETIRE OVERSEAS: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad. Packed full of information, tips and encouragement this definitive guide will take you one step at a time to arrive at the retirement you deserve.
For more info about this and other HSP/Penguin Group titles please visit us on the web at: www.us.penguingroup.com/