When you’ve got years and years of your life spent working a 9 to 5 job, there were undoubtedly times you would have wished to finally lay down the labor cap and peacefully retire in peace and silence. Come to your retirement age, and you’re probably thinking about whether to stay in the comfort of your home or find a new place to live the rest of your life.
According to a study by Pew Research Center, 46 percent of older adults live with their partners, and 27 percent live alone. This puts into perspective how older adults can have the freedom of choosing a place to retire, either alone or with their partners.
However, choosing the best place to retire isn’t a simple matter of where. There are certain conditions—financial, cultural, and social—that you must consider before settling down in your new dream retirement city to ensure that the rest of your life is spent comfortably.
What to consider when choosing a place to retire
Whether you have racked up retirement savings, or relying on Social Security for your post-retirement plans, here are some factors to consider when choosing the best place to retire.
Cost of living
If retiring is the ultimate dream, you’re probably looking for places to retire comfortably and affordably. Even with retirement plans and benefits like Social Security and Medicare in place, these aren’t just as comparable as the salary you receive when you’re still working. For this reason, choosing a place where the cost of living is reasonable and within your desired spending range is crucial.
In perspective, housing is the most significant post-retirement expense people older than 65 face in the U.S., and those in retired households rack up $40,938 in average annual spending, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retiring in Asia, on the other hand, only costs you, at most, an average of $1,000 per month.
Health and burial insurance
The health and costs of holding a funeral can be very costly, no matter where you are. If you already have health and burial insurance, try to ensure that the place you’re settling down honors your health insurance and burial insurance to avoid unnecessary burdens for you and your family.
If you don’t have these, research the health and burial insurance policies that best suit your needs on your target destinations.
For some, city population matters when deciding a place to retire to. People who have lived in the busy metro may want to retire in a calm and silent place—away from the hustle and bustle of a vast population.
The world is full of a vast collection of different nationalities and cultures. Deciding to settle down and retire in an entirely different nation may pose some cultural challenges you must adapt to.
For example, suppose you are a U.S. citizen considering migrating and retiring to South Korea. In that case, you may need to learn many of the East Asian customs practiced by the people that are an essential part of their culture.
You may find retiring in a different state or country difficult if you have close ties with family members, like your children or siblings. It is essential to discuss with the family your retirement plans—most especially senior living options.
If your immediate family members are hesitant to be responsible for you as you age, it is essential to consider the existence of assisted living facilities when choosing your retirement place.
Best places to retire in 2024
If there’s anything better than retirement, it’s retiring within the vicinity of the stunning Alps and its gorgeous lakes and towns. At the forefront of the best retirement places is Switzerland.
Retiring in Switzerland requires older adults to be 55 or older to acquire Swiss residency, even as a non-EU citizen, subject to specific requirements like financial capacity, health and accident insurance, and strong connections to the country, like properties or frequent visits.
Residency duration for:
- EU citizens – five years, renewable
- Non-EU citizens – one year, renewable
When it comes to the cost of living, Switzerland may be off your top list of options, especially in Zurich, Geneva, and Bern. A retired couple’s living cost in Switzerland can average $4,000 a month. The cost of living in the Swiss nation can be very expensive.
What makes Switzerland an attractive place to retire in is that it has one of the world’s lowest tax rates and lower personal income tax and social contributions, with its highest federal income tax rate at only 11.5 percent.
Health and accident insurance is mandatory for all Swiss residents, so if you decide to retire in Switzerland, you may want to factor in health and accident insurance costs. Don’t fret, though, because Switzerland’s healthcare system and medical teams are some of the best in talent and efficiency, so you’ll most likely have no problem availing proper healthcare.
If you are considering Switzerland, try going to Zurich, Lugano, Bern, Winterthur, or Geneva.
Another attractive and reasonable country to retire in Europe is Portugal. With no extreme heat or extremely cold weather, staying in Portugal, with its magnificent beaches and coastlines, is the ultimate dream.
The cost of living in Portugal is definitely lower than in Switzerland and the U.S. In fact, living frugally in a small city with a budget of $1,000 per month is possible. However, if you stay in major cities like Lisbon, you may need more than $1,500 to $2,000 monthly.
Algarve region in the South of Portugal is the most popular retirement spot for residents and ex-pats. EU citizens can retire in Portugal by applying for residency in Portugal’s official immigration service office and enjoy all the things a local resident has once approved.
Meanwhile, non-EU citizens must apply for a temporary five-year residency permit at a consular office and eventually get permanent residency.
Portugal has a special residency process for U.S. citizens wherein you can first get a 120-day visa, then a one-year residence, then two-year permits, and then apply for permanent residency, subject to specific terms and requirements.
In terms of taxation, an NHR or non-habitual tax resident can avail of a discounted flat income tax rate as long as you are not a resident of Portugal in the last five years. International incomes by NHRs are tax-free for ten years, and local income is taxed at a flat rate of 20 percent.
When it comes to healthcare, Portugal definitely does not fall behind with its high standards, English-speaking medical staff, and a national healthcare system that covers most basic healthcare needs and accidents.
In terms of cost, Portugal’s healthcare system is way less expensive than the U.S. However, non-EU and U.S. citizens only get free healthcare once they become permanent residents.
Considered one of the least dangerous countries in the world, Norway offers a breathtaking mountainous residence for the rest of your retirement years.
Norway offers naturalization or permanent residency permits, subject to specific requirements. Even with proving your financial capacity to support yourself for your long-term stay, permanent residency requires you to speak Norwegian proficiently.
Norway has a higher cost of living than the U.S. and its other European counterparts, averaging 40 percent higher, excluding rental expenses.
Taxes in Norway are high too. However, foreigners who reside in Norway are only taxable on the income they earn in the country at a tax rate of 22 percent or based on progressive tax brackets. In contrast, residents are taxed for their income within and outside the country.
Despite high taxes in Norway, all these taxes go to the country’s residents, with their transportation and healthcare being some of the best in the world. Healthcare in Norway is free for citizens and permanent residents through a health card you can order online.
Jumping to another continent, Australia is another country where retirement is made easy and less costly than retiring in some U.S. states and EU countries.
Retiring in Australia requires you to:
- Apply for a standard retirement visa which is valid for four years (one must be over the age of 55 to qualify) as a temporary visa, renewable on a two-year rolling basis or;
- Apply for a permanent residency visa with stricter requirements, including possessing assets valued anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000, depending on which area of Australia you wish to retire to.
Renting is more prevalent in Australia than buying homes, and it is recommended that you only buy a home if you are staying for a long-time.
Public healthcare is available for citizens and permanent residents. However, you may want to get separate healthcare coverage for private care. Through Medicare, Australia’s health insurance scheme, citizens and residents can avail of the country’s hospital and medical services at low to no cost.
If retiring in Australia, consider exploring Tasmania, Queensland, and New South Wales as some of Australia’s best places to retire.
Heading to Southeast Asia, Thailand boasts an untouched history and culture preserved by the nation. It is an ideal retirement place for those looking for new adventures and experiences.
If you are retiring in Thailand, you can acquire a retirement visa (which is valid for one year and is renewable) by following the necessary steps and submitting the required documents that can include financial capacities like a Thai Bank Account containing at least THB 800,000 and a monthly pension of at least THB 65,000.
Thailand offers are relatively warm climate, with only summer and rainy seasons all year round. Foreigners retiring to Thailand who come from cooler temperatures may find it hard to adjust to the warm climate in this country all year long, but if you’re looking for tropical relaxation, then this place is for you.
In terms of culture, Thailand is rich in history—with temples and customs still being carried from generation to generation.
The cost of living is very cheap in Thailand. One can live comfortably with a little less than $1,000 a month and can even do $600 to $700 with frugal spending. A one-bedroom apartment can cost anywhere from $250 to $500 and even less with bargain deals.
On the downside, there is no public health insurance for permanent residents in Thailand, and to avail of decent healthcare, you may need to secure private health coverage in the country.
How does the U.S. fare on the retirement table?
The most comprehensive list of the best places to retire in the world includes primarily European countries, and the U.S. is rarely mentioned.
One primary reason is that healthcare is costly in the U.S., with no definite healthcare benefits in place if you don’t have private healthcare insurance. Assisted living can also be expensive, which is necessary, especially for older adults with no immediate family to take care of them.
Aside from costs, older adults who already live in the U.S. and who want to break out of a routine would much rather retire abroad, either to Europe with a slightly higher cost of living but excellent healthcare benefits, or to Asia with a lower cost of living and a shift in culture and climate.
Important things to know for the best places to retire abroad
If you’re not planning to stay in your home country, and are looking for other viable places to retire, here are some of the things you may want to consider:
- Cost of living
- Retirement visa process or permanent residency process
- How to receive your pension and social security from one country to your target country
- Tax rates and taxes applicable to foreign residents or tax treaties existing between your country and your country of destination
- Identify the healthcare coverage of a country and whether or not your existing healthcare insurance can be used or if you need local healthcare insurance.
- Currency exchange rates
- Assisted living options or senior homes
The world is full of beautiful places to visit and reside in. Older adults, especially those in retirement, crave a life of peace and relaxation—whether it be retiring in your home country with family and friends or finding a completely new destination to spend the rest of your retirement life.
There are many important factors to consider before deciding where to retire. Many countries have easy retirement visa processes, while others require you to submit heaps of data or renew your visa every few years. Your retirement income streams, pensions, and cost of living in your target country will also determine how comfortable you’ll be for the rest of your retirement years.