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In these 10 countries, you could retire on just $100,000

Serah Louis
·13 min read
In these 10 countries, you could retire on just $100,000
In these 10 countries, you could retire on just $100,000

Living out your golden years near beautiful beaches in warm sunshine doesn't require a mountain of savings. In fact, you can retire to some countries with well under $100,000 in the bank.

We've looked at a wide range of data to find the places with the most affordable food, health care, rents and more. You’ll pay far less for your living costs, while enjoying many of the same — or better — amenities that you'd get by retiring in the U.S.

Ranked in no particular order, here are our picks for places where you could retire on less than $100,000. You'll find reasonable costs, friendly people, comfortable lifestyles, and views that are often spectacular.

1. Costa Rica

Majestic waterfall in the rainforest jungle of Costa Rica. Tropical hike.
Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock

You don’t need to spend much in retirement to enjoy this country’s gorgeous tropical beaches and lush rainforests.

And the natural beauty isn't all that Costa Rica has going for it. The country offers affordable health care and food, and rents can range from as little as $300 to $1,300 per month, depending on the amount of space and the location.

A couple could live out their golden years in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, for only $2,025 a month, or less than $25,000 a year, according to an estimate from International Living magazine.

You could pull that off with a combination of Social Security benefits and a modest annual withdrawal from your $100,000 savings.

How to retire to Costa Rica

You’ll need a monthly income of at least $1,000 to qualify for Costa Rica’s pensionado program for retirees.

Since the average Social Security payout for Americans is $1,523 a month in 2020, a U.S. retiree should meet the minimum without issue. Just make sure you renew your visa every two years.

You’ll also need to portion out some of your income for health care coverage, either through Caja, the government-run universal health care system, or the private market. Luckily, medical costs in Costa Rica are about a one-third to a one-fifth of what you’d pay in the U.S., depending on the treatment you require.

Having good life insurance is vital in retirement, too, so you won't leave a loved one struggling to get by if something happens to you. Use a site that helps you compare policies, and find the best option quickly.

2. Portugal

Porto, Portugal old town cityscape on the Douro River with traditional Rabelo boats.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Portugal’s medieval castles, fresh seafood and sandy beaches have drawn U.S. expats for years.

This sunny country ranks among the safest in the world, according to the annual Global Peace Index from the Institute for Economics and Peace, and it's currently International Living's top pick for Americans wanting to retire overseas.

A couple living in a suburban area outside Porto or Lisbon could live off an income of around $2,200 a month, or around $26,500 per year.

If you’d prefer to avoid all the tourists and choose one of Portugal’s smaller cities, you might manage on just $1,700 a month, says International Living.

How to retire to Portugal

Just a head’s up: You won’t be able to apply from home.

You’ll need to visit a consular office in Portugal to apply for a residence permit in the country. For the first five years, you’ll be living under a temporary residence permit, but after that you can apply for a permanent one.

When you apply for a long-term stay visa, Portugal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stipulates that you must have a minimum monthly income of at least 635 euros, (about $750 as of mid-October 2020), to demonstrate that you have the means to live in the country.

If credit card debt is keeping you from saving more for retirement, consider shrinking those balances by rolling them into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

3. Mexico

Mexico, Chichen Itza, Yucatn. Mayan pyramid of Kukulcan El Castillo at sunset
IR Stone / Shutterstock

It’s no wonder this country is one of the most popular retirement destinations for U.S. expatriates. Mexico’s vibrant culture, wonderful food, friendly people and amazing tourist attractions (don’t skip Chichén Itzá) can be just a drive away.

Plus, America's southern neighbor is so very affordable. Akumal, the "Land of the Turtles" just south of Cancun, boasts of beautiful blue waters, and can cost a couple as little as $2,240 a month if you budget wisely.

If you don’t mind some of the smaller towns farther from the coastline, a couple could retire with a maid, a car and private health insurance for about $1,890 a month, or $22,700 a year, according to International Living. And, you might keep your health insurance plan from home, since you’re so close to the border.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to set a good portion of your monthly budget aside for electricity. That could cost up to $50 a month — and even more if you require constant air conditioning to cope with the heat.

How to retire to Mexico

A basic visa will allow you to stay 180 days in the country, but to establish residency you'll have to visit an immigration office.

You’ll start with a temporary visa permit, which can allow you to live in Mexico up to four years. To qualify, you’ll need to show proof of employment or a pension (such as Social Security) providing you with at least $1,620 a month for a period of six months, or a year’s worth of savings of at least $27,000.

After the four years are up, you’ll need to apply for permanent residency. Applicants must demonstrate proof of income of $2,700 per month, or savings of $108,000.

Before you retire, you might beef up your savings by taking on a side gig that puts your talents to work. An online freelance marketplace can help you find someone eager to pay for your skills.

4. Morocco

Koutoubia Mosque minaret at medina quarter of Marrakesh, Morocco
Balate Dorin / Shutterstock

Morocco’s stunning architecture, delicious cuisine and jawdroppingly beautiful Sahara Desert landscapes have drawn tourists from all over the world.

The North African country also can be an ideal destination for U.S. retirees on a budget.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco, can go for around $450 a month, according to the living costs website Numbeo, and housing will be less expensive in less populated cities, like Rabat. Groceries are relatively cheap, but private health care is not as affordable.

The costs comparison site Expatistan estimates that a single person living in Morocco can get by on less than $1,000 a month, or $12,000 a year.

How to retire to Morocco

Any foreigner residing in Morocco for longer than 30 days needs to apply for a residency card, to be renewed each year.

After three years, you can apply for a residency permit that’s valid for up to 10 years, but keep in mind that the process can take two to four months, says Escape Artist, an expat informational site.

Morocco doesn’t offer any special residency options for retirees.

Investing is key for building up your retirement nest egg and getting to $100,000 — or beyond. One popular investing app lets you get started with as little as $1, and never charges commissions or trading fees.

5. Panama

Aerial View from Panama City in Panama.View to Casco Viejo and Panama Canal
Cris Young / Shutterstock

This transcontinental country is famous for its tropical jungles and modern, cosmopolitan cities.

It’s a tax haven for investors and a dream destination for retirees seeking affordable health care and a lower cost of living. Plus, Panama uses U.S. currency — an extra convenience for U.S. seniors.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the capital, Panama City, costs less than $1,000 a month, internet is just under $50 and groceries are relatively inexpensive, says Numbeo.

A couple could retire in Panama for between $1,765 to $2,890 a month ($21,200 to $34,700 a year), Interrnational Living estimates. A full-time maid would cost around $250 more. Living in Pedasi or other smaller town would cost a single person $1,391 to $2,209 per month.

How to retire to Panama

Panama’s pensionado program simply requires that you provide proof of a guaranteed income of at least $1,000 per month for life. A couple with a combined income of $1,000 also can qualify for this program.

If you don’t meet the minimum income requirement but earn at least $750 a month, you can purchase real estate in the country for at least $100,000, and still qualify for the retirement visa.

It not only provides permanent residency, but it also gets expats discounts of up to 50% off a wide variety of services, including medical care, travel, entertainment and restaurant meals.

One way to clear debt and build up your retirement fund is to refinance your mortgage, if you're a homeowner. Mortgage rates are the lowest in history, and a refi might easily save you hundreds of dollars a month.

6. Colombia

Skyline of Medellin from the Metro Cable station
doleesi / Shutterstock

Thanks to its lush, green jungles, snow-capped mountains and exquisite beaches, Colombia has quickly become a popular retirement destination for Americans.

Don’t miss the Feria de las Flores (flower festival) in August, hosted in Medellin, or the mud baths at El Totumo.

The low costs are a major attraction, too. A couple could retire in Medellin — the nation's second-largest city, near the Andes Mountains — for just $2,000 a month, or $24,000 per year. A nice meal for two could cost less than $20, and basic monthly utilities in Medellin can go for around $55.

Utility costs vary throughout Colombia, depending on where you live. Residents of lower-income neighborhoods typically pay less for water and electricity than those in higher-income areas.

How to retire to Colombia

Colombia’s pensionado retirement visa requires proof of monthly income of at least three times the minimum salary in Colombia, which is currently around $750 a month. A spouse can be included in your visa as a dependent.

You can apply for the visa online, or through a Colombian embassy or consulate in the U.S.

The visa will need to be renewed each year for the first five years. Then, you’re eligible for a resident visa, which can be renewed every five years.

You might put aside more money for your retirement with help from an app that rounds up your everyday purchases — so you can invest and grow your spare change.

7. Ecuador

Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands. Seals are sleeping on the beach. Beaches of the Galapagos Islands. Pacific Ocean. Seals in Ecuador. Animals of the Galapagos Islands.
FOTOGRIN / Shutterstock

This small beautiful country, just south of Colombia, is perhaps most famous for its gorgeous Galapagos Islands and other natural wonders. It has swiftly become a retiree hot spot — and not only for the views.

Any resident can join Ecuador’s "Social Security" health care system by paying premiums of less than $80 a month for a couple.

Residents ages 65 or older also get special benefits including discounted transportation costs and a monthly refund on sales taxes paid.

A couple living in a three-bedroom luxury apartment in the city of Cuenco with a weekly maid and health care through Ecuador's system could retire for $1,700 a month, or $20,400 a year, International Living estimates.

How to retire to Ecuador

Expats need to obtain a temporary residency visa first, to be allowed to reside in the country for longer than 90 days. The visa is valid for up to two years; after your first 21 months in Ecuador, you can apply for permanent residency.

Permanent visas have no expiration date, but you’ll be allowed to leave the country for a total of only 180 days during your first two years of residency.

To qualify for the pensioner’s visa, you’ll need to provide proof of permanent income of at least $800 a month, with an additional $100 for each dependent you bring along with you.

Would saving $100,000 for retirement be a stretch for you? Look for ways to put aside more money every month, maybe by shopping around to find a lower price on car insurance.

8. Peru

Llama standing at Machu Picchu overlook in Peru. In 2007 Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Don Mammoser / Shutterstock

Peru is home to many preserved archaeological marvels, including the spectacular Machu Picchu. It's also is one of the least expensive countries in South America.

While residents hoping to make a home in the capital city of Lima will likely find rent and real estate more costly, a retiree in Arequipa or Trujillo could get by with less than $2,000 a month, or $24,000 a year.

The food is delicious and fresh, and you can score a meal for two for around $12 in Arequipa, says Numbeo. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city averages about $250 a month.

How to retire to Peru

Americans applying for a Rentista Visa in Peru will need proof of income of at least $1,000 a month, with an additional $500 for each dependent.

You won’t be allowed to work in the country, or leave Peru for more than six months each year, but after three years you can obtain a permanent visa.

The permanent resident visa lets you reside in the country indefinitely; you’ll need to renew it every five years.

Need to save more for retirement? That often comes down to spending less right now. A free browser extension can cut your bills from online shopping by showing you the lowest price every time.

9. Malaysia

Kek Lok Si Temple on Penang island, Georgetown, Malaysia
Pelikh Alexey / Shutterstock

Say goodbye to snow and chilly winter temperatures when you’re retiring to this country in Southeast Asia. Malaysia’s sunny climate is interrupted only by heavy rains in its two monsoon seasons.

In Penang, an island just off the coast, a couple can rent a high-rise apartment with three to five bedrooms and a beautiful ocean view for around $750 to $1,000 a month, says International Living.

If you go for a less spacious option, not as close to the water, a couple could make it with as little as $1,700 a month, or $20,000 a year.

And, that budget that includes a maid for four hours a week, and dining out at local restaurants.

How to retire to Malaysia

Malaysia’s retirement visa — “Malaysia My Second Home,” or MM2H — offers 10-year residency to expats who are 50 or older.

To qualify for the MM2H, you’ll need to deposit $34,883 into a bank in Malaysia, or provide proof of a monthly income of at least $2,350 from Social Security or investments.

The visa will automatically renew after the first 10 years are up.

You might drum up more money for your retirement by shrinking the cost of your homeowners insurance, if you own a home. Compare rates from multiple insurers to see if you need to switch.

10. Egypt

Bedouin on camel near pyramids in desert
givaga / Shutterstock

Don't simply visit Egypt for the pyramids. Instead, stay and stretch your retirement savings by taking advantage of the country’s affordable housing and food costs.

You can get a one-bedroom apartment in Cairo for around $240 in monthly rent, while utilities will cost only around $34, Numbeo estimates. A single person living in Egypt will spend an average of about $750 a month, or $9,000 a year, on monthly expenses, according to Expatistan.

Egypt also is among a small number of countries where your Social Security is exempt from U.S. taxes.

How to retiree to Egypt

You’ll need a temporary residence visa if you’re planning on staying in the country for more than a month. This permit should allow you to reside in the country for one, three or five years, says Escape Artist.

You'll enter Egypt on a tourist visa, then report to a police station to apply for your temporary residence permit.

To qualify, you’ll need to provide documentation such as a valid passport and proof of financial means of residency.