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Here are the world’s best places to retire in 2021

Dhara Singh
·Reporter
·8 min read

As the pandemic disrupts retirement plans for millions of Americans, many may consider moving abroad for their golden years to capitalize on lower costs of living and cheaper housing, among other factors, according to a new ranking.

Countries ranging from Costa Rica to Vietnam made this year’s list of the world’s best places to retire from International Living, a lifestyle magazine on how to live overseas.

Read more: Where to live in retirement: A full breakdown

“Our choice of countries reflects a huge range of lifestyles and locations — they’re the places we think you’ll find the best combination of factors to suit your overseas retirement,” Jennifer Stevens, the magazine’s executive editor, told Yahoo Money. “We’ve got people on the ground in each of them, reporting facts and figures, and sharing their insights about the places they’re proud to call home.”

International Living used cost of living, housing, healthcare, retiree benefits, among other factors to calculate which countries rank best for retirement. (Graphic credit: David Foster)
International Living used cost of living, housing, healthcare, retiree benefits, among other factors to calculate which countries rank best for retirement. (Graphic credit: David Foster)

The magazine used 10 factors to help calculate which countries rank best for retirement. They are: cost of living, housing, healthcare, retiree benefits, visa/residence, fitting in/entertain, development, climate, governance, and opportunity. The rankings were determined based on statistics and real-time correspondence from journalists across the globe.

Read more: Working in retirement: Everything you need to know

The magazine purposely leaves the U.S. out of its ranking because the vast majority of its readers are Americans who are already familiar with life in the U.S.

“They know what they pay at home and how they’d characterize their own quality of life,” said Donal Lucey, an author at International Living. “So we don’t attempt to do that for them.”

Here are the top 10 places to retire this year.

#1 Costa Rica

Beautiful view of the San Lucas national park Church and ruins- in Costa Rica
Beautiful view of the San Lucas national park Church and ruins- in Costa Rica

Claiming first place, Costa Rica tops the list with a cumulative score of 85.2. The country, which claimed high scores across all 10 categories, has the top spot in healthcare. The country’s low cost of living, reflected by a score of 84, also makes it an enticing option for retirees.

“As expats Tom and Diane Brown — originally from Washington State — put it, speaking from their new home in Costa Rica’s Central Valley: ‘We live very comfortably on our two Social Security checks and my pension,’” Stevens said. “‘We can easily live on $3,000 a month here, including a gardener and a maid. We also put away $500 each month for travel.”

The country’s hospitality and people are also a motivating factor for retirees to settle down there.

“Perhaps the #1 best thing about Costa Rica is the people,” Casey Halloran, CEO of Namu Travel, a tourism brand group, told Yahoo Money. “They are just incredibly nice human beings, many speak English, and, in large part, they welcome foreigners.”

#2 Panama

Panama City Skyline on summer night
Second in line for the best country to retire is Panama, with a cumulative score of 85.2. (Source: Getty Creative)

Second in line for the best country to retire is Panama, with a cumulative score of 85.2. The country ranks first place for the visas/residence and benefits category, scoring 97 and 96, respectively.

“Among the reasons I’d recommend Panama is that it’s an ultra modern city with great shopping, affordable rents, and its dollarized, strong and stable economy,” Halloran said. “It also has affordable health care and Copa Airlines is a major hub that flies all over the world.”

#3 Mexico

Mexico holds the top score for the fitting in/entertain category. (Source: Getty Creative)
Mexico holds the top score for the fitting in/entertain category. (Source: Getty Creative)

The magazine ranked Mexico as its third-place winner, awarding a cumulative ranking of 83.5. The country holds the top score for the fitting in/entertain category.

Reading this list gives me wanderlust,” said Marguerita Cheng, co-founder of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, a financial advisory firm. “Mexico has not only a temperate climate, but a great quality of life and friendly locals.”

#4 Colombia

The elevated Medellin Metro is in motion as it rushes into the Parque Berrio Station in front of the illuminated Palace of Culture in Plaza Botero in Medellin, Colombia.  The City of Eternal Spring is located in the Aburra Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains in South America.
The elevated Medellin Metro is in motion as it rushes into the Parque Berrio Station in front of the illuminated Palace of Culture in Plaza Botero in Medellin, Colombia. The City of Eternal Spring is located in the Aburra Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains in South America.

Colombia follows Mexico closely with a cumulative score of 83.3, according to the ranking, with high scores in Visa/Residence and Healthcare.

“The pros of living in Colombia include it’s a giant, diverse country with a fascinating culture and fast-growing economy,” Halloran said. “There’s a great airport with connecting routes all over the world.”

#5 Portugal

As the fifth place winner and first European nation on the list, Portugal has a cumulative score of 83.2. (Source: Getty Creative)
As the fifth place winner and first European nation on the list, Portugal has a cumulative score of 83.2. (Source: Getty Creative)

As the fifth place winner and first European nation on the list, Portugal has a cumulative score of 83.2, with high scores in healthcare (95) and development (88). The country also has a high life expectancy of 82.29 years, ten years higher than in the US.

A couple can live comfortably, but not lavishly in Portugal on $2,500 per month, according to the site. But in costlier cities such as Lisbon, that number may inch up to $3,000 per month.

#6 Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador - May 27th, 2019: View of the historical colonial district of Quito and the 45 meters tall monument of "Virgin of El Panecillo" on top of the hill overlooking downtown Quito. The monument was designed by the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras.
Quito, Ecuador - May 27th, 2019: View of the historical colonial district of Quito and the 45 meters tall monument of "Virgin of El Panecillo" on top of the hill overlooking downtown Quito. The monument was designed by the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras.

Bringing home a cumulative score of 83, Ecuador, home of the Galapagos Islands, ranks number sixth. The country has high scores in cost of living (93) and benefits (95).

“Ecuador has an affordable cost of living coupled with downright cheap healthcare,” Hallaron said. “The cons include a lack of political stability.”

#7 Malaysia

A woman tourist is sightseeing at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A woman tourist is sightseeing at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultures, Malaysia takes home the seventh spot with a ranking of 79.8. The country has high scores for cost of living (91) and development categories (92).

Internationalliving.com cites that a $2,500-a-month budget allow syou to rent a modern high-rise well equipped with everything from a pool to a covered car space.

#8 France

Home to one of the world’s fashion capitals and the second European country in the top 10, France takes the eighth spot on International Living’s list. (Source: Getty Creative)
Home to one of the world’s fashion capitals and the second European country in the top 10, France takes the eighth spot on International Living’s list. (Source: Getty Creative)

Home to one of the world’s fashion capitals and the second European country in the top 10, France takes the eighth spot on International Living’s list. The country carries a cumulative score of 76.4, but holds the top spot in the development category with a score of 96.

“It’s not surprising that France is the world’s favorite destination, receiving approximately 80 million foreign visitors each year,” the International Living staff cites in their 30th Annual Global Retirement Index report.

#9 Malta

Malta, Valletta, skyline with St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral and Carmelite Church from Sliema,
The country holds a score of 76, with a score of 90 in the fitting in/entertain category. (Source: Getty Creative)

Malta, a small archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean region, breaks into the top 10 at the ninth spot. The country holds a score of 76, with a score of 90 in the fitting in/entertain category.

“Over the centuries, Malta has been conquered by 12 nations and each left behind their language, food, religion, knowledge, and traditions,” wrote International Living’s contributor Mary Charlebois. “As a result, the Maltese are open and accepting of all cultures, nationalities, races, creeds, and economic statuses.”

#10 Vietnam

Saigon, Bach Dang wharf Sunset Aerial view in district 01.
Known for its natural beauty including beaches and rivers, Vietnam holds a cumulative score of 75.5, but has the number one spot in the cost of living category with a near perfect score of 99. (Source: Getty Creative)

Vietnam rounds out the top 10 places to retire on the list. Known for its natural beauty including beaches and rivers, Vietnam holds a cumulative score of 75.5, but has the number one spot in the cost of living category with a near perfect score of 99.

“A bag of veggies at the local market might set you back $3. A glass of a local beer goes for about 55 cents,” Stevens said. “It’s a place where a couple could live well for as little as $1,400 a month and it’s remarkably diverse, with 2,000 miles of coastline and beach, modern cities, and pristine mountains, and that makes for great lifestyle options.”

The remaining 15 top countries on International Living’s list include:

  1. Spain

  2. Cambodia

  3. Uruguay

  4. Ireland

  5. Peru

  6. Bali

  7. Sri Lanka

  8. Thailand

  9. Italy

  10. Belize

  11. Dominican Republic

  12. Roatan

  13. Croatia

  14. Bolivia

  15. Nicaragua

“The real takeaway should be that many of these countries come out, when compared, ranking very, very close to one another. We’re splitting hairs and what that means for the reader — for the potential retiree — is that these are all good options,” Lucey said. “And depending on what a person is looking for, depending on somebody’s preferences and priorities — that might point them to one place over another.”

Yahoo Money sister site Cashay has a weekly newsletter.
Yahoo Money sister site Cashay has a weekly newsletter.

Dhara Singh is a reporter at Cashay and Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @Dsinghx.

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