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The top 10 countries you should retire in

Jennifer Stevens, International Living Executive Editor, joins Yahoo Finance Live to break down the top countries Americans are retiring in.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

AKIKO FUJITA: International Living is out with its new global retirement index, the best places to retire around the world. Topping the list this year, Costa Rica and Panama.

Let's bring in Jennifer Stevens. She's executive editor of International Living. Jennifer, I have to say, I saw this list. I was a little surprised at some of the top-five spots that you highlighted. Walk me through the metrics you used in terms of what actually made this the top place to retire.

JENNIFER STEVENS: Right. So we've been doing this for 30 years. We take the top 25 countries, and we compare and contrast them based on 10 categories that include things like governance, cost of living, housing, health care, that sort of thing, right? So we're examining and comparing countries across the kinds of issues that you would have if you were considering retiring someplace. What's important to you as a retiree? And we kind of lay out the data for all those different countries and come up with our list, as you show here, of the best places to retire.

ZACK GUZMAN: And on that front, I mean, it seems like if you are a retiree, health care would loom pretty large in choosing a spot here as well. I went to Portugal. Portugal's a great spot. I'm not surprised to see that on the list. That was the last trip I took prepandemic. But when you look at health care, maybe you break through the 1 through 10 here on what that looks like.

JENNIFER STEVENS: Yeah, no, health care absolutely, especially for retirees. You know, that's an issue that's of top importance to them. And I think with this pandemic, it's on most people's minds this year.

The countries that we list at the top are places where you can access good health care and at an affordable price, typically much less than you would pay for health care in the United States. A lot of these places-- several people have asked me over the last few days sort of how has the pandemic affected the results this year? And we considered government pandemic responses in our governance category.

But as far as health care is concerned, you know, in the places that we recommend, you really can access good-- what we would consider sort of US quality or even higher health care at a price that is typically half or less what you pay at home.

AKIKO FUJITA: When you talk about the cost of living, certainly you can see that the top five here-- we're talking about Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal. But also if you look at a place like Malta or even Vietnam, I'm curious how much stability in terms of the government comes into play as well. And to your point about the shifts that we saw during COVID, what are some of the countries that sort of fell out of favor for retirees this year?

JENNIFER STEVENS: Yeah, so we definitely try to take what is essentially long-term viability when we're looking at these places. You know, every place is going to have some political ups and downs-- look at the United States, right-- over the course of a year or longer. But we try to kind of take the long view. Where are the places that are going to work for someone over-- because you don't retire for just six months. You retire, you know, over many years.

And so two, for example, that are at the bottom of the list this year, still countries worth watching, but like Nicaragua and Bolivia, for example. They are places that have seen just sort of political instability at the moment. We don't think that's necessarily going to be forever, but it certainly is right now. Ex-pats on the ground in those places typically stay out of the politics and are saying, you know, our lives are fine here. We're not feeling any pressure or anything. But it's not a place we would necessarily send people tomorrow.

So we do watch that as best we can, but I would say that we are still trying, as I said, to take kind of the longer view. What places make the most sense over the arc of a retirement?

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and Jennifer, real quick before we let you go, I mean, obviously we're looking at the list here for 2021, but how do these countries compare maybe to years past? Are there new entrants here or maybe surprises that jumped out to you relative to prior rankings?

JENNIFER STEVENS: Yeah, you know, Malta moved up. Malta is in Europe, obviously. It's English speaking, which makes it an easy place to spend time.

Also Uruguay-- Uruguay came up. One question we asked-- we kind of did this separately from the rest of the index-- was to say if you just wanted to leave, if you just wanted to find a place that was sort of a bolthole, a place that you could go and that was stable, it was relatively quiet, and you felt like it might not be the cheapest place to go but you would be safe there if there were ever another pandemic-- which, you know, there probably will be. So Uruguay is the place that comes up number one for that. It's our kind of number one bolthole spot.

You can't live as cheaply as you could in, say, a place like Costa Rica where a couple could live comfortably for anywhere from 2 to 25-- $2,000 to $2,500 a month. Uruguay, you'd be looking at more like $3,000, but it's a place that is kind of a rising star, I would say.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, very interesting to think about all the opportunities here, and people just desperate to travel once we can once again. But appreciate you coming on here. Jennifer Stevens, International Living executive editor, thanks again for bringing us that.