I am 43 years old and plan to retire at 62. As a member of Gen X, I already know that Social Security will most likely not be around for me. I plan to retire on $1.2 million in retirement savings. I’ve already decided it won’t be in the U.S. Where can I live to stretch my retirement dollars? Must have low cost of living, low health-care costs, low crime and be near a beach. Thank you for your help.
I’m getting more interest from readers these days on retiring abroad — mostly because they feel they can get more bang for their buck outside of the U.S. They often can, but going abroad can have big downsides, including higher crime, being far from your family, and not-so-great-health care.
That said, your $1.2 million future nest egg could stretch a lot further in many spots abroad than it would in the U.S. Plus, though you doubt Social Security will be around for you, many experts say that you can count on it — even if benefits are cut somewhat. As Marketwatch’s Alessandra Malito recently reported: “Many Americans believe Social Security won’t exist when they retire — they’re wrong. Social Security does face serious challenges, and the payout may decline — but the program itself is not going anywhere.”
Here are some places that meet most of your criteria, with one caveat: While this is all true today, a lot could change over the next 19 years. Still, I love that you’re planning so far ahead. Bravo!
Panama is known as a safe country and ranks in the top 100 (82nd to be exact) in the world for quality and access to health care, with residents saying health care is generally affordable. And Coronado in particular — which is roughly an hour west of Panama City on the Pacific Ocean — is considered a very safe community with “a top-notch medical facility,” says Suzan Haskins, a senior editor at International Living.
Once a resort town for affluent Panamanians, in recent decades Coronado — whose beaches feature black-and-white speckled sand — has become popular with expats, who enjoy the golf, shopping and restaurants in the area.
It’s also pretty affordable: If you don’t live right by the beach, you can live on under $2,000 a month, with the added bonus of taking advantage of Panama’s pensionado visa program, which offers a ton of discounts for seniors. One downside is that because it is a resort town it can feel hectic at times because of tourism.
George Town, Malaysia
Malaysia snagged International Living’s top spot for international health care and landed on Investopedia’s top 10 cheapest and safest countries to retire in. What’s more, George Town itself scored a spot on U.S. News’ best places to retire in Asia list, with the publication noting that it is one of “Southeast Asia’s most livable destinations” with “low costs,” “excellent” health care and expat perks like the fact that “foreigners are welcome” and “English is widely spoken.”
As for those beaches you’re dreaming of, U.S. News also points out that “almost on the city’s doorstep are stylish seaside settlements with palm-fringed sandy beaches and a backdrop of lush rainforest.” You’ll also enjoy great food, interesting architecture (one section of the city is a Unesco World Heritage site) and a fun arts scene. However, it’ll be a long flight — you’ll often spend more than a day traveling — to come back and visit friends and family in the states.
Affordable, culturally rich Merida — which I recently recommended to a woman who was hoping to retire near the beach in Mexico on under $1,200 a month — seems to meet most of your requirements too.
Though it’s not right on the beach, it’s just 25 miles from the famed sugar-sand beaches of the Yucatán’s Gulf Coast (it’s hard to beat those beaches in terms of natural beauty) — and Merida, which has a population of upward of 800,000, has the added benefit of offering great food, plenty of events to entertain you and a thriving expat community. Dan Prescher, the senior editor at International Living, also points out that health care here is “a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S.” and many of the doctors went to medical school in America and speak English.
Though it might not be the safest place on this list (the U.S. Department of State puts the Yucatán Peninsula as a whole at a Level 2, which means exercise increased caution), Merida itself is known as one of the safest cities in Mexico and people generally say they feel safe living here. “For my money, Merida, the capital of Yucatán State in Mexico, has it all when it comes to affordability, low crime, and access to great health care,” Prescher says.