World's Top Retirement Havens 1 Through 9 4

By Kathleen Peddicord

Summary: Where are the best places to retire overseas? Which retirement haven is right for you? France? Ecuador? Panama? Nicaragua? Thailand? Kathleen Peddicord shares the pros and cons of the world's top 9 retirement havens.

Living Overseas:  - World's Top Retirement Havens 1 Through 9

The world can seem a scary place these days. You almost can't escape the news...and it's all bad. Threats to your safety, threats to your privacy, threats to your financial security, threats to your future, to your freedom...

Nothing but doom and gloom and all beyond your control.

As I explained to the nearly 400 in attendance at the Sovereign Society Total Wealth Symposium where I presented yesterday...not really.

What's required is a small shift of perspective.

The truth is, you can take control of your life and of your future if you want to. The key is diversification. Just as you spread your investments beyond one basket, so, too, should you work to spread your life around. If you, your assets, your business, your bank accounts, and your passport are all connected to one country...well, then, you're at the mercy of that country. Things fall apart there, things fall apart for you. But if you're residing one place, traveling on a passport issued somewhere else, banking in one jurisdiction, investing your money in others, and operating your business yet elsewhere...then you're protected, at least as much as you can be.

You can ride out ups and downs.

The world is also a playground of opportunity. Opportunity for starting over, for a second chance, for adventure, for fun, and for profit. When you begin paying more attention to these opportunities than to the doomsday theorists and their dire predictions, you find your way, organically, one step and one day at a time, to the kind of global diversification that I'm talking about.

Dozens of countries offer opportunity right now for living better, retiring well, investing for profit, and starting over. I highlighted nine:

Top Haven #1: Panama, the World's Top Retirement, Top Offshore, and Top Doing Business Haven

Pros:

  • This is the Hub of the Americas, meaning it's an easy, accessible place to travel to and from...
  • Best infrastructure in Central America...
  • A tax haven, meaning you can live and operate a business tax-free...
  • Best place in the world to start a business...
  • The world's Gold Standard pensionado program of special benefits for retirees...
  • A diversity of lifestyles, from big city to Pacific beaches, from mountain highlands to Caribbean isles...
  • International-standard health care...
Cons:
  • As developed as Panama is, this is still the Third World...
  • This is the Tropics (meaning the weather, in Panama City and on the coasts, is hot and sticky)...
  • No longer a banking haven...

Top Haven #2: France, the World's Best Quality of Life

Pros:

  • World's best developed-world living...
  • World's best health care...
  • World's most beautiful and romantic city...
  • More affordable than you might think...
Cons:
  • One of the most onerous tax regimes in the world (only an issue if you're a legal resident and earning an income)...
  • Miserable place to try to start a business...
  • You'll need to learn to speak at least some French...

Top Haven #3: Malaysia, Asia's Most Welcoming Retirement Haven

Pros:

  • Only country in Asia that makes foreign residency easy...
  • Diversity of lifestyles...
  • English commonly spoken...
  • International-standard medical care...
  • Very affordable...
  • Tax haven...
Cons:
  • Halfway around the world...
  • Asian lifestyle is more exotic for North Americans...
  • Third World...

Top Haven #4: Ecuador, Most Affordable Retirement In The Americas

Pros:

  • Probably the most affordable place you'd want to live in the Americas...
  • Established expat base in Cuenca...
Cons:
  • Nearly Fourth World...
  • Less accessible...
  • Less stable...

Top Haven #5: Thailand--Exotic and Super Cheap

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest places in the world to live or retire today....
  • Super exotic (this can be a pro or a con, depending on your point of view)....
  • Established expat base....
Cons:
  • Not easy to establish full-time legal residency (so live here only part-time)....
  • Halfway around the world....

Top Haven #6: Nicaragua--Beautiful, Romantic, and Super Cheap

Pros:
  • Nearby and accessible....
  • New program of benefits for foreign retirees....
  • Very affordable....
  • Established expat base....
  • The best of Costa Rica (only better)....
Cons:
  • President Ortega, who remains a wild card and insists he's running for re-election this year....
  • Third World....
  • Poor infrastructure....

Top Haven #7: Uruguay--Peaceful, Safe, and Tax-Free

Pros:

  • Stable, peaceful, relaxed, and removed from the troubles of much of the world right now....
  • Tax haven....
  • Great infrastructure....
  • Easy residency....
Cons:
  • Way down at the bottom of the earth....
  • Maybe boring....

Top Haven #8: Belize--Offshore Frontier

Pros:

  • Country of independent thinkers where you can make your own way....
  • Everyone speaks English....
  • Banking haven....
  • Tax haven....
  • Land values in the Cayo are a great bargain....
Cons:
  • Not super cheap, especially on Ambergris Caye....
  • Health care facilities are limited....

Top Haven #9: Medellin, Colombia--Emerging Haven Where Property Prices Are An Absolute Bargain

Pros:
  • Pleasant weather year-round, thanks to the elevation....
  • Pretty city in a pretty setting....
  • More genteel way of life than you'll find in most of Latin America....
  • Real estate values are a screaming bargain....
Cons:
  • This is a market in the workaround stage, meaning things like establishing foreign residency and opening a non-resident bank account can require "workarounds"....
  • Not a tax haven....
  • Exchange controls (which can be managed with proper counsel)....
Kathleen Peddicord
Publisher Live and Invest Overseas

About the Author

Established in 2008, Live and Invest Overseas is the vision of Publisher Kathleen Peddicord.

Kathleen Peddicord has covered the live and invest overseas beat for more than 25 years and is considered the world's foremost authority on overseas retirement. She has traveled to more than 50 countries, invested in real estate in 17, established businesses in 7, renovated historic properties in 6, and educated her children in 4.

Click here to peruse Live and Invest Overseas publications, conferences and more.

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Comments about this Article

vnazaire1
Jun 6, 2011 23:00

A few comments based on my personal experiences : Panama : Costa-Rica has better infrastructure; for diversity of lifestyle, from big city( 500 000 + population) to caribbean beaches , from mountain highlands to Caribbean isles, try Dominican Republic. Nicaragua : NOT the best of Costa-Rica; close to 4th world, friendly people but much poorer than Panama or Costa-Rica. Belize : boring night life if not living on Ambergris Caye, very average restaurants (mostly Chinese), poor taxi service in the evenings, no good grocery stores.

guest
Jun 8, 2011 13:46

Medellin, Columbia?! You've gotta be kidding me! Foreigners are prime targets for kidnapping and ransom by scores of dif. gangs and rumored that even some police are cooperate with them for$$ as well as do some kidnapping themselves to supplement miserable salaries. Very few if any victims are ever seen alive again even when ransom is paid. Now add the fact that the drug cartels own parts of the city, the country, the government, military and the police and is the largest employer..... this must be a very old article written yrs. ago. My info. comes from a U.S. gov. intel agency and is up to date. I post it here to warn people ag. the information in this article which can be dangerous if taken as reality.

guest
Jun 10, 2011 10:45

My information comes from personal experience. My husband, my children, and I have traveled to Medellin five times so far this year. And we love it! Here’s my position on published government “intel”—it’s never very intelligent and mostly misleading. It’s written and published to cover the backsides of those who publish it. I’ve had dozens and dozens of experiences over the past two-and-a-half decades where I’ve found myself in the very place where some current government warning is telling people not to go…only to look out my window, walk down the street, and wonder what all the fuss is about. Don’t base your ideas about a place on government warnings and don’t base them on mass media reports. Base them on your own experience. Short of that, base them on the personal experience of someone you trust. You don’t know me…and, therefore, understandably, don’t trust me. But I’m telling you, as a woman, as a mom, Medellin is a completely safe city. Beautiful, interesting, sophisticated, cultured, and safe. You should go see for yourself. Kathleen Peddicord Publisher Live and Invest Overseas

guest
Jun 11, 2011 00:32

To be honest, I don't agree with your list. Some of your suggestions appear to me, let's say, strange. Specially Medellin, because of the political situation in Columbia, the FARC and the many abductions. Belize, though beautiful (and poor), it has, as you mention yourself, a poor health service, which makes it for me an odd choice for retirement, since it's very likely that retirees belong to the older part of the population with increased health service needs... Regarding France, well, I like France, but I don't agree with your assessment that it's the "World's best developed-world living...". In my opinion Canada, Norway and Sweden is far better. France has the "World's best health care..."? You gotta be kidding me! "World's most beautiful and romantic city..." no doubt, Paris is an incredible and beautiful city, however there are lots of cities around the world competing for this title, therefore I think it is not possible to claim such a thing like "World's most beautiful and romantic city", this is just a stereotype. My suggestions are: Portugal, Turkey, Malta, Spain, Uruguay, Thailand, Cyprus, Goa (India), Kerala (India), Canada.

snyderman
Aug 1, 2011 18:56

My wife and I just came down from the USA to look around after spending a year on the computer,reading and looking at all different areas.We spent 10 days there and bought in Coronado,having wonderful experiences with all the locals:the most friendly country we have ever been to.

JohnnyD
Dec 27, 2011 20:05

Tried to live in Panama City, but the cons (traffic, weather, antagonistic attitudes toward gringoes and Colombians) outweighed the pros. Chose El Rodadero (near Santa Marta on the Caribbean). Anyone can buy property. We feel safe here (unlike in Bogota, Cali, or Medellin), and own a condo on the ocean. Good medical care, proximity to food and hardware stores, good dining, and the number of expats is rapidly growing. No earthquakes, hurricanes, tropical storms here. Just beautiful mountains and warm seas. Nicaragua also beautiful but has a long way to go. Costly to become a resident.

guest
Dec 28, 2011 08:37

El Rodadero ( near Santa Marta) is found in Which Country ? Also, tell us more about your specific adventures in Panama city ?

guest
May 21, 2012 17:00

I am glad to see that Panama is at the top of the list - well deserved in my humble and thoroughly unbiased ( NOT) opinion. I have lived in Boquete for 7 years and it has been an amazing journey. Dianne Heidke www.theboquetehandbook.com

Boone41
May 23, 2012 18:25

Upscale "hood" in Santa Marta, Colombia on the Caribbean side of Colombia.

bintang
Jun 21, 2012 00:26

Hello, thanks for listing Malaysia my 2.home to your list. After traveling the world for a couple of years in search for the perfect place to live we found it nearly 5 years ago. Only one thing: Malaysia is not a 3.world country anymore. It is called a "tiger state" like Singapore, just before the jump to an industrial nation. We are happy to have the best infrastructure in SE-Asia and English is the 2.language - what makes it really easy for expats here. According to the "global peace index" Malaysia is among the 20 most peaceful countries on the globe - and so beautiful! Greeting from Malaysia!

Ecuadorgeorge
Feb 18, 2013 20:50

Kathleen, Thanks for a great article. I remember you when you were with IL. Nice to see you doing well out on your own.... I am trying to picture Ecuador in 5 years from now. What is your opinion. Will I still want to be living there or will there be some other new and great place to live??? George (Ecuador George to my friends)

guest
Feb 19, 2013 15:25

While there are advantages in living overseas, what is most imperative is comfort and communication. It is essential to learn the language if you choose a foreign country. Fortunately, I can speak both French and Spanish. If phone or internet service is not reliable, you will not be happy. I lived in Panama City for a while and found the weather to be unbearable as was the steep cost of real estate and a dirty and crowded city. I have stayed in Nicaragua but if you will need reliable transportation. Foreigners are prey in large cities such as Bogota and Medellin. Smaller villages offer more if they are not too far from shopping centers. The price of gasoline is double that of the USA in many countries. I suggest living in a country for a few months first.

guest
Feb 21, 2013 18:15

How bad is drug trafficking in Ecuador?

Artistica
Mar 18, 2013 03:05

Hi...you forgot to mention Italy. ....Italy is cheaper than France. Italy has excellent social medicine and dental. I'm a Canadian and I'm used to the social stuff and I equate it. The only thing in Canada we don't get the dental, or the drugs. The drugs kick in when we're 65. Take care....Artistica

guest
Apr 5, 2013 07:34

Hi, excellent listing of retirement alternatives. I know most of them, and find the pro's and con's being very accurate. Though, it is difficult to publish a list in 'fit for all' manner. It depends very much on the individual budget and your life style. As I go for tropical climate only, Ecuador, Uruguay, and France aren't any option for me. For example Cuenca, Ecuador, can be a very cold place at times. The slogan of "everlasting spring in Cuenca" is misleading. One thing is sure, it is not an easy decision where to spend your retirement. Vern

sueb4bs
May 1, 2013 20:40

I have lived in South America for 13 years in three countries, Chile, Argentina and now Quito. Equador. I know Chile and love it.. Cannot afford it anymore so I visit my friends there. And many aspects of CHile have changed dramatically in the past 13 years! What is this' nearly Fourth World' characterization of Ecuador in this KP article? EC. certainly is a very tough place to immigrate, and the govt. bureaucracy , banking and other systems are not easy. But the truth is immigrating for each of us involves a huge desire to take risks, doing all of your homework, learning the local language and resiliency and PATIENCE above all with yourself as well as others. As a Chilean artist friend told me " es muy alta, muy bajo' -- I am a woman, psychologist and teacher and it has not been easy here for me. I have been cheated by Ecuadorians ( owed me money for agreed-upon professional services), struggled for 10 months and spent way too much to get my immigration visa, I am practicing language skills daily etc etc.. Lots to learn in the 14 months I have been here. K. P. is a bit of a fraud, IMO -- she used to sell EC as a good, 'cheap' place to immigrate , seems her tune has changed -- "less stable" than what?? and what is "less accessible" about this little country? There is a lot of money to be made by IL types on people's dissatisfaction living wherever they are in the world... Prices are going up here, this is not a "cheap "place to live, only comparatively , it is a developing country and people everywhere in the world want to live like the First World - prices go up, rarely I have seen them go down. If you are willing to immigrate you gotta accept that life is DYNAMIC and change is constant... there ain't no free lunch and no paradise (except in the movie in your mind) The key is wherever you go, there YOU are... if you are happy within, you will have a better chance of adjusting well anywhere you go (even if you repatriate to wherever you came from)-- so open your mind and keep learning!

guyhildebrand
Aug 28, 2013 15:04

Where in the world does a place exist that has weather like San Diego, California and also: low cost of living, that is safe, has good medical access (I have congestive heart disease), and stable government? I thank you in advance for your honesty. Guy Hildebrand

volcan357
Sep 21, 2013 10:48

I would agree with Panama being number one although it has gotten more expensive here in recent years. Also Ecuador and Nicaragua would be good choices if you want a place that is cheaper to live. Costa Rica is a beautiful country but is quite a bit more expensive than Panama. I live close to the border with Costa Rica and everybody complains about the prices in Costa Rica. For an American it is nice to be closer to home rather than be somewhere in Asia for example. Perhaps you may want to fly back to use your Medicare? Actually I have lived in Panama so long that I am forgetting what it is like to live somewhere else. Panama City has gotten too expensive and of course too crowded but there are lots of good choices in the Provinces. Chiriqui has always been very popular with many expats and things are cheaper in some of the central provinces. Some people say that Ecuador and Nicaragua are fourth world. That is not true. What has happened is that Panama has changed so it is much more modern and is quite a bit ahead of Ecuador and Nicaragua. Probably more English is spoken in Panama than in Ecuador or Nicaragua. With time however most people learn enough Spanish to meet their needs. For myself I married a Panamanian girl and speak Spanish in the home with her and the kids. I mostly use English for reading which is good because as a written language English is number one in the world.

dcgringo
Mar 20, 2014 21:01

The people that publish this garbage and suppose to be experts are nothing more than scam artist promoting their own interest. I have lived in Colombia for ten years and seen the worst and best of the country. Colombia is no place for a foreign retiree. Good place to visit in safe areas but having a "Senior Moment" in a place where 90% of the population live on $300 to $500 usd per month is no joke. Lastly, none of these articles talk about the judiciary system in the countries. If you have no justice you have no country, and many Latin American countries have no good justice systems. If you get into trouble in Colombia, either through stupidity or being framed you stay in jail with no food, no water, no change of clothes, no bathing facilities until your court hearing. Forget about Constitutional Rights, Civil Rights, Human Rights, or any rights. Oh yea, most expats have not been to jail in Colombia, nor do they know anyone that has been killed in Colombia, kidnapped, victimized by extortion, etc. I have been through it all including having a hand grenade tossed in my neighbors window. Foreigners are so naive and believe all this stupid stuff written by these so called experts. They create these sites to sell their stuff and lure innocent foreigners to their real estate deals. Colombia, nice place to visit, but stay street smart.

First Published: Jun 04, 2011

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