There are two parts to the retirement funding equation: saving and spending. Regardless of how big your retirement fund, it will go further and last longer if you limit your cost of living. One way to keep a lid on living expenses is to relocate to a more affordable area. For most retirees, this means moving from somewhere like expensive, high-tax New York to Florida or North Carolina.
But an increasing number of Americans are choosing the more adventurous path of spending their post-career years overseas, building new lives in countries that are beautiful, hospitable and cheap. Very. Cheap. Here are five such places where a couple can enjoy a plush retirement on $1,500 a month or less. Four of the five are in the Americas, giving you easy access to friends and family back in the States.
Steep volcanoes, vast rainforests, and ancient Mayan sites mark this Central American country south of Mexico. The coasts touch on the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, and between the shores, you will find innumerable Spanish colonial towns and cities, like Antigua, where many American retirees settle. While not as developed as its sister expat havens in Central America, like Panama or Costa Rica, Guatemala is an adventurer’s paradise. The country is known for its year-round warm weather and varied outdoor activities, including biking, climbing, and kayaking.
Rentals for one-bedroom furnished apartments in town start around $300 a month and a cabin-style studio apartment will go for around $350 a month, including internet, cable TV, and all utilities. A couple can live very comfortably for $1,500 a month. On this budget, you’ll have a gardener and house cleaner, regular massages, and three-course meals for only $20, among other little luxuries. Healthcare is also extremely affordable, and the care provided is top quality; a visit to the doctor will cost just $25 on average.
Long overshadowed by its neighbors to the south (think Costa Rica and Panama), Nicaragua offers a similar healthy lifestyle, great food, and fantastic beach living for even lower costs. Here, a complete meal with wine will set you back just $16. Furnished, one-bedroom apartments with water, electricity, and Wi-Fi go for as little as $300 a month, and for less than $8 a day, you can hire a gardener and housekeeper to maintain your elegant abode.
With health insurance available for just $500 per year through private hospitals, you won’t have to fret about finding quality doctors or care. Expats in Nicaragua can live a six-figure lifestyle easily on just $1,500 a month.
This South American country spans the Pacific Ocean to the Andes with the terrain as varied as its culture. Peru boasts ancient ruins, rainforests, colonial cities, and miles of immaculate beaches. Housing prices are unbeatable, with brand-new, two-bedroom apartments with all the modern amenities coming in at about $400 a month. Groceries for a couple will average around $100 per month.
Dining out is also affordable, with many restaurants offering meals of fresh, local ingredients for between $3 and $5. Getting around by bus and taxi can be covered easily with $50 a month, and the same amount will get you cell phone and internet service. Healthcare and dental costs are similarly low at between $50 and $100 per month.
Located at the northern tip of South America, Colombia is a country of rainforest, towering mountains and coffee plantations. A couple can live comfortably on just $1,200 a month. City rents range from $130 a month for a comfortable home in a working-class neighborhood, complete with amazing views of the surrounding mountains, to $430 for a modern three-bedroom, two bathroom apartment in more upscale neighborhoods. You can live a pampered life on a small budget: housekeepers are available for less than $20 a day; dinner for two costs around $25; going to the movies is $5 per person; great haircuts are $18, and 75-minute massages only costs $30.
The landscape includes low-lying plains, mountains, lush rainforests, and a pristine coastline with some of the best beaches in Southeast Asia. With monthly living expenses averaging about $1,200 per month, many expats came to Cambodia for its affordability and stayed for the picturesque landscape and warmth of the local people. You can rent a one-bedroom apartment for as little as $200 a month, and basic utilities run less than $20 per month.
Eating out is cheap, with Cambodian barbecue tallying less than $5 per meal and upscale French fare running about $15 per meal. The low cost of living allows many Americans in Cambodia to live well on just their Social Security checks.