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The Best Places to Retire in the World

Stretch your dollars further in these 10 countries

Woman sitting on boat edge in Costa Rica

Brian Bailey/Getty Images

A new survey ranks countries where retirees can comfortably retire on as little as $1,500 a month.

En español | Forget Florida and Arizona. Dreams of sunny weather and a lower cost of living are prompting older Americans to look farther afield when thinking about the best places to retire.

More than 500,000 Americans now receive their Social Security benefits overseas, an increase from the nearly 400,000 reported in 2000, according to the Social Security Administration.

But which place is best? According to International Living, an authority on global retirement opportunities, countries such as Mexico, Panama and Colombia are luring older Americans with their pleasant climates, low cost of living and growing communities of like-minded retirees.

Indeed, International Living’s just-released Annual Global Retirement Index for 2018 puts Costa Rica in the top spot for the first time. Bali makes its inaugural appearance on the index. And Peru winds up in the top 10 for the first time.

“North Americans have been flocking to Costa Rica for more than 30 years, attracted by the tropical climate; low cost of living; top-notch, affordable medical care; bargain real estate; and natural beauty,” said Jason Holland, International Living’s Latin America editor, in a press release.

“I love Costa Rica. You can kick your shoes off on white-sand beaches, hike through lush lowland jungle or mountain cloud forests, and bask in volcanic thermal springs,” he added. “Rent a furnished two-bedroom home for just $500 a month, buy an ocean-view property for under $200,000, spend $25 in the farmer’s market, and come home with a week’s groceries for a couple.”

When it comes to Mexico, which placed second in the ranking, retirees can buy a concert or movie ticket for $4, see a doctor for about $40, and enjoy an evening out — drinks and dinner, a symphony performance, and a taxi home — for less than $20, according to International Living.

The 2018 index considers 12 categories when ranking the top retirement spots outside the United States and Canada: buying and investing; renting; benefits and discounts; visas and residence; cost of living; fitting in; entertainment and amenities; health care; healthy lifestyle; development; climate; and governance.

The overriding goal of the index, which has been released annually for the last 27 years, is to help retirees pinpoint places where a couple could live comfortably on as little as $1,500 a month.

Here are the top 10 countries in the ranking:

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Mexico
  3. Panama
  4. Ecuador
  5. Malaysia
  6. Colombia
  7. Portugal
  8. Nicaragua
  9. Spain
  10. Peru

Of course, there are a wide variety of opinions when talking about the best places to retire. For example, the publication Live and Invest Overseas picked Algarve, Portugal, as the best spot to retire overseas in 2017, based on a combination of natural beauty, weather and affordable housing.

When it comes to the cheapest places to retire in the United States, a survey conducted by GOBankingRates, a personal finance website, published in September placed Birmingham, Ala., at the head of the heap. Rounding out the top five were Detroit; Jackson, Miss.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Toledo, Ohio.