Thinking of Relocating for Retirement? Here Are Some of the Cheapest Places to Live

Your money will go a lot further in many other countries. But choose carefully, as relocating for retirement is a big decision.

Many people relocate in retirement because they simply want to. They may have dreamed of living in, say, Spain, throughout their working lives. Or perhaps they visited Costa Rica on vacation and decided they’d love to live there one day. Other people, though, consider relocating in retirement because a retirement in America is looking financially shaky to them.

If you’re in that latter group, here are some places you might consider moving to, as they’re inexpensive places to live.

A passport is shown, by a map of Europe with pins stuck in it.

Image source: Getty Images.

The table below shows their overall cost of living compared to that of the U.S.:


Cost of Living Index





Costa Rico








Data source:

Here’s a brief, introductory look at each.

1. Portugal

Portugal is not a dirt cheap place to live, but it’s considerably less expensive than the U.S., and it has a lot to offer expatriate American retirees. Its biggest city (and capital), Lisbon, is a hot tourist destination, which means that many locals there speak English. Situated in Europe, it’s easy to travel from Portugal to other European locales. Healthcare in Portugal is reportedly excellent — and very affordable. The country boasts a temperate climate and is regarded as quite safe, too.

Per, the country makes it easy on expats in various ways. For example, you can get a local driver’s license simply by showing your American one. There are several visa options, including the “Golden Visa,” which requires a financial investment in the country (recently a minimum of roughly $270,000) in exchange for the right to live, work, and study in the country, among other things.

2. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular retirement destination for many in large part because of its natural beauty. Per, “Lauded as the Switzerland of Central America, Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948, shifting funding toward healthcare and education.” The country’s visa for retirees requires a lifetime monthly pension of at least $1,000 — which is attainable for most Americans, as the average monthly Social Security benefit was $1,915 as of April. There’s a generous tourist visa, too, for up to six months, offering ample time in which to check the country out.

3. Mexico

Mexico is a popular retirement destination in part because of its proximity to the U.S., as well as its beaches, beauty, and low cost of living. Healthcare in Mexico is reportedly quite good, too, and affordable, with many practitioners speaking English, as well. Multiple towns have established expat communities. The path to retiring in Mexico typically involves getting a Permanent Resident Visa and then eventually a permanent resident card. You’ll need to meet certain financial minimum requirements — which recently included having around $2,000 to $3,000 in monthly income.

4. Malaysia

If you would enjoy a tropical climate, consider Malaysia, long favored by many expats. It boasts reportedly excellent and affordable healthcare and a very low cost of living. It’s also a relatively safe and peaceful country, with good internet coverage. You’ll find many English-speaking local people, too. Qualifying for a retirement visa in Malaysia recently required having liquid assets of at least about $80,000 to $120,000 (depending on your age) and an offshore income of at least about $2,400.

5. Indonesia

Indonesia is another Asian country with a low cost of living and a lot to offer retirees. Note that the predominant religion is Islam, which results in a more conservative culture. Healthcare is reportedly decent, but better care if needed can be found in Singapore, which is a two-hour flight away. Housing is pricier than average if it’s in or near an expat community. While some countries’ retirement visas permit you to work, Indonesia’s doesn’t — unless you are relatively wealthy and got a “Golden Visa.” A regular retirement visa recently required annual income of at least $18,000, among other things. It’s for one year and can be renewed annually for up to five years, after which you can apply for a permanent resident permit.

Additional attractive countries for retirement

Those five countries are only a few of many nations with appealing characteristics for retirees. Do more digging online and you can read about lots of them. Below are a few more that have particularly low costs of living:


Cost of Living Index


















Relocating is a big, big deal, so of course you’ll need to do a lot of research before making such a big decision. Perhaps even narrow things down to your top two or three locations and stay for an extended period in each, to get a better sense of each place and your comfort there.

Remember, too, if your main reason for considering retiring abroad is financial, there may be more ways to generate more retirement income here in the U.S., sufficient for you to stay and retire here. Simply delaying your retirement for a few years can be a powerful move. You might also consider relocating to a less costly region in America.

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