Where to retire decently on a budget

Published on 2019-11-21 at 14:10 by Maria Iotova
Are you thinking of spending your golden years outside your home country, but all the glossy brochures about retiring abroad are demonstrating unrealistic lifestyles for someone with your budget? We believe that finding your retirement heaven shouldn't be a privilege for the rich only. Many countries offer a good quality of life at a reasonable cost, and even if you don't have a ton of savings, you can still enjoy a happy retirement. Let's find them out (in alphabetical order)!


This large South American country doesn't only offer a low cost of living but also guarantees outstanding outdoor adventures that will keep you in good physical shape. Besides the cosmopolitan capital city of Buenos Aires, explorers have access to a variety of magnificent natural surroundings such as the Andean Mountains, fertile lowlands, and glacial lakes. Financial advisers say that a couple can retire comfortably in Argentina at $1,500 per month, with rentals starting as low as $500. Also, Argentina offers a special visa for pensioners, as long as they can prove that they receive a pension income of no less than a minimum amount. Last but not least, both the public and private healthcare system in Argentina is of high-standard.    


Similarly to Argentina, a retired couple in Belize can lead a decent everyday life on around $1,200 per month. The small country on the eastern coast of Central America is ideal for marine lovers, as it borders the Carribean Sea, and has almost 400 km of shoreline. Apartments' rentals vary between $300 to $700, depending on size and location. Access to fresh and affordable produce is essential for a healthy lifestyle, and Belize markets brim with delicious fruits and vegetables. If you wish to retire in Belize, you may consider the Qualified Retirement Program (QRP) to gain resident status. However, you must be sure that you can meet the age (at least 45 years old) and income ($24,000 annually) requirements, and that you are willing to accept the condition of not undertaking employment in Belize. 

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is on the higher end of the market due to its popularity as a tourist destination. A retired couple is looking at monthly costs about $2,500, including rent, transportation, and groceries. Located in Central America, Costa Rica is very much preferred by American expats, as it is a relatively short (and affordable) plane ride away. There are different visa options for expats, but the Pensionado Program is the one dedicated to retirees. To be considered for this plan, applicants must have a monthly income of a minimum of $1,000 from a pension fund and transfer this amount to a local bank account. If you don't have a stable monthly income, you can apply for the Rentista Program, which requires evidence of an account balance of $60,000 to be transferred in a Costa Rican bank account.  


If you want to retire in an affordable location that combines stunning nature, mild weather, and terrific history and culture, then you should look no further than Croatia. Even though it is part of the European Union, meaning that EU citizens can move to Croatia without a visa, Croatia hasn't joined the eurozone yet. Thus, the local currency (Kuna) keeps transportation and grocery prices low in comparison to other European countries. Another advantage of this country is its geographical position in the southern centre of Europe, giving access to many European countries by land, air, and sea. Croatia doesn't have a special visa for retirees, but If you aren't an EU citizen, you must apply for a residence permit.


Even though the cost of living in Italy is relatively low due to the country's unsettled economy, retirees in Italy who might be considering part-time employment should keep in mind that unemployment rates are soaring. A one-bedroom city apartment ranges from $500 to $700, but retirees on a budget should consider living in a rural area than in metropolitan cities such as Rome and Milan. Non-EU citizens who wish to live in Italy for more than 90 days must apply for the Elective Residence Visa. Among other requirements, applicants must have proof of adequate income which is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Expats in Italy need to file annual tax returns in Italy, even if their revenue comes from outside Italy. However, foreign income tax is quite low, and generally speaking, a monthly income of around $2,000 should be sufficient for an enjoyable retirement in Italy.


The tropical climate and relaxed lifestyle have made Malaysia a dream retirement destination. Actually, in 2017, George Town, on the island of Penang, was named by CBS as one of the best cities in the world to retire in. In spite of its 60 plus years of independence from Britain, Malaysia follows the British legal system, uses English for bureaucratic procedures, and boasts a multicultural society. When it comes to the cost of living — accommodation, groceries, and transportation are affordable. An income of $1,300 per couple should be sufficient for a quality living without the luxuries, though. To stay in Malaysia long term, you should apply for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H), which grants you with a multiple-entry, ten-year visa. The healthcare in Kuala Lumpur is top-notch, but expats should have national or international health insurance; free treatment is only available to Malaysian citizens.


Portugal is one of the most affordable retirement destinations in Europe, with the cost of living 30% lower than in the United States, according to Numbeo. In practice, this means that a couple with a monthly income of $1,400 can live up to standard outside Lisbon. To live in Portugal as a non-EU retiree, you must obtain a residence permit based on an application which requires a proof of income, health insurance, and a criminal background check. Portugal taxes pension funds from abroad, however, you may qualify for the Non-habitual Residence (NHR) status, which may exempt you from income tax for up to ten years. Overall, the country is a welcoming destination for expatriates, meaning that you will never feel alone under its dazzling sun.