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10 Places to Retire Abroad on Social Security Alone | Retirement

Key Takeaways

  • Many international cities offer lower costs of living and access to affordable health care, making it possible to live on Social Security alone.
  • Before moving abroad, understand entry requirements and taxes requirements on foreign income that can significantly impact your budget.
  • Cost of living will vary depending on your lifestyle. Traveling, dining out and other activities could greatly increase your monthly expenses.

If you’re hoping to stretch your retirement dollars as far as possible, a move abroad could significantly lower your cost of living.

In many countries, the average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,907 is often enough to cover living expenses and basic housing.

Based on cost of living data from Expatisan and insights from financial experts, this list, presented alphabetically below, highlights some of the cheapest destinations for retirees living on Social Security alone.

Before moving overseas, familiarize yourself with your host country’s visa requirements and tax laws regarding Social Security income. You can also use the Payments Abroad Screening Tool on the Social Security Administration website to check your eligibility for benefits while abroad.

  • Alicante, Spain.
  • Boquete, Panama.
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • Cuenca, Ecuador.
  • Kalamata, Greece.
  • Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic.
  • Lisbon, Portugal.
  • Medellín, Colombia.
  • Penang, Malaysia.
  • San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Alicante, Spain

Alicante is located on the Costa Blanca, a 120-mile stretch along Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast. It has long attracted expats with its plentiful sunshine and sandy beaches. “Spain, while being a bit pricier, offers a high quality of life with its rich culture and health care system,” said Marty Burbank, an expert in estate planning and elder law in Fullerton, California, in an email. Retirees can take daily strolls through the streets of its old town, known as casco histórico, shop for local specialties at the markets and enjoy familiar dishes in Alicante’s many seafood restaurants. Couples can live on less than $2,000 per month in Alicante.

Boquete, Panama

Tucked away in the western highlands of Panama, beautiful Boquete draws in many retirees from the U.S. This small city with 23,000 residents could be an ideal fit for seniors seeking peace and quiet. Boquete is known as the flower capital of Panama and its colorful blooms and gorgeous coastline provide senior residents with some spectacular views. Expats can also take advantage of Panama’s pensionado program, which offers discounts on a range of expenses, including health care, dining and entertainment. Couples should budget around $2,600 per month for a comfortable retirement in Boquete.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is a top contender for retirees seeking an affordable and high-quality lifestyle in Southeast Asia. Located in Thailand’s temperate north, the city boasts a comfortable climate that attracts many retirees. Beyond its terrific weather, Chiang Mai offers a vibrant atmosphere with bustling markets, a diverse range of restaurants catering to Western tastes and breathtaking natural beauty. A couple can enjoy an easy life in Chiang Mai for under $2,000 per month.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Nestled in the Andes Mountains, Cuenca is known for its colonial charm and low cost of living, which attracts many U.S. retirees every year. It has a moderate climate, access to top-notch health care facilities and an active expat community to help retirees stay socially active. Your monthly Social Security benefit can go a long way here, covering housing, groceries and leisure activities. A couple living frugally in Ecuador could get by on $2,000 a month.

Kalamata, Greece

With its pleasant Mediterranean climate, Kalamata, Greece, offers a wealth of cultural and outdoor activities for retired expats. Residents live alongside Kalamata’s famous olive groves and enjoy access to its beaches, mountains and vineyards. Despite being a small city, Kalamata has many cultural attractions, art galleries, theaters and museums, including the Historical and Folklore Museum, Military Museum, Archaeological Museum, Victoria G. Karelia Collection of Greek Costumes and the Municipal Art Gallery. Couples can expect to live well in Kalamata with a monthly budget of around $2,000.

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Retirees who prefer a tropical setting but still wish to remain close to the U.S. may consider the town of Las Terrenas on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. With its golden-sand beaches, palm trees and laid-back Caribbean vibe, this affordable paradise draws U.S. retirees. The Dominican Republic’s low cost of living, coupled with its warm climate and welcoming locals, make it a great place to embrace island life. A retired couple with a monthly budget of $2,500 should be quite comfortable.

Lisbon, Portugal

Seniors who choose to make this historic Iberian capital their home will have plenty of sunshine and access to some of Europe’s best beaches. “Portugal offers a retirement and relocation residency program that is quite popular among U.S. retirees,” said David Brillant, a tax, trust and estate planning lawyer in Walnut Creek, California, who regularly works with clients who have retired to Portugal, in an email. Though Portugal has recently ended some of its most popular tax breaks for foreigners, retirees can still take advantage of its lower living costs. A couple can live in Lisbon for about $2,100 to $2,200 a month.

Medellín, Colombia

While it was once known for its political instability, Medellín, Colombia, has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years to become one of South America’s most inviting cities for American expats. You’ll find a year-round springlike climate and plenty of green space in this rapidly growing city. Retirees can sharpen their Spanish skills with friendly locals and enjoy lively festivals such as the annual Tamarind Festival and International Tango Festival. For outdoorsy seniors, the nearby mountains offer opportunities for hiking and camping. Couples can live in Medellín for less than $1,700 a month.

Penang, Malaysia

As one of the top expat destinations in Malaysia, Penang is a small tropical island and former British colony. English is widely spoken and its famously flavorful cuisine earns high marks from foodies. “Malaysia stands out for its My Second Home (MM2H) program, which has been appealing to many U.S. retirees due to its long-term visa option,” Burbank said. A couple living in Penang could get by on less than $1,500 a month.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

In this cultural gem located in the heart of Mexico, you can stroll cobblestone streets, visit local artisan markets and socialize with a thriving community of retired expats living in San Miguel de Allende. Retirees will also appreciate the range of affordable housing in San Miguel de Allende, from snug condos to sprawling hacienda-style properties. Access to low-cost high-quality health care also means your Social Security dollars will go much further. A couple can live on less than $2,000 a month in San Miguel de Allende.

Sarah Goldberg
Sarah Goldberg

Sarah is a seasoned financial market expert with a decade of experience. She's known for her analytical skills, attention to detail, and ability to communicate complex financial concepts. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Finance, is a licensed financial advisor, and enjoys reading and traveling in her free time.

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