World’s top 25 retirement destinations

Ask many Australians and they’ll tell you Australia is a pretty good place to live. It’s home to two of the world’s most consistent liveable and friendliest cities award winners and the third best pension system in the world.

But is it a good place to retire?

You would think so, but‘s 2021 Global Retirement Index suggests otherwise.

For 30 years, the annual index has determined the world’s top 25 retirement destinations across 10 categories, including cost of living, governance, retiree benefits, climate, healthcare and more.

“Three decades have gone by, during which our scouts have scoured every corner of the globe many times over,” says International Living’s Jason Holland, the roving Latin Americas editor.

“The result is a much bigger and ever-growing selection of outstanding destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money and get a whole lot more.

“The retirement index is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. It’s the best way we know of to sift through the wealth of opportunity the world offers, bring some order and help you pinpoint the best destination for you.”

The index investigates safe, good-value destinations and has found many idyllic countries where a retired couple can live a comfortable, carefree life on as little as $2000 a month.

It’s constructed not only with statistics but also through real-world, practical, on-the-ground intelligence, experience and opinion and is designed to be a useful tool for potential expats trying to find the place that’s right for them. 

Destinations are judged on 10 categories, and with the index, wannabe retirees can compare and contrast countries in terms of their cost of living, housing, healthcare, retiree benefits and more.

“All 25 destinations are worth your attention,” says Jennifer Stevens, International Living executive editor. 

“But this index is most useful when you come to it with an idea in mind about what your ideal destination might look like. What’s most important to you – the cost of living, proximity to home, having a beach or lots of cultural activities close at hand, the climate? 

“Whether you’re looking for a friendly, good-value city, a tropical beach, a cool, highland retreat, a historic colonial enclave or a quiet lakeside getaway, this index can help point you to your best options on the planet today. 

“Our choice of countries reflects a huge range of lifestyles and locations – they’re the places we think you’ll find the best combination of factors to suit your overseas retirement. We’ve got people on the ground in each of them, reporting facts and figures, and sharing their insights about the places they’re proud to call home. 

“These are locations where – as the expats on the ground regularly report – it’s easy to feel healthier, happier and less stressed. As expats Tom and Diane Brown, originally from Washington State, put it, speaking from their new home in Costa Rica’s Central Valley: “We live very comfortably on our two Social Security checks and my pension. We can easily live on $3000 a month here, including a gardener and a maid. We also put away $500 each month for travel.” 

This year’s index has the world’s top 10 retirement destinations as:

1. Costa Rica

2. Panama

3. Mexico

4. Colombia

5. Portugal

6. Ecuador

7. Malaysia

8. France

9. Malta

10. Vietnam

Simple living, in a society where you are cared for, with a cost of living that you can easily afford – those are all reasons Costa Rica is the leader in the Annual Global Retirement Index for 2021, says International Living.

“One of the things you hear often from expats is how warm and welcoming the ticos (Costa Ricans) are,” says Kathleen Evans, International Living’s Costa Rica correspondent. 

“They are wonderful people, eager to share the magic of their culture, food and traditions with foreigners. 

“You will also find engaging international communities of expats who will help you through the process of acclimation. The vast majority of new arrivals say it is very easy to make friends and fit in here.

“A couple can live comfortably, but not necessarily extravagantly, here for around A$2500 a month. This includes renting a two-bedroom home with amenities, air conditioning, plus groceries, entertainment, transportation and healthcare. If your monthly budget is closer to A$3200 or A$3800, you will find a relaxed lifestyle with every comfort you require. 

“Like everywhere in the world, the pandemic has dealt the Costa Rican economy a harsh blow and put strains on the healthcare system. Even so, the country remains a good long-term bet as we move towards a post-COVID world, given its natural beauty, resilient population and progressive vision.”

So, where did Australia end up on the list? Well, only the top 25 are published and Australia did not crack the list.


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Would you consider retiring to any of these countries?

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