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The 10 Cheapest, Safest Retirement Countries in the World

Investopedia logoInvestopedia 22-04-2016 Jean Folger
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More people each year choose to retire abroad to find a change of scenery, new experiences and a lower cost of living. Even if staying within a tight budget is your biggest retirement focus, safety is likely to be another top consideration.

To help you find the best of both worlds, below are 10 of the cheapest countries for retirement that scored well on the 2015 Global Peace Index, which ranks 162 nations – covering 99.6% of the world’s population – according to their relative peacefulness.

 Our other figure, the Cost of Living Index, an indicator of consumer goods (excluding rent/mortgage) relative to costs in New York City, was developed by If a nation has an index of 80, it means that consumer goods there cost 20% less than in N.Y.C.

The listing here is in order of each country’s peacefulness index, from lower to higher.

1. Austria

  • Global Peace Index Rank: 3/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 47.16
  • Retirement Visa: You’ll need a Residence Permit if you’re staying longer than six months, plus proof of sufficient financial means. 

Considered by many as the “Swiss alternative,” Austria offers all the stunning natural beauty of Switzerland at a price that’s easier on the budget. Expect an excellent infrastructure and high living standards. (Check out 5 Tips on Moving from the U.S. to Europe for more.)

2. Australia

  • Global Peace Index: 9/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 60.43
  • Retirement Visa: Fast-track Permanent Residency programs require high net worth. Otherwise, apply for a visitor visa and reapply as needed. After four years, you may qualify for a Permanent Residency visa.

Thanks to a strong U.S. dollar, Australia is gaining traction as an affordable retirement destination. Expats enjoy the rugged natural beauty, vibrant cosmopolitan cities and laid-back culture. (For more, see Retire in Australia with $200,000 of Savings?)

3. Czech Republic

  • Global Peace Index: 10/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 28.66
  • Retirement Visa: No retirement visa scheme, but a long-term Residence Permit is awarded in certain situations. You’ll need proof of health insurance regardless of trip length.

The Czech Republic is known as the castle capital of the world – there are more than 2,000 scattered across the country, including Prague Castle, the largest medieval castle in Europe. The expat community is growing but still fairly small: About 6,000 Americans have permanent or temporary residency here. (See Know the Top Countries for Retiring in Europe for additional insights.)

4. Portugal

  • Global Peace Index: 11/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 33.23
  • Retirement Visa: You can apply for a Permanent Residency Visa if you have proof of financial means.

A low cost of living attracts expats from around the world to Portugal’s sunny shores. The country might be a good choice if you look forward to relaxing on the beach, dining on fresh seafood and drinking wine – especially port, the country’s signature spirit.  (Learn how much money it takes in Can I Retire in Portugal with $200,000 of Savings?)

5. Slovenia

  • Global Peace Index: 15/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 34.18
  • Retirement Visa: If you stay longer than 90 days, apply for a Residence Permit. You’ll need proof of health insurance, sufficient income and a permanent address.

The capital city of Ljubljana won this year’s European Green Capital award, which acknowledges a metropolis’s record of high environmental standards and sustainable development practices. Expect incredible scenery – mountains, lakes and emerald-green rivers – plus plenty of medieval castles, including one on a small island in the middle of Lake Bled.

6. Spain

  • Global Peace Index: 21/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 38.21
  • Retirement Visa: You can stay in Spain for up to 90 days without a visa; after that, you’ll need a Residence visa from your home country’s Spanish embassy or consulate.

Spain is an expat’s paradise, with 3,000-plus miles of sunny coastline, snow-capped mountains, mild weather and friendly locals. The Spanish cuisine is pretty easy to get used to, too. When you’re not at the beach or drinking wine, 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites will keep you busy. (Read more in Top 5 Retirement Cities in Spain.)

7. Malaysia

  • Global Peace Index: 28/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 24.78
  • Retirement Visa: To live permanently in Malaysia, you can apply for the “Malaysia My Second Home” (MM2H) program, which grants visas for up to 10 years as long as you meet financial requirements.

Southeast Asia includes some of the most affordable retirement destinations in the world, but very few rank in the top 50 in terms of safety. Malaysia is one of those that do. This multicultural island nation has good housing options for retirees, excellent healthcare and, of course, miles of beautiful beaches. (Find out more in Retire in Malaysia with $200,000 of Savings?) 

8. Chile

  • Global Peace Index: 29/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 29.10
  • Retirement Visa: You can apply for a Retirement Visa if you have proof that you can support yourself (e.g., Social Security, pension).

An established community of expats enjoys Chile’s high standard of living, natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities and welcoming locals. One consideration: While Chile scored well on the Global Peace Index, it is in a major earthquake zone. Still, this highly developed country is better prepared to deal with quakes than many places. (For more, read Top 5 Cities to Retire to in Chile.) 

9. Costa Rica

  • Global Peace Index:  34/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 37.76
  • Retirement Visa: Apply for a Pensionado Visa to stay long-term. You’ll need at least $1,000 per month in qualified pension income.

Costa Rica was one of the first countries to offer a special benefits package specifically aimed at expat retirees. Other perks include good healthcare, rich biodiversity, a tropical climate and a healthful diet. Adventurous retirees can enjoy the same activities that attract tourists: whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, jungle hikes and canopy tours. (Check out Retire in Costa Rica with $200,000 of Savings? for more.)

10. Uruguay

  • Global Peace Index: 44/162
  • Cost of Living Index: 36.49
  • Retirement Visa: Several residency visas are available that come with the same rights you would have as a resident.

Uruguay is South America’s second-smallest country. Expat retirees enjoy the stable economy, mild climate, sunny beaches and a colorful culture – plus a national health system that entitles everyone, including foreign residents, to quality medical treatment. (See more in How Much Money Do You Need to Retire in Uruguay?)

The Bottom Line

No matter where you want to retire, it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of living abroad before making any decisions – including what it would be like to actually settle there as a long-term resident, and not just visit as a tourist.

See the U.S. Department of State’s Alerts and Travel Warnings for up-to-date travel information. U.S. citizens visiting or living overseas are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and/or your immediate family in case of an emergency.

PHOTOS: 50 Cheapest Countries To Live

A new cost of living index report of countries around the world reveals the cheapest countries in the world to live in. The report prepared by Numbeo, a data research website, ranked the countries based on cost of rent, groceries, local purchasing power, and cost of eating in a restaurant among other factors. These factors were compared to the same parameters using New York City as a base. Click through to see which country is the cheapest to live in. 50 cheapest countries to live in

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