A new report from the editors at International Living lists five great retirement spots where high-end living can be attained for a fraction of the price that you might pay in the United States. If you are on the verge of retiring or have been considering an ex-pat lifestyle, check out these attractive destinations.
"In the right places abroad, retirees can automatically upgrade their retirement to one of luxury -- and enjoy the perks of a swank lifestyle for far less than a comparable retirement back home would cost," says Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living. "I'm talking about benefits and comforts like your own maid, a gardener, dining out in gourmet restaurants. At home, if you're limited to a modest budget, you're sure to be counting pennies just to get by. But in the right places abroad, even an average Social Security benefit can bankroll a seriously comfortable existence."
Here is the list . . .
Panama City, Panama
Panama City is the capital and largest city in Panama. If you're looking for inexpensive cosmopolitan living -- but with many of the conveniences you'd expect in places like New York or Miami -- you'll love this vibrant city.
International Living Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch has been enjoying the gourmet restaurants, art galleries, parks and bayside promenades of Panama City for more than 10 years. The city's low cost of living inspired her to consider an apartment upgrade.
She says she's tempted by the hip city-center zones, with all of its happening bars and restaurants.
"In my favorite areas, El Cangrejo and Obarrio, I'm seeing listings for as little as $1,100 or $1,200 a month," she says. "These may not have ocean views, but they're central neighborhoods on the metro line, walking distance from cute little cafes and tapas bars. In what other world capital can you get this kind of value for so little?
"Another thing I've taken advantage of here is the good, reliable hired help. When I lived in the Clayton neighborhood of Panama City, my gardener charged me just $15 for a full day's work. I had him come by once every two weeks to help clear fallen mangos, cut the grass and prune or weed as necessary. He even helped care for the delicate orchids.
"And while my dad was living with me here, I also had a maid. She was a sweet, hard-working woman who was always kind to him. We paid her $20 for a day's work, once a week. She did laundry, made the beds, dusted and mopped, helped with cooking and even ran the occasional errand."
In the United States, having a cleaner come around for just an afternoon every other week could easily cost $100 or more.
"Another luxury I enjoy here is close proximity to the Caribbean," Ramesch says. "I can drive a couple hours to beaches near the historic town of Portobelo or take a one-hour flight to the islands of Bocas del Toro, one of my favorite places in the world. The turquoise waters are so clear you can see starfish at your feet and step carefully around them. With bright white sand and lush rainforest greenery all around you, Bocas is a true paradise."
In Panama City, a budget of $1,800 to $2,800 a month (housing included) is plenty for a couple to live comfortably and enjoy a truly cosmopolitan life, no skimping required.
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Johor Bahru lies at the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula. On the other side of the Straits of Johor, less than a mile to the south, is the wealthy island nation of Singapore. Two bridges connect the countries, and a great deal of daily traffic flows in each way.
"Almost everything in Johor Bahru is one-third the price that it would cost back home," says expat Jodie George, a resident of Johor Bahru. "Those savings are represented in your bank account at the end of the year."
Expats are coming in increasing numbers to the city and surrounding areas. Expat Christine Hakkaart learned about Johor Bahru by chance, hearing about it from a fellow passenger on a flight she took to Singapore. "It's quite a secret -- no one tells anyone about it," she says. "It's a fabulous little place. The people are really friendly -- everybody will help you. I just like it here."
A typical example of what is on the market: a 936-square-foot, furnished, two-bedroom apartment on a high floor with a good view of the city. The $460 monthly rental includes a swimming pool, gym and security. It's within walking distance of the KSL City Mall, which has some of the best shopping and restaurants in Johor Bahru.
"We're a 90-minute flight to Thailand and Vietnam, and the budget airlines are so inexpensive," George says. "We've been to seven countries since we've been here. The budget airlines are all amazing and travel is so affordable."
A couple can live comfortably in Johor Bahru with a monthly budget of around $1,700. That includes renting a modern and comfortable Western-style apartment, owning a car, eating out several times a week and all incidental expenses. Expats here can have a high standard of life on a very modest budget.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand's second largest city is well known as being one of the top places for expat retirees -- a place to upgrade their lifestyle amid a year-round tropical climate.
With its hundreds of golden temples, wide variety of international restaurants, stunning surrounding countryside and a large choice of outdoor activities, this northern Thailand city has something to offer everyone.
One of the great joys of retirement is the freedom it brings to enjoy hobbies and other interests -- like golf. You can play the sport for a fraction of the cost of back home. Since moving to Thailand, expat Pam Manning has been indulging her passion for golf.
"My lessons cost me $15 for an hour, and my coach was a professional golfer," she says. "But it's not just the golf that has appealed to Manning.
"The lifestyle here is vibrant, friendly and rewarding," she says. "There is no way I could afford to get out so much if I didn't live in Thailand. I can afford to go out every day, enjoy golf, lunches with other expats, and enjoy many local events. You can't help but feel very alive here."
Chiang Mai has always been known as one of the main cultural hubs of Thailand. It's also a bustling university town, so there are many art and cultural displays throughout the year both at galleries and at the large number of annual festivals. The more than 30,000 expats in the city have given rise to an active expat club that holds monthly meetings. It also acts as the umbrella for many local interest groups that meet regularly, to partake in everything from hiking to computers to photography.
In Chiang Mai, a couple can live comfortably for as low as $1,165 a month.
Located on the southern shores of the Pacific Ocean in Ecuador, the quiet fishing village of Olon features wide, sandy beaches on one side of the main road through town and lush, green hills on the other.
Most tourists descend upon the party town of Montanita, yet never realize that beautiful Olon sits nearby on the other side of a bluff.
Bamboo forest and fruit trees grow on the rolling hills on the east side of Olon. It is not unusual to see horses or cattle slowly grazing in fields where tropical flowers like Bird of Paradise grow wild.
On the west side, there is an incredible seven-mile stretch of beach where you can swim, surf or relax in a beachfront restaurant with your toes in the sand, enjoying a fresh seafood meal, cold beverages and incredibly colorful sunsets.
Bill Stanley and Caroline Belfour moved to Olon from Dallas. They live in a 2,800-square-foot duplex that they bought for $240,000. It's situated within walking distance of the beach. "In Florida or California," Caroline says, "it would have cost us millions."
A couple can live well in Olon (and other small communities along Ecuador's Pacific coast) for as little as $1,700 a month.
This is a cosmopolitan city with a neighborhood feel. Set in the middle of the Andes Mountains, Colombia's second-largest enclave is known as the City of Flowers. Enjoying a spring-like climate year-round, MedellÃn is always in bloom -- bright exotic flowers stand out against the lush green trees. It's a people-centered city -- getting around is easy without a car, and main roads shut down on weekends to offer wide routes for walking and cycling.
Bruce LeMaster, left life in Raleigh, North Carolina, to settle in Medellin. Its proximity to the United States was a factor in his decision. LeMaster says, "I have two daughters in the U.S., and I wanted it to be easy to go back to visit them or have them to come see me, so Medellin was a good choice in that respect."
While the former software engineer says he was "reasonably happy" living in the U.S., the thought of stretching his Social Security to the limit in retirement was not something that appealed. "I was going to be living on my Social Security, and there was no way that would allow me to live anywhere in the United States that I'd want to live."
So, Bruce is taking full advantage of Medellinâs favorable cost of living.
"I've got a furnished one-bed apartment in the Laureles neighborhood for which I pay $465 a month, so that is obviously a big savings in comparison with the States -- less than half what I used to pay," he says. "I have a housekeeper come to my apartment once a week -- it's $14.50 for the day."
Medellin's cost of living is remarkably affordable. Including rent, internet, a healthcare plan and a maid, a couple can live a great life in Medellin for $1,394 to $1,994 a month.
"Particularly today, with so much economic uncertainty on the horizon, it's going to make more sense now than ever for retirees worried about how they'll support themselves to consider their good options abroad," said Stevens, the executive editor of International Living. "The five spots we focus on in our report offer high-end living for pennies on the dollar."
The full report can be found, here: Luxury Living in Retirement: 5 Places for a High-End Lifestyle
Where is your dream retirement destination? Please let us know in the comments below.
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This post is courtesy of InternationalLiving.com