We have been pondering what life will look like in retirement for a while now, planning, saving, dreaming of an idyllic place we will call home for at least half the year. A simple, affordable home base where we keep our "stuff" and return to in between our travel forays.
We've considered charming Caribbean locales and gorgeous places in the Far East.
But there is a spot in Europe that has become an emerging contender for many and might be well worth consideration for those of you thinking about that ex-pat retirement stage in your lives.
Greece is positioning itself to be Europe's ideal destination for those who want to live abroad, according to InternationalLiving.com. In addition to offering warm weather in all seasons and easy low-cost living, the country is offering a new digital nomad visa that will make it easier for people working remotely to stay for extended periods and even gain citizenship and a Greek passport.
Greece offers an enthralling mixture of sun-splashed islands, towering mountains, vibrant cities and fascinating opportunities to explore history and culture. Wrapped in the warm embrace of the Aegean Sea, it is a vibrant and welcoming place, offering great value for North American expats. A couple could live comfortably there for as little as $2,000 a month, according to International Living.
"We've seen a sharp uptick in online traffic to our Greece content in 2021, with the overall traffic to our Greece pages up 41 percent in the first three months of 2021, when compared to the last period (October to December) of 2020," says Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living.
"The appetite for on-the-ground Greece intel has increased, and we're happy to see that because this is a nation that can make good sense for all sorts of expats -- younger, older, full-time or part-time.
"If you like the idea of a travel-rich life in Europe, Greece could make a very good base."
The borders in Greece are open (as of May 14, 2021) to international travelers who show proof of vaccination, Covid-19 antibodies or a negative test result taken within 72 hours of departure.
Greece offers expats an affordable and comfortable living in the sun. After 15 years in San Francisco where she worked as a certified public accountant, Lynn Roulo moved to Greece with her dog, two cats and one suitcase.
"I moved without a local job or a significant relationship waiting for me in Athens, so it was a big step into the unknown," Roulo says. "But it didn't feel scary or anxiety-provoking. The idea of moving and starting a fresh new life energized me. That was in 2012, and I still feel a sense of excitement that I get to live here.
"When I moved from San Francisco to Athens, I was pleasantly shocked to learn I could rent a comfortable 70-meter apartment with a modern bathroom and kitchen, as well as a huge private roof deck with a view of the Parthenon for less money than it would have cost me to rent a studio basement apartment in the worst neighborhood in San Francisco.
"Greece is a great choice for expats because of its amazing weather, hospitable people, its relatively low cost of living and its location, giving visitors easy access to travel to a wide range of other countries. You can go to London or Lebanon for a long weekend."
Greece already has in place a Golden Visa, (effectively an investment visa) which grants long-term residence -- with a path to citizenship and a passport -- to people who make an investment in real estate valued at EUR250,000 (roughly $300,000) or more. That's about half the investment threshold required for a similar visa in places like Portugal or Italy where the necessary investment is closer to $600,000.
Most exciting, though, is a new visa aimed at attracting digital nomads, set to come online soon, the editors at International Living report. This visa makes good sense for a person who has the flexibility to work remotely and likes the idea of a sunny European base.
"Finally, a remote worker incentive plan that actually makes a lot of sense," says Jeff D. Opdyke, editor of Global Intelligence Letter, a publication of International Living.
"The new plan that Greece is now in the process of assembling ... it looks to be one of the smartest remote-worker visas I've come across. That's because under the Greek plan as currently envisioned, a digital migrant, as the Greeks call us, will be eligible for a 50 percent exemption on earned income for the first seven years. In essence, you owe local taxes on only half your income.
"For someone who's still in the workforce and looking to maximize their savings opportunities as they approach retirement, sharply reducing your tax burden for seven years represents an intriguing opportunity to squirrel away more money.
"Though Greece hasn't finalized details of its plan yet, the Greek approach looks to allow for longer living arrangements, given the seven years of tax breaks. And it just so happens that long-term migrants, which is what you'd be as a digital worker, are eligible for Greek citizenship after seven years.
This means you could apply for a Greek passport (an EU passport), which would give you unfettered access to live and work across the rest of the European Union, no different than if you were moving from Tampa to Tucson."
A person considering a move to Greece will want to carefully research the options for visas and residence permits. International Living's report details the best of them for expats looking for a full- or part-time retirement in Greece, including a discussion of the country's new digital nomad visa.
Here are four more reasons why you might consider Greece as a potential destination for anybody ready to move out of the U.S.:
Good-Value Cost of Living
Greece is super-affordable, especially when compared with North America and much of the rest of Europe. Prices for daily essentials (food, transport, etc.) are at least 20 percent cheaper than in the U.S., and costs to rent an apartment can be as much as 70 percent less.
Throughout Greece, expats will save money by using public transport, avoiding touristy areas, shopping at local markets, and eating out where the Greeks do. A budget-conscious expat can live comfortably in Greece for $1,830 a month or less.
Welcoming and Easy Lifestyle
Greece is a proud nation that emphasizes family, tradition and a love of the outdoors. Because tourism plays such an important part in the Greek economy, English is widely spoken in many areas and the country's infrastructure caters well to residents and visitors alike.
Expats enjoy lots of options in terms of lifestyle: from a sturdy lakefront cabin in the mountains, to a rooftop apartment on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, to a low-maintenance beachfront unit on Mykonos, residents are guaranteed plenty of sunshine and four distinct (though mild) seasons -- even though the Greeks tend to think in terms of "summer and everything else."
The quality of medical care in Greece is generally excellent, especially in major centers like Athens and Thessaloniki. Emergency healthcare in Greece is free regardless of nationality. Pharmacies are abundant throughout the country -- Greece has more pharmacists per capita than any other nation in Europe.
Greece is one of the safest countries in Europe and has an easy-going, relaxed feel.
Roulo, based in Athens, says, "As a single woman, I feel very safe living here. Crime here is significantly lower than in the United States . . . ."
Basic precautions with regard to personal belongings will prevent rare cases of petty theft.
The full report on Visa and Residency in Greece -- including the latest information on the digital migrant visa -- can be found here: Greek Visa and Residency Information.
Thanks for reading,