NEW YORK / Forbes.com / Taxes / May 19, 2011
By William P. Barrett, Informer
Let’s face it. Thanks to drug-induced gang violence, Mexico hasn’t been getting the best press lately as a place to live. That holds for Mexicans themselves as well as American retirees long drawn to the cheap prices, warm climate and (otherwise) appealing culture. Indeed, crime is the reason we last year took Mexico off our annual list of the Best Foreign Retirement Havens.
Sydney Harbor (iStock)
But then again, every country on this list sports an asterisk of some kind. Take, for instance, Malaysia, also returning again to our list again after a gap. The Southeast Asia country is a heady mix of inexpensive living, great beaches and different cultures. For health care reasons, retirees are advised to settle near Kuala Lumpur, the capital and, with 1.6 million people. largest city.
For the Full List of Havens, click here.
For Guide to Living Well in Retirement, click here.
This year’s list numbers 15–up from 12 last year and with a number of new entries. Off are Ecuador, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay. Besides Malaysia and Mexico, new or returning are Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Portugal. They join such stalwarts as Canada, France, Italy and Spain.
Our list was fashioned after looking at such issues as cost of living, safety, cultural attractions and scenery, tax matters, paperwork, local hospitality and weather. Availability of decent healthcare was also a factor. U.S. retirees do not qualify for state-subsidized medical treatment in almost any foreign country. But health care and insurance costs are so much lower abroad that the bills can be paid out of pocket. (For more information on this, click here.) Moreover, any cuts in the Medicare system for older Americans might serve only to make foreign options more appealing.
Besides Mexico, there are other surprises here. This year’s list includes Croatia, which for many Americans was last in the news during a civil war in the 1990s. Straight across the narrow Adriatic Sea from Italy, Croatia offers great beauty, that appealing Mediterranean climate and tax breaks for retirees. Plus, it’s cheap. As for safety and security, Croatia is ranked 41st best on the Global Peace Index of the Institute of Economics & Peace. The United States? Much worst at 85th.
There are lots of issues to consider when planning any move, let alone one to a foreign country. Solid research tailored to your individual situation is crucial. Fortunately, with the Internet and some phoning, that’s easier to do than ever. One smart way is to Google for blog postings of American expats in whatever country interests you. For other advice on how to check out a potential foreign retirement haven, click here.
No country is going to rank at the top for every factor we consider. And the weight you attach to each element will depend on–well, you. If you don’t use Skype, and returning to the States frequently and cheaply to visit friends and family is important to you, then Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines might not be the best places. If warm climates do nothing for you, then Canada might be worth a look.
2010 Forbes.com LLC™