For many, retiring in the United States in a penthouse apartment with enough money left over to hire a house cleaner and dine out on the regular is a lofty goal. But in these five places that International Living—a resource for those who want to retire abroad—handpicked, you can easily upgrade your retirement without squandering your hard-earned savings all at once.
So what are you waiting for? Maybe it’s time to think about an early retirement.
Chiang Mai, Thailand Expats are drawn to Thailand’s second-largest city not only by the low cost of living, but also the world-class food and culture of the area. Rachel Devlin, International Living’s Chiang Mai correspondent, says that in addition to $5 games of golf at the Gymkhana Golf Club with views of the ancient and holy Yang Na tree, you can also treat yourself to $44 seven-course lunches cooked by Michelin-ranked chefs at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Medellín, Colombia Located in the Andes Mountains, Colombia’s second-largest city is known for having spring-like weather all year long. But the mild temperatures aren’t the only reason Medellín is a great place to retire.
One International Living reader, Aaron Brabham, was able to find a 1,625-square-foot, three-story penthouse apartment for less than $2,000 a month, which leaves him enough to afford luxuries like a private chef who prepares five meals for him a week ($50), plus a maid who comes twice a week to clean and run errands ($30).
Penang, Malaysia Jacques and Sharon Giraud from Toronto retired to the beach suburb of Tanjong Bungah on the Malaysian island of Penang on the Andaman Sea in 2016. There, they rent a 4,800-square-foot apartment with marble floors and views of the ocean or jungle from each room for just $2,000 a month (they estimate something similar in Canada would cost $10,000 a month, or more). It’s also affordable to stay active there, too. A round of golf costs just $30, while tennis lessons can be found for only $15 an hour.
Panama City, Panama International Living’s Panama editor Jessica Ramesch says that a recent building spree of modern apartments in Panama City means that rental prices are going down. She’s seen two-bedroom, two-bathroom units in brand-new buildings with pools and views of the ocean for as little as $1,300 a month. Apartments in more central neighborhoods near the metro and within walking distance of cafés and tapas bars are even less—just $1,100 or $1,200 a month.
Hiring people to help out with chores is also affordable. “When I lived in the green Clayton sector of Panama City, my gardener charged me just $15 for a full day’s work,” Ramesch says. “I had him come by once every two weeks to help clear fallen mangoes, cut the grass, and prune or weed as necessary. He even helped care for the delicate orchids.”
Salinas, Ecuador The coastal town of Salinas on the tip of Ecuador’s Santa Elena peninsula is famous for its beaches and year-round warm weather (it’s just two degrees south of the equator). International Living’s Coastal Ecuador correspondent Jim Santos and his wife bought a 2,120-square-foot condo in Salinas that has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and ocean views for just $220,000.
“If we had bought on the California coast, in an area with comparable weather, we would have paid five times as much or more,” Santos says. “We might not have been able to afford even the property tax and maintenance fees of an oceanfront condo elsewhere. In Salinas, we pay less than $200 a month for all our amenities, including trash pickup. Our property taxes are less than $300 a year.”
Read more about what it’s like to retire in these places on internationalliving.com.