The World’s Cheapest, Safest Retirement Countries for Canadians

There are a lot of great things to be said about living in Alberta, but the winters are not high on many people’s lists. Whether you’re experiencing your first winter here or your 50th, it doesn’t seem to get any easier. We love to complain to each other about how dark and cold it gets during wintertime, but are quick to defend our beloved ice box when friends from warmer places gasp when they hear how it gets below -30 Celsius: “Actually, it’s a dry cold, so it’s not as bad.”

As Alberta residents near retirement, the topic of relocation is likely to come up. It’s hard not to imagine a dreamy retirement life full of sunshine and mild temperatures year-round.

Another benefit of retiring abroad is that it can stretch your retirement dollars further, depending where you choose to live. It allows you to experience a foreign land while enjoying a lower cost of living.

If the cold has gotten you down, don’t worry. If you’ve thought about saying sayonara to the cold once and for all, there are safe, affordable countries with warm weather year-round that will make excellent retirement countries.

Retirement requires financial planning, and even though it can be much cheaper to retire abroad, reducing your monthly expenses is crucial. You can’t happily retire abroad if you haven’t paid off your credit cards, car payments, mortgages, and have a healthy retirement portfolio. This is where we can help. If you’re interested in retiring in a different country, it’s important to understand how much you will need to save to live comfortably in your desired location. Once you have your mind set on a retirement location, actively working towards saving to get to that magic number will prepare you financially for your next chapter.

International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index highlights the best countries for retirees each year, and 2019’s top 10 list features eight Spanish-speaking countries—seven of them in Central and South America, and Spain itself. If you’re planning a foreign retirement, it may make sense to put learning Spanish on your to-do list.

To determine which countries are the best for retirees, International Living uses a scoring system that measures a variety of factors, including:

  • Ease of buying and owning property and the value of property investments
  • Cost of renting
  • Benefits and discounts on things such as healthcare and entertainment
  • Visa and residency requirements
  • Cost of living
  • Fitting in and how easy it is to make friends
  • Entertainment and amenities
  • Healthy living
  • Development and infrastructure
  • Climate
  • Stability of the country’s political situation

We’ve highlighted the top five countries with the highest cumulative average score across all those categories:

1. Panama

Between majestic mountains and bustling beaches, Panama offers the best of both worlds for retirees. Locals have a reputation for being welcoming and friendly, and from a cost-of-living perspective, it’s highly affordable. Virtually everything is less expensive compared to Canada, including groceries, restaurants, and rent. On average, it is 23% cheaper to live in Panama than Canada.

Expats who get a retirement visa enjoy many benefits, including deep discounts on entertainment, airfare, local transportation, and hotel stays, as well as a one-time duty-tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000 and a 100% duty exemption on the purchase or importation of a vehicle every two years.

2. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an ideal choice if you value a healthy, active lifestyle. It earned the highest scores in the healthcare, amenities, and healthy living categories, and there’s no shortage of things to see and do. The cost of living makes Costa Rica highly affordable, even on the smallest retirement budget. It is 26% cheaper to live in Costa Rica than Canada. If you’d prefer to buy, you can find homes as low as $50,000, with property tax rates that are a fraction of what you’d pay in Canada.

3. Mexico

Mexico combines modern amenities with a rustic feel, and it’s well suited to retirees who prefer a balmy climate and a short flight home to Canada. It earned its highest ratings on International Living’s list for both entertainment and amenities and the ease of establishing residency. Retirees can get a temporary resident visa, which is good for up to four years, by meeting minimum monthly income or asset requirements or by owning property in Mexico. If you plan to stay long term, you can apply for a permanent resident visa, which has higher income and asset requirements. Puerto Vallarta is a popular location for Canadian snowbirds and retired expats.

4. Ecuador

Ecuador has something for everyone, whether you prefer the beach, the mountains, the countryside, or the city. It earned its highest score for its climate, which boasts an average annual temperature of 19 degrees Celsius. The cost of living in Ecuador is 43% lower than in Canada. Like Panama, Ecuador extends a long list of money-saving benefits to expats, including discounts on your electric and water bills, discounts on entertainment and public transportation, and reductions of certain taxes.

5. Malaysia

Malaysia is one of three countries included in the International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index top 10 that’s not in South or Central America. Aside from the beautiful landscape, expats are attracted to this Asian locale because of the low cost of living and abundance of amenities. Consumer prices, including rent, are 41% less expensive than Canada, with a one-bedroom apartment renting for less than $400 a month. There are hundreds of islands to visit, and the low cost and wide variety of restaurants make it a foodie’s paradise.

After seeing this list of possible retirement locations, are you nodding your head, si, si, but your finances are not where they need to be? We’re here to help make your retirement dreams come true.

Submit a request to receive a free, confidential and in-depth assessment of your current financial situation. Paradise is closer than you think.