Who hasn't daydreamed about retiring happy and without the stress of financial insecurity? Usually this daydream involves moving somewhere far away. Perhaps you've thought about living in a beach town somewhere, or that foreign city you traveled to years ago and can't wait to visit again -- permanently.
Countless factors go into where we'd most love to retire. You may want the sandy beach, the remote mountain town, or the desert oasis -- but you also have to think about taxes, cost of living, crime rates, hospitals, socioeconomic conditions, and much more. Well, in certain places around the world, you can get the best of everything -- including price.
Here's a list of six of the world's best places to retire, taking into consideration a number of factors that retirees care about.
1. Algarve, Portugal
Southern Portugal's pristine beaches and the country's newly established retiree program help make Algarve a top hub for retirees. The Non-Habitual Resident Law ensures that most foreign income is tax-free, provided that the qualifying individual hasn't lived in Portugal for five years prior. Qualifying retirees receive their pension tax-free for 10 years.
Alongside the retirement-program incentives, the costs of living and real estate in the area are low compared to the rest of Europe and the world at large. The cost of living in Portugal is about 30% lower than the rest of Western Europe. Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of the 2014 Retire Overseas Index and the Overseas Retirement Letter, estimates a total budget of about $1,500 a month is necessary for a couple to live comfortably.
For those looking to rent, Algarve Senior Living offers independent living communities equipped with services and staff tailored to a global senior clientele. In the case retirees need mobility aids, Sulcare produces many quality products in Algarve. And with the international hub of Lisbon only a few hours away by car, Algarve's beaches are accessible to a growing number of expats seeking a laid back atmosphere.
2. Cuenca, Ecuador
In the "land of eternal springtime," expat retirees get special benefits in Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Flights from Cuenca to the United States can be found on Skyscanner for less than $500, which is relatively cheap relative to other destinations around the world, so it's an easy visit to and from friends and family. Natural biodiversity ensures plentiful options for outdoor adventure such as trekking the Andes, exploring the Galapagos, or venturing to the Amazon.
3. Pacific Coast of Panama
Panama is considered one of the most expat-friendly countries in the world. Panama's close ties with the United Sates makes it easier to integrate and feel welcomed in this Central American country. The widespread use of English doesn't hurt, either.
Panama's Pensionado visa essentially guarantees a visa to anyone with a monthly pension of more than $1,000. To encourage retiree immigrants, the visa also includes various discounts ranging from 10% to 50% on food, entertainment, hotels, airline tickets, utilities, and medical services. Additionally, the Pensionado program allows a one-time exemption on duties for importation of household goods of up to $10,000. Retirees can take advantage of biannual tax exemption on buying a car locally or importing it from overseas. Due to these perks and more, Panama has ranked No. 1 in International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index for special benefits seven years in a row. Retirees enjoy ideal weather in the small beach towns along Panama's coast.
4. George Town, Malaysia
As the cultural hubs of the East attract more and more Westerners seeking cheap prices and safe places to visit, young backpackers aren't the only ones flocking to Asia. Retirees from around the world find long-term residence in the warm Southeastern countries, including Malaysia, where foreigners and locals alike enjoy a high standard of living and top-notch healthcare. The total population in George Town (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is estimated at only 740,000.
Malaysia's equivalent of the pensionado program, or "Malaysia My Second Home," incentivizes this influx of foreign retirees. The tourism department-sponsored program exempts income from offshore pension funds from taxation. A few additional benefits of the program include allowing expats to invest in local companies and trusts, apply for a "domestic helper," and import personal items and a car tax-free. Malaysia is also a popular destination for medical tourism, as it boasts affordable, high-quality healthcare. Some expats have reporting spending $8 on a visit to a local "klinik" -- where nearly all physicians have been educated abroad and speak perfect English.
The robust options for culinary experiences are also a plus. A three-course meal for two goes for less than $10, while the street food is safe and plentiful. For retirees who want to spend their hard-earned money traveling, Malaysia is a stone's throw away from other Southeast Asian tourist havens.