8 Places to Retire Like a King on a Shoestring Budget

Steve McDonald By Steve McDonald, Bond Strategist, The Oxford Club

Lifestyle

My brother-in-law has been welded to his desk since 1971. But he recently announced his retirement plans… and – I have to be honest – I thought his idea seemed a little “out there”…

He plans to move into his recently purchased 43-foot RV, full time, and spend his life traveling the country. His goal is to visit as many places as he can for as long as he can.

It sounded far-fetched to me because I couldn’t see myself living on the road. But after giving it some thought, I’ve realized that retirement doesn’t have to mean living in one place until your final exit.

Adopting this kind of mindset means your retirement options are virtually unlimited.

You don’t have to live a gypsy’s life on the road, but how about living in short-term rentals, traveling from country to country, seeing the world? You could move as often as you please, whenever your lease and whims dictate.

At first glance, this international vagabond lifestyle sounds like it could be very costly. But it doesn’t have to be. There are several destinations where it’s possible to retire or live very comfortably on a shoestring budget.

In fact, I’ve detailed MSN Money’s itinerary of eight countries where you can afford to visit and live for 20 to 30 years on an average monthly Social Security check of $1,300 and as little as $200,000 in savings.

  • The first – and most expensive – with an average cost of living around $2,500 per month, is Panama.

Living expenses in Panama City are on par with those in the U.S., but the surrounding towns and villages are much more reasonable. And American retirees can take advantage of the Panamanian government’s “pensionado” program, which provides discounts on flights, medical care and utilities.

I visited Panama last year, and believe me… it’s no longer the banana republic of yesterday! It’s moving and shaking with all kinds of developments. And even at $2,500 per month, it’s a bargain.

  • When you get tired of the tropical life, how about visiting Spain?

The average cost of living is 20% less than it is in the U.S., and rental prices are about 50% cheaper. You can live comfortably in Spain for about $2,280 a month.

If you’ve never visited Spain, you should. It’s fantastic. It has tons of culture and heritage, and you’re just a train ride away from the entire EU. (Train travel is one of my favorite ways to get around Europe.)

  • If life in the EU gets dull, move closer to home… You can live in Costa Rica for an average of just $1,925 per month.

This is a country I haven’t yet visited, but everyone I know who’s traveled there raves about how modern and livable it is. You can find rentals priced as low as $417 a month, and utility costs range between just $48 and $79 a month. It’s a tropical paradise that’s perfect for living life on a shoestring budget.

  • Tired of the Western world and want to get a little exotic? How about Thailand?

If you can provide proof of income (at least $1,863 per month or at least $23,000 in savings), you can get a retirement visa… and it’s well worth the extra effort.

Thailand is wonderful. While Bangkok is one of the pricier cities, the outlying areas are 50% to 60% cheaper than New York, Chicago or Boston. And, at an average cost of about $1,750 per month, living in Thailand is a steal.

  • The travel opportunities in Asia are endless, and most destinations are very reasonable… Take Malaysia for example!

The cost of living in Malaysia is 44% cheaper than it is the U.S. Plus, housing is dirt cheap, 69% less expensive than it is here at home.

You’ll need to prove that you have at least $90,000 in assets and about $2,550 in monthly income to qualify for a Second Home Visa, but if you can do that, it’s worth the paperwork. Monthly expenses for a couple (including rent) total just $1,557 on average!

  • If you want to live really cheap, check out Belize. A couple can live on just $1,500 per month, including rent. Plus, Belize offers a generous incentive program for retirees and great tax advantages.
  • Ecuador also offers great government benefits and healthcare options to retirees. The average cost of living is just $1,484 (including rent), and you can get a comfortable furnished apartment in the capital city of Quito for as little as $583 per month.
  • Finally, Nicaragua is a retiree’s budget paradise, given its inexpensive cost of living of just $1,184 a month. General incentive programs and tax benefits draw foreign retirees in droves.

When you think of Nicaragua, you may think of Daniel Ortega and the guerrillas of the ‘80s, but believe me, it’s nothing like that now. The countryside is beautiful, and the beaches are pristine. It also has some of the best surfing in the world.

If you’ve been welded to a desk or kitchen (or anywhere else) for the last 45 years, it’s time to think about how and where you’d like to spend your golden years. There are plenty of affordable and exciting options to consider.

If you have a taste for culture and travel… retirement doesn’t have to be boring or stationary. Look at your golden years as an adventure and “live the world” without hurting your pocketbook!

Good investing,

Steve