Your Top 20 Country Choices for Overseas Retirement

getting ready for the China sessionAnd the winners are. . . drumroll please. . .

Yesterday evening the Live and invest Overseas Conference ended after a densely scheduled three-day smorgasbord of information for expats and plan-to-be expats. (I’ve decided that’s a better phrase than “wannabe.”)

Last month I speculated about the 20 countries they’d recommend, and I’m happy to report I pretty much nailed it. There was only one country on the list that really surprised me.

Here, without further ado, are their recommendations for the 20 top countries that North Americans should have on their list of potential places to live or retire abroad affordably.

If You Want to Live in Asia

Overall, Southeast Asia is the least expensive part of the world to live. There are notable exceptions, of course, like Singapore, but this region includes six out of the 20 top picks. Here are the best places to live in Asia, in alphabetical order.

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Laos
  4. Malaysia
  5. Thailand
  6. Vietnam
  7. If You Want to Live in Europe

    Although parts of Europe (Paris, London) are quite costly, other areas are surprisingly affordable. Follow these recommendations for the best places to live in Europe.

  8. Croatia
  9. France, particularly the Languedoc and Aquitaine regions
  10. Ireland
  11. Italy
  12. Spain
  13. If You Want to Live in Latin America

    Nine of the top 20 countries are in Latin America. It’s not surprising, as proximity to the US and staying in time zones close to the US’ are important to many expats. Here are the best, most affordable, places to live in Latin America.

  14. Argentina
  15. Belize
  16. Brazil
  17. Colombia
  18. Ecuador
  19. Mexico
  20. Nicaragua
  21. Panama
  22. Uruguay

I mentioned that one country’s inclusion surprised me, and that’s Brazil. While some expat experts have been promoting the country for a long time, Kathleen has held back. Her objections have been well thought out, and involve important issues like ease of moving your money out of the country when/if you decide to leave.

While the presentation on each country emphasized its positive aspects, there was also a discussion of the country’s cons. In short, the conference provided practical, actionable information for deciding on an overseas destination.

If your budget is really tight, remember that living in a major city is always more costly than living away the the metro area. In these countries, you can find areas that will work for you and your budget and give you a North American, middle class standard of living.

All the information from the conference will be available soon. . . watch for details!


  1. Ed Rivers says:

    This list is great! All of the countries listed in Asia are already easy for people like myself who want to teach English as a career, as they have much easier entry and work/visa standards than say, West Europe (and that EU hassle). A Social Security check can go far in ALMOST all of those countries (except Malaysia, which is considered an economic giant thanks to Kuala Lumpur). I’ve recently been thinking a lot about teaching in India, considering that’s where many of the US’ IT experts and doctors come from, and the tiny state of Goa (from what I hear) is like the Dubai/Manhattan of India.

    For Europe, I’d strongly consider adding Slovenia (one of the highest qualities of life in Europe), Montenegro (haven for foreign investment, not to mention perfect location for weather), Albania (growing middle class), Kosovo (far West-leaning economy), Romania (haven for foreign investment AND Transylvania), and Bulgaria (a Social Security check is considerably more than the average wage, not to mention having dozens of nature reserves and national parks) to that list…

    I’ll also add to that list Georgia and Armenia. Georgia is becoming a haven for foreign investment and Armenia (the world’s oldest Christian state) has a strong economy with much support from the USA.

    Remember, American MIDDLE CLASS means WEALTHY and UPPER CLASS in many places listed there. Now, that certainly doesn’t mean someone should change their lifestyle from modest Western-style living to buying a Bugatti and living in a mansion for the rest of their days; but making their retirement pay WORK for them and assimilating into their new environment while being mindful of the culture and people around them. The better you treat the locals people, the more open and accepting of you they are and the easier your life becomes along with the higher quality of life. 🙂

    Oh, and check out ( for a list of countries that have relatively easy business practices (such as buying land, enforcing contracts, opening a business, etc).

  2. Philippines is good too. Would definitely consider before Vietnam though Vietnam is cheap. I’m told by a Vietnamese friend who just visited here in Manila that infrastructure here on Luzon such as highways, etc., is 10-15 years ahead of much of Vietnam. Thailand is a little better off than Phils at least before they flooded. Consider the ease with which you can get by with just English. Philippines wins on that score. Laos? Really?

    Bottom line, take a vacation and travel to two or three of these countries before you make a whole plan around what you will do.

    • Thanks for your comments, Steven. I had expected the Philippines to be on their list, actually. Not sure why it wasn’t. It’s interesting that the price of rent in Manila is only 11% of rent in New York City, but groceries are about 40%, according to Numbeo. In Cebu rent is even lower, about 8%, but the other indices are about the same. According to Numbeo, rent in Vietnam averages higher than in Philippines. . .

      Ed, as always, you make good points.

  3. Rudy Orcino says:

    Philippine Islands one of the best!

  4. China???Can I really have been propagandized that successfully?

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