Places to Retire in Comfort on $500,000
Americans typically don’t take full advantage of the tax benefits of maxing out 401(k) contributions, or they simply start saving too late in life.
These issues leave many retirement-age Americans looking at their retirement savings and seeing $500,000 or less on the bottom line. Instead of working well beyond retirement age and sacrificing some of their best work-free years sitting at a desk, travel can be the answer. There are many destinations around the world where retirees can live well on $500,000 in retirement savings and Social Security.
Here are 30 places where $500,000 in your retirement account is plenty.
First, the Methods to Our Madness
Many variables are at play, so let’s set up the ground rules. First, all numbers assume a withdrawal rate of 3.5 percent per year from the retiree’s savings, which amounts to $1,458 per month. Sure, the 4-percent rule is great, but today’s low interest rates do not support it. The last thing you want to do is run out of retirement savings in your 70s or 80s.
We also assume the retiree has worked enough quarters and contributed enough to Social Security to earn at least $1,413 per month in Social Security income, which is the average at the time we put together these numbers.
Finally, we limited all international destinations to ones that a retiree could move to with relative ease. For example, ones with easy-to-obtain retiree-friendly visas or affordable permanent resident visa options.
To determine which countries fit the budget best, we used the cost-of-living aggregator Numbeo to determine the cost to rent a one- to three-bedroom apartment in and outside the city center.
With the boring rules out of the way, let’s dive into the fun part.
I have an unhealthy obsession with Indonesia and wear it like a badge of honor. This is where my wife is from, and we have plans to move there soon to start our super-aggressive retirement savings plan. But I digress.
Indonesia is not only one of the cheapest countries in the world to live in; it’s also one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. Living on $2,871 per month is 855 percent more than the average Indonesian worker makes, so your money will stretch further than ever possible in the U.S.
Renting a nice three-bedroom apartment in a big city, like Jakarta, costs less than $600 per month. If you’re willing to move outside the city, rent plummets to just north of $300 per month. This would leave you between $2,271 and $2,571 per month to cover utilities, food and some fun stuff.
Retirees can get a one-year retirement visa to Indonesia with relative ease, and they can renew it up to five times. After four years, retirees can apply for a KITAP, which is a permanent-residency status that can be renewed every five years.
To get the retirement visa you must be at least 55 years old, earn at least $18,000 a year in retirement income, sign a lease on a rental property and have an employment contract with at least one household staff, which is typically a maid, nanny or chef. Because you likely can only meet the last two requirements while in Indonesia, you may need to come on a tourist visa first to secure a place and staff, then apply for the retirement visa.
Touching Indonesia’s northern border is Malaysia, which is just a bit more expensive than Indonesia but still quite livable with $500,000 in retirement savings.
With your $2,871-per-month retirement income, you would make 346 percent more than the average worker in Malaysia. And with an apartment in a big city costing $364 to $657 per month, you’ll have tons of money left over for utilities, fun stuff and travel. Moving outside the big city drops the rent costs to $233 to $401 per month.
Getting a Malaysian retirement visa is a straightforward process. You must be at least 50 years old and have $33,000 available to deposit into a Malaysian bank account ($50,000 for a married couple) and submit the required application. If you don’t have that liquid cash sitting around, Retire in Asia says Malaysian officials often waive this requirement as long as you have a fixed retirement income of at least $2,300 ($3,300 for married couples) per month.
Thailand not only has some of the best food in the world, but it also offers a great spot for retirees to relax on tighter savings.
Your monthly retirement income will put you at a 486 percent advantage over the average Thai worker and set you up with a comfortable life. In its bustling cities, Thailand’s rent is a little higher at $431 to $1,286 per month for an apartment, but setting up a space just outside the city drops these costs to $251 to $635 per month. That will leave you tons of cash to pay utilities and enjoy all the pad thai you can eat.
Getting a retirement visa in Thailand is just as easy as in Malaysia. Any 50-year-old with at least 65,000 baht ($1,979) in monthly retirement income or the ability to transfer 800,000 baht ($24,357) into a Thai bank account is eligible for the visa.
Prefer to stay somewhere in the Americas? Ecuador may be a great option to stretch that $500,000.
With your monthly income, you would earn 572 percent more than the average worker in Ecuador. City living in Ecuador is not overly expensive, as an apartment will range from $375 to $613 per month. If you’re willing to head out of the city, you can land a nice place for $280 to $470 per month. That leaves $2,258 to $2,591 per month to pay utilities and check out some of this country’s amazing sites.
Ecuador also has some of the most foreigner-friendly visas in the world. Retirees can qualify for the straight retirement visa with $800 per month in retirement income plus an extra $100 per month per dependent. You can also opt for an investor visa by buying land or a home in Ecuador valued at a minimum of $25,000.
You can even leave the country to save serious cash but remain close to home by retiring in Mexico.
With a monthly retirement income of $2,871, you will bring home 613 percent more than the average Mexican worker, which will give you tons of flexibility in retirement. Housing in Mexican cities runs $288 to $590 per month. Living outside the city will save you even more cash as the average rent dips to $190 to $402 per month. This leaves to $2,281 to $2,681 per month to live on. Plus, being closer to the U.S. means trips back to the States to visit family will be cheaper.
There are two visa options for retirees in Mexico. If you’re uncertain Mexico is the right place for you, the temporary resident visa is likely the best option. This visa is good for up to four years, and you must show a minimum retirement income of $1,553 per month per person or 12 months or bank statements that show an average balance of $25,880.
If you know Mexico is the place for your retirement, skip straight to the permanent resident visa. This visa requires you to show a 12-month average bank account balance of $103,523 or at least $2,588 in monthly income for the past six months.
While Belize is not quite as inexpensive as others on this list, your salary will still nearly triple the average income and stretch very far. Making Belize even more attractive is its proximity to the U.S. and English being the official language.
While property prices have risen in Belize as expatriates continue to flood its borders, rent remains affordable at $237 to $527 per month within the city and $183 to $389 outside the city. This leaves loads of cash to handle other expenses.
While Belize has a retirement visa option, Belize.com states its process is cumbersome and pricey. Instead, it recommends snagging a monthly tourist card that runs $25 per month first six months and $50 per month thereafter.
After hanging out on the beaches of Belize for a year, you can apply for permanent residency with a $1,000-per-person application fee. The process requires just the application, the fee, an HIV screening, a police report showing no criminal activity and two personal recommendations from people who’ve known you for at least a year.
After five years on the permanent residency visa, you can apply for citizenship.
Central America’s hidden retirement gem is Nicaragua. This small country not only has incredible cost-of-living advantages, but it also has a friendly retirement visa program and tax incentives for retiring there.
Your monthly Social Security and investment disbursements will give you nearly 10 times the income of the average Nicaraguan worker. Living in the city will set you back between $285 and $533 per month in rent, but going outside the city slices these costs to $199 to $364 per month. This leaves you plenty of free money to enjoy your retirement and still fly back home to see family.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter and stay in Nicaragua for up to 90 days, and those who want to retire there have it easy, too. If you are at least 45 years old, can prove at least $600 per month in retirement income and have no criminal record, you qualify for a retiree visa.
On top of an easygoing retirement visa process, Nicaragua has great tax benefits for retirees. These include no income tax on out-of-country earnings, duty-free import of $20,000 in personal goods, tax-free importation of one vehicle worth up to $25,000 and no sales tax on up to $50,000 of goods purchased to build a business.
Brazil is a popular destination for retirees thanks to its low property costs and tax benefits.
With the average Brazilian earning just $453 per month, your retirement benefits give you a 633 percent advantage in income.
Depending on where you live, rent can range from $225 to $647 per month, leaving you with gobs of cash to spend.
Getting a retirement visa to live in Brazil is not too difficult either. Anyone over 60 with a pension or annuity that nets them at least 6,000 Brazilian real ($1,535) per month qualifies for this visa. That also covers two dependents — every additional dependent requires another 2,000 Real ($512).
One of the best parts of this visa is you become a resident immediately, meaning you can import your personal effects and household items duty free.
Peru not only has some of the most gorgeous ancient architecture in the world, but it also has amazing geographical landscapes and a favorable cost of living for retirees. Retirees also have the added benefit of a visa just for them that includes special tax benefits and the ability to become a full citizen in just a few years.
The Peruvian rentista visa is the option for retirees as it requires a monthly retirement income of just $1,000, plus $500 for each dependent or spouse. With the income in order, you just need to fill out a few pieces of paperwork, have your documents translated and certified, and wait about four months for approval.
Peru may not be the cheapest location on our list, as rental space in big cities can be $700 per month or higher. Moving outside the cities and taking in all Peru’s amazing natural landscape has to offer can slice this to just less than $500 per month. Plus, you can live on the rentista visa and not pay any import tax on personal items, except a car, or pay income tax on your retirement income. And in two years, you can convert your visa into citizenship if you decide you want to get back to work in this beautiful country.
Cambodia has a beneficial cost of living relative to the U.S. and a very simple immigration process that allows U.S. citizens to enter the country easily. Recently, Cambodia took its immigration-friendly process one step further by introducing a new option for retirees.
Cambodia makes its mark with an amazing climate and sites to see. Plus, its cost of living is significantly lower than the U.S., with a city-based apartment topping out around $550 per month. Living outside the city pushes this cap down to just shy of $400 per month. That leaves tons of cash in your account to enjoy everything Cambodia offers.
The new retirement visa option also makes life simple. The process begins by entering the country on a standard E class visa, then after 30 days, you can convert it to the ER visa that allows you to stay in the country indefinitely with regular visa renewals. You must be at least 55 years old and retired, and have proof of financial stability.
The Philippines remains a great option for some retirees due to its climate, amazing scenery and low cost of living. Plus, its retirement visa is straightforward and has plenty of added benefits.
In the Philippines, your retirement income will be nearly 10 times the average income for a local worker, so you know it will go a long way. Renting an apartment in the bigger cities will set you back up to $530 per month, while a place outside the city will run just south of $300. This leaves plenty of extra cash to enjoy the sites and amazing food, and to travel to other Asian destinations.
The Special Resident Retiree’s Visa is straightforward for retirees, plus there are options for younger retirees and those without pensions. Those with pensions simply need to prove they make $800 per month in retirement income or $1,000 per month for couples. They also need to deposit $10,000 in a local bank. Those without pensions have requirements by age. Retirees aged 35 to 49 must make a $50,000 deposit, while those 50 and older need to make a $20,000 deposit.
Nepal offers an extremely low cost of living, making it an ideal retirement spot for the budget-minded retiree, but its retirement visa — or lack thereof — makes things a little trickier.
Renting a spot in Nepal costs pennies on the dollar relative to the U.S., as a rental home inside a city runs up to $272 per month and outside the city runs up to $163 per month. This leaves nearly all your retirement income free to do as you please throughout the country or to travel outside the country and enjoy all of Asia.
The issue with Nepal is there is no dedicated retirement visa, but there is a residential visa that hits the mark with a few extra requirements. To qualify for this visa, you must be at least 60 years old or prove you are retired, plan to live your life in Nepal without doing any type of business, have an income of at least $20,000 per year and prove you spend at least $20,000 every year in Nepal when you renew the visa each year.
The Balkan country of Montenegro is an extremely cheap place to live. Montenegro rental property will run you up to $525 per month in a city and up to $375 outside of a city. Expats living in this country also tout its low food costs and 9 percent flat income tax. This leaves you with plenty of cash to explore this historic country or hop all around Europe.
While there is no official retirement visa option in Montenegro, there are two simple ways to get a residency visa.
The first way to gain residency is to buy a home in Montenegro. Just hop a flight into the country — U.S. citizens can stay for 90 days without a visa — buy a home and apply for residency. The second is to start a business in the country. Keep in mind, you do not need run the business, so you can stay retired, but you have to hire an accountant and pay a minimum fee. These should cost you around $1,500 per year.
Spain is not the cheapest place on our list, but if you handle your retirement income properly, you can live comfortably in this gorgeous country.
The cost of living across Spain is higher than many of the Asian and Northern European destinations we mention, but it is still low by European standards. Renting a home in Spain’s bustling cities will run you up to $1,108 per month, but you can trim this to as little as $515 per month in Spain’s countryside.
The best part about Spain is its retiree-friendly visa with no stringent requirements. You need to prove you can support yourself on your retirement income, secure a home in Spain and get full-coverage health insurance.
With over 1,000 miles of coastline, few destinations are better for beach-loving retirees than the Dominican Republic. Plus, its retiree visa process is straightforward and has few requirements.
The cost of living in the DR is quite favorable for a budget-minded retiree as an apartment in the city center runs up to $670 per month, and a spot outside the city will run up to $360 a month. This leaves you plenty of cash to enjoy the nightlife or take in the outdoor activities the Caribbean islands offer.
Moving to the DR as a retiree requires you to earn at least $1,500 per month in retirement income. With that requirement met, simply head to the nearest DR embassy in the U.S. and apply for the visa. After you provide all the required documentation, the embassy will stamp your passport residency visa, and you have 90 days to report to the Migration Department in the DR to upgrade to a temporary residence you can renew every year.
Colombia not only offers a great climate that changes with altitude, not seasons, but it also offers amazing history, stunning landscape and a super-low cost of living.
With the average Colombian worker bringing home $327.51 per month, your combined retirement income puts you at a 776 percent advantage. Plus, the average three-bedroom apartment will run you just $503 in the city and $413 outside the city, giving you an extra $2,368 to $2,458 to explore all Colombia has to offer. Or you can travel throughout South America.
Plus, a Colombian TP-7 retirement visa is relatively simple to get with the only real requirement being a monthly retirement salary that’s three times the minimum monthly wage. At the time of this writing, Colombia’s national minimum wage is 781,242 pesos, which is $250.11. With your monthly income sitting at $2,871, you earn over 10 times that amount.
You must renew your retirement visa every year and can upgrade to a five-year resident visa after five years on a retirement visa.
Chile is among the most modern and efficient countries in South America, and it has the lowest corruption rates and strongest economy. That combined with a low cost of living, gorgeous scenery and a great climate make it a prime destination.
Your retirement income is about $2,000 more than the average Chilean worker, giving you a distinct advantage. Plus, a three-bedroom rental will run you just $837 per month in a city and $684 per month outside a city. This leaves $2,000 or more to handle other bills, travel or eat fantastic Chilean dishes.
Getting a retirement visa in Chile is a simple process you can do in the country or at a consulate in the U.S. If you choose to do the visa in Chile, simply arrive in Chile and get a tourist card on arrival — as a U.S. passport holder, there is no need to get a visa in advance — and apply for a “retirement/income visa” at the immigration office. If you choose to do you visa in the U.S., you must contact your local office to begin the process.
There’s no official income requirement to obtain this retirement visa, but sources suggest at least $1,000 per month per person to avoid denial.
South Africa may not be the first place retirees think when looking for a place to stretch their $500,000 in savings, but it is quickly becoming a desirable destination for many reasons. First, of course, is the amazing natural scenery and plenty of tourist attractions. Plus, it’s inexpensive.
The average three-bedroom apartment runs $917 in a city center or $781 outside of a city. That is a little more expensive than others on our list but still leaves you with up to $2,090 to pay remaining bills and have fun with.
South Africa also has simple retirement visa options. The first is a retired person’s visa, which is a temporary permit that allows only seasonal stays in the country. For this visa, you must show just 37,000 South African rand in retirement income, which is just over $2,600. The second visa is a permanent residency called an independent financial persons permit. To qualify, you must have a minimum net worth of 12 million rand, which is just north of $850,000, and make a one-time 120,000 rand ($60,234) payment.
With a relaxed lifestyle, European design influence and wide-ranging culture, Argentina is steadily moving up the list for retirees. Also helping is its low cost of living.
Renting a three-bedroom apartment in a big city will run you $495 per month, while a countryside spot will run around $408 per month.This leaves you with more than enough cash to explore the world’s eighth largest country and all it has to offer.
Getting a retiree visa is just about as laid back as the Argentine way of life, as you need just 30,000 Argentine pesos in monthly income, which is just $683, and have three pay stubs to prove it.
With natural beauty as far as the eye can see and a laid-back attitude, Costa Rica has become a top spot for retirees looking to slow things down a bit. Plus, its favorable cost of living makes this all possible with just $500,000 in retirement savings.
Costa Rica is not as inexpensive as some places we highlighted, but it’s still doable with a three-bedroom apartment in a city running $850 per month. If you prefer to take in the beautiful countryside outside the city, this rent falls to $665 per month. That will still leave you with at least $2,000 per month to pay for bills, travel and other fun stuff.
A retirement visa or pensionado is simple to get with minimal requirements. You must have proof of at least $1,000 per month in retirement income or $2,000 as a couple to get temporary residency. After three years, you can apply for permanent residency.
Picturesque beaches and mountains make up part of the desire to relocate to Fiji, and its low cost of living makes it a top spot for retirees. With the average three-bedroom spot costing $1,432 in a city and $804 per month outside a city, it can get tight. If you can downsize to a one-bedroom home, you can drop your rent expenses to between $300 to $618 per month. Regardless of the housing situation you choose, you will still have some cash remaining to pay bills and enjoy what Fiji has to offer.
There are strict immigration requirements to get a retirement-style visa, which is called a residence permit on assured income, but the rules are straightforward. First, you must be at least 45 years old and not seeking employment in Fiji. With those boxes ticked, you must be able to deposit $100,000 into an approved Fiji bank account or buy property in Fiji worth at least 100,000 Fijian dollars ($46,875).
After the initial deposit, you must deposit 30,000 Fijian dollars ($14,063) per year into a bank account in Fiji each year for a family of two. That comes out to $1,172 per month, which is well below your monthly income.
Morocco offers a stable climate, endless hospitality and a western-friendly atmosphere, making it a top spot for vacationers. Those looking to retire find its low cost of living an added benefit.
Your retirement income is 702 percent more than the average Moroccan worker makes, so you know your dollar will stretch far. Add to that the average three-bedroom apartment runs $599 per month in a city and $320 per month outside a city, and there’s plenty of money to spread around.
Though Morocco lacks a true retirement visa, there’s a way to live there permanently that requires only a few steps. As an American, you can enter Morocco without a visa for 90 days. During the first 15 days, you must apply for a residency card, which is good for one year. After three years of renewing this card, you can apply for a renewable 10-year residency permit. Make sure to choose “retirement” as the reason for applying for your residency permit.
Nature junkies swarm to Tanzania every year to view elephants, lions, leopards and more. Retirees can enjoy the same sights and a low cost of living that allows them to live well and stretch that dollar.
On just your retirement income, you will earn 10 times what the average Tanzanian worker brings home. Add to that an average three-bedroom apartment costs $945 per month in a city and $795 outside a city, and it’s easy to see your retirement dollars stretching through your golden years.
There’s no official Tanzanian retirement visa, but you can stay in the country with its Class “C” residency permit. You must show you earn retirement benefits, but there’s no required amount. There’s a $500 fee involved, but that’s peanuts compared to the amount of money you’ll save.
With seasons similar to the U.S. and a variety of adventures to undertake, Bulgaria is a prime destination for retirees. Making it even more desirable is its low cost of living.
Your retirement income puts you at a big advantage over the typical Bulgarian worker, who makes $565 per month. Securing residence in a three-bedroom spot will set you back just $537 in a city and $384 outside a city.
Ticking another box is the relative ease of getting permission to stay in the country full time. You will start with a “Pentionsioner D” visa that’s valid for up to 180 days and renewable. Once you have that visa approved and before leaving the U.S., you’ll want to apply for a long-term residency permit at the Bulgarian consular’s office. Now you’re good to go, but you will need to renew your permit every year. After three years of renewals, you’re eligible for a permanent residency permit.
Old-world architecture and a slower lifestyle are huge attractions for retirees planning to settle in Lithuania. Another attraction is its low cost of living that allows your $500,000 in retirement savings to stretch farther without big sacrifices on your end.
As for the cost of living, your retirement income is nearly $2,000 more per month than the average Lithuanian earns. Plus, the cost to rent a three-bedroom apartment is just $711 in a city and $449 outside a city, leaving you plenty of your monthly retirement income to live on and have fun with.
The path to living legally in Lithuania can be a little windy, but there is a set route. It all starts with a 12-month national visa (D) and getting a temporary residence permit. After renewing the permit for five years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit.
Paraguay is a landlocked country in the center of South America, with amazing scenery, a subtropical climate and a low cost of living. Sure, it’s not without its issues, as the State Department often issues warnings about corruption and petty crime, but that’s not an uncommon theme in low-cost retirement destinations.
Where Paraguay will help you is with its ultra-low cost of living that includes three-bedroom apartments in a city for $544. If you’re willing to head out of the city, you can trim that rent expense to $439 per month. This will leave you with over $2,200 to play around with each month.
There is no official retirement visa in Paraguay, but the country offers an easy path to residency. Outside of routine paperwork, the only other requirement is to show you can deposit $5,000 into a non-interest-bearing bank account in Paraguay, and you are in.
Beautiful mountains, an endless number of sunny days, limitless hospitality and a low cost of living are just a few reasons Armenia attracts retirees. You can pick up a three-bedroom spot in a city for an average of $662 per month. Head outside the city, and the rent drops to an average of $342 per month. That gives you more than $2,000 per month to enjoy the country and maybe hop around Europe.
There’s no dedicated retirement visa in Armenia, but there are one, five and 10-year visa options that are easy to get, and they’re renewable. Best bet is the 10-year option, which requires a 150,000 Armenian Dram ($308) fee and takes about 60 days to get.
Great beaches, amazing food and a robust nightlife are just a few reasons more and more people are heading to Sri Lanka. It’s also a destination for retirees because of its super-low cost of living.
The average Sri Lankan worker earns just $250 per month, giving you a distinct advantage based on your retirement income. Setting up in a large city like Columbo will run you an average of $533 per month for a three-bedroom apartment. Prefer the countryside or the beach? Rentals in these areas average in the $227 range per month. These prices will leave you at least $2,300 to spend on other bills, food and travel.
A retirement visa in Sri Lanka has easy-to-satisfy requirements. You must be at least 55 years old, have $15,000 to deposit into a bank in Sri Lanka and have $1,500 per month in retirement income, plus $750 per dependent. So, if it’s just you and your spouse retiring, you should meet these requirements with room to spare. This visa, which is part of the “My Dream Home” program, requires renewal every two years.
With a bustling economy, growing cities and more hospitality than you’ll ever need, Kazakhstan — yes, the one made famous in the Borat film — is a solid retirement destination. Also making it desirable:its relatively low cost of living. You can pick up a three-bedroom apartment for an average of $605 per month in a city or $349 per month outside a city.
Getting permanent residency is simple too, though the country does not have an official retirement visa. You can start with a “B8 - single entry” visa to get into the country. This visa is good for three months and costs $180. During your three months there, you simply apply for permanent residency in Kazakhstan. Once your residency is approved, you are good to go.
Egypt is not only the sixth cheapest country to live in, according to Numbeo, but it’s also full of history and tourist-friendly attractions, including pyramids, pharaohs’ tombs and more.
But we’re here to talk about money and how far your $500,000 will stretch if you retire to Egypt. The average three-bedroom apartment in a city center will run you $317.13. If you’re willing to head outside the city center, you will pay an average of $196.03 for a three-bedroom spot. And with the average Egyptian worker making the equivalent of $182 per month, your $2,871 will go a long way each month.
While Egypt has no official retirement visa, temporary residency visas are good for up to five years and you can renew. Once you’ve been in the country for 10 years, you can apply for Egyptian citizenship. And with Egypt permitting dual citizenship, you don’t risk losing your U.S. citizenship just for also accepting Egyptian citizenship.