4 Best Countries to Retire In

4 Best Countries to Retire In

With great exchange rates, beautiful weather, and locals welcoming of U.S. expats, it’s not surprising these four countries to our south stand out as retirement meccas. One of them, Mexico, is so close and so easy to assimilate to, it makes perfect sense to shift your life and assets south of the border for the golden years. Slightly more exotic and further afield, Central American and South American locales with tropical tendencies and inexpensive living round out the righteous retirement roster.

Ecuador

Ecuador

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Straddling the equator on the west coast of South America, Ecuador is where diverse geographies and ecosystems collide, with the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands all lying within the country’s boundaries. This confluence of land forms equates to excellent weather throughout the entire country, for sunshiny days without the mugginess factor.

The capital, Quito, sits at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet in the Andean foothills, with a moderate mountain climate most of the year. Quito is renowned for its intact Spanish colonial center, palaces, and churches — along with big-city conveniences. Head down to the coast for warm weather all year. With reasonable beachfront real estate prices and low property taxes, retirees get a lot for their money here. Consider that a home on the Pacific Ocean can be had for $150,000, and that home prices and rental rates in the interior are far less expensive than that. So whether you prefer lush green valleys, ocean views, or mountain village life, Ecuador is a retirement dream.

Mexico

Mexico

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If you are concerned about how far your Social Security earnings might go after retirement — or if you simply want to retire more extravagantly — Mexico is an obvious choice for life after work. The cost of living is so low that you can, in many places, subsist quite substantially on Social Security alone. Factor in the solid exchange rate, and Mexico just makes sense.

Beyond cost, there is the wonderful culture and climate of our southern neighbor to take into account. Sandwiched between the southern U.S. and Central America, Mexico boasts both Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico beaches for miles. The huge, ecologically diverse country also enjoys desert, mountain, and jungle landscapes throughout its many regions. From small beach towns like Cancun to the metropolis of Mexico City, retirees will find a country steeped in the ancient and the modern. Throughout the country are scattered important archeological sites such as  Teotihuacán and the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, along with Spanish colonial-era historic towns. Meanwhile, Mexico City’s trendy shops, world-class museums and gourmet dining display modern Mexico.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

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With pristine coastal beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific shores, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, yet in contrast its interior is a rugged, rainforested area studded with volcanoes. Much of the country – about a quarter of it – is protected jungle preserves with thriving biodiversity and wildlife, such as spider monkeys and exotic quetzal birds. Areas humans do inhabit are known for wonderful climate, an incredible cost of living, bargain real estate prices, and quality health care.

The capital is San Jose, where the climate is referred to as “eternal spring,” if that gives you an idea how nice it is year-round. The same is true for the rest of the surrounding Central Valley. Coastal beach towns are hot and dry, but benefit from cooling marine breezes, while the lush landscape in the southern part of the country remains moist and temperate. With such great weather, Costa Rica is perfect for outdoor-loving, active retirees into fishing, golf, horseback riding, hiking, diving, or yoga

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Panama

Panama

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Look at it this way: Not only is Panama modern and convenient — with close access back to the U.S. to visit the grandkids — but it’s also a tropical paradise. Even if you choose to live in the capital, Panama City, amidst the modern hustle, your city park is a tropical rainforest. Taking up the center of the isthmus linking Central and South America, Panama is famous for its Panama Canal, which was sliced through the center of the country in order to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, creating an essential and strategic international trade route.

Panama City’s modern skyscrapers, casinos, and nightclubs are juxtaposed with historic colonial buildings, many in the Casco Viejo district. As mentioned, Natural Metropolitan Park is a large patch of rainforest preserved in the city. With no taxes on income earned outside of Panama, retirees can keep costs low even in metro Panama City. For even more value, head to more remote mountain and beach towns for pretty scenery and peaceful vibes, places such as Coronado, the Pedasi region and Bocas del Toro, among other retirement gems. No wonder Panama ranked at the top of the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index.

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Our Night of Magic

by Charlotte Carpenter

A slow but steady rain came down all that wintry morning and froze where it fell—on the ground, the trees, the buildings. By mid-afternoon the rain had stopped, and we looked on a crystal world. We were accustomed to the white hoarfrost of winter, but this was something else—a hard, clear coating of solid ice. Our five children, ages five to sixteen, returned from school exclaiming about how good the sledding would be on the steep hill in our pasture.

They took out at once, but they never reached their destination, for between home and hill lay a gently rolling, treeless meadow. Here they found that their sleds would speed over the ice from fence to fence with only the weight of their bodies to keep them going. What fun they had. When they came home to chores and supper, they were so excited. “Mom and Dad, you’ve got to come with us down to the pasture tonight,” they said. They had never seen ice so slippery that they didn’t need a hill for coasting on their sleds.

Why should fortyish parents risk life and limb by going out on a dangerously slick night? They begged until we simply could not refuse them.

Gingerly we made our way to the meadow. Even with rubber footgear, we found it hard to walk. The sleds we pulled kept sliding into the backs of our legs. It was very cold, and my husband, the practical one, carried an armload of wood to build a fire.

We will never forget the unbelievably beautiful sight that met our eyes when we reached the meadow. The moon and stars, shining brilliantly as they do only on clear, cold nights, turned the meadow into a lake of glass. We built our fire at the top of a slight incline. The ice reflected us, and the leaping flames danced on the ice.

Again and again the children and sleds flew over the ground. If two rode together, the sled went faster—so fast the riders could barely turn in time to avoid crashing into the fence. The littlest ones rode back to the starting point, easily pulled by older brothers. We parents envied them—the hardest part for us was walking back after the ride. We left most of the sledding to our children and stayed near the fire, absorbed in the dreamlike magic of the night.

We all felt so good when we started back that we hardly noticed our cold feet and tired bodies.

“Will the ice still be here tomorrow?” one of the children asked.

“Probably not if the sun shines,” I answered. And sure enough, by midmorning the ice was gone, leaving only an expanse of brown grass.

To this day, when we’re in the meadow, whether it’s covered with the luxuriant green of summer or the white snow of winter, we remember the wonder of that night. Despite six other witnesses I harbor a slight doubt that it was real, for the experience seems like something we must have imagined.

My husband and I learned several things that night: to enjoy an interlude of joy when it comes; not to put off our children when they find something wonderful and so unusual that it may never happen again; and not to say, “We’re too busy now. It will have to wait.” We go with them to see a new calf, a robin on the lawn, a butterfly or bug. We share their excitement over a ballgame, a school play, or graduation. For now we know this: Refuse to take the time, and you will miss something precious to hold in memory. A magical sledding on glass in the starlight may happen only once in a lifetime.

Looking ahead…

Young children view the world with a unique blend of awe and urgency. Everything, from a rainbow to a chocolate sundae, is new and exciting to them. And everything needs to be experienced right now!

We sometimes get impatient with this perspective—yet we could learn from it. For as we plow through our endless list of chores and responsibilities, postponing time with our loved ones, life hurtles by— like a sled in a meadow of ice. Before we know it, we’re standing before heaven’s gates, wondering how we got there so fast. Don’t miss the precious nights of magic on the way.

– James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • “Our Night of Magic” by Charlotte Carpenter. © 1993. Excerpted from Legacies, ed. Maury Leibovitz and Linda Solomon, published by HarperCollins. Reprinted with permission.