Living abroad is popular with retirees who seek a change of scenery, new cultural experiences, different climates, access to affordable healthcare and lower costs of living. One destination that shines in all of these features is Argentina, South America’s third-largest country, bordering Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay, and the South Atlantic Ocean. Some of the world’s most spectacular scenery can be found in Argentina – everything from rich plains, majestic mountains and verdant jungles, to massive glaciers, thundering waterfalls and coastlines inhabited by elephant seals, penguins and whales.
Rooted in all this natural beauty is a cultured country that draws comparison to Europe in terms of its architecture, art, music and literature – without the high cost of living. But just how affordable is this South American country for expat retirees? Here, we see if it’s possible to retire in Argentina (Retirement: U.S. vs. Abroad) with $200,000 of savings.
Low Cost of Living
The cost of living in Argentina is low. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, it’s possible to live comfortably for about $1,000 a month if you’re on your own, or about $1,500 a month if there are two of you. Utilities are relatively inexpensive: Electricity is subsidized (though not as much as it used to be), and you might spend about $100 a month for power, heat, water and garbage collection, plus another $40 for Internet.
Like anywhere, rent takes up a big part of a monthly budget. According to Numbeo.com, a city- and-country cost-of-living database website, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is $535; outside the city center, rent falls to an average of $412 per month. For a three-bedroom apartment, the average rent is $1,032 inside the city and $834 elsewhere. If you live in a rural area, you can expect to pay even less. A four-bedroom, two-bath riverside house on 15 acres in Patagonia, for example, might cost $350 a month.
In most cases, Argentina imposes no restrictions on foreign ownership of property. Depending on your situation, it could make financial sense to buy property instead of renting. According to numbeo.com, in 2018, the average cost per square foot to buy in a city center was $150; outside the city, you’re looking at an average of $106 per square foot. Again, if you settle down in a rural area, your dollar could go further. For example, prices start at $75,000 for a 30- to 40-acre property in Mendoza (the world’s fifth largest wine-producing region), or about $110,000 for a 1,700 square-foot alpine chalet with lake views in Bariloche. If you do buy, plan on paying cash to avoid the double-digit mortgage interest rates.
As for healthcare, Argentina has a well-developed national healthcare system that is available to expats; however, because of long waits for treatment, some expats choose to buy private health insurance, which will add to your monthly costs.
Crunching the numbers, how long would your $200,000 last during retirement in Argentina? If your budget is closer to $1,000 a month, your savings will last nearly 17 years ($200,000 ÷ $1,000 = 200 months, or 16.6 years). Spend closer to $1,500 a month and the same savings will last about 11 years ($200,000 ÷ $1,500 = 133.33 months, or 11.11 years). Of course, that doesn't account for other income or expenses. Just like living at home, you’ll likely have some unexpected costs – or maybe an unexpected windfall – that will affect your budget.
Keep in mind, too, that most people have more than their savings for retirement. Even without a pension, 401(k) or IRA, you will probably collect Social Security benefits during retirement: nine out of 10 people age 65 and up receive benefits. For 2018, the average retired worker’s Social Security benefit is $1,404 each month, which could go a long way toward covering your budget in Argentina and making $200,000 in savings last much, much longer.
The Bottom Line
Argentina has all the makings of an ideal retirement spot, especially for those who want a temperate climate in an affordable place that compares favorably with Europe. Expats enjoy life in Argentina because of the beautiful scenery, cosmopolitan cities, fine wines, rich culture and Spanish-colonial architecture, plus the low cost of living. It’s possible to live comfortably for about $1,000 a month on your own, or about $1,500 a month for two.
It’s worth noting that the economic situation in Argentina is tenuous, with the 2018 inflation rate at 35% and the interest rate at 60%, the highest in the world. As with moving to any country, pay close attention to current events to see if they may affect your situation.
Also note that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Argentina, or any foreign country, are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and/or your family in case of an emergency.
Rules and regulations vary by country, including visa and residency requirements. In addition, taxes for those retiring abroad can be quite complicated. As such, it is always recommended that you work with a qualified attorney and/or tax specialist when making plans for retiring abroad (see Plan Your Retirement Abroad).