There are plenty of good reasons to retire in Greece. First, of course, it’s a beautiful country. The climate is mild year-round and the people are friendly. The lifestyle is relaxed. Restaurant meals and fresh produce are reasonably priced. In fact, the overall cost of living in Greece is lower than in most European countries. Your savings will go a lot further than if you stayed in the United States.
Obviously, you don’t just have to rely on your savings. Once you hit retirement age, Social Security will be sending a monthly check; the average received by Americans in 2018 is $1,628 (Your own amount will depend on how long you worked and how much you made.)
You may also have a pension coming in from past employment, though that’s less and less likely these days. So let’s say you’re planning to live off your Social Security check and to supplement that by dipping into the savings you’ve stashed away for just this purpose.
Bear in Mind
To live in Greece you’ll need a residence permit, obtained by providing proof that you have an independent income of at least 2,000 euros per month. (In early October 2018, the exchange rate was one euro to US$1.16, so that’s approximately $2,311.)
A few caveats:
- You’ll have to buy health insurance or run the risk of going without and paying for medical care (which costs less than it does in the U.S.). (See Top 10 Travel Health Insurance Companies By the Metrics.)
- The parts of Greece with large expat communities are more expensive to live in. Your money will last longer if you choose a more remote area and live like a local. That means a modest-sized apartment, generally cooking and cleaning for yourself, and not splurging on expensive clothes, entertainment and cocktails. (For more, see How Much Money Do You Need to Retire in Greece?)
- Living in a more remote area also means that you won’t see as many fellow Americans. You’ll likely need to acquire a modicum of Greek to get by among locals who don’t speak much English.
- Also, you’ll be farther from the good doctors and hospitals found in the larger centers, such as Athens. If you expect to need ongoing medical attention, you should choose a more central location rather than a remote island (however appealing the words “remote island” might sound).
Then There’s the Economy
Greece’s current economic woes may not be resolved for some time. As an expat, you won’t feel the austerity cuts the same way Greek nationals do – but you’ll surely see the effects. Read up on the financial situation before making any decisions. Renting is probably better than buying and gives you a chance to find out if a community works for you. Also, it's best not to put your money in a Greek bank; use a large international bank instead.
Finding the Right Place for You
Start by consulting sites like Numbeo.com and Expatistan.com, which list the costs of basic necessities in various parts of the country. Think about your must-haves and nice-to-haves, such as easy access to a beach or space to garden. If you’re escaping cold winters back home, you might explore Crete, the country’s warmest island. Once you’ve narrowed your list, schedule a trip for on-site research.
Crunching the Numbers
Let’s say you’re working with a budget of about $1,800 per month. Consider a place in the Peloponnese – the peninsula just southwest of Athens. You won’t be too far (149 miles) from the capital, with its good healthcare, but you’ll be off the tourist track, so living expenses will be lower than they would be in, say, an island in the Cyclades.
For a one-bedroom apartment outside the town center of Kalamata, pop. 54,000, you’ll pay about $265/month. Utilities (electricity, heat, water and garbage pickup) and Internet will bring the total to roughly $420/month. (All figures are from Numbeo.com, shown in USD.)
You might spend $250 on groceries, $25 on transportation and $150 on monthly household expenses. If you’ve budgeted $1,800 per month, that leaves about $955 for health insurance and other medical costs, plus dining out, entertainment and travel – and with any luck, enough left over to deal with emergencies.
Now deduct your monthly Social Security income from that $1,800 per month. You’ll be dipping into your savings to the tune of $465 a month, or $5,580 a year. At that rate, your $200,000 nest egg will last about 36 years. (This rough calculation doesn’t account for any interest your investments bring in, or extensive travel.) If you’re retiring at age 65, that’ll take you through to 101, barring unforeseen events.
The Bottom Line
If you choose to retire in Greece, your savings will stretch farther than they would at home. Be aware that this is a country in economic turmoil – but that might lead to greater opportunity in terms of finding affordable housing. If you’re adaptable, adventurous and love the sun and the blue Mediterranean waters, your $200,000 nest egg should allow you to settle in nicely. There are no current U.S. State Department travel warnings or alerts for Greece, though the Embassy suggests avoiding demonstrations and warns of pick-pocketing in tourist areas.