When billionaires are building multistory mega garages for their tony London town houses, being a millionaire just doesn't hold the same cachet anymore. Unfortunately, a million dollars is not enough to buy luxury in London, Manhattan, Tokyo, Paris, San Francisco, or Sydney.
But it does buy luxury in much of the rest of the world. In fact, you don't need nearly that much. There are plenty of destinations around the world where you can live like a millionaire for just a few thousand dollars a month. Forget about the billionaires with all those things that they never use. Start researching where the cost of living is low enough to live in relative splendor for far less than a million dollars.
1. Panama - Quality of Life
This tiny Central American nation, home to the famous Panama Canal, has regularly garnered a top spot on the International Living Annual Global Retirement Index. Whether you relocate to the Caribbean or Pacific coast, no matter if you prefer a tropical or temperate climate, the affordable quality of life remains a consistent draw.
Panama City is the most sophisticated and expensive part of the country. However, it is still possible to live in world-class luxury for under $4,000 a month. Even $1,500 buys considerable comfort in Panama City. Mountain towns, such as Boquete, offer milder temperatures and a lower cost of living. If you find that you like living here, it is surprisingly cheap and easy to retire to Panama.
2. Thailand - Historic Retirement
A good starting point to budget a Thai lifestyle is 65,000 Thai bahts or around $2,000 per month. That's what the Thai government demands of expatriates who seek a retirement visa. Even $3,500 won’t buy all-out luxury in Bangkok, where upmarket condos might require a budget closer to $5,000 per month. However, $2,000 will allow for a very comfortable lifestyle in smaller cities.
Look into lovely Chiang Mai, renowned for its historic temples, cuisine, and forested hills. Considering that most locals get by on less than $1,000 a month, $3,000 may feel like a princely sum. There are also many other fascinating places to retire in Thailand.
3. Spain - Affordable Quality
Spain deserves a spot on this list for one simple reason. It’s the only low-priced country that ranks in Numbeo's top ten for quality of life. Of course, you’ll need to steer clear of Madrid and Barcelona if you’re seeking a posh lifestyle for poquito dinero (not much money). Fortunately, many smaller cities and towns offer plenty of cultural, culinary, and recreational delights for a relatively modest price tag.
Granada offers a relaxed and affordable lifestyle. It is home to the Alhambra, a World Heritage Site that was a finalist in the contest to be one of the modern seven wonders of the world. A city center three-bedroom apartment rents for about $690, while a three-course meal for two at a midrange restaurant comes to only around $23. These prices are practically unheard of in the other countries that rank in the top ten for quality of life.
Seville is similarly low-priced and holds such wonders as the Alcazar Palace (Dorn on Game of Thrones) and the fabulous Roman ruins in Italica. It is even possible to retire in Spain with $200,000.
4. Mexico - Budget Retirement
Don’t discount Mexico as merely a vacation spot. This fascinating country is much more than the Yucatan Peninsula, that string of gorgeous beaches with all the tourist trappings that gorgeous beaches bring. In fact, Mexico has been gaining popularity as a retirement spot due to reasons that transcend its miles of oceanfront. You can live in Mexico in relative luxury (think maid service, a gardener, and dinners out) on a budget of less than $2,500 a month.
Certain provinces of Mexico continue to be dangerous, but others are considered much safer.
5. Malta - Island Paradise
At 122 square miles, Malta is a tiny bit of island paradise in the Mediterranean. Beautiful apartments in the capital city of Valletta rent for under $1,500 per month, so a $3,000 monthly budget stretches far here.
Malta has many charms that are difficult to match in Europe. While famous capitals, such as Berlin and Paris, are freezing in the winter, temperatures in Malta hover in the balmy 60s. If foreign languages aren’t your forte, you’re also in luck: English is an official language in Malta.
6. The Philippines - Best Bargain
The Philippines has one of the lowest costs of living in the world, a warm climate, and many attractive destinations for expatriates. Here, it is possible to rent a large house with a private pool, a maid, and a chauffeur for what it would cost to rent a luxury apartment in some countries. Strong historical ties with the United States also helped make the Philippines friendly to English speakers. There are several well-developed parts of the country, such as Cebu City, that cater to retirees and other expatriates. However, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of retiring in the Philippines.
7. France - European Comfort
Most people think of overpriced Paris when they think of France, but those who know the country best have always known better. Louis XIV knew how to live, and he preferred living in Versailles. It is possible to live like an aristocrat, if not a king, for under $5,000 per month just outside Paris near Versailles. Parts of the Loire Valley, home to so many beautiful chateaus, are also surprisingly affordable.
France features a fabulous quality of life. The fantastic food, rich history, refined culture, beautiful landscapes, and livable cities have drawn travelers for centuries. You can live very well in many parts of France for less than $3,000 a month. Just avoid Paris.
8. Portugal - Romantic Retirement
There is so much to love about living in Portugal. The friendly people, romantic architecture, sunny beaches, port wine, and haunting fado music make for a unique experience. In Lisbon, Portugal’s most expensive city, a furnished two-bedroom flat in an upscale area can be found for around $1,000 a month. There are many alluring cities in Portugal for retirees. It should not be too hard to save enough money to retire in Portugal.
9. Costa Rica - Active Retirement
Adventure junkies hold Costa Rica—Spanish for “rich coast”—dear to their hearts. That’s because this compact country is bursting at the seams with waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and miles of pristine beaches. Also, don't forget the dramatic volcanoes and diverse wildlife. Why not extend a Costa Rican adventure into a year-round lifestyle?
Living in Costa Rica is even more affordable than vacationing there. In resort towns along the central coast, a typical two-bedroom condo near the beach can be rented for less than $1,000 per month. You might even want to buy a beach condo in Costa Rica. Another draw? Medical care is also excellent and inexpensive.
10. Nicaragua - Hidden Gem
With bragging rights for the cheapest cost of living in Central America, Nicaragua gets its fair share of budget and adventure travelers. They are drawn to warm weather, vibrant cities, colonial architecture, and idyllic seaside villages. Sure, Nicaragua's history of civil war and revolutionary upheaval scares away some travelers. That also means fewer people have discovered how nice Nicaragua can be today, so prices remain low.
Granada is perched upon the picturesque north shore of Lake Nicaragua, with a volcano in view to add to the postcard-perfect scene. This city is home to many North American retirees in search of the good life. Monthly expenses for a comfortable lifestyle average around $1,000. Just imagine what you could do with three times that. Nicaragua is one of the best countries for retirement in Latin America.
The Bottom Line
If you want to get more from your portfolio in a beautiful location, consider relocating to one of these ten destinations. Here, paradise—or at least a very high quality of life—comes with a decidedly lower price tag.