The average Social Security retirement benefit for 2018 is $1,413 per month, according to the Social Security Administration. In the U.S., that might not go much further than paying the bills, if that. Instead of setting your sights on Florida or the Carolinas, where the cost of living is high, consider one of these six sunny places where you can comfortably live just on your Social Security benefits.
This country named for the equator is also known for its climate, which is famously comfortable. Living in Ecuador is affordable for most couples and single expats – rent is only $354 on average for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center. A one-hour taxi ride is under $10, so you can save even more by leaving your car payment, maintenance costs and auto insurance requirements in the U.S. when you relocate. (For related reading, see: How to Plan Retirement in Ecuador.)
This hotbed of Mayan culture offers stunning views in exchange for little money. Renting a 900-square-foot apartment averages about $700 a month – compared to the average $1,230 monthly payment in the U.S. With the money you save, you can eat out every day for $5.00 a meal at a casual restaurant or get two tickets to a first-run movie for $11.00.
The mountains and coffee plantations of Colombia offer a tantalizing escape for American expats at a bargain price. In addition to the scenic views, Colombia provides many top-notch amenities and an infrastructure that rivals most countries. One expense that is much lower here than in the U.S. is utilities – internet, phone and cable combined cost about $75 a month and all other utilities needed to add about $100.
Known for Machu Picchu and the Andes Mountains, Peru is a great choice for Americans hoping for a retirement filled with adventure. Living in Peru is cheap; a furnished apartment will cost between $530 and $840, depending on the location. The average disposable income is only $590 a month, so your Social Security check will go far here. (For related reading, see: Top 5 Cities to Retire to in Peru.)
Nicaragua is a perfect retirement destination for seniors who want to spend their time snorkeling, exploring caves or swimming in lakes. Rent in Nicaragua is almost 80% cheaper than in the U.S. and you can enjoy a three-course meal for two people for around $20. The country offers a "retiree" program with many perks as long as you are over age 45 and have at least $500 in monthly income.
Famous for Angkor Wat and other well-known temples, Cambodia is a tropical paradise full of beaches, palm trees and sunny days. It’s also great for your bank account. Rent ranges from $185 a month (one-bedroom outside the city center) to $1,077 (three-bedroom in the city center). If you are a golfer, Phnom Penh, the nation's capital, offers five golf courses with greens fees starting at $15.
Before You Move
Once you have a country in mind, spend some time visiting it as a resident, not a tourist. Try renting an apartment in an area you might want to live in and talk to some of the locals. You should also try to find expats and get their opinion on how it is to live there as a foreigner. Moving abroad is a big decision, and you should have as much information as possible before finalizing it.
It’s also important to consult a financial advisor before you move. Your country of choice may have different rules about taxes, and getting that information sorted out beforehand will make your move that much easier. Plus, an advisor can help you set up a budget to follow so you don’t end up spending your nest egg too quickly.
The Bottom Line
There are a number of wonderful countries in the world that are perfect for expat retirees trying to save a few bucks. But don’t just dive in, do your research before you start packing. If you play your cards right, you could be living in a tropical paradise for less than the cost of a small apartment in the U.S.
(For related reading, see: 8 Countries Where $200K in Retirement Savings Will Last 30 Years.)