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Considering Moving To A Warmer, Friendlier Place? Stop Dreaming And Start Learning About The Best Places To Retire Abroad In 2022


If the current state of politics and other woes in the U.S. have you looking thoughtfully at alternative places to live, this post is for you! Every January International Living posts their “Annual Global Retirement Index” for the year ahead. I like to hop on that and spread the word, so for the third year in a row, here is the gospel of international living, according to their experts. 

The publication, International Living (IL), has been around since 1979 and they don’t just throw darts at a map every year to come up with their best list. IL has scores of correspondents and editors on the ground, living full time in the places they recommend, so they don’t base their opinions on hearsay or reports from someone who just spent two weeks at a resort. Their writers live the day-to-day life of an expat. In addition, readers who get serious about living outside the U.S. can attend IL’s boot camp to help them better understand the transition and some of the hurdles they will encounter along the way.

The Criteria

The determination of a given year’s top 25 spots is truly a statistical analysis. International Living has developed a list of categories by which every potential country is rated. IL’s on-the-ground staff regularly contribute their own experiences with day-to-day life at dozens of places. Contenders for the top spot on the list (or ANY spot on the list) have to score strongly in all ten categories:

Housing. This is primarily a measure of affordability, but it also takes into consideration the availability of suitable housing in safe areas.

Benefits to Retirees. Many countries give very generous benefits and discounts to their retirees, and that generally includes expats who qualify by age. It can mean hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in savings every year on goods and services from travel to electricity.

Visas & Residence Laws. If you buy a home in another country, you will want to make sure you can come and go easily, without a mountain of paperwork every time you hop on a plane. You will want to be able to get permanent residency status, and in some countries that is easier to do as a retiree than as a younger person. Countries that score high in this category also offer favorable tax rates on any income you might make.

Entertainment and fitting in. Most people who move abroad want to do more than just snuggle in to an expat community. They want to feel a reasonable degree of acceptance by locals as well. Scoring high here means the country appreciates newcomers and invites them to be part of society in many ways. This category also looks at the potential for entertainment that is of interest to English-speaking expats. Are movies subtitled in English? Are there interesting cultural activities to enjoy, like museums and art galleries?

Development. This encompasses good roads, reliable electricity, and modern airports, but probably the most important aspect of development is how good is the data infrastructure. Few people are interested in moving to a country where they can’t stream their favorite TV show. 

Climate. Most people are attracted to life in lower latitudes in order to escape the extremes of weather they have endured in northern climes. Countries are rated by temperature, humidity, rainfall, and potential for climate disasters. 

Healthcare. This is an important category for most potential expats, especially those over 60. Older Americans are extremely concerned about availability and cost of high-quality health care.  All countries in contention for the ‘best places to retire’ list have to offer easy access to English speaking doctors and dentists, reliable and efficient pharmacy services, and attractive pricing on things like a tooth implant or a hip replacement.

Governance. In 2022, for the first year, this category includes a measure of how well the country is coping with the Covid-19 crisis. This is, of course, in addition to the stability of the government, ease of getting documents like a driver’s license, and an efficient banking system.

Opportunity. This is primarily a measure of how well a country supports small businesses. Many retirees aren’t interested in a life of pure leisure. Today, more and more older adults are looking to start (or continue) businesses – both online and traditional. A high score in this category indicates that the authorities within a country are highly supportive of this kind of activity.

Cost of living. This category is very detailed and one in which the experts on the ground earn their keep! They have to fill out an itemized monthly budget of what they spend on everything they purchase.  It is with this information that the IL editors can do a statistical analysis of how much expats can expect to spend on basics: housing, groceries, restaurants, health care, utilities, transportation, and entertainment.

For 2022, the twenty-five best countries in which to retire, based on the above criteria are:

1.     Panama

2.     Costa Rica

3.     Mexico

4.     Portugal

5.     Ecuador

6.     Colombia

7.     France

8.     Malta

9.     Spain

10.  Uruguay

11.  Thailand

12.  Ireland

13.  Peru

14.  Cambodia

15.  Malaysia

16.  Bali

17.  Sri Lanka

18.  Vietnam

19.  Italy

20.  Belize

21.  Roatan

22.  Dominican Republic

23.  Croatia

24.  Bolivia

25.  Nicaragua

For a more in depth look at how each country scored on each of the criteria, check out the full analysis here.

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