Best Countries to Retire 2021

September 30, 2021

Best Countries for Retirement

Source: Retirement Living

Retiring to another country can help stretch your savings with affordable living costs and tax benefits. Low-cost, high-quality health care is often an appealing reason to consider retiring abroad as well. Many retirees find immersing themselves in international living fulfills a lifelong dream.

We researched the best countries to retire to using several economic data points, quality of life ratings, inflation, unemployment, housing costs and climate data. You’ll find the following measurements of affordability and lifestyle for each of our 10 best countries for retirement:

  • Cost of Living Index expresses the combined average cost of food, housing, energy, transportation, health care and other daily expenses. A score higher than 100 means the cost of living is higher than in the United States. Scores under 100 reflect a comparatively lower cost of living than the U.S.
  • Purchasing Power Index measures the country’s average income (earned and passive) against the cost of living index. The United States is assigned the value of 100. A purchasing power index under 100 indicates citizens can afford less compared to the U.S. For example, an index of 80 represents 20% less affordability in the sample country than the U.S. Countries with a lower cost of living or significantly higher average income could score above 100, which means people living in those countries have more purchasing power than those in the U.S.
  • Quality of Life Index measures the level of political and economic stability, legal practices, civil rights, health services, medical services and safety and climate data combined with the cost of living, average income and foreigner-friendliness. The closer to 100, the higher the quality of life.
  • Average temperature is included to help you narrow your choices based on climate.

Portugal 🇵🇹
Cost of Living74.4Purchasing Power44.9Quality of Life70Average Temperature61ºF
#1 in Best County for Retirement
Level 4 Travel Advisory: COVID-19

Retire in Portugal for Old World European living combined with modern conveniences. The Portuguese government seeks to attract foreign retirees with lower taxation for up to 10 years.

Portugal offers sunny coasts and beaches, plains and mountains. Monasteries, castles and palaces are must-see attractions on the list of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

Portugal’s quality of life index includes an 82 for political and economic stability and health care. The country scores a 92 for safety. Only 0.3% of the population lives in poverty. A communication barrier exists, but many Portuguese residents speak English. You’ll enjoy a low cost of living in Portugal.

Temperatures in Portugal range from an average low of around 49 to a comfortable 76 degrees. This climate makes for excellent growing conditions for grapes, and you’ll find more than 30 distinct regions that produce wine in Portugal. Activities include visiting castles, beaches and seafood restaurants, plus scuba diving and whale and dolphin watching.

Expatriates who become legal residents have access to Portugal’s subsidized health care facilities. Private insurance is also available.

You can visit Portugal for up to 90 days without a visa. You’ll need a passport along with proof of regular income and health insurance to apply for retirement residency in Portugal.

Netherlands 🇳🇱
Cost of Living97.4Purchasing Power82.6Quality of Life69Average Temperature53ºF
#2 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19 and Terrorism

The Dutch have a long tradition of encouraging freedom of expression and take pride in their culture. Water lovers enjoy seacoasts and many interior lakes in the Netherlands.

The Alps attract skiers during the winter months, and Amsterdam and other heritage-rich cities make for exciting excursions.

Over 3.5 million foreigners live among the Dutch in the Netherlands, lending a multiethnic flavor to the country. The quality of life index includes high scores for health care, safety, civil rights and stability.

While the average high temperature is only around 69 degrees, the low is far from freezing at 42 degrees. Vast public gardens, parks, museums, quaint villages and plenty of windmills await you in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands mandates universal health care for residents. However, retirees from other countries who become permanent citizens must buy private insurance after three months of residency. A basic insurance plan is under $200 per month. The deductible is adjusted annually and is equivalent to $457.13 for 2021.

U.S. citizens are welcome in the Netherlands for up to 90 days without a visa. You may need a citizen of the Netherlands to sponsor you to retire permanently to the country. Check with a consulate to determine if you need a sponsor.

Apply for a residency permit as soon as you get to the country — approval can take several weeks. You’ll need to provide proof your retirement income can sustain you long term, and you’ll renew your Netherlands residence permit every five years.

Australia 🇦🇺
Cost of Living109.2Purchasing Power74.6Quality of Life77Average Temperature72ºF
#3 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19

Retire to Australia, and you’ll be privy to the world’s 12th-largest economy as well as kangaroos, koalas, wombats and coral reefs. Safaris, sailing and deep-sea diving are among the numerous activities available in Australia.

The country also is home to the third-longest mountain range in the world, ideal for skiing, snowboarding and hiking.

Australians are known for being welcoming, laid-back, casual people. Retire to Australia, and you’ll find no shortage of festivals throughout the year. These events revolve around the arts, music and cultural sports, usually complemented by fireworks.

Australia also offers excellent health care. Insurance is a combination of out-of-pocket payments, voluntary insurance and a national Medicare program.

The cost of living index in Australia is high with an acceptable purchasing power index. The quality of life index is excellent, broken down by an impressive score of 100 for safety and scores in the 90s for stability, civil rights and climate. The average temperature usually fluctuates between 59 and 84 degrees.

You’ll need one of Australia’s many visas to retire there. However, Australia is not currently granting retirement visas unless you have family in the country or have been in Australia long term while contributing to and being well-established in the community. If you currently hold a subclass 410 retirement visa, you are welcome to apply for a permanent visa.

France 🇫🇷
Cost of Living95.4Purchasing Power67.3Quality of Life69Average Temperature55ºF
#4 in Best County for Retirement
Level 4 Travel Advisory: COVID-19, Terrorism and Civil Unrest

From the French Alps to castles, Paris to small villages, vineyards to fantastic cuisine, retiring in France can be a dream come true. France has been a primary European economic and cultural center for hundreds of years.

Art galleries, museums, theme parks and numerous festivals celebrating regional and local culture are part of retirement in France.

Most French regions have cool winters and mild summers, although areas in the Mediterranean region have milder winters and hot summers. The French are proud of their art, architecture and language, and it’s best to know how to speak basic French while retired in the country.

Once your residence application for France is accepted, you can apply for a mandatory universal insurance plan. Coverage is via Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA) with optional private insurance for additional coverage. Applying for residency requires a great deal of documentation. Don’t skip contacting the French consulate to learn the latest requirements.

Although the cost of living in the largest country in the European Union is high and purchasing power is just slightly above average, the French poverty level is very low. Housing prices are up a bit in France, although real estate costs remain affordable for most people. France offers a high-quality health care system for all citizens.

Spain 🇪🇸
Cost of Living79.9Purchasing Power57.6Quality of Life71Average Temperature58ºF
#5 in Best County for Retirement
Level 4 Travel Advisory: COVID-19, Terrorism and Civil Unrest

Spain is the second-largest country in the European Union and offers nearly 3,100 miles of coastline and beaches with variety in terrain and rich culture.

Spain’s relaxed culture includes several hours each day for eating, drinking and sleeping. High-speed trains provide rapid transportation, so you can quickly get to most areas to explore landmarks or travel to towns to celebrate at the local annual holiday fiesta.

Although Spain’s culture has become internationalized, traditions remain. You’ll eat lunch as the main meal between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Many businesses and schools shut down for two to five hours during the afternoon to allow for a siesta (nap). Business resumes in the late afternoon with a closing time around 8 p.m. Supper is a lighter meal served at 9 p.m. or later.

Spain’s cost of living index is favorable, although the purchasing power index could be better. High marks for health care and safety help bolster the quality of life in Spain, but the country’s political and economic stability score needs improvement.

Spain’s temperature typically ranges from 44 to 76 degrees, but summers on the coast can reach over 95 degrees.

You’ll need to live in Spain for five years to qualify for permanent residency. After 10 years, you can become a citizen. The two statuses share nearly equal rights, but there are some differences. If you leave Spain for more than a year, you’ll probably lose your permanent residency.

Belgium 🇧🇪
Cost of Living96.3Purchasing Power75.6Quality of Life63Average Temperature53ºF
#6 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19 and Terrorism

Belgium has three official languages and is divided into three regions, each with various cultural influences. If a cooler climate sounds welcoming and you don’t mind quite a few rainy days, consider retiring in Belgium.

You won’t run out of things to do and places to see, including enjoying some of the finest chocolate and beer available anywhere.

Belgium’s quality of life index includes high marks for health care, safety and civil rights. The country is reasonably stable. However, the climate and costly living conditions drag the index down. The temperature in Belgium is typically cool, spanning from around 42 to 70 degrees. There are usually many rainy days throughout the year.

Belgium’s three official languages are Dutch, French and German, and roughly 60% of the population speaks English. Take some time to learn the language of the area you choose for your retirement living.

Activities include theater and museums. Belgium is also home to more castles than any other country in the world. You can enjoy several festivals, including Carnival in Belgium, which can be loosely compared to Mardis Gras in the U.S. You’ll also find world-class beer, chocolate and plenty of sports in Belgium.

Before retiring in Belgium, you must prove that you have assets sufficient to live on for years to come. The country ensures expatriates don’t put a strain on social programs. You’ll need Belgian references and a great deal of documentation. A consulate or embassy can assist with the procedure.

Italy 🇮🇹
Cost of Living96.3Purchasing Power75.6Quality of Life63Average Temperature56ºF
#7 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19 and Terrorism

Excellent coffee, wine, food and lower property costs draw retirees to Italy as much as the beautiful landscape and beaches.

Local shops and markets often replace grocery stores, making Italy a good choice for those who love to cook. Like much of Europe, the Italian lifestyle is slower-paced.

Italy’s lower cost of living can make your retirement savings last much longer than if you stayed in the U.S. Italy’s stability, civil rights and climate ratings are average, with high marks for health care and safety.

Italy’s health care system is affordable. Retire in Italy, and you could pay a small annual fee to cover medication, surgery, hospital stays and more. Quality of care varies by region, and you have the option of buying private insurance with your choice of doctors and hospitals.

Tuscany is home to a thriving community of expat retirees who enjoy rolling green hills, vineyards and beaches. Sicily is another beautiful Italian city for retirement. This region offers a lower cost of living, warmer weather, incomparable food and a relaxed lifestyle. Many Americans choose to retire in Apulia to avoid tourists.

To become a permanent resident and spend your retirement in Italy, you need to prove sufficient retirement funds to support yourself. You also need an Italian Elective Residence visa, an explanation of where you will live in the country and proof of medical insurance. This visa requires you to take Italian language and civics classes once you’re living in Italy.

Japan 🇯🇵
Cost of Living106.9Purchasing Power59Quality of Life70Average Temperature47ºF
#8 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19 and Terrorism

Japan is home to a higher percentage of seniors than any other country. Homes with members age 65 or older made up nearly 41% of total Japanese households in 2015. There were also 5.93 million one-person senior households at that time.

The respect and accommodations Japanese culture affords older individuals make the country one of the best for retirement.

Japan has a high cost of living with a high quality of life index. Although retirement life is expensive in Japan, rent is much lower than you’ll pay in most places in the U.S. The quality of life index is bolstered by high marks for civil rights and stability. Japan’s exceptional scores for safety and health care consistently rate in the top 10 in the world.

The average low temperature in Japan is a chilly 35 degrees. The island is susceptible to natural disasters such as earthquakes and monsoons. Have an umbrella handy from June through mid-July, when cold north winds collide with warm southern winds and bring weeks of rain.

Japan offers traditional breathtaking gardens, quality teas, lantern festivals and delicious meals. You’ll also find contemporary cities, transportation and technology. Museums combine traditional and present-day art. Summer outdoor music festivals are popular, like the Tokyo Summer Festival, which features dancing and fireworks.

If you don’t work in Japan or aren’t married to a Japanese citizen, retiring with a permanent visa can be challenging. The process starts with using three one-year visas to stay in the country. After three years, you would apply for a long-stay visa with several requirements attached. Use the long-stay visa for three more years, and then you may apply for permanent residence. Your application includes testing for fluency in the language with a competent understanding of Japanese culture.

Luxembourg 🇱🇺
Cost of Living113.7Purchasing Power98.6Quality of Life72Average Temperature52ºF
#9 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19

With a high percentage of foreigners living in Luxembourg, you’ll be in good company if you retire in the country.

Luxembourg retirees have access to modern transportation and top-level international internet bandwidth. Roads, rail and air travel make it convenient to travel to other European countries.

Luxembourg’s quality of life index is relatively high, consisting of excellent scores for stability, civil rights, health and safety. The low average temperature and high cost of living bring this index down a bit. Luxembourg is tiny, but its wealth is reflected in a purchasing power index nearly equal to the U.S.

Luxembourg is surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium, and foreigners make up 48% of the population. Germans, Italians, Portuguese, Scandinavians and British people call Luxembourg home, lending their customs and languages to a rich and diverse heritage.

January and February in Luxemburg can get as cold as 5 degrees, but the average low is 39 F. Summer warms up to the mid-80s, and rainy days are frequent throughout the year. The country offers hiking trails, parks, castles and other landmarks and a variety of museums. Sports and a variety of music are part of the fabric of Luxembourg.

Luxembourg’s residency process is easier to navigate if you are a relative, descendent, ascendent or partner of a Luxembourg citizen. You will have to prove you can support yourself financially, and you must apply before moving to the country. Get in touch with the consulate in the U.S. or Immigration Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs to determine your requirements.

GERMANY

Germany 🇩🇪
Cost of Living90.5Purchasing Power78.8Quality of Life70Average Temperature52ºF
#10 in Best County for Retirement
Level 3 Travel Advisory: COVID-19 and Terrorism

Move to a smaller city in Germany, and you’ll enjoy an affordable retirement. Germany offers beautiful landscapes, but sun lovers should look to other countries for retirement.

Germany is ideal for those who prefer cooler temperatures, lush forests and cultural sites to sandy beaches.

Excellent scores for health care, safety and civil rights make up Germany’s quality of life index. The country also gets high marks for economic and political stability. Summers are warm in Germany, but the winter months are long and often very cold. The average low temperature is 38 degrees, and the high hovers just below 70.

Germany is an excellent country for nature and history enthusiasts. Sixteen national parks, the Alps and green rolling hills make for incredible natural scenery. Cultural sites are numerous — the country’s history goes back at least 2,000 years. Along with German castles, museums, river cruises, Oktoberfest, vineyards and breweries, you’ll find ancient remnants from six different Roman emperors in Trier.

Germany offers well-organized mass transit, although you can walk around most cities with ease. Germans are well-educated on average, and most learn English in school. However, knowing the language is helpful to expatriates retiring in Germany. The cost of health care is significantly less than the U.S., and Germany’s universal, multi-payer health care system is one of the best in the world.

You have two options to retire in Germany. The first is to apply for a temporary residency permit in the U.S. through the German consulate. Many Americans received their retirement residency permit, but Germany does not guarantee acceptance. The second option is to stay in Germany for 90 days without a visa and apply for temporary residence in the county during your stay. Either method requires proof of medical insurance.

Before You Retire to Another Country

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service for enrolling with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your chosen retirement country. The service provides important information about safety conditions and emergency assistance during natural disasters, civil unrest and other matters.

Use STEP to easily find help when you first retire to another country and to give family members a way to contact you in an emergency.

Methodology

To find the best country for retirement, we compiled 8 global data sources to review economic stability, cost of living, quality of life, government stability, climate risk, and temperature. To create our rankings, we normalized the data to ensure an accurate review of the information.