There’s no denying that Malaysians love being in the limelight (be it for the right or wrong reasons), especially when it comes to lists proclaiming our fair country being in the top 5, top 10 or even top 100 of any given subject. After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?
Fortunately, International Living reported in its recently-published Annual Global Retirement Index that Malaysia is one of the top five countries for North Americans to retire abroad. A total of 25 countries are featured on the list, selected from among all the countries in the world for their qualities as retirement hotspots. The results are a combination of real-world insights about the various aspects of each country that will attract retirees to savour their golden years.
The International Living Annual Global Retirement Index obtains its information and bases it on these 8 categories, which is collected from its network of correspondents around the world:
- Real estate – price per sq ft, rental, value for money
- Special benefits – retirement packages, discounts, property tax, etc
- Cost of living – daily expenses, transport, entertainment, etc
- Fitting in – ease of migration, integration, locals’ English proficiency, local and expat community
- Entertainment and amenities – indoor and outdoor entertainment, activities
- Healthcare – access to affordable, high-quality healthcare
- Infrastructure – quality of roads and public transport, speed and reliability of internet access
- Climate – climate preferences vary, therefore hard data of each country’s climate as well as opinions from expats were compiled and assessed
Below is the full list of all 25 countries in the index, and a peek at the top 5 countries.
Great value real estate and generous retiree benefits
Ecuador once again lands the top spot for this year’s retirement index, thanks to the appeal of its geographical diversity that will suit urban retirees as well as nature-lovers. The cost of living in Ecuador is significantly lower than in the US, with a meal costing $3, visit to the doctor at $10, and average rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $350 per month. Property taxes are also much lower, a boon to those wanting to buy property, and they even throw in a free landline if you do. Besides getting great value for property prices, Ecuador also offers great benefits for those over the age of 65, including discounts on flights, movies, sporting event tickets, and public transport, just to name a few. Many expats find it easy to assimilate into local society, with a growing expat community and friendly bilingual locals. It’s not a boring place either, as the country offers a diverse range of activities, from the vast Pacific Ocean (including the Galapagos islands) and the Amazon, to the might peaks of the Andes mountain range.
Best retirement program in the world
Mention Panama, and most of us would immediately relate it to the Panama Canal. However, retirees planning to enjoy their retirement in Panama – #2 on the index and the best retirement destination in Central America – should already be aware of the advantages of the world’s best retirement program: the Pensionado visa. This visa is open to anyone with a lifetime pension of over $1,000 a month, and includes discounts of 20% for medical services, 50% off entertainment, 25% off restaurant dining, 25% off flight tickets, and 25% off electricity and phone bills, while a visit to the doctor can cost as little as $5. How awesome is that?! In addition, Panama has the fastest internet and best roads in Central America, and serves as an air hub for the entire region, so expats have no problem getting in touch with friends and family, or even going home if they feel a little homesick. Throw in some beautiful beaches and sunny shores mixed in with a climate that’s perfect for outdoor activities, and you have yourself a winner in any retiree’s book.
Comforts of home just a border away
While many Mexicans are trying to get over the border into America for better job opportunities, it seems that for American retirees, Mexico is one of the world’s best expat havens, as English is widely spoken in expat communities and US food, products and sports are readily available. The only difference is in the prices – the cost of living in Mexico is far more affordable than living in the US, which is why many opt to retire just south of the US border. Residents barely pay more than a few hundred dollars a year in property taxes. It’s pretty much like Singaporeans living out their retirement in Malaysia – everything’s familiar but much cheaper, and they can pop back home across the causeway anytime they want.
Asia’s top retirement destination and cultural melting pot
The Malaysian government makes it easier than most Asian countries for foreigners to obtain residency, especially through its Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program which offers certain tax advantages to expats. We might be a tiny bit biased, but we think that Malaysia is definitely one of the best places to retire if you’re an expat, even with just a few thousand dollars each month. (The MM2H program requires a minimum income of $3,200 per month to qualify.) With the ringgit hovering over 4.20 to the US dollar, everything is value for money here, from real estate to dining to tropical getaways. In popular locations such as Kuala Lumpur or Penang, expats can easily rent a large high-end condominium unit with swimming pool and easy access to shopping and dining right in the city centre. Transportation within the city is convenient too, and public transportation is cheap. Don’t even get us started on the delicious yet diverse food options, ranging from affordable local cuisine to international gourmet meals. English is widely spoken by most Malaysians, making it easy for foreigners to fit in, and there are plenty of natural, historical and cultural treasures to explore. As a hub for budget airlines, expats need not worry about flying home for the holidays, and flights to other Southeast Asian and Asian countries are readily available at low-to-high price ranges, depending on your travel preferences. Malaysia is truly Asia at your doorstep.
#5 Costa Rica
Low property taxes, plus political and economic stability
Costa Rica clinches the number five spot on the list with its political and economic stability, as well as low property taxes. It also boasts one of the best healthcare systems in Latin America, and is generally cheaper compared to the US. Nevertheless, compared to other places in the top 5, Costa Rica is considered one of the more expensive options, as most things are slightly less than half of the prices in America, from dining to health insurance. Nevertheless, properties here are still much more affordable for expats, about $450 for a one-bedroom apartment (as compared to over $1,000 in the US) and $130 per sq ft compared to $213 in the US. The climate is also one of the main attractions for retiree expats, in addition to beautiful sandy beaches, stunning national parks and hospitable locals.
Others of note in the Top 10
Spain (#6) is the top retirement destination for Europe, thanks to its balmy climate and comparatively low cost of living in the region. It scored top marks for infrastructure, a healthcare system recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the world’s best, and entertainment.
Coming in at #7 is the small island of Malta, which offers idyllic days filled with sunshine, world-class healthcare (consistently rated among WHO’s top five), and delicious Mediterranean food. It also has on of the lowest crime rates in the world, making it the perfect place to just sit back and relax with no worries.
Rounding up the top 10 is Thailand, which is another popular retirement destination in Asia, with its abundance of tropical beaches, friendly locals, a plethora of exotic Asian cuisine, and a strong expat community in larger cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai.