Best Place to Retire.

Best place to retire? I would pick the Philippines, of course. I took an early retirement from AT&T at the age of 57.  I've lived here for three years with my beautiful Filipina wife and enjoy a comfortable, fairly stress-free lifestyle. I'm enjoying my golden years as an old geezer in these treasure islands of the Pacific. 

Take it from me, if you've never visited the Philippines, you're truly missing out. But I'm not naive enough to realize there are some other retirement destinations in the world that might suit a person better. My expat friend, Scott B, and I were discussing this topic while riding on the pump boat from Guimaras the other day. It got me thinking (which is not always a good thing.)

Here's a best place to retire list from an April 2012  Market Watch article in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal obtained their information from International Living magazine. The editors at International looked at eight factors to determine their 2012 Global Retirement Index.

They assessed everything from "the price of bread to how easy it is to make friends or stay in touch with family." 

#1. Ecuador.

If you're looking for an early retirement haven, the republic of Ecuador might be your retirement haven.  “A couple watching their spending here can live well on $800 a month,” International Living said. “And even if you push the boat out you’ll find it hard to spend more than $1,500.”

#2.  Panama.  Panama has the best retiree benefits according to International Living’s research. The southern-most country of Central American has an organized program of discounts and perks called the “pensionado.” The program is open to foreigners and there’s no minimum age requirement. Estimated living costs are $1,500-$2,000 a month. 

#3. Mexico.  Mexico also offers what International Living describes as best-value real estate.  There are more than 80 interest groups around Lake Chapala, home to Mexico’s biggest expat community, International Living said. Another benefit: Unlike many other retirement havens, you could actually drive to Mexico. International Living’s 2012 Global Retirement Index doesn’t just identify countries with the lowest cost of living. Rather, it’s a reflection of all the categories.

#4. Malaysia. 

In Malaysia, you can live quite comfortably. For instance, you can rent a sea-view apartment on Penang Island for $1,000 a month. Plus, Malaysia has a unique retirement benefit called the My Second Home program, which is open to all foreigners who want to retire to one of Asia’s best-value destinations, International Living said.

Best place to retire? Sorry, I'm sure Malaysia would be a great place to live but that $1,000 a month for a sea-view apartment is out of our price range. 

#5. Colombia.  If you’re looking for a bit of excitement in your life, consider Medellin in Colombia. It is, according to International Living, among the more exciting retirement havens. The city and country offer retirees and would-be retirees low property prices and perfect climate.

The magazine notes that criminal gangs might seem a threat. I don't really need that kind of excitement in my life. The occasional rooster crowing or lizard scurrying up my wall is enough for me. 

#6. New Zealand. Language, obviously enough, is the biggest factor in how easily you can make friends and build up a new network in your overseas home, according to International Living.  International Living has also said that New Zealand is among the healthiest places to live in the world. It affords expats a pollution-free environment and awesome landscapes. 

Well, if you're going to take early retirement and move to New Zealand, I bet you'll find some friendly folks. Murray, my Kiwi friend that paid us a visit last year in Guimaras,  is one of the nicest mates that you could meet. 

#7. Nicaragua. 

Like many countries in Central America, the cost of living is what makes Nicaragua a top haven for retirees. According to International Living, you can spend about $1,200 a month and live quite nicely. For instance, regular fare at typical restaurants runs about half and a “local” meal is $2 to $3. The local beers, which are good, run from 75 cents to $1.50. (Kids, the beer is half that price in the Philippines.)

#8. Spain. Spain is the only European country to be listed among International Living’s top 10 retirement havens. The reason? That country is among the more exciting places to which to retire. For foodies in love with culture, Spain and Italy offer a menu of delights unmatched anywhere else, even the smallest villages ooze history and art is everywhere,” said International Living. 

#9.  Thailand. As with Malaysia, it can be fairly inexpensive to live in Thailand. According to International Living, you can live comfortably for less than $1,000 a month on a powder-sand beach in Thailand. In fact, it’s likely you could find a “really nice, livable place just about anywhere in the country” for about $500 a month. 

Best place to retire? Well, the cost of living looks good. 

#10. Honduras. Honduras, which is just north of Nicaragua in Central America, is the world’s 10th best place to retire, according to International Living. Its appeal? It’s cheap to live there and the surfing is great. One expat, for instance, is spending just “$1,400 a month to live yards from a white-sand beach on the island of Roatan.” Plus, it’s only a three-hour flight from the U.S. If you love the sea, then Roatan is among the places for you. 

As you can see, the Philippines did not not make this list. I would still highly recommend checking out this archipelago of 7,107 islands as an early retirement option. Of course if you're married to a Filipina or you're a single guy looking for the most beautiful women in the world, the Philippines is definitely the best place to retire. Low cost of living, friendly people and cheap beer. What more could you ask for? 

45 Comments

  1. Dave,
    I have looked at these retirement lists the last couple of years and wondered why the Philippines is never on the list? Is it because of the violence that has occurred on Mindanao over the last decade? What is the deal?

    I have spent some time in Panama and brief visits to other mentioned Central American countries and I really don’t think they compare to the Philippines.

    Reply
  2. Dave, if I was not married to my Philippine Asawa, I would seriously consider Panama, I visited my brother who was stationed there last year. Reasons? Nice Weather, Nice people, most people (like the Philippines) speak english, use American Currency!. Cost of living equates with places like rural Arizona, New Mexico, Tenn, etc.

    As to why the Philippines never made the list? My pet theory is “word of mouth”. Pretty much all normal Americans know of the Philippines is what they have heard from their friends who have been in the Navy! They think it is all like the bar scene from “Flight of the Intruder” (great movie btw). All it would take is one visit for most to fall in love with the “PI” like we all have.

    Reply
    • Indeed, it’s a wonder the original article didn’t take note of that fact. Of all these potential destinations, Panama is the only one which uses the good old US greenback as their official currency. No exchange rate hassles/losses and such.

      As to why the Philippine isn’t on the list? International Living magazine is heavily invested in promoting its own real estate investment schemes … they aren’t currently doing business in the Philippines.

      They regularly write these articles, and submit to places like the WSJ in order to get free promotion.

      Reply
      • Thanks for that info on International Living, Dave S. Didn’t know they had an agenda they were pushing. That helps explain why the Philippines wasn’t on the list.

        Reply
    • Thanks for your input, Scott H. I was surprised to see Panama and especially Colombia on that list. But Panama must have something going for it if you were impressed.

      I don’t know if I would have made it over to the Philippines, Scott. I really didn’t know much about it and didn’t know any one that married a Filipina aside from one guy my age, who I had not seen in years. His wife, Lourdes, turned out to be one of my asawa’s best friends and Saturday shopping buddy. They kindly let us stay at their home after we sold our house in Illinois and moved to the Philippines. Great couple. But if I wouldn’t have started my pen pal relationship with my now Sainted Patient Wife, I guess I would still be hanging out at my favorite redneck bar until 3am hoping Mickey Gilley’s classic song, “The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time,” would prove to be true another Friday night. :D

      Reply
      • Dave,

        In America One Must put on the “BEER GOGGLES”

        for the Woman to be as Beautiful as the Philippinas !

        Things ARE Better in the Philippines Dave.

        Reply
        • Preach it, Brother Frank! I agree with you brother. :D

          Reply
    • Scott,
      You will be living in Paranaque right? I will be right down the road in Bacoor Cavite. So maybe we could get together when we both move there. Dave another good retirement place is Costa Rica. Have a nice day

      Reply
      • PD, Costa Rica has long been since “discovered”. Cost of living expenses there are climbing rapidly as more N. Americans move in. It’s just not as Fun as the Philippines!

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        • Thanks for the info, Randy. Nowhere is as fun as in the Philippines, I would bet on that. :D

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        • RandyL,
          No doubt about that lol.

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      • I’ve been in Cavite before, PapaDuck, when my asawa and I were visiting the relatives in Metro Manila last year. Nice place.

        Reply
  3. I believe the above ten listed places have a lower standard of living, excellent government support and excellent publicity to encourage retirement compared to the Philippines. So, unless you have a connection in the Philippines, like your asawa or girl friend, what is your incentive of spending transportation money and residing in a place with the most expensive electrical rates in the world and a climate so hot and humid in the summer months, you feel like you are in the sauna the whole day. I still feel however that my island province, Marinduque is the best place for retirement in spite of the negatives I just mentioned!

    Reply
    • Hmmmm, some good points, David. I don’t know if I would have made the Philippines my retirement destination if I hadn’t married my Pretty Pinay, because I absolutely hated heat and humidity and dreaded each humid Central Illinois summer. I couldn’t wait for fall and winter.

      And yes, those electrical rates are a “budget buster,” David. It’s a “Catch 22″ situation. The heat and humidity drives me to use the air con and the increased air con usage drives up the bill. I’m just not as tough as Gary Wigle in Tagum who doesn’t even use air con. But all in all, the Philippines is the place for me, too. I really do love it here.

      Reply
    • David, if you’ve never ever been to Panama (or anywhere in the central Americas), the weather there is not much different than in the RP. I’m not sure why it was labeled as “near perfect” climate. Whoever labeled it as such probably just arrived there from Minnesota in February!

      Reply
      • I should have clarified that weather in the Central Americas. On the Caribbean side, the weather is hot and humid. At elevations, it is cooler and windier and on the pacific side it can be cooler and less humid. But overall it is tropical and warm and humid.

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        • Tropical and warm, just like the PH, Randy, with the notable exception of Baguio, of course. Thanks for the clarification.

          Reply
      • Never been to Central America, Randy. If the climate is similar to the RP, somebody must have been hitting the shabu pretty heavy to call it a “near perfect” climate,” indeed. :D

        Reply
        • Climate at sea level is the only thing that concerns me and the only “near perfect” weather I know of is in San Diego or the Malteze Islands. I can’t afford either one! :(

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          • Me, neither, Randy. The Philippines is about as close to paradise as I’ll get. Just hand me another sweat towel. :D

          • I’m stocking up on sweat towels before I leave here. :)

          • I’m getting more acclimated to it, Randy, and I’m sure enjoying the cooler temps, highs around 84, lows about 76, in this rainy season.

    • This is just another example of how poorly the filipino government has promoted their country.

      There are many reasons to live in the filipines, even with some tough hot weather and high electricity cost. I have been around the block more than a few times, I have NEVER met friendlier more positive people than filipinos.

      I spent two months in the filipines over the Christmas season. In the condo I was staying at there were MANY foreigners. Some of these guys and gals were in the filipines for the first time, others like myself had been there many times.

      A few of these people have traveled the world, and one of them held two high ranking positions on international charity foundation boards. They ALL said the hospitality and the friendliness of the filipinos was the best they had seen.

      The filipines, as we know, is very poor financially but RICH in beauty and culture. I have talked to literally hundreds of people who have retired in other places like Costa Rica, Panama, and similar places and they all said they would rather live in the Philippines, they just had not heard much about it before and if they had heard something it was negative.

      The only place I hear talked about in higher regards is Thailand. Many of my friends and associates swear by Thailand.

      As far as the weather, in my country (America) many retired people go far south to Florida, where for the most part the weather is very much like the filipines. Some people are not bothered that much by heat and humidity. It is sure better than eight months of rain like I see in the Pacific Northwest.

      The filipines is certainly not perfect, but for cost of living, beauty, and the friendliness of people…it is hard to beat.

      And I didn’t even mention the incredibly beautiful and VERY loving women.

      Reply
      • Todd, I believe as we all age, the heat and humidity becomes more therapeutic for old tired bones and joints. I’d much rather sweat a little while enjoying the sea breeze on the beach as opposed to freezing my a** off for 6 months of the year.

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        • You might be onto something there, Randy. :D

          Reply
      • That’s it in a nutshell, Todd: “The filipines is certainly not perfect, but for cost of living, beauty, and the friendliness of people…it is hard to beat.

        And I didn’t even mention the incredibly beautiful and VERY loving women”

        I challenge anyone to tell me where you could find more friendly people or more beautiful women than the Philippines. I wish the tourism dept. would promote the country better also, Todd. It has so much to offer. Thanks for your input.

        Reply
  4. Did I hear my name called? Supper time??

    :-P

    Reply
    • :P You’re one macho guy, Gary, going with out any air con.

      Reply
  5. The Philippines doesn’t make anyone’s list as a good place to retire.:-(

    I live here because of Meriam. She has made my life wonderful. She thinks I am so sweet she calls me “HONEY!” :-D

    Meriam and I went mall walking earlier in the week and guess what. OK Gary, what? I was up on the 3rd floor and turned the corner and instead of a dead end I saw the hallway was now open. WAY down at the end of the hall was a sign that said “TICKETS!” Two of the six movie theaters were open. Watched the new Spiderman movie. WOW…Tagum City now has movies!!!! I am a happy camper.

    :-) :-D :-P

    Reply
    • That’s great news, Gary, glad you guys finally have a cinema. My friend Scott B, now living in Iloilo, used to live in Dipolog and hated the fact that they didn’t have a cinema. He loves going to the movies. My asawa and I are going to try to get together with him and see the new Batman flick.

      Big meeting tomorrow, btw, with Webmaster Supreme, Rich Pawly, and another Blog Master, Bob, from My Philippine Life. Rich is from Houston but is in Davao and leaving for Iloilo this afternoon. Had to pass a free dinner offer from Rich tonight, a six hour brown out has put me behind, but looking forward to the lunch meeting tomorrow at a classy joint Bob has picked out.

      Reply
  6. Hi Dave: “The Philippines is not for everyone in retirement”, my retired former U.S. navy chief of an older brother advised me. “Live here for a while before thinking of permanent residency”, he added. He is retired part-time in the Philippines as his wife is not yet of retirement age in the U.S. As Mr. Katague had pointed out, the electrical rates are enormous. If you do not have a Filipina wife or a Filipina girlfriend, an expat would be hard up. My husband has agreed to retire there with me only because I wanted to. I am of Filipino heritage and feel at home there.

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    • Well, you’re older brother is certainly correct, Roselyn. Living in the Philippines requires a period of adjustment and that doesn’t come over night. It certainly is not for everyone. Three brown outs today lasting over 12 hours is an example of that. It can get very frustrating at times and even depressing. Glad your husband is supporting your future move to the Philippines. My own Philippine born wife would have been happy to stay in the States, but supported me 100% in our move here.

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      • Hi Dave: Thank you for your candid responses. Your articles are very helpful in my assessment for retirement planning. I’m planning way ahead of my retirement target date as I am a late baby-boomer and social security may not be around as we are experiencing severe economic woes in the U.S. I originally planned to retire in Gainsville, Florida but if I take early retirement before the age of 60, the Philippines would be better. Thanks again.

        Reply
        • You’re quite welcome, Roselyn. It’s never been the aim of this website to “sugar coat” anything. While I certainly love living in the Philippines, I know it’s not for everyone. I would rather a person that is planning to move here, as your husband and you are, have as many viewpoints as possible. I know a lot of my readers check out other expat websites to check out their viewpoints and glean more information. That’s what I did before we moved here over three years ago. I think the more information a person has, the better they can plan their move. I appreciate your support. Thank you.

          Reply
        • Roselyn,
          I was just curious, why Gainesville, Fl. Have a nice day.

          Reply
          • Hi Papa Duck: Sorry for the lateness of this comment. I selected Gainesville, Florida (previously) for my retirement as this is a small university town and has the amenities which would be conducive to retirment living in the U.S. such as the proximinity of the University hospital. If I need to experience the large city, I can always go to Miami or visit the art scene in Tampa. The real estate costs is lower than most university towns.

            You might asked: “what changed my mind to the Philippines”? Two years ago, I became an estate administrator to a retired colleague in the U.S. who passed away. Seeing the medical bills which caused her inherited fortune, large home, and savings, I examined Philippines closely as I inherited property from my parents in the Philippines. The property in Cebu City is much larger than my home in the U.S. I can retire before the age of 60 if I choose to take the early retirement. By the way, had my colleague lived another year, she would have been destitute.

          • Unfortunately, Roselyn, what happened to your colleague is much too common in the States as you know. Good decision on your part to move to the Philippines. I’d go for the early retirement. I left AT&T at the age of 57 and I’m glad I did.

          • Roselyn, unfortunately nursing homes are becoming all to common when family cannot and does not want to take care of you. I can attest that my grandmother’s and father’s bank accounts and assets were completely drained before medicare and medicaid kicked in. They came into and left this world with nothing and it’s a shame.

          • It IS a shame, Randy. I know that when my Grandmother passed away, Grandpa, had preceded her in death, my Dad had to file a mountain of paperwork and fight like hell with medicaid to get her outstanding bills paid. My Mom and Dad cared for Grandma at her home, she fought bone cancer for two years. My Dad had promised Grandpa that “Mom” would never go to a nursing home.

  7. Dave,

    Friendly English Speaking People, Great Inexpensive Food, Cheap Rhum & Beer Along With Beautiful Women Is An Unbeatable Combination Dave !

    Reply
    • Fearless Frank, as you well know, it IS more fun in the Philippines. Tom Cat, Melinda and I await your arrival. And don’t forget your baby goat. :D

      Fearless, btw, Scott b, a single guy like yourself, says it will cost him about 600 US dollars a year for his visa extensions. I believe he only has to go every other month or so and they can be done right at the local office in Iloilo.

      Reply
  8. Hi Dave: Just to add to my previous comments about my colleague who passed away in the U.S. The intensive care costs more than $50,000.00 a day. She was a member of the DAR association (Daughters of American Revolution) whose lineage went all the way back to the Plymouth colonies. The intensive care costs wiped out everything. There were still outstanding bills which were to be paid by the sale of her large home which sat at the edge of a golf course. Her furniture and personal belongings were divided among her living three adult children who fought with each other all the way to the end. They thought that they would inherit a fortune. A very sad situation.

    Reply
    • Very sorry to hear about your colleague, Roselyn. Such a tragedy to have your life’s savings wiped out and nothing left for your loved ones. And $50,000 a day for intensive care? Unbelievable. Very sad, indeed. My heart goes out to her family.

      Reply
    • Dave, Roselyn,
      Well i will be out at 55 and can’t wait. I’m grateful i’m able to do that.

      Reply
      • Hi Papa Duck: Congratulations on your retirement to the Philippines. I’m sure that you are looking forward to new adventures in your life. It is well earned. Best wishes.

        Reply

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