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Thu. Apr 15th, 2021

My Filipina wife and I retired to the Philippines over four years ago. The cheaper cost of living was the main factor in determining our retirement destination. After spending almost 30 years working for telecommunications giant,  AT&T, and saying goodbye at the age of 57, how far our money would stretch was our primary consideration. 

The family at Raymen Beach, October 2000The clan at Raymen Beach Resort in Guimaras several years ago


In International Living's Annual Retirement Index 2013, 23 countries were covered ranking the best destinations to retire overseas today.  Cost of living is one of eight categories in the Index and is an important factor for many who are considering overseas retirement as it was in ours.

Coming in at number 15 overall in the Index, the Philippines received a top score of 100 in the cost of living category.

The index stated that In the Philippines, your dollar stretches (and stretches and stretches), and most expats live comfortably on $800 to $1,200 per month. I will add that if you are a single guy living in the province, as opposed to the Metro Manila area, that figure is fairly accurate. 

But if you have a wife or girlfriend (do yourself a favor, stay out of trouble and don't have both), that has needy relatives, be prepared to shell out more pesos. If you're on a fixed income, as we are, you need to set out some guidelines from the very beginning with those relatives. 

International Living goes on to state that this will fund a lot of luxuries, such as household help. In the provinces, the monthly salary for live-in maids is around $65. In a coastal town on Negros Island a haircut can cost as little as 77 cents.

The haircut figure for Negros Island, in the Western Visayas region where we reside, is accurate. Household help, however, in Guimaras, my wife's home province, is cheaper. You could hire a live-in maid for around $50 US Dollars a month, or 2,000 pesos. 

IL reports that In many places the monthly rent for two-bedroom apartments and bungalows is $200 to $300. Private health care is inexpensive and the Philippines is a popular destination for medical tourism.

We lived in a modern, three-bedroom home in one of Iloilo's premier subdivisions. Our rent? 140 US Dollars a month. 

Two Story Home in Savannah Subdivision in Iloilo

A home in Savannah Subdivision, Iloilo

A visit to the doctor costs 8 USD. 

Further up the list, coming in ninth position overall in the Index, International Living stated that Thailand was runner up in the cost of living category. Known as the Land of Smiles, it’s also the land of affordable living.

Thailand has a lot of living options. Some foreign retirees choose to live in the hubbub atmosphere of Bangkok. Some live in the north, where life is quiet, peaceful, and very inexpensive. Others choose the south for its beautiful beaches.

A one-bedroom condo in a modern building with all the expected amenities (plus some) will run $300 to $600 per month in many parts of the country. An “over-the-top,” luxury two-bedroom condo, with great views and 1,200 to 1,500 square feet, will rent for $1,000 to $1,200 per month. 

A luxurious lifestyle for a couple is possible on $1,800 a month depending on your location, but you can do it cheaper. For far less than you’d pay back home, you get a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high quality medical care.

Motorbikes are a popular mode of transportation and cost about $800 for a new model and gas is just under $5 a gallon. Taxis cost $2 for a three mile journey and air conditioned buses cost 50 cents or less.

Motorcycle club in Guimaras

Bikers in Guimaras

Malaysia came in third in the Cost of Living category and also came in third overall in the Index. A former British colony, Malaysia conjures up all the mysteries of Asia. Beyond the high-rise skyscrapers of the cities, is a dramatic canvas embroidered with tropical beaches, mountains, dense rainforest, and vividly green tea plantations.

Malaysia is home to many foreign expats from around the globe, who live comfortably for less among the locals. It has a great infrastructure and foreigners are allowed to own properties freehold. The country has no inheritance tax, and places no tax on income repatriated from overseas. There’s no property capital gain tax either.

In Malaysia you’ll find excellent health care which is extremely affordable. Prescriptions here cost a fifth of what you pay at home and the cost of visiting a hospital here for a minor procedure is one tenth of what you would pay in the U.S.

The cost of living in Malaysia is low. Rent can be as little as $500 a month and entertainment as low as $50. You can have a comfortable lifestyle here including a maid service four times a week for $1,137 a month. Personally, I find those rental figures too expensive. And the cost for our maid is way out of line for our budget. 

Here's a look at the entire index which shows the top three cost of living destinations to be Ecuador, Panama and Malaysia. If you plan to live overseas, I recommend retiring to the Philippines. It might not be paradise, but a person can live quite comfortably here and not never have to worry about shoveling snow in the winter.

Thanks to Lance the Canadian for the link to this article.

The Scores and How Our 2013 Retirement Index Works

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By The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 21 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Malinois called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people over the years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

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