Researchers at InternationalLiving.com surveyed their worldwide network of editors and contributors to calculate which country offered the best quality of life at the lowest price.
Editors each sent in details of their personal monthly budgets, which included expenses like rent, health care, groceries, utilities and the cost of having a maid. The budget information was then used to compile a list of the five cheapest overseas retirement destinations.
If 2013 is the year you're going to retire, take a look at the five cheapest spots in the world to live well, according to InternationalLiving.com.
Nicaragua -- $995 per month
Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful countries in the Americas, says InternationalLiving.com. It boasts a dramatic Pacific coastline; long, gentle Caribbean beaches; and volcanoes and freshwater lakes that dot the hilly inland. Colonial cities like Granada and Leén offer visitors a taste of days gone by. And Managua is rapidly becoming a city with top-notch theaters and a range of international restaurants.
Nicaragua's lower cost of living does not mean you have to sacrifice the quality of life you have been accustomed to in the U.S. or Canada. In fact, the editors say you will probably be able to live in Nicaragua with even more luxuries than you were accustomed to, simply because the prices are so low.
Sample monthly budget for two people:
Electricity (without air-conditioning): $45
Propane gas (tank for cooking): $20
Entertainment: $100 (or the sky's the limit)
Health insurance: $100
Maid (three times a week): $60
Malaysia -- $1,000 per month
According to the editors at InternationalLiving.com, a couple in Malaysia can easily live on just over $1,000 a month. A budget of $2,000 will have you living in luxury.
An entire bagful of fresh fruit, including mangoes, bananas, apples, oranges, and pineapples costs just $4. High-speed Internet is reliable and costs $30 a month, and a premier cable TV package for $40 includes favorites like HBO, CNN, and the BBC. And a couple can eat out well for less than $10. Go to night bazaars, and you can dine for much less than that: Chicken-and-rice meals are often only $1.
Sample monthly budget for a couple living in Malaysia:
TV: $40 Maid (four hours a week): $15
Transportation: $34 for gas
Health insurance: $33
Dining out/Entertainment (alcohol not included): $300
Monthly total: $1,076
Ecuador -- $1,415 per month
In Ecuador, the editors at InternationalLiving.com say, it's easy to retire on less than $17,000 per year, a figure that allows for a very comfortable lifestyle. Many foreign residents have their main homes in the city, and also have a country home, a beach property, or even property in another country -- something that would be impossible on a comparable budget in the U.S.
Additionally, the low cost of living allows retirees to increase their travel, take up new hobbies and generally enjoy a better quality of life. Ecuador offers something for everyone, and at prices unheard of in North America and Europe.
Here is a sample monthly budget for a couple living very well in Cuenca. The expenses are, of course, approximate. We've erred on the side of extra spending to come up with a budget that allows for a pretty luxurious lifestyle.
Rent (for a luxury two-bedroom apartment): $500
Utilities (including, phone, Internet, and CATV): $150
Maid (twice a week): $60
Maintenance and fuel for one car: $140
Health care (four $30 visits to a doctor per year for two people, divided by 12 months): $20
Monthly total: $1,415 per month
Panama -- $1,865 per month
Panama offers a very comfortable retirement solution, in part because the nation is much more developed than most visitors expect. InternationalLiving.com says many are shocked by the modernity of Panama and the clusters of skyscrapers that define Panama City's skyline. All of the amenities one could wish for are readily available.
By moving to Panama, you will enjoy the benefits of a developing economy where you can still take a taxi across town for the equivalent of a buck or two, get your hair cut for a couple of dollars, or enjoy dinner for two with a bottle of wine at one of the finest restaurants in Panama City for a mere $30. No matter what your taste or budget, you'll find that Panama offers plenty of quality options.
Sample monthly budget for two people:
Gas for cooking, water heaters, dryer, etc.: $15
Transportation (taxi or fuel/maintenance on one small car, low to moderate use): $100
Full-time maid : $175
Monthly total: $1,865
Mexico -- $2,129 per month
Everyone seems to agree: the quality of your life improves in Mexico, says InternationalLiving.com. Things take longer, so you'll need to learn to slow down. Goods and services cost less, so you can afford the kinds of luxuries only the very wealthy enjoy up north — like a maid, a cook, and a gardener.
And in Mexico you have the good fortune of giving up very little when you make your move. You're heading to a near neighbor where you can get Internet, cable TV, and all the other comforts you're used to.
Sample monthly budget for two people in Mexico:
Rent (two-bedroom home): $800
Utilities (electricity, gas, water, phone, cable TV, Internet): $220
Health care (two people on IMSS insurance, plus $70 per month for incidentals): $112
Maid: Three times a week: $210
Gardener: Once a week: $87
Monthly total: $2,129