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Top 11 countries in the world to retire and live with incentives

What are the best countries in the world to retire with incentives? There is something for all tastes and desires: in the sun and heat, a cure for the aches and pains of the weather; in the mountains, for those who can’t stand the humidity of the sea; in the city, if services and timely health care are considered indispensable priorities.

And there is also something for all ages: not only for those who have already retired or are thinking about it, but also for the less senior groups who long to leave everything behind and the savings wisely saved for stormy days want to make them last as long as possible. Moving to a place where the cost of living is definitely acceptable, if not downright cheap, at least compared to the standards we are used to.

To make a long story short, here are the eleven best countries in the world where one can retire, spend a chunk of one’s existence, perhaps looking for an occasional job if the need arises or the treasury erodes. A metamorphosis that is achieved thanks to two types of incentives: the direct ones, that is, the overt incentives of governments that attract foreign residents and their capital; and the indirect ones, the result of a common sense calculation: for rent (or the purchase of a house), food, some varied luxuries in leisure time, one pays little. Or perhaps just the right amount.

Finally, a necessary premise: everything is relative. Many U.S. guidebooks, for example, suggest to their readers to move to Italy, perhaps to a village. For the climate, the ubiquitous beauty, the good food, initiatives such as 1 euro houses. While some inhabitants of a country conspire to flee here, there are those who can’t wait to get there.


Let’s start with something soft, where the food and culture definitely won’t be a problem to fit in for an extended stay. The requirement is to transfer your fiscal residence to the country and live there more than six months a year (183 days to be exact), apply and wait for the result. If your application is accepted, you will benefit from a flat rate of 7%, all the rest of your pension will be at your disposal. And you can live both on the mainland and on the Greek islands, including those remote and dreamy ones with the slow pace of life and modest prices that we have come to know and crave for our vacations.


Let’s just say that Manila is not one of the safest cities in the world (to put it mildly), but on the other hand, some resorts are the prototype of the good retreat, the ultimate retreat in blue and an opportunity to visit the famous Panagbenga Festival in Baguio city. The requirements for obtaining a “retirement visa for the Philippines” are very favorable, even compared to other countries in the area. It is enough to be at least 50 years old, deposit the equivalent of about 10 thousand dollars in an account, receive a pension of at least 800 dollars a month, or a total of a thousand if you are in a couple (so theoretically in this case 500 is enough). Among the incentives, the possibility of importing up to 7 thousand dollars in goods from the country of origin at zero taxes, without the need to buy them locally. And the guarantee, except for extravagances, that the pension itself will be enough: the average expenses, excluding rent, are around 500 dollars a month.


The “Panama Pensionado” program is one of the most attractive in the world and requires a basic capital, about $200,000, but you only have to deposit it in a bank, you don’t necessarily have to buy a property as in other places. So you can get it back if you change your mind, barring unfortunate financial circumstances. The important thing is to receive a pension of about 1,000 euros per month, which for many young people may seem like a pipe dream, but at least for the older generation it is an (almost) inalienable right. In return, the government guarantees many incentives, from a 50% discount in cinemas, theaters and sporting events, to 30% on buses and trains, a 25% reduction in the cost of electricity, to a 15% reduction in hospital fees. The rate is 15% for pensions up to about $50,000.


Always in this accordion between the very distant and the incredibly close, there is the country of Lisbon, Porto and other melancholic and touching wonders. Above all, an element shared with Greece, lots of sea, greenery and a warm climate while elsewhere winter rages. The tax rate here is slightly higher than in Athens, at 10%. The destination remains historically popular with retirees and, according to research by language learning platform Preply, is also one of the cheapest in the world. Take the capital as a benchmark: a meal in a restaurant costs on average less than $10. A great incentive, one of many, for those who do not receive a dream pension.


Again, according to the Preply study, Kuala Lumpur ranks first among the world’s cheapest cities to live and work in, so, in addition to pensioners, it attracts many expatriates. The equivalent of about US$1,000 a month is enough to lead a more than comfortable life, monthly rent for a house in the city center is just over US$420, and a meal in a restaurant requires just over US$4. The “retirement visa” program is very early: you only have to be 35 years old and have a liquid net worth of at least $120,000. In return, you get a ten-year visa and, above all, this is the biggest incentive, every penny transferred to Malaysia is tax-free. Thus, all the money you save over time, or the portion you decide to contribute to the region, will be at your disposal without any tax burden.


It is true that Greece and Portugal are obvious names when one thinks of places to move to. However, Montenegro hardly comes to mind. Despite this, this jewel on the Adriatic coast is like a little Croatia, but less expensive and bureaucratic. Here they have a very pronounced passion for the number 9, which is the required percentage for most taxes, both on personal and corporate income, up to investment profits. An excellent landing place to keep working, perhaps in the smart job, or to not watch your pension erode each month. But beware: you need a visa to stay and you can opt for the temporary one that lasts six months and allows you to get an idea of living costs. Of course, it does not give you access to citizenship (and therefore tax relief). To apply, you need to invest at least $250,000 in real estate.


Bali is home to expatriates, or at least it was before the pandemic, then curbs were imposed out of the reasonable prudence of wanting to avoid an invasion. With the fall of restrictions, nomadism of the young and not so young looking for a plan b in smart work or blissful idleness (resources permitting) is picking up. The “retirement visa” gives access to a one-year stay, with the possibility of extending it for another five years, and offers various incentives, such as discounts on medical care. There is a flat tax of 20%, with a much lower cost of living than usual.


In its recently published ranking of the “cheapest countries in which to retire well”, the financial consulting firm SmartAsset places Spain in third place, after Portugal and Malaysia. For a Mexican it is perhaps one of the least traumatic transitions of all, given the great similarity between our cultures and the fact that we share a common language. The big cities are more expensive, but the inland and coastal resorts are really affordable. And the daily siesta and a lot of famous travel destinations are assured. The tax regime is very complex, but there are several deductions and exemptions. For example, if you are over 75 and earn about $1,100 a month, you don’t pay a cent in taxes.


In this case, they have devised a kind of all-inclusive subscription to government services, starting with health care. You only have to pay about $100 a month for full coverage, which eliminates a lot of anxieties, starting with that of living in a distant country. Then, you can enjoy excellent news: rents are extremely cheap, as is the cost of living. In fact, it feels like the pension doubles.

Costa Rica

A kaleidoscope of panoramas, including beaches, cities and meadows of trees for those who want absolute peace and privacy. It is enough to be able to prove an income of about a thousand dollars a month to live in the country, as rents and average expenses are relatively low. A meal in a restaurant costs just under $8, and basic utilities for an 85-square-meter apartment – including electricity, heating, water and garbage – cost only $68 a month. Is that enough?


Okay, we realize that. The prospect of moving to Costa Rica or Ecuador is for the faint-hearted, and in the face of a serious setback it can be hard to get by. If Greece and Portugal seem too obvious, Slovenia is a good plan b, especially for those who prefer the mountains and find the prices in France or Switzerland absolutely unaffordable. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is surprisingly affordable: just over $500 a month. It never hurts to try, there is always time to go back.