Best Places To Retire

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

— Mark Twain

Author Twain’s advice applies at any age, but especially for those in their middle years looking ahead to possible “retirement”.  You maybe won’t ever want to “retire” like your parents did, but chances are you’ll be changing locations, changing your means of earning income, and maybe even changing countries.

There are stacks of “Best Places to Retire Lists” around, all using different criteria. CBS’ Moneywatch has done a good analysis of some of the more popular list sites get their ratings.

But now Forbes magazine has compiled its own list of the 10 best retirement havens for US citizens, based on a wide variety of criteria ranging from safety to retiree-friendly visa requirements to decent medical care.

Forbes’ Top Ten Places to Retire

Austria – A “lower-cost Switzerland” with mountains, the great outdoors, elegant architecture and trams that run. Vienna offers the highest quality of life on the globe, according to Mercer, and medical insurers say its private clinics are world-class.

Thailand – Expect a warmly welcome, ideal for seniors on modest budgets. Considered Asia’s best buy for quality health care at reasonable costs, but the good private hospitals are in Bangkok, so make sure your beach retreat is within three hours of the capital.

Italy – Warm Mediterranean sociability and one of the world’s best health care systems.  Great bargains in the South in Puglia or Sicily, or in cities like Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast.

Panama – Year-round sun, low taxes, massive discounts for seniors, first-world amenities, quality private hospitals, bird-filled rainforests, a dollar economy and easy flights from the U.S.

Ireland – Stunning countryside, cultural affinity, low taxes and many rebates for seniors. Overpriced Dublin reachable in a couple hours from anywhere in the country, so look for housing inland.

Australia – The world’s best place to live, according to the Country Brand Index. The highest quality cities at the lowest cost, claims Mercer. The famously friendly Aussie has created a first-world country with low Asian costs.

France – offers perhaps the friendliest of policies toward American retirees of any European Union nation. Considered most affordable quality health care in the world, plus low taxes for American ex-pats. Paris for wealthy, but Brittany, Normandy and the Dordogne, a short train ride away, are more affordable.

Malaysia – Welcoming to retirees, low costs and spectacular coastline make it a strong contender for the budget-conscious, but also increasingly for the wealthy wanting an Asian tax haven. For health care reasons, avoid straying too far from Kuala Lumpur.

Spain – The ‘Florida of Europe’ has long been a magnet for sun-starved Brits, so retirement infrastructure all in place. Coast overdeveloped but great value in lesser-known interior cities like Salamanca or Burgos.

Canada – Cities from Vancouver to Montreal consistently score among the best in the world, both on quality-of-life and value-for-money benchmarks. Friendly policies toward retirees, affordable medical care and a natural cultural fit for Americans.

Nowhere Is Perfect

Says Forbes: “No place is perfect. Some countries rank high in one area but lower in others. Australia is by one well-regarded rating, the Country Brand Index, the most livable place in the world. But if you plan to return to the U.S. frequently, Australia makes for a long slog.

“Canada is No. 2 in the Country Brand ratings and certainly convenient for Americans, but its harsh winters are well-known.

“Italy scores high on quality of life, medical care, and cost of living and climate  . .  . But its complicated taxes and bureaucracy require patience.

“So, the key to any decision: Know yourself and do your homework.”