Quit Your Job And Live Abroad: 11 Places So Cheap You Might Be Able To Stop Working In 2022
Have you ever fantasized about quitting your job and moving to a country where it’s so cheap you don’t need to work? International Living advises people on how to do just that in its magazine and website, which shows readers how to find, embrace and celebrate the best the world has to offer—from good-value living to great foods to warm year-round weather to interesting cultural traditions. The company has just announced its Annual Global Retirement Index, listing the 25 cheapest and best places to live around the globe. And this list isn’t just for retirees: It’s a great resource for anyone who has ever thought of moving abroad.
“Americans today are looking long and hard at their own values, and at the way they spend their days and many are coming to the conclusion that they need a change. They want more time with family and friends, more time to pursue their interests, more freedom to arrange their days the way they prefer,” says Jennifer Stevens, International Living’s executive editor. “But it can be hard to know how to afford that life. Overseas, in the right places, it’s easy. It can provide a path to that better-balanced, more affordable life folks are craving.”
Granted, the concept of encouraging Westerners to escape the high cost of living by moving to developing countries has received some backlash, with critics calling this “modern-day colonialism,” but International Living says that living well for less is only one reason a destination finds a place on its Global Retirement Index. “We live in an ever-more-connected, global world. And here at International Living, we celebrate that. We give readers the practical tools they can use to embrace a more international life,” says Dan Prescher, senior editor at International Living. “Being an expat isn’t about recreating your U.S. life in a new place. It’s about creating a new life in a place that excites and suits you, where you can expand your horizons and enjoy an adventure that you wouldn’t have back home.”
According to Prescher, International Living points people to communities where they can feel safe and comfortable, where the local culture is inclusive and welcoming. In addition, International Living actively encourages people to learn the local language when they settle in a new country, to become integrated into their communities, to embrace the local traditions and to honor and celebrate the cultural habits and holidays there. “The most successful—the happiest—expat retirees we know appreciate that their dollars stretch, sure. But what these expats say they love most about their adopted homes is the excitement that comes with learning a new culture—they celebrate the new experiences they’re having, the new music, the new foods, the new traditions, the new connections,” says Prescher. “They become integral parts of their communities with a network of friendships that includes as many locals as it does fellow expats.”
In addition, many of the countries on International Living’s Global Retirement Index actively court expats with incentives designed to entice them to come and to stay. “So we show readers how to best match what they’re looking for in a retirement lifestyle with a destination where they’re most likely to find it,” says Prescher. “Cost of living is just one of many requirements you should consider when you’re evaluating your options abroad.”
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Why: One of the world’s safest, most affordable and most welcoming countries, Panama tops the Annual Global Retirement Index for 2022. It’s actually the 11 th time that Panama has taken the top spot in the 31 years that International Living has been publishing the list. “It’s no surprise to me that this tiny powerhouse has—once again—taken the number one spot in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index,” says Jessica Ramesch, International Living’s Panama correspondent. “When it comes to overall benefits and value, Panama is very tough to beat.” Some of the advantages: The currency is the U.S. dollar, the medical care is top-notch, the infrastructure is first-rate, internet access is good and the country is easily accessible from the U.S.
Over the past couple years, there have been some ups and downs in Panama (and all over the world), but the country has rebounded. “These days it’s back to business here. The country is busy welcoming tourists, new residents and new investment, too,” says Ramesch. Panama actively woos foreigners: You won’t pay income tax on funds earned outside Panama, there are several easy options for getting a visa or residency and real estate taxes are really low.
Where to Move: Panama City is Central America’s most modern metropolis, but that’s not all the country has to offer. “The cool mountain towns of Cerro Azul, Sorá and El Valle are a one- to two-hour drive from the city. The unspoiled Caribbean beaches of Portobelo are about two hours away by car. Or I can fly to my favorite Caribbean archipelago in an hour,” says Ramesch. Two other places to note: the lush highland haven of Boquete and Coronado, a beach town just an hour’s drive from the capital. “I like [Coronado] so much I bought an apartment there, and am packing up to move as we speak” says Ramesch. “Coronado is home to one of Panama’s most active and welcoming expat communities. I’m not even there yet, and I’m already getting invites to potlucks and happy hours.”
The Cost: More and more retirees from the U.S. and Canada are looking to Panama, where even foreign pensioners with legal residence get 15% off hospital bills, 20% off prescription medication, 15% off dental and eye exams and 20% off medical consultations. Panama’s famed Pensionado program makes it easy for you to become a legal resident if you have a social security or corporate pension of at least 800,000 a month. A couple can live well, depending on their lifestyle, starting at 800,753 a month in Panama City.
Why: Coming in second on the list for 2022 is Costa Rica, where the national motto is “Pura Vida” (pure life). “Sure, the secret has long been out about Costa Rica’s popularity. But that does not stop millions of visitors and new foreign residents from discovering its special brand of enchantment, lured by the country’s tropical climate; lower cost of living; friendly locals; affordable medical care; vast real estate options; and, of course, its natural beauty for which the country is famous,” says Kathleen Evans, International Living’s Costa Rica correspondent.
In a region that can have political and civil unrest, Costa Rica is safe and stable, with a progressive government. “For example, LGBTQ same-sex marriage is legal and women’s rights are mandated,” says Evans. And while the pandemic has been challenging, it has resulted in positive initiatives like a new digital nomad visa and an updated law to attract retirees that includes perks like a lower threshold for investors and the ability to import two cars and a shipping container of home goods tax-free.
Where to Move: There’s something for everyone, thanks to a dozen climate zones and hundreds of microclimates, but one of the most appealing is the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste. In this “Blue Zone,” there’s a high population of centenarians (100+ year-olds), thanks to healthy diets, natural water, sunshine, active lifestyles and strong familial and friendship ties. Other popular areas include the capital of San José, the temperate Central Valley, the jungle landscapes in the south and the Caribbean coast.
The Cost: “A couple can live comfortably, but not necessarily extravagantly, here for around 5000,000 to 5000,500 a month,” says Evans. “This includes renting a two-bedroom home/condo with North American amenities, air conditioning, plus groceries, entertainment, transportation and healthcare.” A single person can live on between 800,600 and 5000,000 a month.
Why: Third on the 2022 list is Mexico, which has been a popular expat spot for at least 50 years. “Mexico is close—it’s the United States’ neighbor, after all—and easy to get to by either driving or taking a direct flight into one of the country’s many international airports,” says International Living correspondent Jason Holland. “There’s low-cost, top-notch healthcare, including a well-regarded government system. The weather is great from coast to coast. It’s a modern country with high-speed internet, good highways, reliable electric and water and good cellphone service.” Another bonus: It’s easy to become a resident, thanks to reasonable income requirements. To get temporary residence in Mexico, you must have a monthly income of around 5000,100 a month or $36,000 in the bank. Permanent residence requires around 5000,700 a month or $149,000 in the bank.
The trendsetting country due west of Spain continues to attract young expats, particularly entrepreneurs, given its cost of living and welcoming business incentives that help stretch your hard-earned dollars. Lisbon is usually the first choice, but also consider Porto, buzzing with creative energy as a manufacturing and textile hub. On a day off, take advantage of the city’s hilly, cobbled streets with cool cafes, historic churches, and port distilleries. You can also ride your bike to a string of beaches, or take a boat ride through the Douro Valley, the oldest wine region in Europe.
Less than an hour from Porto is Portugal’s third city, Braga, which, for its part, offers a reduced tax rate for start-ups. Nicknamed the “Rome of Portugal” thanks to its Baroque architecture, Braga also offers attractive green spaces, international schools, and high-tech companies for qualified candidates. Further south is seaside Comporta, with plenty of chic expat families, and the Algarve coast with around 330 sunny days per year. You can also check out the affordable nine islands in the Azores — some may offer incentives to attract businesses and start-ups. No matter where you choose in Portugal, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a kinder, more English-speaking nation to call home.
Peace of mind when you move
We hope this list of best countries to move to has been helpful to you as an American expat. No matter where you move to from USA, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays. We can even offer medical evacuation to patients who require treatment in other countries.
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