Is one of your plans for 2013 to retire where your retirement income will stretch the furthest? Or are you just beginning to scout out retirement options?
In any case, you might well want to check out one or more of the most highly recommended "retirement havens" around the world. And most of them can also be pretty good places to visit, even if you have no idea about retirement yet.
For years, International Living, a specialized newsletter-plus-data bank devoted to expatriate life, has been the "go-to" source of information on overseas retirement. Among its many publications is an annual "quality of life" index, an attempt to quantify the most important factors for potential expats and combine individual scores into a composite index. Scoring is based on real estate prices, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate.
This year's report, covering 22 "top retirement destinations," has just been issued:
The lowest scores go to Brazil, Chile, Honduras, Belize and the Dominican Republic, although International Living considers them all to be acceptable candidates.
International Living notes that its scores are based on a combination of hard cost data and personal reports from expats. The report does not specifically mention the availability and cost of reliable high-speed Internet access, although that is presumably included in the "infrastructure" index. Lack of good Internet would be a deal-breaker for me and probably for many folks approaching retirement age.
Obviously, for many Americans, health would be the biggest roadblock to foreign retirement. Medicare does not cover medical and drug payments outside the United States, and giving up that benefit could be another deal-breaker. Sure, you'll find plenty of places outside the United States with top-notch medical services at reasonable prices -- just look at the huge medical tourism market -- but you'll still have to pay.
Ease of access back to the United States is also a big consideration. You may plan to return regularly, want to be able to return for medical necessity, or you may want to locate someplace where your family and friends can easily visit you. Obviously, Central American and Mexican locations score better for access than those in Asia, Europe or South America.
Regardless of your age or interests, I strongly recommend an extended visit to any country you might even consider as a retirement venue before you make a final choice. If possible, stay in a rental rather than in a hotel, and stay long enough to get the feel of being a resident. In the meantime, start with a long look at the International Living scores (http://internationalliving.com; 800-681-2402), as well as the most recent AARP report (search for "retire abroad" on the website, www.aarp.org). And if you're really serious about it, you can't go wrong with a subscription to International Living.
Contact Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.