Ecuador tops International Living retirement index again; cost of living and real estate are major considerations

Sep 6, 2011 | 0 comments

The rock-bottom cost of living in Ecuador, where retirees can live comfortably on less than the average U.S. Social Security payment, has seen the country remain firmly at the top of International Living's annual Global Retirement Index for the third successive year.

When putting together the Retirement Index 2011,'s editors collated data from sources such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations, government agencies and from its team of experts in the most popular countries among U.S. expat retirees. They then came up with a comprehensive annual list of the world's top retirement destinations.

"Ecuador has once again topped our Index as the number one retirement destination on the planet, and its low real estate and living costs were the key factors," said International Living editor Eoin Bassett.'s researchers recorded the monthly budgets of American couples living in different locations around Ecuador, many on the equivalent of a Social Security benefit. According to recent figures from the Social Security Administration, the average payout for a single retired worker is $1,181 per month. Add to that the average spousal benefit, and it comes to $1,764.

Although the survey did not rate cities, International Living again made special mention of Cuenca for providing the best quality of life for expat retirees.'s in-country staff spoke to one couple renting a sea-view condominium, which faces the Pacific in the beachside town of Bahia. They are living on a combined budget of $1,600 per month.

This couple reports that they have a more luxurious lifestyle in Ecuador as retirees than they had while working and living in California. Their monthly budget affords them luxury in Ecuador on about one-fifth of their monthly budget back in the U.S.

Another couple is living well in the leather-guild town of Cotacachi on $1,573 per month-and they don't skimp. They have their own condo, enjoy high-speed Internet access and have a maid that visits once a week.

However, it is possible to live in Cotacachi on considerably less, as demonstrated by another couple with a monthly budget of just $580 per month-that's two people living on less than half the average Social Security payment for just one person. And they're living comfortably-they rent a property, cover all their bills, and have health-insurance coverage and even a maid who visits twice a week.

International Living's editors rated 23 countries out of 100 points in categories such as real estate prices, cost of living, culture, health care, special benefits for retirees, infrastructure, safety/stability and climate. This year, Ecuador held on to first place thanks to an average rating of 84 out of 100 across all categories. Mexico takes silver with a score of 82; earning high points for real estate prices, special benefits for retirees, culture and climate.

Panama, with its excellent pensionado program for retirees, came in third place. Spain came in fourth position, thanks to its excellent safety and culture ratings and its lower cost of living. New Zealand, a perennial favorite, rounded out the top five while France, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Malta and Italy completed the top 10 in that order.

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