Ten countries where a couple can live comfortably on their Social Security checks
The average Social Security benefit in 2022 is $1,657 per month or right under $20,000 per year, according to AARP. If you’re planning to live on just your Social Security check as a retiree in the U.S., it will be extremely difficult with only that amount of money at your disposal. According to International Living, the average retiree household in the U.S. spends about $50,000 per year.
However, if you’re willing to spread your retirement wings and settle down in another country, you can make your government check go much further — and even live quite comfortably if you can budget $24,000 per year.
GOBankingRates referenced data collected by International Living for its 2022 Global Retirement Index to find countries where you can live on the cheap. To reap cost-saving benefits like low-cost healthcare to a grocery bill that’s much less compared to what you’ll pay in the U.S., here are the 10 best countries to live on just a Social Security check.
Panama, which is located in Central America, borders Colombia to the southeast and Costa Rica to the northwest. It’s considered a tropical destination, with warm, humid weather at sea level and a bit cooler weather in the mountains.
It’s also southwest of the hurricane belt, which means you won’t have to contend with violent storms.
Panama offers a wonderful value for retired expatriates. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant and amazingly affordable, and household items are about 50% cheaper than what you would pay for the same items in the U.S.
According to International Living, a couple can live in Panama for between $1,224 to $2,935 per month. That includes rent or mortgage on a two-bedroom apartment of $500 to $1,500 and electricity costs of $30 to $150 per month.
2. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is also located in Central America. The country is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast, with the Caribbean Sea to the northeast and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. The weather in Costa Rica depends on where you live, but it varies from hot and humid to hot and dry, with some areas becoming cooler at night.
According to International Living, some retired couples can live well in the country on $2,000 per month, while others require $2,500 to $3,000. Part of the reason the cost of living here is so affordable is because of the universal healthcare system. For a low monthly fee based on income, residents can get all their healthcare, such as doctor visits, prescriptions and surgeries, for no additional costs.
The climate in Mexico is dependent on the area where you reside, but it varies from arid to tropical. The cost of living in Mexico is one of the main reasons retirees move there, and according to International Living, the way to save money is to shop as the locals do.
While you can find brand-name goods that you might be accustomed to using in the U.S., you’ll save a lot of money by opting for goods that don’t have those familiar brand names. Also, in-season produce is about $1 for 2.2 pounds, and a kilo or 2.2 pounds of avocados is about $1.25 — the cost of a single avocado in some areas of the U.S.
A couple can expect to live in Mexico for about $1,890 per month, according to International Living. Rent on a furnished two-bedroom home there is about $750.
Portugal is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian peninsula. Its climate is warm with wet winters and dry summers. The cost of living for a couple to live in most suburban areas of the country — such as the city of Estoril, close to Lisbon — is $2,207, according to International Living.
That cost includes $690 rent for a two-bedroom furnished apartment, a $69 internet package that includes cell phones and TV and a $46 electric bill. However, a couple can live in some of the country’s smaller interior cities starting at about $1,700 per month.
Colombia, which is well-known for its rich, high-quality coffee production, is located in northwestern South America with coastlines along the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its climate is varied depending on location and includes the four types of regions: warm and tropical, mild, dry and arid or hot and humid.
According to International Living, Colombia has a low cost of living but offers a level of amenities and infrastructure that you would expect in a country with a much higher cost of living. The cost of living will vary depending on where you live within the country. However, it is possible to find a lifestyle that you enjoy that also fits your budget.
A couple can expect to pay between $1,030 and $2,720 per month, which includes $325 to $1,300 rent for two-bedroom, two-bathroom accommodations and a $250 to $400 grocery bill, which excludes alcohol and imported goods.
Ecuador is located in the northwestern edge of South America and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. Like other countries on this list, the climate depends on the area in which you reside, including the mountains, Pacific coastal plains and eastern rainforests.
The cost of living in Ecuador is very affordable; a couple can retire there on $18,000 per year and live very well, according to International Living. And for a few thousand dollars more annually, you can live in the country’s Spanish colonial capital of Quito, which is home to some of the country’s most exclusive addresses, and enjoy a two-bedroom luxury apartment, maid services, healthcare and plentiful entertainment and dining out for about $1,800 per month. Costs are similar in the country’s top expat destination, Cuenca, home to about 12,000 expats.
If you’d rather live in Europe than South or Central America, Malta is a small archipelago located in the Mediterranean Sea in Southern Europe. The climate in Malta is relatively mild, with dry heat in July and August with highs in the 90s and temperatures dipping into the mid-50s at times during the winter months. The rest of the year, average daytime temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rent for a one-bedroom averages $750 to $800 per month, and groceries could be around $500 per month if you buy from organic or health food stores, according to International Living. An average monthly cost-of-living expense for a couple in this area of Europe is about $2,331.
Most parts of France have cool winters and mild summers; however, the Mediterranean is known for its mild winters and hot summers. Where you choose to live in France will determine the cost of living.
For example, living in Paris is much more costly than other areas of France. According to International Living, a sample monthly budget for two people living in the quieter areas of France, such as the Charentes or the Auvergne, is $2,083 to $2,483, which includes $800 to $1,200 for rent, $48 for electricity and $600 for groceries, including wine.
Spain is one of the warmest, sunniest countries in Europe, but the climate will vary depending on the region. If you choose to live in the north, you’ll experience milder summers and wet winters, with the opposite occurring in the southern part of the country.
The cost of living in Spain is the lowest in Western Europe, according to International Living. In a mid-sized city like Alicante, a sample budget for a couple is around $2,400 per month, which includes three hours of maid service per week, a $335 grocery bill and rent for a furnished one- or two-bedroom apartment of $744.
Also included is a complete healthcare plan plus dental for a couple, which runs $276 per month. However, it’s possible to live on a cheaper monthly budget if needed.
Uruguay is located on the southeastern coast of South America. The country has four seasons, but because it’s located in the Southern hemisphere, January and February are considered the summer season and July and August are considered the winter season. However, you won’t see any ice or snow.
The cost of living in Uruguay will vary depending on where you live and your lifestyle. According to International Living, a sample budget for two people renting a two-bedroom apartment in Cordon — a revitalized area in the capital city of Montevideo — is $2,500 per month. The budget includes $650 for rent, $800 for home and food supplies, a $160 electricity bill and $400 for entertainment.
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