If, like me, you are a single woman in 60s and beyond, you may be thinking about the best places to retire.
Perhaps you are looking for a country with a lower cost of living so that you can make your retirement income stretch farther. Or maybe you want to find a place that provides opportunities to pursue the passions that you left on the back-burner during other stages of your life. Maybe you have always been fascinated by a particular language or culture.
Regardless of your specific requirements, finding the perfect place to retire is a long process.
Fortunately, there are more resources than ever to help you find the perfect place to live. One of my personal favorites is the website Live and Invest Overseas, which offers advice on pretty much every aspect of moving to a new country.
Since this issue is on the minds of many of the women in our community, I decided to interview the founder of Live and Invest Overseas, Kathleen Peddicord. I hope that you find her advice useful as you decide where you want to spend the best decades of your life.
Contrary to popular belief, Kathleen says that destinations like Paris and Barcelona don’t have to be expensive. The trick is to live as a local and not as a tourist. Another destination, which she goes into some detail about on her website, is Abruzzo, Italy. Apparently, real estate is much cheaper in this city than in other Italian destinations.
As she mentioned on her website, “Property in Abruzzo, for example, can be up to 80% cheaper than Tuscany, and up to 50% cheaper than Umbria.” Ottimo!
Kathleen is a big fan of city life for older women since urban areas offer the infrastructure, resources and security that many of us are looking for. However, for women who are looking for more rural options, she offers several suggestions in Italy and France.
International Living is another website full of useful information regarding retiring abroad. Here are a few other suggestions in Europe from International Living’s Executive Editor, Jennifer Stevens.
Provence is a sweeping area at the center of the Alps-Provence-Cote d’Azur region of south-eastern France, bordering Italy and the glittering waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
France’s second largest city, Marseille, is its capital but visitors tend to gravitate to smaller popular towns such as Aix-en-Provence – a wildly romantic little city of fountains and medieval streets that was once the Provençal capital.
It is the essence of French style, coupled with the colorful chronicled past, captured by artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso for generations. The locals move through the city with purpose but without appearing hurried.
Alicante is a port city on Spain’s south-eastern Costa Blanca. Home to about 330,000 people, Alicante offers an unbeatable combination of comfortable city living and relaxed country friendliness. There’s always something to do here, whether it’s dressing up for fiestas and concerts or getting fancy at the theatre or a Michelin-starred restaurant.
The city has two distinct rhythms. In the summer, Alicante transforms into a sunshine playground where gelato shops spring up on almost every street, men walk the beaches selling ice-cold cans of beer, and a myriad of languages bubble through the streets.
Things slow down as the weather grows colder and the tourists head home. Yet winter is entirely pleasant as the temperature rarely drops below 50 F. Most days the sky remains a crystal clear blue, and the wide beaches become yours alone to wander on.
Italy is full of classic postcard landscapes that appeal to all the senses. Basilicata is a hidden gem tucked into the ankle of “the boot,” speckled with verdant valleys, deep forests, rolling hills, and alpine peaks.
Nestled in the Apennines in southern Italy, Basilicata is almost entirely encircled by its neighboring regions except for two short stretches of coastline. Cuddling up to Puglia, Calabria, and Campania, it is the most sparsely-populated part of the country.
Basilicata offers a laid back, enjoyable lifestyle that can be affordable, where you’ll be welcomed and well-fed. “The boot” garners top honors in cuisine; prosciutto, parmigiano, pizza, porcini, and pasta… they’re famous because they’re so delizioso.
Life here, as with so much of Italy, is relaxed, and there is a history of hospitality that will make you feel at home and help you settle in.
This is the lifestyle that draws most expats and travelers to Italy.
Porto offers an enchanting combination of Old World charm and First-World convenience wrapped in a consummately affordable and attractive package.
The second largest metropolitan area in Portugal after Lisbon, it is located on the Douro River where it flows into the Atlantic. The city center is home to less than 240,000 people and has a small city’s feel and friendliness. But it’s also a thriving international business city with an international airport.
Still something of a hidden gem, Porto isn’t overwhelmed by the crowds of Lisbon and has escaped from the overly touristy feel of certain parts of the country’s southern coast, while still ticking all the boxes for scenic grandeur and vibrant culture.
Porto is known for its vibrant restaurant and café scene. The scenic riverfront provides the perfect backdrop for an evening stroll. Elegant parks with fountains, statues, and exotic plants, leafy boulevards, and cobbled streets lined with historic buildings all invite easy exploration.
From countryside farmhouses to ancient walled cities and breath-taking coastal pathways to quirky, hidden-gem restaurants, the tiny island nation of Malta has a little something for everyone.
At only 122 square miles, making it one of the smallest nations in the European Union, Malta packs a real punch. It’s home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and over 155 miles of coastline. Built in the 16th century, it is a well-preserved ancient city, a popular tourist destination, and a busy port town. At the height of summer, its docks play host to two cruise ships a day.
With rolling hills reminiscent of San Francisco, Valletta offers incredible views of ships entering and leaving its harbors. Here, the English-speaking population – a legacy of British colonization – makes it easy for North Americans to adjust to life.
If you have your eye on Asia, there are many options to consider.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Kathleen says that Chiang Maiis a great option for single older women. Thailand has a healthcare system that is inexpensive and surprisingly high-quality. In addition, it has been a retirement destination for long enough to have developed significant expat communities. This means that you are likely to have plenty of support when you arrive in your new home.
Finally, Chiang Mai is a stone’s throw away from the beautiful beaches in Phuket and Koh Lanta.
Koh Lanta, Thailand
Perley-Ann Friedman, a Sixty and Me contributor, tells us that she loves life on Koh Lanta because of its beauty and easy going lifestyle. Perley-Ann is an avid runner and distance cyclist, and she’s in heaven on Koh Lanta.
There’s also an ample supply of walking and swimming opportunities. November through April is tourist season and there are endless parties, dinners, special events and celebrations. She also mentions the great expat community and great food.
Perley-Ann is living proof that it is possible to thrive as a woman in Thailand. That said, she points out that women with certain character traits are likely to adapt the best. First and foremost, she says that living in Thailand requires you to be flexible. You have to learn to roll with the punches and let any small inconveniences go.
Hua Hin, Thailand
Vivien Cullen, another Sixty and Me contributor, retired early and is living in the coastal resort town of Hua Hin. She says, living in Thailand costs about a third of what it cost her back home, which meant that she and her husband were able to retire over a decade earlier than planned.
They wanted to experience new cultures and different ways of life, learn a language, explore new countries, travel more, and meet new people. Hua Hin is a golfer’s haven, with nine excellent courses within an hour’s drive.
Exploring surrounding national parks like Khao Sam Roi Yot and Kaeng Krachan with their abundance of birds and wildlife, caves, and walks is fascinating, and they make a trip every month or so. The beaches are excellent for taking a stroll or lazing on a sunbed and watching the world go by.
Even wandering the older streets, going to a market, or checking out a temple all provide food for thought and contemplation.
Bali is another popular destination for retired women over 60. Our Sixty and Me contributor, Sherry Bronson, lives permanently in Bali and has created a life that far exceeds her wildest imagination.
As a person 55 or over, you are eligible for a Retirement KITAS, a special type of visa. As with almost all other visas, you are not allowed to work or even volunteer in Indonesia. You must have an income that you can prove or sufficient assets so the Indonesian government is assured that you can support yourself.
If you still want to retire abroad but would rather be a driving distance away from the U.S., you can have a pick from many destinations in Latin America.
Panama City, Panama
In Latin America, Kathleen suggests her own hometown of Panama City. It is well developed, women-friendly and easy to get to. In addition, the cost of living is significantly lower than in the United States.
Other options that Kathleen mentions in Latin America include Puerto Vallarta and Alamos, Mexico. She points out that both of these cities have excellent infrastructure and well-established expat communities.
Sixty and Me contributor, Elizabeth Dunkel, called the Yucatan Peninsula home for several decades. It is home to dreamy vacation destinations with white sand beaches and crystal blue water, Mayan archeological sites, colonial Mexican cities with colonial style architecture and delicious food.
She mentions that the main reasons people move to the Yucatan Peninsula is because of the low cost of living, no winter, excellent health care, proximity to the U.S., friendly citizens, delicious food, abundant cultural life and amazing beaches.
All these women mention to take your time before deciding to move to a new country. Visit the place several times and even rent a place and stay for a month if you can.
Sometimes living abroad runs its course and some people return to their homeland, as did Elizabeth after more than 25 years in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. She mentions the thirst for international culture, missing her friends, the weather, and lack of lifestyle services made her decide to go back home.
What if retiring in Europe, Asia, or Latin America is not your cup of tea? What if the USA is abroad for you because you don’t live there?
According to a survey of Sixty and Me readers, here is a list of the top 10 places to retire in the U.S.
Walnut Creek, California
Boca Raton, Florida
Salt Lake City, Utah
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Bismarck, North Dakota
What About Retiring in a Luxury Resort?
Retirement villages are specially designed, age-exclusive communities that provide an opportunity to be immersed in a unique ambiance tailored to your passions. Think of such communities as a luxury hotel and a country club merged into one.
They offer quality, secure and resort-like homes for those over a certain age. A variety of independent lifestyles are supported and there is a range of care services. Here, one can also find various sporting and social facilities like pools and spas, and nature is basically on your doorstep.
As a single older woman, I know firsthand how divorce can leave you feeling vulnerable. I also understand how difficult it is when your children leave the house. On the one hand, you are excited for your kids. This is their moment, after all. At the same time, it’s natural to feel a bit lost after they leave and many of us wonder “what’s next?”
Moving to a new country won’t solve all of your issues, but for many women, it offers the opportunity to start fresh. This is exactly how I felt when I moved to Switzerland. The very “newness” of everything around me gave me a new perspective on life and helped me to come to terms with my past.
During our conversation, Kathleen reminds us that there are many amazing places in the world that are perfect for single older women. Based on her 30+ years’ experience in this area, she offers some specific advice for women who are considering moving to Asia, Europe or Latin America.
Kathleen begins by talking about an issue that is of utmost importance to us older women – safety. While some people might disagree with her, Kathleen argues that most countries in the developing world are not going to be a good fit for older single women. Other factors that she recommends you consider before making a big move include location, climate, healthcare and culture.
Most importantly, Kathleen recommends spending a significant amount of time in your chosen country before moving there permanently.
Living on a remote beach in Indonesia sounds fantastic (and it may well be for some women), but the realities of everyday life may be much different than you expect. So, take the time to “try before you buy.”
Here are a few questions that everyone should ask prior to moving abroad for retirement:
Don’t assume that every other country is going to be a lower-cost place for you to live. Keep in mind that there are issues that affect the cost of living that go beyond the price of housing or the cost of a restaurant meal.
For example, your new retirement destination might make you vulnerable to currency fluctuations (where the value of your currency where you have your retirement savings might change for the worse, making your everyday living expenses more costly in your retirement country), the cost of airfare to travel home and inflation.
Health care is one of the biggest concerns for many retirees, whether it’s the cost of health insurance or the reality of potentially needing to get surgery, pharmaceuticals or other life-saving, life-extending medical treatments.
Many other countries might offer lower costs on health care, but do your research to see where you can get the best care possible, so that your health needs do not suffer at a time of life when you might need health care the most.
Moving to another country is not to be done lightly. Take a few extended vacations to tour the area and get acquainted with the country where you want to stay in retirement. What speaks to you about this place?
Do you love the scenery, the culture, the food, the music, or the people? Can you see yourself feeling comfortable and content here? Does this other country give you a sense of a new beginning, new adventures, new places to explore and new things to learn?
Make sure you feel like you can fully be yourself and thrive to your full potential when retiring abroad.
Many people want to retire abroad because they only have a happy image in their minds of the other country where they want to live in retirement – if your only experience of a place is of being on vacation there, then you’re probably going to have a distinctly positive impression. However, living full-time, year-round in another country is a different experience than a short-term holiday stay.
The weather might not always be as beautiful as it is during peak tourist season. The cultural attractions might be more limited than you realized. It might sometimes be lonely living abroad, especially if you’re in a country where you’re still learning the language. Be prepared for the possible adjustments and downsides of life abroad, as well as the positives.
There’s an old saying, “No matter where you go, there you are.” Are you retiring abroad for the right reasons? Are you seeing retirement abroad as an escape from the world, or as a way to re-energize and re-engage with the world? What do you want to do in retirement?
What do you want your life to be about? Sitting on the beach is wonderful, but many people find that a life of nothing but leisure gets boring fast.
If you want to be successful in retirement, you need a plan to stay active and engaged with the world around you and keep making a contribution to something you care about (whatever that means to you). These questions of how to make a happy, meaningful life in retirement do not go away just because you’ve retired to an island paradise.
If anything, having too much leisure time might cause you to confront a lot of uncomfortable questions and realizations. Think it through before you sell your house and uproot your life and move thousands of miles away from family and friends.
Retiring abroad can be the adventure of a lifetime, but it pays to give this move some careful consideration prior to buying your plane tickets. With thoughtful planning and a good sense of “why” you’re making the move, retirement abroad can be a dream come true.
A crucial part of integrating with a new community, and in this case, a new country, is to feel welcomed and at home. Making friends is not always easy at our age. Here are some suggestions to get you active and meeting new people.
I loved being a mom. I still do, although my kids are both in their 30s and have their own children.
At the same time, I have to admit that, for most of my life, my kids’ hobbies were my hobbies. I spent so much time going to soccer games, video arcades and skateboarding parks, that I basically forgot that I had any of my own passions.
For example, when I was a young woman, I spent several months traveling around India. Along the way, I got really into yoga. Recently, I decided to restart my yoga practice and, while it wasn’t easy, I am so happy that I did! Not only do I feel better inside and out, but I have also made several new friends along the way.
If you take a few minutes to think about it, I’m sure that you will find plenty of passions to fill your time. Once you have your list, look for groups that support your passion. Love tennis? Join a club! Like painting? Go talk with other local painters or start creating works of art in the park.
How Do You Want to Change the World?
As an older adult, it’s easy to sit around complaining about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s harder – but SO much more productive – to actually get out there and do something about it.
Best of all, the people who share your worldview often become close friends. After all, you don’t just share a hobby; you also share your desire to make the world a better place.
Are there local (or global) charities that you could get involved in? If so, what are you waiting for? If not, why not start a group yourself and start giving back?
Taking up a sport or going to the gym helps you to make friends in two ways.
First, fitness classes, sports and physical activities of all kinds are friend magnets. After all, you see the same people every week. In addition, you have plenty of time before and after each class to get acquainted.
That said, my advice is to be bold and take your friendship to another level as soon as possible. Find out what your gym buddies love to do. Then invite them to join you for an activity that you both love – even if it is just to play a game of chess before an aerobics class or to go to a movie as a group.
The second way that getting in shape helps you to make friends when retiring overseas is that it builds your confidence and gets you out of the house. In other words, when you feel good about your body, you are more likely to engage in the activities that will help you to make new friends.
I’m always amazed by how few people get involved in their communities when retiring overseas. After all, isn’t experiencing a local culture one of the reasons that you moved?
There are so many ways to get involved in your local community. For example, where I live, everyone has the opportunity to join the fire department as a volunteer. Other groups pick up trash, collect clothes for people less fortunate than themselves or volunteer at nursing homes.
The opportunities to get involved will vary by country. For example, in Bali, there are countless opportunities to get directly involved in supporting local families.
One thing is for sure; since so few people get involved, your support of your local community will help you to stand out. And this is sure to lead to opportunities for new friendships.
Don’t wait for people to come to you. They won’t. Instead, if you can’t find any groups that focus on your passions, start one… or two or three!
For example, one of my personal passions is train travel. So, a couple years ago, I decided to start a group on Meetup for people who loved to travel by train. We’ve traveled to Austria, France and all over Switzerland. I can’t overemphasize how much a part of my life this group has been.
There are so many things that I love about the Exotic Marigold Hotel movies. One of my favorites is watching how the various characters respond to being thrown into an entirely new culture. Some of the characters dive in and find themselves having a great time. Others are more cautious – or even hostile – to the local way of doing things. There is nothing “wrong” with any of the characters in the movie. They just see the world in different ways.
Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself as you look for a retirement destination that fits your lifestyle:
- How adventurous am I? Will I hate it if the hot water stops working for a day or two?
- Do I enjoy learning new languages and experiencing exotic cultures?
- Are there specific activities that I love to take part in? Will they be available locally?
- Which comforts can I survive without? Which ones are essential?
- Am I patient? Can I put up with small inconveniences?
- Do I want to live around locals, expats or a mix of both?
While the “big things,” like weather, safety, cost of living and healthcare shouldn’t be your only criteria, they are a great place to start. Why? Because they can help you to eliminate countries right away. If you have a particular medical condition that requires specialized help, moving to a developing country with limited healthcare resources is probably a bad idea.
Infrastructure is another big issue for many seniors. Unlike the unfair stereotypes that you often see in movies, our generation is well and truly wired. Many people are surprised by the lack of reliable Internet in their target countries.
Once again, this comes down to how important fast Internet access is to you. If you are running an online business in retirement, you probably can’t afford to be offline for even a single day. If you just need a way to check your email, you can probably put up with the occasional service interruption.
Once you have created a short-list of potential countries, it’s time to turn to lifestyle considerations.
How many times a year do you plan on traveling back to your home country? It’s a more important question than it might seem on the surface. Some countries are super cheap to live in but extremely hard to get to. As a result, you may end up spending thousands of dollars a year simply getting back home to see your family.
When you are calculating your potential yearly costs, don’t forget to add in travel costs. You may find that it is cheaper to spend slightly more on your rent if it means being closer to home.
When retiring abroad, isn’t it hard to learn the local language? This is one of the most common questions that I receive when I tell people about my decision to move to Switzerland.
My answer is always the same. While it is possible to live in most countries without speaking the local language, making an attempt to fit in will definitely make your life more pleasant. As for the difficulty of learning a new language after 60, it really depends on how you approach it. But one thing is for certain… if I can do it, you can too!
When you move to a new country, you are making a long-term commitment. While it may feel good to rush out and take an immersion class, according to my son, slow and steady wins the race.
He made me a simple promise when I started learning German.
“Just do it for 30 minutes a day,” he said. “Spend 20 minutes learning new things and 10 minutes reviewing what you learned the previous day. You’ll be amazed by how much progress you make over the next 12 months.”
There are several problems with trying to cram a language into your brain all at once.
First, your brain needs repetition to remember things over the long term. It’s not enough to study a language hard for two months. You need to see your new language as a long-term project.
Second, on a practical level, you are way more likely to quit if you bite off more than you can chew. 30 minutes a day, over several years, is more than enough time to become conversationally fluent in a language – provided you also use what you are learning in the real world.
When I learned French as a kid, the only tools we had were old textbooks and an even older teacher. Now, there are so many apps and language programs that there is no excuse for staying monolingual.
I still like Rosetta Stone for getting started. In my opinion, it isn’t great for building your conversational skills, but it has one major advantage over other programs – it’s fun and easy! Ok, that’s two advantages, but you get the idea.
If you want to improve your vocabulary fast, consider Memrise. At one point, while studying for the Goethe German Exam, my son was learning 50 new words a day using this service. Even if you only learn 5 words a day, that’s 1,825 a year!
One of my personal favorite apps is Duolingo. They specialize in short, colorful lessons. So, if you only have 15 minutes a day, they are a great option. Best of all, they’re free! Another online option is Mondly.
One of the best things about retiring abroad is getting to meet a whole new group of people. While it is possible to only hang out with expats like yourself, I think this is a mistake.
When people move to a new country, they often worry that they won’t be able to make friends – or even communicate basic needs – until they learn to speak the local language.
In my experience, most language learners have the opposite problem. No matter how much they try, they can’t get the locals to speak anything other than English!
The reasons for this are varied. Some people are just trying to be helpful. Others don’t want to embarrass you. Still others seize the opportunity to speak a little English.
Don’t let this happen to you. Keep trying. Try to make sure that each conversation is as balanced as possible. It’s totally fine if one person speaks English and the other speaks German. Just keep trying.
Spending 30 minutes a day teaching yourself a second language is better than nothing. But if you really want to get the most from retiring abroad, consider hiring a local tutor to meet with you every day or two.
Why do I say “invest” in a local language tutor? Because, in my experience, you usually save more – in terms of time and money – by knowing how things work in your new country than you spend on language lessons.
When my son spent five months traveling around Brazil, the first thing he did was hire a local language teacher. Not only did he learn Portuguese in record time, but he found a new friend. And guess what… the taxis suddenly got cheaper, the fish became available at local prices and he negotiated 20% off of his rent.
In some countries, it is possible to hire a tutor for $10 an hour. So, what are you waiting for? Help a local teacher to make a living, while enriching your own experience.
Are you thinking about retiring abroad? What are your main criteria for your new home? What questions do you have for Kathleen? Please join the conversation.