Portugal, #11 on list


International Living Magazine has announced its top destinations to live in retirement for 2013. They have weighed many factors into their ranking from the price of real estate and medical care to the quality of that care, special retirement benefits, availability of culture and entertainment, the incidence of crime and, important to many Canadians, the weather.

The top five are (there are 22 on the list):

  • Ecuador
  • Panama
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica

Surprised? I was a bit. But then if you do your research, and there are lots of websites and expat blogs out there on the net, the cloudy becomes clear – but, I must admit, sometimes other issues are raised for one to ponder. The answer is more and more research until a consistent picture of life as an expat  becomes evident. Of course you never really know until you try a place out …

As Canadians, the cost of health care does not factor into the equation as much as it would our neighbours to the south so, unless one is considering a permanent move, the availability and quality of medical care becomes less important. The continuance of our pensions (CPP and OAS) also weigh into our decision. Would you wish to give up all the benefits of your current citizenship?

If, like me, you want to stay Canadian, one can think about escaping to another part of the world for long term stays of less than six months instead. Here are some of the major considerations as I see it:

  • Making sure you “test drive” a country or region to see if it suits. Cruising is a great way to get an overview of different regions in one trip, then pick one place you especially liked to re visit. The experts at Cruise Holidays can assist you either with the initial cruise or the re visit. Renting there means you are not obligated to “like it or lump it.” Yes, you may lose out on a great real estate deal in Paradise and may be subject to rental inflation, but if your dream haven turns out to be not so great after all, you are not gambling that you can sell in a timely fashion and get your all of your investment back.
  • The cost of air fare from where you live. If one of the factors for escape is the lower cost of living, then travel cost is a big factor. Divide this cost by the number of months you will be staying abroad. Add this amount to your monthly rent, groceries, utilities etc. for a truer picture. And it may surprise you how much more it costs in time and money to travel to some “nearer” countries than those further afield. From our neck of the woods in Canada, it is cheaper to travel to Portugal ( # 11) than to Belize (which incidently slipped from high on the list in recent years to a dismal 21 out of 22 ranking, only the Dominican Republic was lower.)
  • Maintaining a residence in Canada. (This is one of the factors your government may look at if you are pushing the six month out of country envelope. Having business interests here also helps. Otherwise you may be saying good bye health care, etc. But then I digress.) Keeping your home is not so bad if you own it mortgage free (there still are those pesky utility, insurance and tax costs), but if you are paying a mortgage or rent, where are the savings? Sub letting an apartment or renting out your home for short terms can be a nightmare – and perhaps impossible if your stay is only a few months.
  • Learning the language. English is probably one of the best to have as a mother tongue as it is understood most everywhere. A few countries on the list (New Zealand, Ireland and Belize for example) have it as a first language. If you are also bilingual (French, France is #14) even better. But with many of the countries near the top of this list, the people speak Spanish. (Spain itself is #8.) Get tutoring, either privately or with one of the internet based courses .Watch more Dora the Explorer with the grandkids! Even a little Spanish is better than none.
  • Personal safety. This can be from crime, from government stability or natural disasters. No matter where one lives, you have to exercise caution to keep yourself and your property from becoming the target of criminals. And as far as a country’s stability, that can change over a short period of time so read and read more on the current state of affairs in a region, and especially check the blogs of expats living there. The latter usually have a better temperature reading of the political climate than reporters. And natural disasters? They are unpredictable (hence why they become disasters) but if you are bothered by the possibility of hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, or earthquakes then don’t stay in specific danger-prone areas. And always be registered with the closest Canadian consulate.
  • Wildlife. Some folks want to live with the exotic but personally I do not like bugs (mosquitoes, creepy crawlies and spiders), poisonous snakes and wild cats. Research the flora and fauna.

So my picks after research? Ecuador and Portugal.