Retire overseas on $1,200 a month

You can live well -- even in luxury -- if you're willing to leave the US. Yes, it's a big move, but here are 5 places where a Social Security check goes a long way.

By Liz Weston

 of 7
 of 7


Apr 25, 2011 1:20PM
It really is a shame that our senior citizens can't afford to live in their country and  have to look for a cheaper place after giving their best years to working for the good of the US of America.
My dad left the US several years ago for Thailand. He gave several reasons ... He could no longer live in the US because of costs and the US was no longer the country he fought for (WWII). He immigrated to the US from Canada and become a US citizen during WWII (Act of Congress). It is a shame that we have to lose our citizens because they cannot afford to live here!
Jun 29, 2012 1:23PM
I have been living on disability for 6 years and in that time I have supported my wife and son in LaCeiba, Honduras on the carib coast, my son is in private school, I have traveled all through-out central and south america all on $1400 a month. I eat on the local economy average $2-$2.50 for a 3 course meal to include drink. As long as you have direct deposit you never half to go back to the states. Latin America is no more dangerous than any big city in the US. and the people are more friendly and hospitable almost everywhere. I recommend three rules of thumb,learn spanish if it isn't good then just nod and smile more, dress like everyone else(jeans and tee shirts are universal clothing) so as not to put a target on your back and show everyone respect no matter how poor or uneducated they are. this is a mistake many foreigner make in thinking and acting like they are better than the locals. 
Apr 27, 2011 10:07AM

Currently I am living off of less than $1000 per month (disability). It is impossible in this day and age to do so - at least for me. It's been a very humbling experience for me. I've used all my savings on bills and just surviving! And the interesting thing is that people who are not in this situation, just don't get it.

Apr 27, 2011 1:32PM

It really is a shame that people get down on this who have no sense of adventure, interest in other cultures or (apparently) the capacity to at least try and learn a new language. If you love America, stay here. No one is telling you not to. This is a fun slide show presenting a different option. And clearly, if anyone is seriously considering it they'd have to do more research than just this slide show.


It seems a lot of posters on this thread assume that everyone SHOULD and WANTS to stay in America. I'm sure there are people who would love to live in another country for a few years, to have an adventure before they're too infirm to travel and experience new things.


Personally, I don't understand the myopic view that America is "THE BEST!" and one should stay here, at all costs, living the same day over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Feb 8, 2012 7:27PM
I retired in 2003 on a pension of only $1400. a month, and 7 years later i decided to move to the Philippines to live with my wife, and living on that amount is not bad here.  I did something here that i could not even do living in America and that is purchase a brand new home for only 4.6 million peso ($86,000.).  Your money goes a long way here.  Some people posted about crime, hey, there's crime everywhere,  you take the bitter with the sweet. 
Apr 25, 2011 12:07PM
Everything is relative, lifestyles are different. What it may be a "good dinner" for $3.00 for somebody,  may not be a good breakfast for somebody else.  You cannot buy a "nice dinner" anywhere in Latin America for $3.00, not even in Honduras, second poorest country in Latin America after Haiti, unless you call dinner an "arepa" you buy on the street.
I would be careful on what it seems to be "guided" advise, specially Panama. In my opinion the government is trying to "sell" the country to expats and it is using certain marketing techniques to achieve it. 
Before you do any move, I strongly recommend you take a trip and try to see as much as you can, price real state and make sure you like the area, visit supermarkets, restaurants, ride a taxi,etc. you will see that the cost of living is not as mentioned in some articles, although I know that in general, with some adjustments, cost of living is cheaper than in the USA.
Apr 27, 2011 4:38PM


I agree, we are under the poverty level, but to be covered by medicaid, we would have to be living in the states. Catch 22, as we cannot afford to live in the states with the same level of living as we have here and we have medical coverage here. If we lived in the states, it would cost us more than $300 deducted from our SS check to cover medicare, leaving us an income of $820/mo. Our combined medications, we are old folk, costs us about $140/mo. here and in the states, just triple that amount, leaving us with $400/mo. for food, rent, and all of the other daily living expenses.

Apr 27, 2011 12:00PM

  It's really not that hard.  I retired at 56.  Had all of my stuff paid off. (vehicles, home, never used credit cards).  I can live on $700.00 per month if I have to and that includes every thing.  I never have been one to keep up with or look rich to others.  My savings rate is 70%. 

  I was in an other country  in the early 70's.  You all can have that.  I will not leave the U.S. for any reason again.  With all of it's problems, this is still the best place on earth.

  By the way, I was taught by my grandpa about living with in my means and credit while I was growing up in the 60's. 

Apr 27, 2011 12:24PM

I don't know about disability SS, but I am on regular SS and have lived outside the US for 8 years and have my check sent to a bank account in the US, where I have access to it via ATM card in wherever I live. Medicare is of no good, unless you return to the states for medical care. Medical care is good and available in most places in the world and at a far less cost than in the US. As for having a boat in the Caribbean, I had one there, a 44ft. sailboat, for 15 years. They are not cheap. My annual expenses on the boat for maintaining it and insurance run around $15,000/yr. and that does not include immigration and customs costs and that was with  doing a lot of the maintenance myself. Add your personal needs and you are looking at about $30,000/yr. I now live in Mexico, own my home and live here for about $800/mo. for the 2 of us, including property taxes, health insurance, cable tv, internet, telephone, entertainment, food, clothing, transportation, etc.

If the people at Medicare covered retirees in a foreign country, that would slash those costs and save millions in the medicare system.

Jun 22, 2012 3:02PM

I've been living in Thailand for over 11 years and

am married to a Thai lady.


The prices quoted here seem about right, however

expect to "live on the economy." That is, shop where

and buy what the locals do. You can get western

goods, but expect to pay western prices.

In order to get a retirement visa in Thailand, you

must show either 800,000 baht (~$25,184.95) in

a Thai bank, 65,000 baht (~$2,046.28) verifiable income

per month OR a combination thereof. Additionally, you

must renew your visa every year and report to immigration (or

leave the country and return) every 90 days.

ChiangMai is a nice place, however, the air is very polluted.

Trust me, that's where my wife is from (and I've been there a lot).

Outside of The greater Bangkok area, ChiangMai and tourist areas

(like Phuket, Phi Phi, Pattaya etc.) practically no-one speaks


I love it here, but go into it with your eyes open.

Apr 25, 2011 4:34PM
It really is a shame that our senior citizens can't afford to live in their country and  have to look for a cheaper place after giving their best years to working for the good of the US of America.
But it's awesome that when my employer closes in 14-16 months, I'll have the option to move to one of these places and live for free for 99 weeks.  Thanks guys.
Apr 27, 2011 12:00PM
My wife and I live part of the year near the beach in Mexico.  Yes, we can live on what we receive in retirement.  However, you are going to find none of these places are paradise.  If you live anywhere south of the U.S. border, there are health issues.  Typhoid, cholera, dysentery, dengue and in Central and S. America the kissing bug.  Also, remember that almost all third world countries have third world governments which means consider all police and politicians corrupt.  We own our home 100% unlike most people in the U.S. where the bank owns it.  We therefore pay no rent.  You may find good rentals tough to get.  Buying is an option but you must check the local laws.  Water is almost always a problem so you should check with people in the area about water.  Your drinking water will come out of a 5 gallon jug.  Be careful about the food.  Locally we are fine but again, is there water for people to wash their hands?  Do they wash their hands before serving you?  Also, those beautiful strawberries may be from "agua negra".  If you eat them, you end up in the hospital.  Then there are the creepy and crawly critters.  Scorpions and maybe snakes.  We enjoy our life here and the feeling of not having to worry come the first of the month how do we cover all the bills but the life is not for everyone.  You will need to learn to speak the local language. 
Apr 27, 2011 9:56AM
Apr 25, 2011 12:41PM
I have traveled extensively in many of these locales and have mixed experiences.  First and foremost, anyone who thinks about retiring to one of these places has to immediately get rid of the idea that the only decent way to do things is at the "American standard".  I have had fantastic experiences in places where most Americans think are the armpit of the planet.  Nigeria, for example, provides many of my most amusing anecdotes.

The key thing to consider is if you want to retire as a relatively affluent member of a completely different society with a completely different way of measuring affluence.  Many of the wealthiest non-drug-related people in Panama live a lifestyle that is more opulent than in the United States, but in many ways is less safe and less "sanitized", for lack of a better term.  Food is never quite the same certainty as here in the USA since most of the world does not have the same rigid food safety standards as we do.  Still, for those who are seeking a more exciting, varied, and remarkable retirement these locations can be a fantastic choice.
Apr 25, 2011 8:56AM
You can live on even less, if you live on your boat. Which is a decent way to live in the South Pacific or Caribbean. And you have a half ways decent boat.
Apr 25, 2011 10:47AM

I notice no mention of how safe these places are.   Also no mention of getting set up what the costs are.  Costs for getting furniture and appliances to these places can be quite costly.  I know because I moved to a rainforest in Panama where it is fairly safe.  However other parts of Panama do tend to have a bit of crime.  Smaller communities lot of the houses have bars on windows, doors and around the yard.  Crime can be a problem in all of these countries you mention and when you are older safety is very important.


Second their can be lot of fees to get the proper visa but your article mentions nothing about things like this.  There definitely are standards in the US but not in these countries so you never know what you are getting when it comes to housing, utilities and clothing.  Food in other countries on a daily basis quality can be errratic and here in Panama outside of the main city their restaurants are just so so.  In other countries it is Hurrry up and wait on everyday procedures.

Apr 25, 2011 2:09PM
I'd like to have seen a greater representation of the world.  I've been considering renting my house in Maryland out for several years, getting an apartment in Eastern Europe or Spain, and using that and a Eurorail pass to see much of the continent, and also visit North Africa and Asia Minor.
Apr 27, 2011 11:48AM
Want inexpensive housing, access to top-notch health care, good schools, no traffic, beautiful parks and access to Madison, Wisconsin and/or Chicago in an hour or so?  Check out Freeport, Illinois.  The recession and loss of industrial jobs hit this community hard, but it's a fine place to live and so much less expensive and stressful  than big cities.  Instead of going overseas check out the backwater towns and villages of America.  If we adjust our expectations about retirement & downsize our homes & expenses and invest in our own country instead of someone else's we all benefit.   The "Golden Years" are a matter of perspective and not buying into someone else's view of how you should live.   I love to visit other countries but no matter how exotic, beautiful or inexpensive I'm always happy to come home
Apr 27, 2011 12:53PM
My wife and I looked into this 15 years ago when I retired Mexico is-ant the place to go  Florida?
so we stayed in Michigan my ss is $1579.00 mo +$67.00 my wife get $670.00 we had no liabilty
for 15 years, but now have bought a car and are doing just fine house is paid for no credit card debit no revolving accounts no charge cards, I think this is the way to go if you plan it is not too hard,

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.