In this report, I share where to retire cheap overseas on social security in 2022.
Since the monthly amount paid by social security to US citizens varies, I will give examples of which country overseas I would prefer to retire at various retirement benefit levels. I will describe where I would decide to retire at each of the following monthly incomes: $1000 per month, $1500 per month, and $2000 per month.
But first, I want to dispel the myth that US citizens lose their social security retirement if they retire overseas. There is a very short list of countries where social security will not send payments and you probably would not want to retire in those countries anyway. I covered that topic in a previous report, Do you lose your social security if you move overseas, link provided.
In general, the social security administration will not send SS retirement benefits to Cuba, North Korea, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. To that I say, who cares. I doubt many of us would retire there anyway. A few of us may visit, but retire there? I don’t think so. But if you decide to ignore how I handle International Banking, make sure to check the list of prohibited countries since it changes from time to time.
But I wouldn’t have the SS send me money no matter where in the world I retired. I would have them transfer it into my US bank that I have had for 40 years and trust completely. For more detail on that, I have a report called, Top Banking Mistakes I Learned Living Internationally.
Additionally, social security retirement benefits and social security disability payments are two different things. That same previous report has general information about conditions required to maintain social security disability while living overseas. That can be more challenging.
Since I already covered that in the other report, I will assume you have read that as I discuss where to retire cheap overseas on social security in 2022.
Where to retire cheap overseas on social security in 2022
First, I have to ask, how large will your social security retirement check be? That will help me determine which countries might be affordable for you? Since I won’t know the size of your monthly check, I will give you examples of countries I would live at various price points.
Here is how I will set the price points.
The maximum retirement benefits paid by the US social security administration (SSA) in 2021 was $3895 per month for someone that files at age 70. AARP. The minimum retirement benefit paid by the SSA in 2021 was $897 for someone that files with 30 years of coverage. SSA.
But those are last year’s numbers. The social security cost of living adjustment will increase by 5.9% in 2022, the most it has increased in 40 years. New York Times. So, if you are already getting your retirement benefits, it looks like it will increase by 5.9% in 2022.
If you are not yet getting your retirement benefit, you need to find out how much it will be. You can visit the My Social Security Webpage, link provided, and get a very close estimate of how much you will receive per month depending on whether you retire at age 62, age 65, or age 70.
For the purpose of this report, I will set the monthly cost of living price points at $1000 per month, $1500 per month, and $2000 per month. At each of these price points, I will tell you where in the world I would choose to live if my social security check was at that price point.
My Favorite Places to Retire Cheap on $1000 Per Month
If I had a social security check of $1000 per month, I would enjoy living in the following places. You might be wondering why I know so much about where I would live overseas on a limited budget?
I have lived in and visited 67 countries since I left the USA 14+ years ago. In fact, I move forward through the world from country to country without returning home to the USA. I almost never buy round-trip tickets. I just move forward slowly spending from about two to six months in each country.
I don’t fly home. I mostly just move forward on ground transportation to the next adjacent country. I call what I do slow traveling the world. I avoid expensive international flights whenever possible. I have no empty bed to fly back to anywhere in the world.
I write cost-of-living reports in each country as I travel the world. So that is how I know which country would be my favorite to live at each price point. The fact that it is possible to live in a place for so cheap does not mean it will make it into my top 5 favorites list. There are probably 40 places in the world I could live on for $1000 per month. But a place has to make my top 5 favorites to live at this price point to make it on the following list.
So, here are my top 5 favorites at $1000 per month. I will list them in reverse order with my favorite last of the five.
Antigua, Guatemala: (5) We just spent a month in Antigua Guatemala and fell in love with the place all over again. Antigua is one of my favorite places in all of Latin America. The people are very friendly there and it is just a very friendly and beautiful colonial-era town. The food choices are above and beyond what you would expect in a town this size. And the ex-pats in the area seem to be well-traveled before showing up in Antigua and are willing and able to integrate into the local environment and are less interested in importing their home country culture into Antigua. With a little planning and coordination, I would be able to live in Antigua Guatemala for around $1000 per month.
Puerto Morelos, Mexico: (4) Puerto Morelos is one of my favorite places in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico. When I first started visiting Riviera Maya in the early 1990s, I loved places like Tulum and Playa Del Carmen the most. But they have become a little too crazy, expensive, and touristy for my taste. Luckily I discovered the laid-back atmosphere of Puerto Morelos. Puerto Morales has become our go-to place in Mexico when we want to relax and enjoy life on the cheap but still have access to white sand beaches on the Caribbean side. I love the Mexican Village area just 2 kilometers west of the beach with all of the family-owned local restaurants and stores. Plus it is just a short bicycle ride to the beach when the mood strikes.
Nha Trang, Vietnam: (3) Nha Trang is still my favorite place in Vietnam for living and for retirement. Nha Trang is a larger beautiful city right on the beach with some cultural opportunities, like temples, traditional handicraft markets, and traditional Vietnamese folk music, clothing, and dancer. There are also three museums, Zen Monastery, art galleries, mud spas, waterfalls, sailing, and wave runners. There is a large community here interested in taking care of their bodies–Yoga, beach exercise, beach running, fishing, swimming, biking, and hiking. There are also a bunch of choices in spiritual pursuits. A town we love in Vietnam almost as much as Nha Trang is called Danang. Danang would be a great choice if you want access to a larger population of American Expats around you. Vietnam has been changing their visa rules recently in non-favorable ways so we are hoping they will have more friendly visa options when they reopen in 2022.
Krabi, Thailand: (2) This area of Thailand would be a great place for people that are most comfortable in a smaller city at the beach (Ao Nang) or just 25 minutes away from the beach (Krabi Town). This would not be ideal for a city person. There is a nice night market in Krabi Town and a river waterfront park for socializing and walking in the evenings. You can also get to one of the most beautiful cliff formations and beaches in the world called Railay Beach by boat from either Krabi Town or Ao Nang. In years gone by I would have recommended Chiang Mai at this price point but the burn season has made that unbearable over the last few years. But since you will be trying to live on $1000 per month you will need 800k Baht (about $26,000 USD) to put in a Thai Bank in order to qualify for the Thai Retirement visa.
Dumaguete, Philippines: (1) Dumaguete has a small-town feel to it. The people are friendly and live a relaxed easy-going life here. I ran into a group of retired Americans at the McDonald’s fast-food across the street from the park, and they said Dumaguete is not as good as it once was. They said it is getting too crowded and too much traffic compared to 5 years ago. I asked them if they had been to other towns in the Philippines and one jokingly said, “All of them.” I asked what town they would retire in today if they moved to the Philippines today. All 6 agreed that they would retire in Dumaguete if they moved to the Philippines today. It was still their favorite place. None of them wanted to move back to America. It is cheap to live here. There is scuba, fishing, snorkeling, turtle watching, whale shark watching, and beautiful locals. We love it so much we decided to in Dumaguete instead of fly home during the coronavirus.
Remember, these are just the top 5 for $1000 per month. There are many others that I would also be willing to live on $1000 per month. But I cut this list down to 5 since I have two more price points to discuss below.
Next, I will give you my top 5 places in the world I would retire cheap if my price point was $1500 per month. But first, the fact that I could live in one of these places on $1000, $1500, or $2000 per month does not mean you could or would be able to.
Before moving overseas, I suggest that you do what I call an exploratory visit. Only by putting your feet on the ground and determining where you would be willing to live, shop, and dine, will you be able to confirm your personal living costs in any of these places.
To help you better understand why some people spend more money than others, review my report, Why many ex-pats struggle at living on $1000 per month. Okay, now for my favorite places to retire on $1500 per month.
My Favorite Places to Retire Cheap on $1500 Per Month
Of course, it goes without saying that if I was willing to live somewhere on $1000 per month it would be just as easy or easier to live there on $1500 per month. So, the following are just 5 more places I would be willing to live on $1500 per month.
Queretaro, Mexico: (5) This remains one of my favorite cities in Mexico. The colonial-era center of Queretaro is one of the nicest I have seen anywhere in the world. It is clean, beautiful, and well maintained. You can tell that the per capita income is high in Queretaro just by walking around. As the second-highest state in Wine production in Mexico, wine tasting is available. There are many interesting day trips you can take to places within a few hours, like Guanajuato, San Miguel Allende, and Mexico City. There are huge shopping malls stocked with international products at reasonable prices. There is an international airport 45 minutes outside of old town with reasonably priced flights throughout Mexico and the world. The classical music, theatre, dance, and live performances opportunities are second only to Mexico City, which is only a few hours away.
Buenas Aires, Argentina: (4) I haven’t been to Buenos Aires in over 10 years, but I loved it at that time. I usually don’t recommend places that I have visited in so long. That is because it is hard to judge the cost of living without your feet on the ground. But the Argentina peso has been hammered fairly hard over the last 3 to 5 years against most major currencies. That means that your purchasing power has increased substantially in Argentina. So you will be able to enjoy this city of European flare with much less money these days.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: (3) Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful clean modern city. It has gorgeous malls, great public transportation, foods from around the world, and a large diverse population of Malay, Chinese, and Indian citizens mingling with ex-pats from around the world. It also is a great transportation hub for flights all around the world. Plus you are just a short flight from all of the amazing countries of Asia. It has a growing medical tourism business with great hospitals with prices often cheaper than Thailand. It also has a very low crime rate and a very reasonable cost of living. The only thing that seems to cost much more than other parts of SE Asia is alcohol.
Bangkok, Thailand: (2) Almost every nationality of food is in Bangkok. The famous brands worldwide are in Bangkok malls. Many wealthy people from around the world come here to have fun, to shop, and for medical and dental. You can spend money here like a drunken sailor without much effort at all. But there is almost always a cheaper version of anything you could want, sometimes with even better quality. Bangkok has an active symphony, a somewhat active live theatre community, and even some opera. International pop, jazz, hip-hop, and techno music entertainers circulate through Bangkok. There are dance clubs galore that come in fashion at a moment’s notice, so you’ll need to Google that when you are ready to go. You can even visit a Lady-Boy Cabaret-style show if the mood strikes. Whatever your thing is just Google it with the word “Bangkok” and you might be surprised. Expats have been living here for decades, so you have both Thai and foreign cultures.
Bali, Indonesia: (1) Ubud is a beautiful traditional village in the mountains of Bali where many people love to stay and eat in many of the healthy international food restaurants. This is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. It was, of course, beautiful; the landscape, the beaches, the people. The joys of this relatively small island are spread out everywhere. So you will need to have a vehicle or rent a scooter like most people. Make sure to ride your scooter to Utuwala on the southern tip of Bali to see the fisherman boats, the local fish market, and children dressed in their school uniforms. Also, take the ferry over to Lembongan for the weekend and visit the famous cliff beaches and umbrella graveyards. Finally, bring your camera with you when you visit the terraced rice fields when they are in full green before harvest.
Before I tell you my favorite places to retire cheap on $2000 per month, I want to recommend that you have some emergency funds available to pay for any emergencies that may happen while you are living overseas.
In fact, I have two other reports, The Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Cheap Overseas, and Overseas retirement mistakes you will regret forever, that you should read to help anticipate and smooth out any problems you may face retiring overseas.
Okay, now I will discuss my favorite places to retire cheap on $2000 per month
My Favorite Places to Retire Cheap on $2000 Per Month
Once my price point for retiring cheap reaches or exceeds $2000 per month, I would begin migrating towards the cheaper countries around the Mediterranean Sea. All of the following places would be great places.
But remember, the places I would l recommend for $2000 per month also include the places I mentioned at $1000 and $1500 per month. If I love a place at $1000 or $1500 per month, I generally love it even more at $2000 per month.
You are probably thinking, why is Dan waiting until $2000 per month before suggesting great places around the Mediterranean. Mostly, that is because unlike SE Asia and Latin America, the delicious food just seems to be more expensive around the Mediterranean.
The truth is, it is just easier to get an excellent $5 meal in SE Asia and Latin America than around the Mediterranean. That applies to both foods you buy in restaurants as well as the ingredients you buy in the stores to cook at home.
Lisbon, Portugal: (5) I could see myself living here in Lisbon Portugal. In some ways, it reminds me of San Francisco which is near where I grew up. But we were surprised how expensive restaurant food was in Lisbon because we went there after touring Mexico for about 6 months. It can easily run you 12 Euros for just your entree at a neighborhood restaurants in Lisbon. It goes up from there for fine dining and specialty foods. It was raining the first few days we were in Lisbon. So we ended up cooking many of our own meals at home. That ended up saving a bunch of money.
Porto, Portugal: (4) Porto is a really fun city. There are beaches, wine tours, symphony, many food choices, hiking, biking, great day trips, weekend getaways, sports stadiums, sailing, water sports, parks, and nature. It has a beautiful landscape and a romantic yet safe feeling to it. It is like living in a storybook. Plus, like San Francisco, where I grew up, if it feels too cool some days, you can head east to warmer weather. Lisbon is only slightly behind Porto in my mind in terms of livability. I could live in either.
Patras, Greece: (3) The Patras region Greece is home to various Ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine monuments, including the Roman Odeon, the Fortress of Rio, and the Fortress (castle) of Patras. Patras is a nice sized city with about 300.000. It is on the water and has beaches and a big university. Life is cheap and of fairly high quality. It is also relatively warm much of the year. It is well situated geographically to visit other parts of Greece because there are ferries running everywhere.
Spain, Malaga: (2) Malaga is one of the oldest cities on the Mediterranean and has all of the culture, foods, beaches, and nightlife that implies.
Catania or Messina, Sicily, Italy: (1) Sicily is an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. The food is amazing and the culture of Italy is one of the most interesting in the world.
Finally, I need to mention that I just have not spent as much time around the Mediterranean as I have around SE Asia, Latin America, or Eastern Europe. Most of the time I have spent there has been a week here and a week there.
That is because I visited the Mediterranean countries mostly when I only had a week or two off from work at a time. Back before I quit the rat race. So it just may turn out that I am actually able to live there for cheaper than I remember. Only time will tell.
Thank you for reviewing where to retire cheap overseas on social security in 2022.
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This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the Youtube channel for VagabondBuddha.com. Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?