Top Places to Retire ~ 2014

 Where ya gonna go?  What ya gonna do when you get there?  And, bottom line… how  ya gonna pay for it?

No work, no money, no worries.

No work, no money, no worries.

Those are the questions a whole bunch of retirees and soon-to-be retirees are asking.   These days, options for retirement are growing as rapidly as the number of boomers crossing the employment finish line.

Just when you need it, here’s a little information, food for thought and a few links to click through to help you explore some of this year’s top retirement havens.

Every year the team at International Living, Kathleen Peddicord of Live and Invest Overseas publish their lists of the top places to retire outside of the United States.   Creating these lists requires a fair amount of boots on the ground research and data analysis.  In the case of International Living, they publish what they call a Global Retirement Index where they measure eight categories:  cost of living, real estate, infrastructure, climate, real estate, special retirement benefits, ease of integration, infrastructure, and entertainment and amenities.  While they do look at hard numbers like annual rainfall and senior discounts, the cost of utilities and housing, what they provide is mainly a “qualitative” assessment.   A lot of this information comes directly from people who have their boots on the ground or their flip-flops in the sand.  Then IL analyzes the data and creates a ranking based on a point system with 100 being somewhere close to perfect.   From this they determine the top countries.  Bear in mind, that they are generally looking at a few specific towns, cities and regions within those countries.   While Ecuador (2013’s winner) ranks high as a country, most people live in or near a few specific locations like Cuenca, Cotacochi, Quito or the coast.  A few brave souls are blazing trails and leaving the relative safety and comfort of the cities and setting up camp in small towns, but they are giving up some of the ranking benefits of reliable internet, readily available good healthcare, etc. that many retirees feel is essential.  These types of reports generally cater to the moderately adventurous newbie and provide a great place to start.

International Living’s Top Ten Retirement Destinations for 2014 are… (drum roll please)

1.  Panama – which ranked 100 in special benefits and 91.2 overall

2.  Ecuador – which ranked 99 in special benefits, 100 in climate and 91.1 overall

3. Malaysia – No 100’s here but was rated 88.5 overall and a 95 health rating.

4.  Costa Rica –  Still suffers from infrastructure problems (75) and climate (77).  Rated 86.8 overall indicating lots of people like the security and pura vida lifestyle.

5.  Spain –  This one surprised me, but they ranked in the 90’s for real estate, health, infrastructure and entertainment/amenities.  Perhaps these offset the exchange rate.  Overall – 85.8

Others in the Top Ten?  Colombia – 84.2, Mexico – 84.2, Malta – 84.1, Uruguay – 83.7 and Thailand at 83.5.

According to US News who published Kathleen Peddicord’s list of 2014 top cities/countries, the winners are ~

1.  Coronado, Panama

2.  Languedoc, France

3.  Ambergris Caye, Belize

4.  Cuenca, Ecuador

5.  Chiang Mai, Thailand

6.  Puerto Vallerta, Mexico

7.  Granada, Nicaragua

8.  Medellin, Columbia

If, like hubs and I, you are looking for a quality retirement lifestyle where your retirement budget stretches farther, perhaps some these places are worth a look and maybe a visit.  I’ll be doing more research and reporting back with details so stay tuned.

See you on the road!


P.S.  If you are currently living or have lived in any of these locations, I’d love to hear from you.   Nothing beats actual experience.  Thanks!








Retiring to Ecuador ~ Meet these boots on the ground experts!

In early April I very enthusiastically posted here about my initial look at Ecuador as a great option for living la vida cheapo in retirement.  Apparently, we are definitely running with the herd in looking at South America.  It feels a bit like being in line at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving waiting for the doors to open at Best Buy.  (I am proud to say that I have never actually been there/done that and plan to keep it that way)   There is a mass migration about to take place.   I’m not sure that is a good thing entirely, but that’s what it’s come down to for a lot of us who need to figure out how to s-t-r-e-t-c-h every last penny and feed our adventurous spirits at the same time.

We baby boomers are casting off the chains, kissing our loved ones goodbye and heading out into the great unknown in droves.  I’m in love with the idea of becoming citizens of the world.  Trying to figure out exactly what that means is a very interesting adventure in itself.  I’ve looked briefly at Panama, Uruguay, Chile, Nicaragua and even the other side of the Big Pond in the rural (cheaper) parts of Europe, Spain and Portugal.  More on these options later.

My recent Ecuador post garnered lots of comments and some great questions, including a few I hadn’t even thought of.  Obviously, I had some more digging to do – this time in the form of some very cool blogs by folks who have already planted their flip-flops on terra firma in Ecuador.   For me, nothing is better than information right from the source.

Want to know the name of the tea that cures altitude sickness?  Is the medical care really that cheap and good?  What’s the scoop on health insurance?  Do I need a car?  How do I meet other expats?  What’s the deal with petty crime?  Are all the gringos going to drive up the prices?  What’s for dinner?  Can two people really live a good life on $2,000 a month or less?  Really?  Reading through the blogs below, I found answers to all of these questions and so much more.  Their own unique stories – in their own words.  I love the very different viewpoints!

Gringos Abroad – Brian and Dena Haines are a Canadian family of three who moved to Cuenca, Ecuador in 2009.  Their blog is full of solid information about life in Cuenca and the joys and pitfalls of living the expat life.  Check out Brian’s recent post – everything you ever wanted to know about cable and internet services.  Good stuff!


Rich and Nancy visited Ecuador in 2008.   All it took was a one day visit to Cuenca and they were hooked.  They went back to Oregon, sold the ranch and most of their belongings, and a year later, were living in their new home in Ecuador.  They share a wealth of valuable information gleaned from three years in their new home and 20/20 hindsight.

At Travel Past 50 Tom and Kristen began their life as world travelers when they sold their

Buen Camino.

Buen Camino.

house, cars, most of their belongings, and closed their business.  They gifted their kids with the dog and hit the road.  They lived in Quito, Ecuador for quite a while and now have truly become citizens of the world.  I connected with Tom when I read a couple of very thought provoking past posts on his not always good experiences in Quito.   Tom has been kind enough to connect via email as well and I value the information he has willingly shared including his packing advice for the Camino de Santiago.  Needless to say, these guys are great role models for hubs and I.


Cynthia Goes To Ecuador ~  I love this friendly, chatty blog by Cynthia, who  as a “slightly older” single woman packed up and moved herself to Cotacachi, Ecuador.  By all accounts, she is settling in very nicely.   I really enjoy reading her posts –  making the big decision to go it alone, the details of down-sizing and packing for her 3,000 mile move, finding her first tiny apartment, connecting with the local community and her recent post sharing some very important and relevant information on aging and health care as a single expat.  Don’t be afraid, but be prepared.

I have no idea if Ecuador will be our final destination, but I do know that it is on the list for a long visit.   And, after connecting with so many warm, wise and helpful expats already living there, I’m pretty sure we’ll have a some new friends to raise a glass with when we get there.

See you on the road,


Ecuador ~ a Retirement Option

What’s the #1 destination these days for retirees who wants to live abroad? According to the Annual Global Retirement Index of the publication, the answer is Ecuador.

Independence Square in Quito, Ecuador

Independence Square in Quito, Ecuador

Every year the editors send out their experts who explore and evaluate countries that are the most popular with American and Canadian retirees. Among the factors they weigh are the climate, the cost of living and how friendly the people are. Ecuador scored high on all of them, and then some.  It’s been a top contender for several years.

When we started planning our backpack-and-rollie retirement, I began to look seriously for retirement locations where we could live comfortably on a very limited budget.  Ecuador kept popping up.  Ecuador?  I wasn’t even sure exactly where it was, but apparently LOTS of other expats did and were singing it’s praises.    I recently met a woman  while visiting Las Vegas (yes I met her in Starbucks) who had lived for five years in Quito, Ecuador.  We chatted for quite a while about the climate, the people, the expat community and the airport (which sounded pretty scary to me).  Ok.  I finally got the message.  It was time to dig a little deeper into what this South American country that I literally knew nothing about might have to offer two geezer gringos with their backpacks and rollies.

What I have learned so far is very interesting, so I thought I’d share a little with you.

~First a Few Facts ~

  • Located in Western South America, Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean between Columbia and Peru.
  • 15,000,000+ people live in Ecuador.
  • Quito, a cosmopolitan city of 2 million people, is the capital.  It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   One of the first cities to be designated.
  • Spanish is the official language.
  • Time Zone – is the same as Washington, DC during Standard Time (EST)
  • Geography – Ecuador is located directly on the equator and includes the Andes Mountains, miles of beautiful beaches, a rainforest and the Galapagos Islands.

When a 22 page article about retiring in Ecuador begins with – Ecuador is gentle…safe…healthy…private…civil, well I don’t know about you, but I had to find out more.  Why are so many American retirees moving to Ecuador?

Otavalo Market

Otavalo Market


Here’s why!   Quality of life.  Ecuador offers something for everyone and much of it at a price that retirees on a limited income can actually afford.  The major cities like Cuenca and Quito have all of the Western conveniences we’ve grown accustomed to like reliable cell phone and internet service, history, architecture, world class restaurants and shopping.  According to International Living, “It’s not difficult to live in Ecuador on less than $17,000 per year, and you don’t have to live an unattractive lifestyle in order to do so.”  Maybe yes, maybe no, but I’ll bet two people could live quite nicely on less than $35,000 a year.

The spring-like climate of the higher elevations around Quito and Cuenca offer 12 hours of direct sunlight 365 days a year, but at an altitude of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, the temperature averages mid 70’s during the day and 50ºF at night.  The beaches and rainforest are warmer and tropical – good for a visit, but we love a 75ºF day so we’d head to the area around Quito.  There is a small but growing village called Cotacachi that has caught my eye.  Yes, there is a rainy season.

You can still buy a home (house or condo) for less than $100,000 and you do not need to be a resident to purchase real estate, but you do need cash.  Prices are rising as more expats move in.  Darn those expats!

One of the best perks for foreign residents is the high-quality low-cost health care.  From what I read, you will receive excellent personal attention from medical practitioners (many U.S. trained) for a $35 office visit.  The larger cities have many excellent hospitals with all of the latest equipment and American and European trained English speaking doctors.

It’s good to be old in Ecuador!  If you are 65 or older discounts abound:

  • 50% off public and private transportation within the country
  • 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events – even movies
  • Free domestic landline local phone service
  • Reductions on all kinds of takes, including income and sales taxes
  • 50% airfare reduction on international flights offered by airlines such as Taca, Copa Airlines and Ecuador’s AeroGal.  All three airlines offer flights to the U.S.
  • Your foreign income (social security or IRA payments) are not taxed.
  • Their currency is the U.S. dollar

And best of all – citizens and residents over 65 never have to stand in line.  Seriously, if you go to the bank and there is a line, it is the law in Ecuador that seniors go to the front of the line.  Now that’s called respecting your elders.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador

Ecuador is definitely on our bucket list for travel and a “look see”.  With any luck we might be able to do a home exchange in Cuenca or even a month long rental through VRBO like this one for only $750 in the lovely village of Cotacachi.   I’m thinking next year in the Spring.  Major U.S. Airlines offer direct flights from Houston and Miami

The best news is that Quito just opened its brand new international airport.   Hopefully they’ve solved the pesky problem at the old airport in the center of the city with the short runway that one or two planes managed to over-shoot each year.  That is not my idea of a fun ride!

Hasta Luego!  See you in Cotacachi.

Photo Credit –  Since I have not been there yet to share my own photos, the photos in this post are from International Living’s report of Ecuador.  (Thank you)