Why You Should Broaden the Horizons on Your Retirement Plans

Must read

An older black couple hikes with backpacks as the sun sets
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.

The average American aged 65 or older spends $4,818 per month to live in the United States. Meantime, the average Social Security check for 2024 is $1,907.

That’s math that doesn’t work … Unless you broaden your horizons.

Look beyond U.S. borders for your ideal retirement lifestyle and you can make that $1,907 monthly Social Security check stretch much further…

While trading a typical retirement for a much more exciting, indulgent-feeling lifestyle in an exotic haven overseas.

Where, specifically, should you consider?

Lower Costs of Living Abroad

Happy older couple
bbernard / Shutterstock.com

A common misconception leads many to believe that the only places in the world where you could significantly reduce your cost of living are in Latin America or Asia … and that Europe is out of reach for the typical retiree.

Au contraire … My husband Lief Simon and I spend about half the year in Paris and the other half in Panama.

You’d think that our cost of living would be lower when we’re in Panama … But my accountant husband was shocked when he compared the side-by-side costs for each of our homes.

We are able to spend less when we’re at home in Paris than when we’re hanging our hats in Panama.

How can that be?

Cost of Living Considerations

A happy older couple walks outdoors
Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock.com

In Paris we don’t need a car and we don’t run air conditioning 24/7. In Panama we splurge on imported food and wines that are far more affordable in Paris … from where many of those specialty items originate.

Plus, we dollar-holders continue to enjoy a currency discount, with the euro down about 10% relative to the dollar over the past two years and about 20% lower than long-term trends.

My team has just released our annual Overseas Retirement Index. In it, we document the costs of living for my top picks for retirement in 2024. Many of them are in Europe.

That’s because not only Paris but much of the Old World can be far more accessible than you might imagine.

Where specifically on the Continent can you enjoy a fully loaded lifestyle — better than where you’re living now — for as much as 61% less than your current monthly budget?

Here are my top picks.

1. Valencia, Spain: $2,477 per Month for a Couple

Valencia, Spain coastline
underdog_cg / Shutterstock.com

Once called the “City of Joy,” and nowadays claiming a handful of titles, including City of Oranges, City of Arts and Sciences, World Capital of Design, European Capital of Smart Tourism, Green Capital of the Future, and Gastronomic Mecca, it’s hard to give just one claim to fame to fabulous Valencia.

To walk its streets is to take in 2,000 years of history, from the medieval Islamic era to futuristic works that look like settings from sci-fi films.

With sandy, warm Mediterranean beaches available within minutes from the city center, this region gets some of the best weather in the world, with about 2,700 hours of sunshine — 300-plus sunny days — per year.

In addition to all these attributes, Spain is known for being the most affordable region in Western Europe, and even Valencia, a culturally rich, historic city with high-level infrastructure and a high quality of life, is affordable by most standards.

2. Braga, Portugal: $2,855 per Month for a Couple

Braga, Portugal
trabantos / Shutterstock.com

Braga is the culturally vibrant capital of Portugal’s northern Minho Province, famous for its lush, green landscapes that produce vinho verde wine.

An attractive, well-loved city, with narrow lanes and lively plazas hemmed in by historic buildings and elegant baroque churches, Braga’s historic center is a dense, buzzy neighborhood that’s full of cafés, restaurants, boutiques, churches, supermarkets, businesses, hotels, homes, and more.

Braga is an off-the-radar retirement choice in Portugal, especially compared to the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto, which means the cost of living here is significantly lower than these more trafficked areas.

Braga is affordable not only relative to the costs of living in the United States and Canada; it’s also affordable relative to other places in Portugal.

Property prices and costs of living haven’t been inflated as much as in places like the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto. For its rich lifestyle, Braga is a bargain.

3. Crete, Greece: $1,865 per Month for a Couple

The city of Heraklion on the island of Crete, Greece
brittany nathoo / Shutterstock.com

Crete is the perfect place if your interests are lazing on the beach, basking in the sun, archaeology, scuba diving, and indulging in the original Mediterranean diet.

The fifth-biggest island in the Mediterranean, Crete is home to everything from cities to mountain villages, beaches to snow-capped mountains, and untouched inland wilderness to ancient olive groves and vineyards.

You’re never far from the glistening and super-clear Mediterranean Sea … and the water here is special: crystal-clear, reflecting back more shades of blue than I can name. It’s not just about beaches, though.

Crete also has mountains that you can ski on, the record-breaking Samariá Gorge (the longest in Europe), and other unique land formations that create endless outdoor recreation opportunities.

Being an island, you might expect Crete’s cost of living to be inflated … but it has one of the lowest costs of living in Europe for what is a very high quality of life. The island is big enough to allow for budget flexibility as well.

4. Gascony, France: $1,952 per Month for a Couple

The commune of Auch in the Gascony region of France
BearFotos / Shutterstock.com

The picturesque villages of Gascony, many of which have earned the title of Les Plus Belles Villes de France (the prettiest towns of France), resemble those of fairy tales.

This is a pastoral place, where the traffic on the roads is tractors and livestock … Where farmers run things and the weather or the harvest is the main topic on anyone’s lips.

Where folks are up well before the sun and drinking red wine by 11 a.m. … Where the food is hearty and fresh from the pasture … Where the village markets are the main social affair of the week and people are in bed by 9 p.m.

Gascony is yet another destination that proves that life in Europe is not financially out of reach for Americans.

This part of France can be easily affordable, especially if you live like a local and make use of the local markets, which sell affordable local goods and produce.

5. Kotor Bay, Montenegro: $2,658 per Month for a Couple

The historic town of Perast at the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, southern Europe
canadastock / Shutterstock.com

Coming to be known as Europe’s Secret Riviera, Kotor Bay is a hidden gem on the Adriatic, sharing the same coast and overlooking the same stretch of water as southeastern Italy — but at a fraction of the cost.

Medieval towns and luxe modern developments are set to dramatic backdrops of sparkling coastlines and jaw-dropping mountain vistas in every direction here.

With the sea in one direction and ski resorts in the other, there’s always something to be enjoyed close at hand here in little Montenegro.

Despite being a playground for the uber-rich, costs of living are flexible in Kotor Bay, with standard to luxury-level lifestyles available.

Overall, it’s affordable by most people’s standards, and especially in comparison to neighboring Croatia, which offers much of the same appeal but at much higher prices.

Find Your Best Retirement Lifestyle

Seniors working on a budget
Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock.com

Wondering which of these five tempting lifestyles might be for you?

Take a look at my at-a-glance budget comparison of the top places to reduce your cost of living while increasing your quality of life in Europe in 2024.

Here’s the breakdown by city, cost of living for two, and the percent cheaper than the cost of living in the U.S.

  • Valencia, Spain: $2,477, 49%
  • Braga, Portugal: $2,855, 41%
  • Crete, Greece: $1,865, 61%
  • Gascony, France: $1,952, 59%
  • Kotor Bay, Montenegro: $2,658, 45%

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.

More articles

Latest article