Latin America: A Retiree’s Dream

The opportunity has never been better for some Latin countries to cash in on a new import: America's elderly. Some 73 million U.S. baby boomers are now on the brink of retirement—amid the worst financial crisis in decades. Faced with steep taxes and an average of $350-a-day nursing home bills, a growing number would rather move to a warmer, cheaper place and live comfortably. Increasingly, that means heading south, thanks to nations like Costa Rica touting their recent stability (no more civil wars and hyperinflation) and offering easy visas and affordable health care.

So far, it’s paying off. In Panama, where the government is offering foreign pensionados everything from tax breaks to discounts on movie tickets and restaurant meals, the American elderly population more than doubled between 2003 and 2005. And the buzz is growing: International Living, a retirees magazine, named Mexico, Panama, Uruguay and Ecuador the top four retirement havens in the world last year. Even in countries with socialist regimes like Nicaragua and Venezuela, plans for retiree-friendly country clubs and condos are under way, which will eventually translate into more jobs.

Still, the boom could have a dark side: wherever foreign retirees arrive in large numbers, housing costs zoom up. In Panama, apartments cost 60 percent more than they did three years ago. Then there is the issue of local resentment; most Latin countries offer few, if any, benefits to their own elderly. But these qualms are unlikely to stop the tide of foreign viejitos any time soon—the pull of living large for half the price is just too strong.

—Franziska Castillo

Check out our slideshow of the 5 best places to retire in Latin America and start saving up your money now! 

1. Latin America: A Retiree’s Dream Panama

PANAMA

Panama is an ideal retirement location for many US citizens looking to move abroad in their twilight years. It boasts a tropical climate, the cosmopolitan capital of Panama City and what many consider to be the world’s best incentive programs for elderly expats. If you are interested in living near the beach, check out Bocas del Toro; however, if your more into a mountain view, consider a move to Capira or Sora.

2. Latin America: A Retiree’s Dream Costa Rica

COSTA RICA

With a stable economy and government, as well as a huge focus on eco-tourism, the country is perfect for those who love the great outdoors. With one of the highest standards of living in Central America, you’ll have no problems finding good health care, cultural activities and fine dining. Many retirees choose to hunker down in the Central Valley, and if you take one look at the gorgeous vistas you’ll instantaneously understand why.

3. Latin America: A Retiree’s Dream Ecuador

ECUADOR

The dirt cheap cost of living is what draws many retirees to Ecuador, a unique country located in the heart of South America. With one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America and regular flights connecting to most major hubs in the USA, it is a safe and comfortable alternative for those looking to retire for a fraction of the cost. Over the last few years Ecuador has managed to weather economic and political problems and is now prospering. Combine that with the country’s incredible diversity of natural habitats and it’s hard to think of a reason not to move there. Check out the capital city of Quito.

4. Latin America: A Retiree’s Dream Uruguay

URUGUAY

Recently ranked by International Living magazine as the 13th best country to live in the world, Uruguay is an undiscovered paradise, but not for long! With the beautiful capital city of Montevideo noted as the second least expensive city in the world by Mercer HR Consulting, it is inevitable that the masses will be descending upon this little known country sooner rather than later. During the tourist season the atmosphere in the cities and along the coastline is fun and lively, but becomes quiet and peaceful during off season. Here you’ll find a perfect balance between the hustle and bustle of a city and the quiet solitude of a beachfront retreat.

5. Latin America: A Retiree’s Dream Mexico

MEXICO

Mexico is the most popular Latin American country for retirees because of its proximity to the United States. And Mexico allows people to retain citizenship even if they’ve become U.S. citizens, making it easier for those who have immigrated to the United States to return home. One of the most popular retirement locations in Mexico is Merida, a quaint colonial city where you will find a great combination of old world Mexican tradition and new world sophistication. Although recent violence has had many travelers questioning the safety of visiting Mexico, most of the violence has affected those involved in the drug business and the police and army officials fighting the cartels and is focused along border areas and towns.