Here are 5 of the least expensive countries to retire in Belize, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, and Thailand. In 4 of the countries listed permanent residency will lead to citizenship within 5 years.
Some countries roll out the welcome mat for foreign retirees, offering sometimes significant tax breaks, in-country discounts, and other perks to anyone who qualifies for resident retiree status. The age you qualify as a retiree can have a broad definition, depending on where you go.
For example, in Belize, you can qualify for retirement residency and the associated perks as young as 45, and Panama has no stated minimum age requirement for its Gold Standard retiree residency program.
Costa Rica was the first country to make a concerted effort to attract foreign retirees with a program of special benefits. Its “Pensionado” program was responsible for bringing tens of thousands of foreign retirees, mostly Americans, to the country in the 1980s and 1990s. While the pensionado visa is still available in Costa Rica, many of the tax breaks and other special perks it once offered have been discontinued.
Costa Rica has also become more expensive, both as a place to live and as a place to own a home. For these reasons, while Costa Rica is perhaps the world’s best-known overseas retirement haven, it no longer qualifies as one of the best.
There are some exceptional benefits for U.S. citizens investing in foreign countries. There are 2 assets that do not have to be reported to the IRS and they are foreign real estate and gold held in private vaults. The gold could be held in a private vault company or just your personal safe.
The foreign earned income exclusion for U.S. citizens is up to $100,800 per qualifying person in 2015. If the individuals are married and both work abroad, each one can choose the foreign earned income exclusion. Together, they could exclude as much as $201,600 income for the 2015 tax year and this amount increases every year.
Another benefit is that the IRS allows for the exclusion of a realized capital gain of up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) from income from a sale of the taxpayer’s principal residence. You must have lived in the house for at least 2 years out of the previous 5 years before the sale.
Today, these 5 countries are working hard to attract foreign retirees:
Some of the best reasons to move to Belize is that English is the official language, there are private banks with tax-free accounts and you can drive there by car or RV from America.
Just over a decade ago the government of Belize enacted legislation to allow qualified retired persons to obtain permanent residency in their country. This is a quick and efficient program.
With their “Qualified Retirement Program (QRP)” you could become a full-time resident of the country, but you can also enjoy the benefits if you spend as little as one month a year in Belize.
Belize’s QRP residency program isn’t only for senior citizens. It’s available to anyone age 45 or older, and it grants a host of incentives designed to encourage foreigners to come and bring their money. These incentives include a permanent exemption from Belizean taxes, including income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax and import tax on household goods, automobiles, boats and even airplanes.
The only requirements to qualify for Belize’s QRP program are that you be 45 or older, consider yourself to be retired and have at least $2,000 a month in guaranteed income to support yourself in Belize. While pension income can be shown to meet the last requirement, the easiest way to prove financial means is simply to deposit a minimum of $24,000 per year into a Belizean bank account.
In practical terms, the “Consider Yourself to be Retired” requirement means that, as a QRP, you can’t apply for a work visa. This is not to say that you can’t do international, Internet or even local Belize business as an entrepreneur. You just can’t take a job working as an employee of someone else in Belize.
Even if you’re not contemplating retiring in Belize for several years, this is the time to apply and lock in the benefits of the current QRP law. Once you’ve qualified, a one-month holiday in Belize each year will maintain your QRP residency status while you work toward your ultimate retirement plan.
In recent years, Ecuador has raced to the top spot on lists of the world’s most desirable retirement destinations, especially for retirees on a budget. The country offers diverse lifestyle options, from colonial Cuenca to cosmopolitan Quito and from the sleepy mountain town of Cotacachi to the fishing village of Playas.
Ecuador’s retiree residency program offers the following benefits:
- A discount on vehicle tax
- A discount on judicial fees
- A special discount on property tax
- A refund of value added tax (sales tax)
- 50 percent off all public transportation
- 50 percent off national and international airfare
- 50 percent off electricity, water, and telephone service
- 100 percent medical coverage for only $70 per month
- 50 percent off all cultural, sports, artistic and recreational events
And, perhaps best of all, you never have to stand in line. Seniors age 65 and older always
go to the front.
The process of applying for and receiving retiree residency status in Ecuador has gained a (probably deserved) reputation for being complicated. However, the government has made an effort to simplify things. In addition, a new immigration office has opened in Cuenca, where many foreign retirees are choosing to base themselves.
However, the program also has some restrictions. As a retiree resident of Ecuador, you can leave the country for no more than 90 days per year for each of the first two years or you lose your status. After the first two years, you cannot be out of the country for more than 18 consecutive months.
To qualify for Ecuador’s retiree visa program, you must be able to show guaranteed the income of at least $800 per month, plus an extra $100 for each dependent relocating with you. If the income you’re using to qualify for the program is from a source other than a pension or Social Security (investment dividends, for example), the amount of $800 per month for five years ($48,000) must be deposited in a bank in the country in advance. Also, Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency.
Nicaragua is a land of contrasts at an interesting time in its development. The civil war is history, and Nicaraguans today want nothing more than peace and prosperity. Geographically, Nicaragua is blessed, with two long coastlines and two big lakes, plus volcanoes, highlands, rain forest, and rivers. In this regard, it has everything Costa Rica has, while also being less discovered and less developed.
It is available for adventurers, eco-travelers and budget-minded retirees at bargain rates compared with costs in the United States, Costa Rica and almost anywhere else in Central America. Nicaragua is one of the most affordable places in the world to enjoy a comfortable, full and rich retirement.
The challenge for Nicaragua is persuading the world to take the country seriously as a potential retirement option. Nicaragua continues to work hard to overcome its troubled past and the world’s general misinterpretation of the current reality in this country.
As part of this effort to attract foreign investment, the country has instituted a pensionado program that is competitive with those on offer in Panama, Belize and elsewhere in the region.
To qualify for retiree residency in Nicaragua, you can be as young as 45. The best part of Nicaragua’s pensionado program is the minimum monthly income requirement, which is the lowest offered by any country. You need a pension or Social Security of just $600 per month (plus $100 per month for each dependent) to qualify.
As a pensionado in Nicaragua, you:
- Pay no tax on out-of-country earnings
- Can bring up to $20,000 worth of household goods into the country with you duty-free
- Can import one automobile for personal use duty-free and sell it after five years, if you’d like, without incurring any sales tax
Run Your Tourist Business Tax-Free for up to 10 Years
Nicaragua’s Law 306 (enacted in September 1999) is the most attractive–and most aggressive–tourism-incentive law in Latin America. If you’ve ever thought about opening your own B&B, running a tour business, or having a little arts and crafts shop…Nicaragua is the place to do it.
This law is sweeping in scope and offers hard-to-beat benefits for investors who take advantage of the program. If your business qualifies, you pay no income or real estate taxes for up to 10 years and bring in (or buy locally) all the supplies you need, from furniture and boats to linens and cash registers…Tax-free.
Not only that, but the application and approval process is straightforward and fast. INTUR, Nicaragua’s institute of tourism, has done an outstanding job of cutting through the usual red tape and outlining very clearly what you need to do.
In addition, the law allows the agency just 60 days to approve your application so you won’t find yourself in limbo for months or even years on end. What’s more, depending on the type of project, an investment of only $30,000 can qualify you for benefits.
You can repatriate 100% of your profits and, after three years, the initial investment as well. (Even if you don’t “register” your investment, banks will freely repatriate profits.)
You’ll find no legal grounds for discrimination against you when you invest. The law allows for 100% foreign ownership in every economic sector.
In general, Law 306 offers investors the following benefits:
- Pay no income taxes for up to 10 years
- Pay no real estate taxes for up to 10 years
- Import into the country all the supplies you need to facilitate your investment – TAX-FREE.
Panama offers what has become the world’s best-known pensionado program after the once-heralded program from Costa Rica. Panama’s pensioner status offers some of the deepest retiree discounts available anywhere, making it one of the most generous retiree packages in the world.
The government of Panama is fairly relaxed with regard to the minimum age to apply for this visa. Typically, if you are over the age of 18 and receive a guaranteed pension from any government entity, including Social Security, the Armed Forces or a private company, then you can apply.
Your pension which can be deposited in one of Panama’s private banks in a tax-free account must be at least $1,000 per month, plus $250 per month for each dependent, including children under 18. Once you’ve qualified, you enjoy all pensioner visa benefits for life.
- 25 percent off airline tickets
- 15 percent off dental and eye exams
- 20 percent off medical consultations
- 15 percent off at fast food restaurants
- 25 percent off at sit-down restaurants
- 20 percent off medical consultations
- 30 percent off bus, boat and train fares
- 50 percent off closing costs for home loans
- 20 percent off professional and tech services
- 25 percent off hotel stays Friday through Sunday
- 50 percent off hotel stays Monday through Thursday
- 15 percent off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
- 50 percent off entertainment including movies, theaters, and concerts
With Panama’s pensionado visa, you are also entitled to a one-time tax exemption on the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and a tax rebate for every two years of import duties for the importation of a car (sales tax and luxury tax still apply).
In the past, it was possible to apply for pensionado visa status on your own. However, the Panamanian government has since enacted a law requiring a lawyer to submit all visa applications. Also, because of the great volume of foreign retirees applying for pensionado visa status in Panama, the process can take up to several months.
Thailand has some of the “best beaches in the world”, lush mountains and jungles, a laid-back, welcoming culture and a foreigner-friendly infrastructure. Thailand also has one of the world’s lowest costs of living.
For these reasons, thousands of foreigners have settled in this country in world-renowned resort areas such as Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, and Phuket, in cities including Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and in the smaller towns of Hua Hin, Cha-am, and Pai. It’s rare to find a town in Thailand that doesn’t have at least a few foreign residents.
It used to be possible to stay indefinitely in the country with a tourist visa, making visa runs to a neighboring country every month or so. However, the relevant laws were changed a few years ago. Now a foreigner who wants to live in Thailand long-term needs a visa. Thailand offers several residency visa options. Retirees typically want the non-immigrant “O-A” (long-stay) visa.
To qualify, you must be age 50 or older at the time of application, have completed a satisfactory police records check, obtain a medical examination, present a certificate of health and deposit 800,000 baht (about $24,800) in a Thai bank for at least two months prior to making your application, or be able to prove that you receive a pension of at least 65,000 baht (about $2,000) per month.
The term of the “O-A” visa is one year. You can apply to extend it by showing three months of bank statements or pay stubs to the Immigration Department, proving that you continue to meet the financial requirements.
Thailand is a remarkably beautiful and diverse region that is becoming much more welcoming to Western retirees. Thailand’s big appeal for foreign retirees is the cost of living as it is among the “world’s cheapest places to retire.” Your money goes much further in this part of the world than in the United States or any other Western country, but that does not mean that the standard of living is necessarily lower.
It is possible to “stretch your retirement nest egg” to enjoy a better lifestyle in Thailand. For example, in the United States, you’re probably paying at least $50 per month for reasonably fast Internet. In Thailand, fast Internet is $18 per month. Similar savings can be seen in the prices of everything from rent and phone service to cooking gas, electricity, and groceries.
Because of General Arden’s experience with addictions and the negative effects they had on his life, he is developing a medical tourism affiliate known as the “Arden Centre,” which will use holistic methods for addiction recovery.
At the Arden Centre, we will not only offer addiction treatments but also 4 other health programs:
- Balance Fitness
- Yoga & Meditation
- The Arden Diet – which will be published as a book.
Due to the “5 Star” world class medical treatment at 25% of the cost of the US, he is opening the Arden Centre in Phuket, Thailand.
We believe that a medical tourism vacation to Thailand would be a great start to get your health situation in order, as there can be a savings of tens of thousands of dollars on treatments for addiction, anti-aging/longevity, dentistry, dermatology, laser eye, cardiac, general, orthopedic and plastic surgeries.
The doctors are all English speaking and educated in Europe, Australia, and North America. The hospital we use has the highest international accreditation possible with the “Joint Commission International” (JCI) an organization from the USA, which is known as the “Gold Seal” for patient safety.
The hospital we use offers a wide variety of packages, that are designed to provide you with personalized health services which best fit your individual needs. You can either select from an extensive list of check-up package or a program can be custom designed in consultation with one of health screening physicians. If you have any questions about packages, please feel free to contact us and one of our e-business team will respond to you as soon as possible.
We believe that a medical tourism vacation to Thailand would be a great start to get your health situation in order, as there can be a savings of tens of thousands of dollars on addiction treatment dentistry, dermatology, laser eye, cardiac, general, orthopedic and plastic surgeries and anti-aging/longevity treatments.
A holiday that is recommended is first to Bangkok to visit some beautiful Buddhist temples, on to Phuket for your addiction, dental and medical treatments, on to Singapore to purchase your gold bullion and on to Europe to open your anonymous vault storage account.
Once a person has had their addiction, medical and dental treatments if they don’t choose Thailand for retirement they can move on to one of the other 4 recommended destinations.