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According to International Living’s newly released Annual Global Retirement Index for 2019, the world’s top 10 retirement destinations are:

#1 Panama          #6 Colombia
#2 Costa Rica      #7 Portugal
#3 Mexico            #8 Peru
# 4 Ecuador         #9 Thailand

#5 Malaysia         #10 Spain

©iStock/photogilio

By Jim Santos, IL Coastal Ecuador Correspondent

https://internationalliving.com/the-best-places-to-retire/

Nearly three decades have gone by, during which our scouts have scoured every corner of the globe many times over. The result is a much bigger and ever-growing selection of outstanding destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money, and get a whole lot more.

But how do you choose? The Retirement Index is still the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. It’s the best way we know of to sift through the wealth of opportunity the world offers, bring some order, and help you pinpoint the best destination for you.

Annually we reflect on and refine our methodology. This year is no exception, and we’ve made some changes. The research and production of the Global Retirement Index is now an annual rite involving every single member of the International Living team. That team has grown to cover five continents, which means we’re bringing to the Index an ever-greater depth of knowledge.

A vast amount of hard data goes into the Index. It’s a distillation of every pertinent and measurable fact our scouts and experts can lay their hands on. And it reflects the experience of every expat who has contributed to International Living since the publication of our first issue, 40 years ago.

But don’t think of it as a mere number-crunching exercise. At its heart lies the good judgement of our far-flung editors and correspondents. We didn’t create this Index for it to be a purely objective resource. Yes, it is built on hard facts. But its power—its utility—lies in what we recommend you do with them. In other words, we bring our team’s good judgement to bear on the question: Where should I go? We share with you their measured opinions and recommendations. We don’t just tell you what the situation is on the ground—we help you figure out what it means for you.

Having moved overseas and immersed themselves in the destinations where they live and learned their lessons the hard way, our experts are ideally placed to compare, contrast, and bring nuanced insight to the most appealing retirement destinations in the world.

What has their research revealed about the best retirement havens in 2019? Read on…

10. Spain

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By Glynna Prentice, IL Editor

Spain is one of Europeans’ favorite “beach destinations.”  It offers First-World, Western European living standards, so there’s no question of having to “give up” anything in living here. In fact, you’ll gain a lot. Outside the tourist zones, you’ll need to know Spanish to get by. But there are plenty of beach areas with large, English-speaking expat communities.

Cool northern provinces like Navarre, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, and the Basque country offer forests, mountains, friendly locals, and food to die for. My favorites include little Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque country, and Pamplona, in Navarre (although avoid the San Fermín festival, with its famous running of the bulls, in early July).

Because of the warm climate, many basic food items are inexpensive here—Spain produces a variety of fruits and vegetables both for domestic consumption and for export. In season—and Spain has a long growing season—many produce items cost around 60 cents a pound. In addition, many fruits and vegetables that are relatively gourmet items in North America—baby artichokes, cherimoya, and doughnut peaches, for example—are locally grown in Spain.

Following Spanish eating habits will also keep costs down. Lunch is the big meal of the day, and the lunch special, or menú del día, is a great bargain. For anywhere from $11 to $20, you’ll get two to three courses, plus a beverage (which can often be beer or wine). Make that your big meal out (or prepare it in your rental) and follow it with a light dinner or tapas.

With one of the lowest costs of living in Western Europe for around $2,500 a month, a couple can live comfortably in many parts of the country.

Traveling by rail in Spain is fast and efficient to large and medium-sized cities. I travel about Spain, discovering new haunts, revisiting old ones, and catching up with friends around the country.

Spain also has a surprising range of climates, from hot and dry in the south to cool and mild in the north. There’s skiing, too—not just in the north, in the Pyrenees, but down in the mountains of the south, as well.”

In terms of healthcare The World Health Organization ranks Spain as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The public system is widely used. But it also has great private healthcare, including 29 JCI-accredited facilities.

Spain is one of the most tolerant places I know of for those with alternative lifestyles. Civil unions, as well as marriage, are recognized by law. And same-sex marriages have been legal there since 2005. And as a single woman, I’ve always felt safe there. It’s a late-night culture, so people are out and about at all hours.

9. Thailand

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By Rachel Devlin, IL Chiang Mai Correspondent

Southeast Asia offers some of the world’s most attractive retirement programs, astounding geographic and cultural diversity, and climates to suit all tastes, ranging from hot beach resorts to cool highland hill stations. You’ll find sophisticated cities, ultra-modern, affordable healthcare, and luxury accommodation for a fraction of North American prices.

Nestled between Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, Thailand enjoys the warm-water coastlines of both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. This is a country that has never been colonized by any Western or European countries, so Thai culture is untouched, rich, and ancient. What’s more, it’s ideal for expat living.

My husband, Mick, and I retired in Chiang Mai two years ago, and we even brought our 16-year-old son along for the adventure of a lifetime. We sold our house and cars and set off for a better life. And we found it.

Rentals here can be as little as $400 per month for a modern studio apartment. Utility bills are also significantly cheaper. Imagine paying a monthly water bill that is only $32.

“I order most of my shopping online and get it delivered for free, and that includes cleaning products. It generally costs $45 every two weeks. Sometimes I go to the local market and spend $4 on armfuls of fresh fruit and veggies,” says Raelene Haines.

Thailand generally has a tropical humid climate. No cold winters here. Perfect for people who like swimming and sunshine. Arthritis sufferers find great relief in this climate.

There are many modern private hospitals in Thailand. Doctors practice with current medical knowledge and general practitioner visits can cost as little as $10.

For expats with a wandering spirit, travel within the country is inexpensive. A flight of two hours can take you from one end of the country to the other for as little as $100 round trip. Float freely in a long-tail boat or go swimming at beaches from Hollywood movies. Then, within a few hours, you can be in the northern Thai jungle, drinking a cocktail in an infinity pool overlooking rice paddies and ancient temples.

As a home base, Thailand is well situated. On average, it only takes an hour-and-a-half to fly to anywhere in Southeast Asia.

If you worry about finding friends in Thailand, have no fear. Expat communities are alive and busy. You will find meet-ups taking place regularly, and lots of local interest groups. If you want to maintain an active lifestyle by joining a gym, hiking, or biking, or if you prefer to dive into history and art, it’s all here. There are hundreds of Facebook pages dedicated to expat interest groups, so finding your tribe is not difficult. The most enjoyable parts of Thai culture revolve around the idea of sanook (meaning “fun”). Whatever you find yourself doing, you are encouraged to make it fun and enjoy every minute.

8. Peru

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By Steve LePoidevin, IL Peru Correspondent

While 95% of people who visit Peru do so to explore Machu Picchu, many have discovered an ideal retirement destination, with miles of beaches, delicious cuisine, and some of the lowest costs anywhere when it comes to enjoying a high-quality lifestyle.

My wife Nancy and I moved here just over two years ago, and we love the 300 days of sunshine a year and the highly affordable lifestyle. The cost of living is one of the cheapest anywhere with rents starting as low as $150 per month and filling three-course lunches starting at $2.50, including a drink.

Other than the upscale neighborhoods in Lima, Peru is a very inexpensive place to live. A couple can easily live on a budget of less than $2,000 a month in most regions of the country. Although we choose to spend more (think $2,000 to $2,400 a month).

We love to eat, and Peru has great food wherever you go. From the cevicherias of Huanchaco to the picanterias of Arequipa, you can find a wide variety of inexpensive dishes based on diverse ingredients from the sea, mountains, and jungles of the country.

Fresh fruits and veggies are available year-round at low cost. We pick up enough for $5 at the local market in our home town of Huanchaco to last us a few days.

Spectacular Macho Pichu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas have always been major attractions for tourists, but more expats are now heading to this area for long-term stays and retirement. Nights are cool, but midday highs can reach the 70s F for much of the year.

We spent our first year in the southern metropolis of Arequipa and discovered that it has a lot going for it. Less than a two-hour drive from the coast, it is easy to escape to the nearby popular beaches during the peak summer months of January and February. And the food is to die for. Arequipa is renowned for its range of high-quality restaurants, wonderful traditional cuisine, and centuries-old colonial center.

The capital city of Lima is home to the largest number of expats. They enjoy some of the best restaurants in the world, a large variety of art galleries and museums, a vibrant theatre scene, and the easily accessible international airport. And for anyone breaking into Peru’s business world, Lima is the place to see and be seen.

Surfers enjoy the year-round waves at seaside towns such as Huanchaco. Located only 15 minutes from Trujillo, the second-largest city in the country, it offers the best of both worlds. Huanchaco has maintained its small fishing town charm despite the annual increase in tourist numbers.

There is not a lot of English in Peru so it is almost a necessity to learn Spanish to fit in in most communities unless you only want to socialize with other expats. But the people are friendly, family-oriented, and more than accepting of outsiders. Putting a little effort into learning the language goes a long way in making new friends.

And, when you are ready for a quick getaway, there are daily scheduled flights to the bordering countries of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. If you are looking for a country with an inexpensive lifestyle, friendly people, and great food, Peru is worth a look.

7. Portugal

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By Tricia Pimental, IL Portugal Correspondent

I’ve lived in Portugal for five years, and as IL Portugal Correspondent, I have shared a lot about what makes this country great. Others agree. “It’s the people,” says expat Molly Ashby, who bought an apartment in Lisbon five years ago. “They’re mellow and very receptive to foreigners.”

It’s true. Locals generally make a sincere effort to make visitors and expats feel welcome. Of course it helps if you speak at least a little Portuguese, but in urban areas like Porto and Lisbon and the multi-national expat region of the Algarve, English works just fine.

Another reason is the affordable lifestyle. Portugal is the second least expensive country in Europe, after Bulgaria. My husband Keith and I find we spend about a third of what we did to live in the States. For example, a simple lunch of soup, main course, beverage, dessert, and coffee runs about $10. You can live a comfortable, although not extravagant, lifestyle for about $2,500 a month.

If you choose to live in Porto in the north, Lisbon, or in the expat beach havens of Cascais or the Algarve, you probably want to bump that up to $3,000. You can, however, keep that lower figure simply by moving 20 minutes away from a city center. Enjoy urban amenities, then head back to the ‘burbs and lower rent.

Rated the fourth-safest country in the world in the 2018 Global Peace Index, Portugal is not only secure, but beautiful. “Portugal is a phenomenal place to call home,” says expat Mike Sager. “Being from Southern California (with near-perfect weather), I had no desire to shovel snow or cook during the summer for the rest of my life.

“I love the lowered level of stress in day-to-day things. You walk through neighborhoods, and on every corner will be a little store or restaurant/bar, and folks will just be hanging out having a cold beer or shot of espresso. The elders are telling stories and the kids are playing soccer across the street. Picturesque and peaceful comes to mind.”

If Portugal’s attributes have convinced you to give it a try, here’s a tip: Begin your test drive in the capital. Lisbon is easy to reach, with direct flights from major cities around the world. English is widely spoken, and comprehensive train, bus, tram, and taxi offerings make it unnecessary to own a vehicle. The city is a cultural cornucopia, with museums and historical sites like St. George Castle and the nearby Palace of Queluz.

6. Colombia

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By Nancy Kiernan, IL Colombia Correspondent

Perfect spring-like weather all year was the first thing that drew me to retire to Medellín, Colombia. I had lived my whole life in the northeast, and I never wanted to see or shovel snow again. While not exactly pioneers, my husband and I are two of the growing number of expats who have discovered that they can live a First-World quality of life in a country that’s only now showing up on fellow retirees’ radar.

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, so you can easily find a climate and environment that suits your taste. If you want hot and tropical, consider retiring to the lovely Caribbean coastal cities of Santa Marta or Cartagena, where crystal-clear water laps against warm, sandy beaches. For those who prefer more temperate climates, then I suggest my adopted mountain city of Medellín, or anywhere in the “coffee triangle” of Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales, where you are surrounded by lush, green mountain scenery.

Getting a retirement visa to live in Colombia is also quite easy. All you need to do is prove at least $750 annual income from Social Security or $2,500 annual income from a private pension or 401K and you are eligible to obtain a visa that is good for three years. Once they arrive, retirees are discovering they can stretch their retirement dollars.

Your cost of living will depend on which part of the country you choose to live and what type of lifestyle you want to have regarding dining out and entertainment. I live in El Poblado, one of the most upscale neighborhoods of Medellin and don’t really scrimp. My cost of living is 60% less than it was when I lived in a small city in Maine in the U.S. Just the fact that I don´t have to pay heating or cooling costs has saved me about $3,400 per year alone.

As we all reach retirement age, access to high quality but affordable healthcare becomes a front-and-center issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s health system at #22 in the world, far better than Canada at #30 and the U.S. at #37. As a retired healthcare executive from the U.S., I know quality healthcare when I see it. The high-tech, world-class care I receive in Colombia does not cost “an arm and a leg.” My premium for public health insurance is only $75 per month, and my co-pay for lab tests, prescription medications, and other services is only $4.

The dark days of Colombia’s past are gone, and it has been transformed into a country that is thriving. One of the best things about the country are the warm, welcoming Colombian people. Don’t let a lack of Spanish keep you from trying out life here. As the expression goes, “You don’t meet a Colombian…you meet the entire family!” Here you’ll always feel part of the community.

5. Malaysia

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By Keith Hockton, IL Malaysia Correspondent

My wife, Lisa, and I vacationed in Malaysia in 2008 and at that stage we were taking at least two holidays a year somewhere in Asia. When we got back and did the sums we realised that we could actually live in Malaysia and vacation back home, effectively reversing our situation and saving a heap of money into the bargain. We started to make plans to do just that and moved here to live in early 2010.

Idyllic beaches, islands that seduce the senses, and some of the most pristine ancient rainforests in Southeast Asia—this is Malaysia. And these are just some reasons why I call it home.

Malaysian law is based on the British system and all road signs are in both English and Malay, which makes driving around easy. The unofficial first language of the country is English, so you don’t have to learn another language here if you don’t want to.

A family of six can dine out in a good local Chinese restaurant (10 courses) for less than $5.70 per person, including beer. A men’s haircut costs just $2.16. In Penang, a couple can live comfortably on $1,800 a month, including rent.

As for healthcare, when you compare surgery prices between the U.S. and Malaysia, the benefits are obvious. Just the other day I decided on a whim to have a medical.

I’d never had one done before and as I had a free morning I decided just to pop in to the Lam Wah Eee Hospital. I was already registered and found myself sitting outside a GP’s office not five minutes after arriving. Within an hour I’d had I’d been examined by a doctor, had an ECG and blood and urine tests done, and I was on my way home. The total cost of the visit was just $43. The doctor who had examined me called me later that afternoon with the results. It’s this level of service that makes medical in Malaysia not only an attractive option but also a non-scary one. It’s all so easy.

The other attractive thing for us is the outdoor lifestyle. If white-sand beaches are your dream, you have here more than 878 islands to choose from. Both my wife, and I hike a lot; so living near the Penang Botanic Gardens is a bonus. With all year-round good weather, the temperature in Malaysia averages 82 F, there are over 60 hiking trails for us to choose from. We are also members of The Penang Sports Club and The Penang Swimming Club. The swimming club is five-star facility that offers a 50-meter outdoor saltwater pool, a state of the art gym, the best library on the island, a scuba and sailing section, and a number of restaurants that are heavily discounted for members.

Apartment rentals here are good value and you can choose between sea and mountain views. In Batu Ferringhi, a nice beach suburb, you can rent a three-bedroom, apartment with sea views for as little as $403 per month. The complex has a good gym, 24-hour security, secure parking, tennis courts and at least two pools to choose from.

There are direct flights to the rest of Asia from Penang’s International Airport, which makes getting away for a weekend very easy. Penang to Bangkok in Thailand takes just one and a half hours and can cost as little as $43 return.

4. Ecuador

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By Jim Santos, IL Coastal Ecuador Correspondent

For me, the number one thing about Ecuador is that it offers so many different types of places to live; you can have warm weather year-round on the coast, a more temperate climate in the Andes, small village life, big-city conveniences, and everything in between.

Quite simply, some of the best weather on the planet can be found in Ecuador. The unique combination of its position on the equator, the cooling sea breezes from the Humboldt Current, the Andes mountain range, and the Amazon basin have conspired to create a variety of climates. There are beaches that are warm year-round but rarely muggy (and are too close to the equator to ever have hurricanes or tropical storms), and places in the hills where you do not need a heating or cooling system. Lush, green hills and fertile valleys are the norm in Ecuador.

While I appreciate the natural beauty and the mix of indigenous, Incan, and Spanish culture, one of my favorite benefits is the affordable lifestyle. There are few places where living is as affordable in Ecuador. There is something for everyone, regardless of your budget. Consider that you can own a home on a Pacific Coast beach for less than $150,000. Not enough is said about property taxes either—my 2,000 square foot oceanfront condo has a tax bill of less than $300 per year—not per month, per year. Rentals and opportunities to buy in the interior are plentiful and affordable.

Since the land produces excellent food, mostly with year-round growing seasons, prices at local mercados are so low, it is difficult to carry more than $15 worth of fruits and vegetables. Household help is available for $10 to $20 per day, and services like pedicures and haircuts are just a few dollars. No need for heating and cooling bills in most of the country, and you can live most places without a car, paying 30 cents or less for buses, and $2 to $5 for cab rides.

Ecuador is a little unique, in that there are not just a couple of expat communities. There are over a dozen places spread all across the country where you can find North Americans enjoying the laidback lifestyle. Even in areas with few expats, like Loja for example, the Ecuadorians make it very easy to feel welcome and at home.

Mike Herron and his wife arrived in Cuenca in 2015. While excited, they were apprehensive, as well. This was uncharted territory for both of them. Not only were they embarking on a different life, they were doing it in a different country where neither of them spoke the language.

Now, three years later and with the advantage of hindsight, they say that, other than getting married, it was the best decision they ever made. They say the most important part of their new lives is the meaningful relationships they’ve developed with expats and Ecuadorians alike.

“People take the time to connect and get to know one another. It’s common to sit and talk with someone, even someone we are meeting for the first time, over a breakfast or lunch that can last two hours or more. When we walk down the street, it’s not unusual to stop and spend 15 to 20 minutes chatting with someone we know, or even with someone we’ve just met while walking,” says Mike.

3. Mexico

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By Don Murray, IL Riviera Maya Correspondent

My wife Diane and I moved to Cancún in 2014. We wanted to retire somewhere close to high-quality healthcare and stunning Caribbean beaches—Mexico was the obvious choice. The country has something for everyone: beautiful, warm oceans, crystal-clear tropical lakes, fertile farmlands, temperate-but-majestic mountains, starkly gorgeous deserts, small towns, or sophisticated cities.

Whether your dream retreat is a graceful colonial home with lavish gardens, a simple beachfront bungalow where you can prop up your feet and watch the tide roll in, or a clifftop villa with sunset views and cool, steady breezes, you are likely to find your dream home in Mexico.

The cost of living is notoriously low. In fact, there are many places in the country where a wonderful life can be had for the price of one monthly Social Security check and this improves even more when you figure the normally favourable exchange rate from dollars to pesos. (A couple can live here for anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location—and that includes rent and healthcare.)

I didn’t even realize the host of other benefits that I’d enjoy living in Mexico. Once residency is granted, you can sign up for a national healthcare plan. Mexico offers two national healthcare plans for residents. The one most popular with expats is the Seguro Popular program where annual costs may be only a few hundred dollars for full coverage. If you’re over the age of 60, you may also receive your national senior discount card which opens the door to many discounts on goods and services, often ranging from 10% to 20%.

Because of its geographic diversity, you can also choose your favorite climate: from warm and dry to warm and sultry to spring-like temperatures all year in the Colonial Highlands.

Generally, however, the entire country is warm and mild with small amounts of snow falling only on the highest peaks. A light sweater will add some comfort on the few chilly evenings.

But at heart, what I and most other expats love most about Mexico is the vibrant life and culture. And it’s quite easy to fit in. Popular expat destinations include the Lake Chapala area and San Miguel de Allende as well as most coastal retreats. These areas are brimming with expats who can make a newcomer feel welcome.

“I have lived in and visited many wonderful places in my life. But only two that were magical to me, where I felt an immediate feeling that I belonged there,” says expat Paula Nunes. “San Francisco in the late 1960s. And San Miguel de Allende in 2012.”

“Almost every time you go out, you meet people,” she says. “It’s really easy. People give out cards with their name, email, and phone number. I spend a lot of time with people born here, and it’s great. They’re wonderful. I’m trying to learn Spanish, and my Mexican friends are good about correcting me.”

Paula has lived full-time in San Miguel since April 2016. She bought her home—a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house with two covered outdoor terraces—in the neighborhood of Colonia San Rafael, three years ago.

“When I bought, the dollar wasn’t as strong as it is now. It was at 15 pesos to the dollar,” says Paula. “It was less than $120,000.”

With its friendly locals, world-class restaurant and cultural scene, and its low cost of living, San Miguel has been an expat favorite for decades. And Paula doesn’t see herself leaving anytime soon.

2. Costa Rica

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By Kathleen Evans, IL Coastal Costa Rica Correspondent

Costa Rica attracts visitors with its tropical climate; low cost of living; top-notch, affordable medical care; bargain real estate; and natural beauty.

Costa Rica has a stable democracy and a peace-loving culture. They abolished their army in 1948 and pledged that budget to education and healthcare.  Often called the “Switzerland of Central America” it is known for its safety, neutrality and good banking system—especially compared to many other countries in the region. The current government is progressive and LGBT rights are respected.

One of the things you hear very often from expats is how warm and welcoming the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are. Overall, they are wonderful people, eager to share the magic of their culture with foreigners.  You will also find great communities of expats who will help you through the process of acclimating to new surroundings and language.  I joined a girl’s dinner group and quickly bonded with women from all over the world. I found it very easy to make friends since many folks move not knowing anyone and are often looking to forge new friendships.

Nicole Rangel from Texas says “From the moment we stepped off the plane in September 2017 with our five suitcases ready to move to Costa Rica with our two elementary age children, I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. The community is so supportive of each other and the locals. I pinch myself often because of how lucky my kids are.”

Once you have acquired your residency, you pay between 7% and 11% or your reported monthly income, and the socialized medicine program is available to you. You can also blend public healthcare with a private policy. The country has three JCI accredited hospitals and numerous private clinics. More doctors are also taking the U.S. retired military insurance called Tricare Overseas.

Costa Rica also has an outdoor loving culture – with activities from fishing to golfing to horseback riding to hiking to diving to yoga. Plus, there are less processed foods, and more healthy choices with an abundance of locally grown fruits, vegetables, organic eggs and endless seafood. Most of the people I know who have moved to Costa Rica have shed unwanted weight, are taking less prescription drugs and overall feel better.

And, with a dozen microclimates, there is someplace for everyone to fit your personal weather preferences.  Many people love the temperate “eternal spring” climate of San Jose, the capital and all the surrounding Central Valley.  Or the dry, hot beaches of Guanacaste, or the lush, green landscape of the jungles in the south.

1. Panama

By Jessica Ramesch, IL Panama Editor

Modern, convenient, and close to the U.S.—not to mention sunny, warm, and welcoming. It’s hardly surprising that Panama topped the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index. Panama is warm and tropical, but completely outside the hurricane belt. The currency is the U.S. dollar. The tax burden is low. And there’s a large English-speaking population—including a cadre of excellent doctors.

Panama City is a destination for exciting food, beer, jazz, film, golf, tennis, and much more. The lush mountain towns of Panama rank among the best retirement destinations in the world. Our livable, clean, and uncrowded beaches include the popular beach hub of Coronado, the lesser-known gem that is the Pedasí region, and a Caribbean paradise—there is no other word for it—called Bocas del Toro.

The capital of Panama, Panama City, is a cosmopolitan city where you can rent an ocean-view condo for as little as $1,500 a month. It’s also the only First World city in Central America. We’re relatively close to the U.S. and Canada (Miami is about three hours away by plane).

I’m able to live as a single in Panama City on about $2,600 a month, including rent, groceries, utilities, and entertainment. I pay zero income tax here, as revenue earned in other countries is exempt. And you’ll never run out of things to do here. What few people know is that this is also a cultural capital. Panama City is home to active, vibrant communities from all over the world, and every art form is celebrated here.

Leave Panama City and costs are even more affordable. Pedasi, is on the tip of the Azuero Peninsula in the province of Los Santos on the Pacific Ocean. Expat Jim Gault who lives in Pedasi, says “Rents in Pedasi during high season (December through April) can cost more than $750 a month, as demand drives up the prices. But, Pedasi does give you the choice of living on a small budget by making use of the local fresh produce, freshly caught fish of the day, and eating out at typical Panama fondas, you can live well on less on Pedasi.”

One area where Panama excels for retirees is the benefits and discounts it offers. The country’s famed Pensionado Program is one of the best retiree programs in the world today and it’s open to everyone. The program entitles pension-holding retirees to a long list of discounts…and I’m talking across the board. From medical expenses to entertainment, retirees in Panama can seriously stretch their dollars. Like 25% off airline tickets, 25% off your monthly energy bills and up to 50% off hotel stays. ILChiriqui Correspondent Nanette Witmer says, “Many people don’t realize that Panama’s famous Pensionado discounts are by law given to all who qualify by age—expat or Panamanian. When women reach the age of 55 and men 60, they can automatically start using the benefits that the Pensionado provides. By showing your residency card you are entitled to discounts.”

Nanette adds, “Healthcare in Panama is good and affordable for minor problems. Most clinics charge a nominal fee of between $20 and $60 for an office visit. Hospitals in larger cities are all of the state-of-the-art equipment and specialists can be found in any field. Doctors in Panama work one on one, no medical assistants or other staff. You deal directly with the doctor and most prescription drugs are cheaper than in North America.”

A country with surprisingly varied landscapes, Panama is so much more than its modern, cosmopolitan capital city. There are mountain towns boasting cool climates, pine-covered hills, and sweet, Swiss-style cottages framed with bright bursts of bougainvillea. And of course, there are beaches galore, from the white sand gems of the Caribbean, to the many popular and easily accessible beaches of the Pacific.

Interactive Table

The table below presents an overview of the top 10 countries in our Annual Global Retirement Index, in order of highest to lowest. Use the previous and next buttons to view all 25 countries. You can filter countries by the following groupings; Financial, Health, Lifestyle and Governance and within each category sort scores by ascending or descending order.

https://internationalliving.com/the-best-places-to-retire/

Photo Courtesy of Bill Purcell Photography

Net-Zero Design Reshapes Senior Living

People rarely think of downsizing to any retirement facility as something that’s more. It’s almost always seen as less, whether that’s less space, less freedom, or less fulfillment.

Vassar Byrd is working to turn that thinking on its head with the redevelopment of Rose Villa, a 22-acre senior living community overlooking the Willamette River in Portland, OR.

The three-phase project started with a campus redevelopment that brought 75 new homes and a walkable environment, including a Main Street, green space, gardens, retail, and restaurants.

And with the recent addition of the Oaks at Rose Villa, Byrd, Rose Villa’s CEO, is cementing the idea that better options exist both for residents and for the environment.

What’s different, better?

The Oaks at Rose Villa is a 12-cottage pocket neighborhood that had its grand opening in February.

In developing the project, Byrd asked, “How do we rebuild our village with great infrastructure and modern amenities and reimagine it?”

She had a gut feeling about what “different” and “better” looked like. “For us, energy efficiency, health, and helping the environment were such important aspects,” she comments.

Given Portland residents’ deep concerns about and connections to the environment, she thought that incorporating green design principles would be natural.

Focus groups with locals confirmed her suspicions. “They totally got it and talked about feeling better and having healthier air,” says Byrd.

Lower costs, a lighter footprint

Byrd tapped Green Hammer Design, a Portland-based green design-build firm with a track record in designing buildings that adhere to standards like LEED®, Passive House, Net Zero Energy, and the Living Building ChallengeTM, to design the net-zero neighborhood.

“The idea that you could have such a light footprint and create as much energy as you use was a deeply resonant message,” says Byrd.

Features like a south-facing roof solar array, triple-pane windows, air-to-air mini-split heat pumps, and a heat recovery ventilator to supply continuous fresh filtered air, and native landscaping all helped Green Hammer to achieve its goals.

Thanks to the energy efficiency features, residents of the Oaks at Rose Villa pay 22% less in monthly utility costs than those living in similar homes elsewhere on the campus.

Modern residents, modern design

The architect took design cues from the surrounding community, creating the 1,200-sq.-ft. craftsman-style, two-bath cottages grouped around a courtyard, according to Erica Dunn, Green Hammer’s director of design.

“For us, it was really important that the architecture was in character with the neighborhood and community,” says Dunn.

And the design is a departure from what people associate with senior housing – no pastels, flowered wallpaper, or ornate furnishings. Instead, the cottages’ interiors are sleek, open, and modern, and they incorporate design principles that allow for aging in place.

Cultural, emotional considerations

Byrd also wanted to create a culture and environment that would mitigate some of the challenges of aging, including loneliness, that sense of disconnectedness, and some social woes – cliques, for example — that can develop when 500 people are stacked in a high-rise building.

Green Hammer’s design addresses some of those issues. Though there’s personal, private space, residents walk out their doors and can find people in the courtyard, for example.

And the design of the garages forces people to go outside and not scurry directly into their homes.

An abundance of pedestrian paths encourages people to get outside on a regular basis and walk to take care of their daily business, which creates greater vibrancy on the streets and provides more opportunities for residents to meet others, find friends, and feel a sense of community. That all helps to stave off the loneliness that can be so prevalent as people age.

Residents already have gotten together to organize biking, hiking and cross-country skiing clubs, discovered Byrd.

Going viral

The Oaks at Rose Villa’s approach is a concept that could have legs, believes Byrd. “Lots of people think a senior living community is a place where they may have to give up on the way they want to live. Here, they can continue to live their values,” she says.

She’s been getting the word out about the how-to of building a similar community, and she speaks at industry conferences about the Oaks concept, the process, and its marketing.

She thinks baby boomers and seniors also can change the landscape by demanding better aging-in-place options. After all, she points out that people in that generation were the ones to reshape everything from childbirth and the workplace, to the environment.

They can reshape retirement housing too.

Article written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

 

Get your flip-flops ready!! Jimmy Buffet has partnered with Minto Communities to create a community for people 55-and-older in Daytona Beach, Florida which promises to “reflect the lifestyle embraced in Buffet’s songs”.

Jimmy Buffet retirement community

MINTO COMMUNITIES + GETTY photo

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Say what? Get your limes & salt shakers out.

The 6,900-home community  says it will be tropical & fun.The plans include a pool with cabanas instead of a central park & statue like most towns. Music, food,  beverages, an onsite fitness center, indoor lap pool, spa and an outdoor resort-style pool will be the core of this development.

William Bullock, a senior vice president with Minto, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal: “You never know when or where Jimmy Buffett may show up to do a concert. The concept for the community is Margaritaville equals fun,” Bullock said. “Having fun, socializing, enjoying the lifestyle because you’ve earned it, you’ve been waiting your whole life for it and now you’ll be able to celebrate it with food, fun and music.”

The first phase of the Latitude Margaritaville, Daytona Beach, homes are expected to be ready to move into by fall 2018. They’ll feature Old Florida and Key West architectural styles and range in price form the low $200,000s to the mid-$300,000s. They are also going to have some live broadcasts, artists unknown at this time, from there on their SiriusXM Channel.

for more info see    http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20170216/jimmy-buffett-community-coming-to-daytona

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See what’s happening in St Petersburg, Florida’s Old Northeast neighborhood and downtown St Pete by checking out the latest issues of the St. Petersburg’s Northeast Journal . There are articles on local events, people, history, real estate, the arts, restaurants and much more. The journal is bi-monthly and has been published since 2004.

http://northeastjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NEJ-Jan-Feb-2016-WEB.pdf

http://northeastjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/NEJ-Nov-Dec-2015-WEB.pdf

Below is a brief overview of what you might find if you decide to own a vacation or primary home in Costa Rica. The original article is quite long so I’m going to break it up into several distinctive subject posts. Just a taste so you will want more & more…

International Living

 

Costa Rica Beach

 

Join the 20,000 American expats already living
“la pura vida” in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s fame as a retiree destination is richly deserved. You’ll find the tropics along the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, while most of the Central Valley is cool and breezy. If you find it difficult to choose which climate you prefer, you will be glad to know that the mild temperatures of the Central Valley are just two hours by car from the tropical beaches of the Pacific Coast.

Expats are attracted to Costa Rica for numerous reasons, which include the low cost of living, excellent health care, modern telecommunications structure, beautiful beaches, rainforests, lush valleys, and cool mountains…not to mention the theaters, art galleries, and fine dining. There are more than 20,000 expats living in Costa Rica and many well-established expat communities.

Tucked between Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Costa Rica may truly have it all: a year-round tropical climate, modern cities, Caribbean beaches, Pacific coastline, rainforests, lush valleys, and mountains.

In March 1997 we took Costa Rica off our recommended list. Twelve years later, in 2009, Costa Rica was back on our list of Top Retirement Havens and remains there still. Yes, after 12 years off our list of affordable opportunities for profit, IL has discovered that there is an unknown—and still affordable—side to one of the world’s most coveted overseas retirement destinations.

Long stretches of deserted and undeveloped beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts…dense jungles teeming with exotic wildlife…towering volcanoes, lush green valleys, and hundreds of crystal-clear lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls…mesmerizing sunrises, sunsets, and star-filled evening skies…all these things, and much more, are drawing people back to Costa Rica.

Whether expats live in this beautiful country full- or part-time, they relish the climate, neighborly atmosphere, low cost of living, excellent health care, stable democracy, and countless ways to have fun. This is a middle-income, developing economy, with a tradition of democracy. The life expectancy at birth here is one of the highest in the world—outstripping both the U.S. and the UK. Tourist facilities are extensive, and because English is a second language for many Costa Ricans, the country feels very visitor-friendly.

In Costa Rica, the good life is called “pura vida.” For those who retire in Costa Rica, pura vida is a daily fact of life in this beautiful, exotic, and surprisingly affordable country.

There are no restrictions on foreign property ownership as such, although no one can own property within 50 meters of the ocean, and for the next 150 meters real estate comes under Maritime Zone laws. These laws permit development only under government “concession.” This means that anyone shopping for property should be doubly cautious about buying oceanfront real estate, including condos. Before entering into a transaction, insist that your attorney verify that the title is legally consistent with Maritime Zone regulations.

by Graham Wood

Morguefile.com

When we speak of international buyers, we’re usually talking about people from other countries who want to invest in U.S. property. But the lines go both ways. There are high-net-worth Americans who want to buy homes in other countries, and they can spell big business for practitioners who are willing to aid them in their global search. But where should they be looking?

Rick Davidson, president and CEO of Century 21, argued at the Asian Real Estate Association of America’s Global & Luxury Summit in Chicago on Monday that because of the dollar’s strength against many other foreign currencies, American buyers can get great deals abroad. But one country stands above the rest as the best place for Americans to invest their money abroad because of a confluence of economic benefits: Japan.

“We are deeply immersed in the Japanese market,” Davidson said, noting that Century 21 has 900 offices and 6,000 agents there. Here are the reasons Davidson gave for why Japan should be a target for wealthy U.S. home buyers wanting to purchase overseas:

  • The interest rates on 10-year fixed-rate loans are 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent — far below America’s historic interest-rate lows.
  • One U.S. dollar 119.54 yen, which gives U.S. buyers a 20 percent discount on purchases.
  • There are virtually no restrictions for foreign investors in Japan.
  • Japan is coming out of recession. Deflation is expected to stop and GDP is expected to grow in the near future, so American investors will start to see a positive ROI starting now.
  • Tokyo is the cheapest of all Asian cities in terms of price per square foot. The average price per square foot of a luxury property in the U.S. is $1,180; in Japan, it’s $680.
  • Tokyo land prices have been rising for five straight years, making future expectation for price growth high.

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

This is a great article to read if you are thinking about purchasing a second home, an investment property or a retirement home in another country.

 

House with an ocean view in the Dominican Republic

iStock Photo

David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services, weighs in on the issues U.S. expats should consider when buying and selling foreign property.

Whether American expats are looking to buy overseas property as an investment, vacation home, rental or residence, taxes should always be top of mind.  Regardless of the potential return on investment, beauty, or the property’s fit into your expat lifestyle dream, consider these tax do’s & don’ts to ensure your purchase is one you don’t regret.

Do consider setting up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to purchase the property
As a U.S. expat, if you are purchasing a foreign property primarily for investment purposes (either in your expat country or elsewhere outside of the U.S.), doing so as an individual may be the easiest but not the most advantageous decision. While tax time will be less complex (simply reporting rental income/expenses on your 1040), individual ownership offers you no liability protection. For LLCs with only one owner, the LLC is considered a “disregarded entity” for tax purposes, and all of the activity will be reported on the individual’s personal U.S. tax return.  This eliminates the burden of filing separate business tax returns and avoids the increased accounting fees associated with a business tax return.

Don’t ignore foreign-exchange rates
When you purchase a foreign property, you will likely transfer a large sum of money into your foreign bank account for the initial down payment.  Before you do, find out the foreign-exchange rates and fees associated with the transfer and even seek a professional broker who can ensure you obtain the most beneficial exchange rate possible—this could save you thousands of dollars when you buy and can impact your profit when you sell.

Remember that the U.S. may tax you on any resulting gains when you sell your property. The exchange rate gain from paying off a mortgage is calculated by converting the amount of the loan to USD using the exchange rate at the time the loan was originated and the exchange rate at the time the loan was paid off. The resulting gain is taxable as ordinary income using your marginal U.S. tax rate. If you have held the property for more than a year, however, you’ll be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate of 0%, 10% or 20%, depending on your marginal U.S. tax bracket.

Do deduct your mortgage interest and points from your U.S. Federal Tax Return filing
Mortgage interest and points are deductible on your U.S. expat tax return, even though the property is in a foreign country.  But the deduction can only be taken against income that has not been excluded by the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. So if you exclude all your foreign income, you’ll need to have U.S.-sourced income or non-excluded foreign income to use this deduction.

Don’t forget to reduce gains taxes with the Foreign Tax Credit
The gain on your foreign property sale may be taxed by the country in which the property is located, as well as the U.S. For U.S. tax purposes, this gain is considered foreign-sourced income, so you may be able to use the Foreign Tax Credit to reduce your resulting U.S. tax liability. However, the gain isn’t considered foreign earned income, so it cannot be excluded using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

Do try to keep the home for 2-5 years
As a U.S. expat living the life of a digital nomad or bouncing around for your career, planning to live in a residence for 2 or more years may not be possible. But regardless, try not to sell for at least two years.  The reason is that when you live in the home for 2-5 years, you will be eligible to exclude a gain of up to $250,000 (or $500,000 for those filing married jointly) from U.S. taxation. If not, the full gain will be taxed at the applicable capital gains rates.

 

David McKeegan is Co-Founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services, which specializes in the expert preparation of U.S. federal tax returns for Americans living abroad.

Email us at expat@wsj.com. Follow us @WSJexpat. Join our Facebook group.

 

Costa Rica Punta Loros

Punta Loros, a planned luxury resort and development property that spans 800 acres in the Central Pacific coastline of Costa Rica, recently tendered its environmental impact study to the Technical and Environmental Secretariat (Spanish acronym: SETENA). The study is an important part of the compliance process required to make this ambitious project a reality.

Jaime Lopez  http://news.co.cr/planned-luxury-resort-costa-rica-moves-ahead/35476

According to a news report by Spanish tourism trade publication Expreso, Punta Loros will require a $400 million investment and will consist of three hotels, 34 multifamily residential buildings, an 18-hole golf course, and plenty of luxury amenities to deliver a lifestyle reminiscent of upscale resorts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

Punta Loros is located in Tarcoles, a touristic coastal area of the Garabito canton of Puntarenas. This beach community is just a 45 minute drive from San Jose, and it is part of the Orotina and Jaco Beach region where a future International Airport will be developed to accommodate the growing tourism and retirement industry in Costa Rica. In other words, Punta Loros is prime real estate. Here’s a description from the developers:

Nestled along the coastline on the Central Pacific province of Puntarenas in stunning Costa Rica you will find Punta Loros, an 800-acre, luxury resort and development property.

An easy 10-minute drive off of the main highway near Orotina, this development parcel or large private estate offers investors enormous potential on a unique and perfectly located property. Real estate is and always has been about value, and location, location, location, and Punta Loros absolutely delivers both.

Punta Loros has a gently sloping topography with ocean views from almost ninety-five percent of the titled and deeded property. There is one-mile of Pacific beachfront with several distinctive bluffs with spectacular vantage points for optimal placement of hotel sites, an old world waterfront village, meandering golf course, world class spa, beach club as well as multi-use residential sites.

Although the building permits in Punta Loros will allow for different architectural styles, the resort facilities will feature the elegant Spanish Colonial design. Up to 5,000 residential units will be constructed in Punta Loros over a four-phase period.

Jaime Lopez  http://news.co.cr/planned-luxury-resort-costa-rica-moves-ahead/35476

 

 

A retirement home on the water can be affordable if you are willing to move overseas.

Kathleen Peddicord Oct. 20, 2014 from  http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2014/10/20/affordable-retirement-in-the-caribbean

Northern Belize is a remote region of tropical rivers, hardwood forests, traditional farms, sleepy rural villages and breezy Caribbean seashores. This is a refreshingly off-the-radar place where residents embrace a simple, friendly, by-the-sea lifestyle. It is also the best value destination in Belize and one of the most affordable options for retirement in the Caribbean.

Northern Belize is an area of about 2,500 square miles and the point where the Caribbean and Central America meet. As that geographic juxtaposition suggests, the population is diverse, and it is becoming more so as North American retirees are beginning to recognize what this overlooked part of Belize has to offer and settling here in growing numbers.

Northern Belize’s remoteness is part of its appeal, but remote living has its disadvantages, especially in retirement. This is why the proximity of this part of Belize to Chetumal, Mexico, just across the border, is so important. The town of Corozal in Northern Belize is a gateway town to Chetumal and from there to Merida and Cancun beyond. In Northern Belize, you could enjoy a bargain Caribbean lifestyle with easy access to shopping, city distractions and medical care in Chetumal.

Belizeans are known for their hospitality. Plus, they all speak English, so new friendships are quickly and easily made. Corozal is home to an established and growing expat community, but this group is well integrated with the local Belizean community. Living here, you could fill your days sailing around Sarteneja, horseback riding at Chan Chich, kayaking at Orchid Bay, fishing at Bacalar Chico or bird watching at Crooked Tree Lodge. And you wouldn’t ever lack for company, Belizean or expat, if you wanted it.

While some expat retirees are prepared to be pioneers and carve a homestead out of the jungle or maybe plant a farm, most prefer to settle in a town. The three most appealing places for expat retirees are Sarteneja, Corozal and Orange Walk. There are also expat pockets developing in places like Four Mile Lagoon and Gringo Lane. In recent years, planned communities have developed specifically with foreign retirees in mind.

Property taxes are minuscule in Belize. This is a plus for those looking to save money on taxes, but it also means that municipal services are thin on the ground because there aren’t funds to support them. So, organized and private communities typically appeal to foreigners. These are places where you can enjoy a laid-back, bargain Caribbean lifestyle in Northern Belize while maintaining a North American standard of living.

Retirees settling in this part of Belize are launching businesses ranging from restaurants, bars and bed and breakfasts to construction services and farming. Others expats are truly retired, choosing to spend their days deciding which book to read next or which restaurant to boat over to for lunch.

Corozal, which is both a town and a district, maintains a friendship list so expats can stay in touch and know what’s going on. Every Wednesday, foreign retirees and residents meet at Jam Rock Restaurant for darts. One Thursday per month is the Corozal Women’s Forum. Fridays are for happy hour and potluck dinners in expats’ homes. The third Saturday of each month is Art in the Park, when local artists set up tables to display and sell their work. There’s a local chapter of the Rotary Club, a sailing club and full moon concerts in front of the Corozal House of Culture.

Despite the growing expat influence and excluding most waterfront property, real estate in this part of the country is still priced for the Belizean market. This is unusual and likely won’t continue much longer. The presence of foreign buyers eventually translates to pricing for foreign buyers. This hasn’t happened yet, which means there’s a window of opportunity.

As anywhere in the world, waterfront land is the highest priced and much more expensive than inland property. Inland you can find larger properties suitable for farming. If this idea interests you and you’re willing to dig deep and talk to the locals, you can find land for as little as $1,000 per acre.

Still, the cost of waterfront property in Northern Belize is a bargain compared with prices out on Ambergris and Belize’s other cayes, and an even greater bargain compared with values elsewhere in the Caribbean. It’s possible to buy a sea-view lot for as little as $30,000 or a small but turn-key casita in some of the development communities in the region for less than $200,000. And a seafront house in Sarteneja built to U.S. standards on 1 acre of land was recently on the market and listed for just $299,000.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2014/10/20/affordable-retirement-in-the-Caribbean

If you are interested in purchasing property in Belize, please feel free to contact me. AnnalisaWeller1@gmail.com

 

From Worldpropertyjounral.com  November 10, 2014

According to a new annual report by Livability.com, each day nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65, and retirement is within reach. Nearly four in 10 Boomers plan to move when they retire.

Matt-Carmichael 2.jpg

Matt Carmichael

With this in mind, Livability.com has named the Best Places to Retire, 2014. These cities offer access to affordable and quality health care, practical cost of living, retiree-friendly businesses and services, as well as several amenities to help keep residents active.

“Not all seniors will move when they retire, but for those who do Livability wanted to suggest a range of options,” says Livability editor Matt Carmichael. “As retirement itself is changing for many beyond a traditional idea of warm weather and golf, so too have our ideas of what makes a great retirement city.”

Best Places to Retire 2014 include:

1.   Springfield, MO
2.   Knoxville, TN
3.   Bellevue, WA
**4.   Largo, FL  just north of St Petersburg about 20-25 minutes** in the Tampa Bay Area
5.   Wheat Ridge, CO
6.   Honolulu, HI
7.   Albuquerque, NM
8.   Tucson, AZ
9.   Missoula, MT
10. Coeur d’Alene, ID

Livability.com editors used data from Esri and the County Health Rankings to find cities with access to a large number of hospitals and doctors and yet still have low health-care costs. Housing affordability measured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Location Affordability Index was also taken into account. Several measures including overall cost of living, natural amenities, climate, number of golf courses, walk score, and crime rate were selected from our overall Best Places to live metrics with special attention paid to specific concerns of seniors and Boomers.

In addition, Livability looked at Census data and data from Esri’s consumer segmentation system, Tapestry, to find areas with heavy concentrations of seniors and businesses and services that cater to them. They analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find areas with low unemployment for seniors and used data from Kiplinger to find cities located in states with retiree-friendly tax benefits. – See more at: http://www.worldpropertyjournal.com/real-estate-news/united-states/best-places-to-retire-best-cities-to-retire-in-liviablitycom-matt-carmichael-best-places-to-retire-2014-baby-boomer-retirement-communities-8645.php#sthash.TcK9DBSB.dpuf

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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