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The top 5 best places for Canadians to retire

Table of Contents
1. Turks and Caicos 2. Panama 3. Portugal 4. Costa Rica 5. Malaysia So now what?

Many Canadians dream of escaping our country’s harsh winters to instead spend their time in a lush, warm and affordable tropical destination. Luckily, there are very few countries in the world where Canadians aren’t well-liked, treated with respect, and welcomed with open arms. Many retirees flock to warmer weather, often Florida. These people, better known as “snowbirds”, do their best to rid themselves of their winter woes. But why stop at the Sunshine State, when you can settle down in more exotic locations on a long-term basis?

Retirees looking for a change of scenery have a wide range of warm, sunny and affordable destination options to choose from. However, when you consider living abroad full-time, your most pressing concerns will be how far your money will go and how your dream destination fares in terms of things such as climate, overall safety and healthcare.

Here is our shortlist of 5 sunny, affordable retirement spots to help you narrow down your options.


1. Turks and Caicos

With no income taxes or property taxes, Turks and Caicos is the ultimate affordable tropical destination for those who enjoy vacationing in the Carribean Islands. You certainly won’t have to do any convincing to have your grandchildren spend their summers with you. What’s even better is that the Islands of Turks and Caicos have a lower crime rate than many well known Carribean, Central and South American destinations. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re spending your retirement in a relatively safe country.


2. Panama

A country that is only growing in popularity, Panama is quickly becoming known as the ultimate retirement destination in the world. They offer a retiree visa, as well as a fantastic retiree benefits program. If you’re retired in Panama, you’re entitled to:

  • 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theatres, concerts, sporting events)
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
  • 25% off airline tickets
  • 25% off monthly energy bills
  • 15% off hospital bills

Along with all these perks and the warm winter weather, the Canadian dollar goes far, and healthcare is incredibly affordable.


3. Portugal

From the beautiful landscapes to the intoxicating culture, not to mention the delicious food, it’s easy to see why Portugal is one of the best countries to retire abroad in. Somehow it still feels like this destination is a hidden gem among the retirement world. Its location on the map as the easternmost country in Europe makes it the fastest European location outside of Canada to travel to. With a climate that’s been equated to that of Southern California, Portugal is the ultimate spot for retirees to find a welcoming country of friendly people, great weather and a reasonable cost of living.

Portugal also has an excellent tax program for expats, the non-habitual residence (NHR). Originally introduced in 2009, it provides tax benefits for individuals in their first ten years of living in Portugal. You are required to be in the country for a minimum of 183 days, in order to be eligible for the tax break on specific types of income, pensions being one of them.

If you’re not sold yet, the 2018 Global Peace Index ranked Portugal as the fourth-most peaceful country in the world. Plus its healthcare options are on par with Canada, with national free healthcare becoming available to retirees after they fulfill the 5-year requirement necessary to attain permanent residency.


4. Costa Rica

When you factor in Costa Rica’s affordability, spectacular weather and stunning beauty, it’s clear as to why it remains one of the top retiree destinations for Canadian snowbirds. From an established public health system, bargain real estate, to a stable government, Costa Rica certainly doesn’t disappoint.

For individuals who take into consideration environmental policies, the country is home to many preserved tropical forests and prides themselves on their sustainability.  If you’re ready to escape from northern winters and embrace a slower-paced lifestyle, good healthcare, a tropical climate with a sense of adventure all while stretching your retirement dollars, Costa Rica is waiting for you.


5. Malaysia

Known as being paradise on a budget, retirees seeking a tropical climate paired with a relaxed lifestyle often settle down in Malaysia. From exotic jungles to pristine beaches and fast-paced urban centres, this country truly is a colourful mix of culture. George Town, a city in the state of Penang, has been said to be one of the top retirement cities in the world due to its low cost of living, and easy English-speaking culture.

Malaysia offers expats a 10-year renewable visa, also known as Malaysia My Second Home. To qualify for this visa, you must meet certain income and asset criteria. If you’re aged 50 and above, you must be able to show liquid assets of CAD 115,000 and a monthly income of CAD 3,300.


So now what?

Thousands of Canadians have decided to spend their retirement years abroad, away from snowstorms, freezing temperatures and poor driving conditions. While the idea of living in a warmer climate is tempting, taking up residence in a different country is an incredibly complex process. Before you relocate, it’s crucial that you understand the full impact of moving abroad. Whatever your reason is for wanting to retire outside the Great White North, a basic rule to keep in mind is to make careful preparations.

This is where a financial plan can help you. Not only should you pay your dream destination multiple extended visits to gain a realistic view of the lifestyle, but being aware of taxation of Canadians who move is crucial. Build a plan today and make sure your finances are just as prepared as you are to start your retiree expat journey.


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