How to Make Sure You Pick the Right Overseas Destination For Retirement

To get to the point where you shut the door on your life in the U.S. or Canada and embrace a new, very different culture and language takes a little doing.

You really need to weigh the pros and cons and make some wise decisions about where you’ll go and what you’ll do once you get there. For some people, this is easy enough. They’ve moved often and don’t see this as a big step.

For others, it can be a huge leap of faith. And the research and decision making can be a long and nerve-wracking experience.

By reading International Living’s Daily Postcards, you’ve already started on that journey. And one of the best things to do now, in my opinion, is to ruthlessly profile yourself.

This sounds easier than it is. I’ve known more than a few people who moved to a small, rural community only to find out that they prefer the cultural stimulation of a big city.

Or they’ve moved to the seashore only to find out that they’re not beach people. It’s a great place to go on vacation, but living there is something else. If you’re not keen on heat, humidity, pesky insects, and sand in every crevice, it may not be for you.

Likewise, if you can’t live without the sounds of the waves lulling you to sleep at night, a mountain town may not be your cup of tea.

This is something I’ve thought a lot about: When the world is your oyster, how do you find the place that’s just right for you?

Start by considering these eight factors:

  1. Affordability. How does the cost of living stack up with your income and budget?
  2. Healthcare. Will you be comfortable with the quality of medical care you’ll receive, are good health plans and programs available to you, and will costs be in line with what you can afford?
  3. Ease of Transition. Are you comfortable with language and currency issues? Are there some familiar items in the grocery stores and pharmacies? How easy is it to navigate the bureaucracy and get a resident visa, import your household items, etc.?
  4. Accessibility. How close is it to your friends and family back home? Is there an international or domestic airport and other amenities, such as good hospitals, nearby?
  5. Community. Is there an expat group? Are you comfortable with the locals and their culture?
  6. Housing Prospects. Are homes for rent or sale at a reasonable price? If you buy a property and later change your mind, will you be able to sell it easily enough?
  7. Climate. Are you hoping for four seasons or year-round warm weather? It’s best to plan your check-out visit during the worst weather season so you’ll know exactly what to expect.
  8. Things to Do. What are your hobbies or desired activities and will you be able to continue to enjoy those? If you like good restaurants or artistic events, will there be enough of these to keep you busy?

Prioritize these in order of importance to you. Assign some weight to each factor and add in any others that concern you. Maybe you’ll be taking children on this journey and you need good, accredited schools close by. Or you’ll be taking elderly parents and looking for assisted living centers or good nursing care. Maybe you’ll want to find work or start a business. If so, the place you move to should be conducive to all these things.

You must do an overabundance of research and, importantly, try to spend as much time as possible in a location before you even think about moving there.

Most importantly, don’t settle for less. If a place you have your heart set on doesn’t match with your personal wish list, keep looking. Your paradise is out there and the more ruthlessly you profile yourself and follow your action plan, the easier it will be to find your perfect place and the more rewarding your experience will be.

The Truth About Retirement’s “3-Legged Stool”

For decades, financial planners have used the analogy of the three-legged stool to illustrate the three principal sources of funds most of us will have available to support our retirements: Social Security, work-based pensions, and personal savings.

The basic strategy offered up by the financial industry to ensure we never run out of money can be described as follows: Before retirement save like crazy; work as long as we can to delay retirement; after retirement, slash spending.

At least that’s my takeaway from a recent Merrill Lynch study of the financial preparedness of various generations for retirement, from baby boomers to millennial. It references this classic three-legged stool, noting that almost no one gets a pension anymore. From the start the study observes:

“Preparing for and funding retirement is more than ever a personal responsibility, and many Americans are worried that a financially secure retirement may be out of reach.”

n other words, a secure financial retirement is in reach if only we take responsibility and save early and adequately. They then offer up this nugget from the survey results:

“While respondents report that they should be saving 25.3% of their income for retirement, in fact they are only saving 5.5%.”

The truth is that most of us don’t save enough because we have competing needs throughout life: pay off college debt, buy a home, raise children (increasingly including college), illness of a family member, loss of a job. The miracle is that we find a way to save even 5.5%.

There’s a reason financial planners pay so much attention to this particular leg of the stool: if we focus rigorously on saving, delay retirement, and cut spending to the bone thereafter, we will maximize our savings—and financial advisors make their money on how much of our money they are managing for how long.

I have nothing against financial advisors—on the contrary. If we have some savings and either lack the expertise to manage it or don’t want to take the time to do so, those are the folks we can turn to for this service.

Merrill Lynch’s study suggests that Social Security will provide an ever-decreasing share of retirement funding. After noting that the “Silent Generation” relies on their benefits for half or more of their income, they introduce this observation based on the survey:

“Each younger generation in turn anticipates less reliance on government programs and employer pensions, and more on personal sources.”

But this sentence is seriously misleading. Younger generations may “anticipate less reliance on government programs,” but that doesn’t make it so.

It’s no surprise people have low confidence in Social Security, given how politicians of both stripes keep shrieking that the program is going broke. But whenever I speak with audiences of all ages, I have no problem convincing (almost) all of them that the fix for any future shortfall is fairly painless and that in fact the benefit amounts get better and better for younger generations.

In other words, Social Security will be more and more the foundation of our retirements. This leg of retirement’s three-legged stool isn’t going anywhere.

Here’s a little-known fact about Social Security: not only will the benefits be there for future generations, but the benefit amounts will be substantially higher in constant dollars (income adjusted for inflation). Why? Because our benefits are based on average wages around the time we reach retirement age. Since average wages go up steadily over the decades, this results in higher benefits.

My father and I had roughly comparable lifetime earnings adjusted for inflation; my benefits will be over 50% higher than his were. In other words, benefits are roughly doubling over two generations. What was a more modest retirement benefit for my father will be a much more substantial one for me and even more so for my children.

Most financial advisors continue their mantra of work-save, work-save to accumulate enough savings for our retirement. While most of us put away some savings, it’s not nearly enough for our advisors.

There’s a better alternative that you are not likely to hear from many financial advisors: Find out where you might live in luxury and style on your age 70 Social Security benefit—the world is full of such magical locales where your U.S. dollars can go so much further—then find a mix of spending from your savings or other sources of income to support your lifestyle until you reach 70. That’s putting your savings to work for you, not your financial advisor.

The Retirement Strategy Financial Advisors Won’t Tell You About

Financial advisors will argue about how much income we will need in our retirement. It used to be that planners would say around 80% of our pre-retirement income. Why? We will no longer pay payroll taxes (8% to 9%) and we no longer need to be saving for retirement anymore (another 10% to 12%). Unless our income and assets are high in retirement—a happy worry—we probably won’t owe any income tax either.

Some advisors even suggest that we will need 100% or more of our pre-retirement income. Why the higher amount? Well, we want to enjoy our retirement and that means spending much more on travel, home improvements, special events—and when we get too old to partake of these, we’ll need much more for healthcare…

The thinking goes like this: subtract other sources of income—like Social Security and pensions—from our anticipated monthly retirement spending and the remainder is the amount we need to finance from our savings. And in case we live a very long time, we should have enough savings to cover that possibility as well. A common rule-of-thumb is that we should be able to withdraw about 4% from our savings each year with low risk of ever running out of money.

Do the math and the amount of required savings can be huge.

Consider this example. Gina wants to retire at 62. She could receive a Social Security benefit at that age of $1,500. She doesn’t have a pension. Her current income is $4,000 a month. If we follow the old rule which says she’ll need about 80% of her income in retirement, then she needs about $3,200 a month. Subtract Social Security and her shortfall is $1,700 a month, which will have to come from savings. We can use the 4% rule to approximate how much she will need: divide the annualized shortfall by 4% and the amount is $510,000.

Here’s the problem: Gina only has $300,000. If Gina is 50, she will need to save over $1,000 monthly (and hope for a good rate of return on her investments) to approach that goal. That’s 25% of her income.

Maybe she can scrimp and save to do it. But what if Gina is 62? Her financial advisor will suggest she keep working—otherwise she will have to drastically cut her spending to around $2,500 a month, around 60% of her pre-retirement spending. That assumes that she can keep working and won’t get laid off… It also assumes she wants to keep working.

She doesn’t.

One option almost never mentioned by financial advisors is to consider relocating someplace where fewer dollars can offer a top-shelf standard of living: that could be any one of dozens of places overseas—one or more of which could be perfect for Gina.

Here’s a better financial plan for Gina. Relocate to one of these countries now, where $2,000 will deliver a first-class lifestyle for a single person. She can live on her savings until age 70, when she will still have a bit over $100,000 left. Her benefit at 70 will be 76% greater: $2,640 per month, adjusted annually for inflation and guaranteed for life. She could take the extra $640 a month and replenish her savings in about 12 years. Or, she could just up her spending for an even more luxurious lifestyle. Or she could do something in between—she has options.

Bottom line: financial advisors want to see your savings grow and last and last. They make more money if you have more savings over a long period of time. They tend to steer us to work longer, live frugally, and grab Social Security and pensions first before touching savings. That’s not always in our best interest. Gina can live at a luxury standard of living right away and arrange to eventually have her spending fully covered by her guaranteed Social Security benefits. That works for Gina. It can probably work for you too.

Living My Passions in Costa Rica

“What a morning,” exclaims my friend Beth as we sit on outdoor swings, sipping smoothies at our favorite little café in Dominical. We’ve just finished a beach cleanup in collaboration with a reggae event that will be taking place here over the weekend.

This scene explains why I absolutely love living in this spot in Costa Rica. It’s like I get to live all my passions combined in a paradise that seems custom built for me. From the beach cleanups that I love—and which help to keep our beautiful oceans clean—to the upcoming reggae show tonight, to being able to share the experience with genuinely good people. The longer I live here and the more people I meet, the better and deeper my connection to my jungle home becomes.

Additionally, the reason I can even attend a beach cleanup at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning is because I own my own business and I can make my own work schedule. Living here has allowed me the freedom to find my niche in the tourism industry and make a living but also have the balance that I always craved in the U.S.

The Costa Ballena or South Pacific region of Costa Rica is a perfect fit for me. It has enough development and infrastructure that I can run my business online and there is easy access to banks and grocery stores for everyday needs. Yet it is close to the ocean and I can balance my work life with surfing and my passion for all things ocean and water related.

This area of Costa Rica offers the community feeling that I was always craving in the States. Here, I know my neighbors and I can walk to the little tienda to buy a couple of avocados for lunch (they cost about $1, but sometimes you can even be given some for free if your neighbors have a tree) and discuss the surf with friends that I bump into on the way over.

As a single woman, living abroad, I sometimes get the question “aren’t you ever lonely or bored?” “Heck no,” is my reply. I have way more friends and close connections here than I ever did in the U.S. People are not too busy to stop and talk to you and I know that if anything happens I would have several friends right there for me and I’d be happy to return the favor if they were ever in need.

For example, just this week alone, Monday and Tuesday afternoons I was out surfing glassy conditions with the local gang, Wednesday was pizza night with the neighbors after a morning workout with the lifeguards, Thursday was yoga up at a beautiful yoga retreat that my friends own, and Friday morning was the beach cleanup. This is a typical week here.

As I stopped at a neighboring beach this morning on my way home from the cleanup to watch the new swell arrive with big waves thundering to a close on the sand, I found myself feeling simply happy. I’m thankful every day for making the decision to move to Costa Rica.

Story narrated by By Tara Tiedemann.

Wintering on the French Riviera For $3000 a Month

French Riviera conjures up images of royal and ultra rich people in Nice, France – a place often considered synonymous with dazzling wealth and a lavish, champagne-soaked lifestyle. There’s good reason for this reputation. From the 19th century until about World War II, this was the legendary winter playground of well-to do expats. The likes of Hemingway, Picasso, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald cavorted here during the roaring ’20s. And it’s only about 30 minutes from the high-stakes gambling dens of Monte Carlo, made famous in James Bond films.

But despite its glamorous history and prime location on the French Riviera, Nice is an unexpectedly accessible and affordable town. I saw nearly as many young couples and families as retirees.

Ironically, you’ll probably get the best value out of Nice by following in the footsteps of those well-heeled expats of old and wintering there. Expect plenty of bright blue skies, glorious sunshine, temperatures in the low 50s F, and rents that can be half the cost of summer rates. In fact, you could winter in Nice for as little as $3,200 a month.

If you’re going to live in Nice for only a few months, it makes sense to live in the central parts of the city to make the most of your time. Central Nice neighborhoods are all close to the beach and offer a variety of shops, restaurants, cafés, museums, and movie theaters. It’s also easy (and cheap) to get around in central Nice, as the city is highly walkable and has an extensive tramway and bus system that only costs $11.20 for 10 tickets.

Naturally, being close to the beach and most major activities has its price, but it’s not nearly as high as you might think. In fact, glamorous Nice is less expensive and offers much better value than Paris. You can rent a small furnished apartment in a central location, often with all utilities included, for anywhere between $720 and $1,400 a month.

Once you’ve taken care of rent, most other details are gravy. Restaurant prices run the gamut, from swish five-star affairs to no-frills spots with great soul-filling traditional foods. During my visit, I had a delicious lunch at Chez René Socca, dining on socca, a kind of chickpea pancake, and fried zucchini beignets, with a glass of white wine. The total came to about $9.

In other places, a large Niçoise salad costs about $12 and aubergine farcie (eggplant stuffed with chopped meat and garlic), another local specialty, costs about $8. If you’re in the mood for a heartier meal, mid-range restaurants offer three-course set menus for anywhere from $20 to $45. (Try the romantic Côté Marais, where you can get a first-rate, three-course dinner for just $37—an amazing value.)

Of course, by having an apartment in Nice, you’ll save plenty by preparing your own meals. You may be justifiably tempted to shop at the legendary Cours Saleya, a jam-packed outdoor market offering a mouth-watering selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and other products. But many locals believe  that prices are inflated at this lovely but tourist-infused market. Costs are far more reasonable at the sprawling, mostly French Marché de la Libération (Liberation Market), only a few tram stops from Old Town.

Island Living at its Finest on Mexico’s Isla Mujeres For $3000

With temperatures in the mid-80s F, habitually warm Caribbean waters on all sides, and a perpetual sea breeze accompanied by the trills of soaring sea birds, Mexico’s Isla Mujeres maintains a loyal complement of full-time residents and seasonal snowbirds. It’s no longer a hidden gem, but rather has grown into a mature destination where expats can enjoy an affordable island retirement in casual, Caribbean comfort.

A couple can live in grand style on Isla for $2,500 to $3,500 a month; this includes rent, utilities, dining out regularly, and a couple of trips to the mainland each month for major shopping.

Access to and from the island is provided by a fleet of modern, high-speed ferries that maintains a frequent schedule between several terminals in the mainland city of Cancún. The cost for a round-trip ticket is about $20 and it’s a comfortable 30-minute ride.

Isla (as the locals call it) is not a sandy, beachy island. Although the island’s north end does have a very nice beach of soft, white sand, Isla is a chunk of stone rising from the seabed, with a powerful surf and mostly rocky coastline. But, no worries—its proximity to Cancún and the Riviera Maya provides 80 miles of postcard-perfect, palm-lined, sugar-sand beaches for those who want to wiggle their toes in the sand.

For expats, Isla’s big appeal is its casual lifestyle, where shorts and beach shoes are the accepted attire for any function. It’s common for weddings to be officiated while bride and groom take their vows in shorts, tee shirts, and sandals.

I rented a home home. It is about 800 square feet and has two bedrooms, a modern bathroom, sitting area/living room, and a very functional kitchen. It is furnished and air conditioned and has a small fenced yard. I paid $800 a month, including all utilities.

“A bottle of local beer, Indio, is only about $1. And I can buy a whole chicken for about $3.30. A large bottle of Coke is 65 cents and a big loaf of bread is 75 cents,” says John.

Cost of living on Isla Mujeres varies, depending on your taste. People live entirely on a Social Security check of $1,700 a month, renting a small apartment for about $325 a month. One can live a comfortable life and also fly to the US for $300.

Penang, Malaysia – Asian Retirement Paradise

I lived in Penang for two years. If there is one place to retire in Asia, Penang will be my first choice because it provides affordability, tropical sea beaches, top rated hospitals, and wonderful foods, western style shopping centers, and outdoor lifestyle.

One of the oldest outposts of the former British Empire, Penang delivers 110 square miles of tropical treasures. A lush, mountainous island oozing history and heritage, Victorians christened it “the Pearl of the Orient.” It lies anchored on the Spice Route, just off Malaysia’s west coast, a mere two-hour drive from the borders of southern Thailand.

Around 41% of the island’s 600,000 inhabitants are of Chinese descent. From the Snake Temple to moon cakes and elaborately decorated clan houses, their culture and traditions survive intact. As do those of Penang’s Malay and Indian communities. Many foreign retirees also opt for a new life on Penang, only a 50-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur. It’s also accessible by an eight-mile long road bridge and a ferry from the mainland that runs 24 hours a day. A second bridge was completed mid-2014 and a tunnel is planned for 2034.

George Town is Penang’s capital city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, it’s one of Asia’s most likable cities. Blending old and new, modern high-rises encircle streets packed with mansions, shop-houses, and Chinese clan houses.

There’s plenty in Penang for colonial history buffs and foodies too. Penang also delivers first-rate hospitals that offer unbelievable heath care at super reasonable prices. Just one of the reasons the island has two planeloads of medical tourists arriving every day, and when it only costs $20 to see a specialist you can understand why.

Western-style shopping is the norm, and good beaches are on your doorstep. A 60-cent bus ride takes you past upmarket Gurney Drive to Batu Ferringhi’s golden sands. Gurney Drive’s promenade is a favorite spot to catch well-to-do locals promenading at night and at weekends, and there are a few of the old grand mansions on view.

Penang is also terrific for an outdoor lifestyle. I can be at the beach within minutes of leaving my apartment or in the jungles hiking in the same amount of time and never see another soul for hours on end. When I want, I can cycle around the whole island in a day.

People from Penang are called Penangites and food is always on their mind. If they are eating breakfast they are thinking about lunch. If they are eating lunch they are thinking of an afternoon snack. You get the picture. There’s a dazzling array of stalls and restaurants selling delights such as charcoal-baked crabs, salt-baked shrimp, and Penang’s signature fried flat noodle dish, Char Koay Teow. It’s cooked using sweet dark soy sauce, bean sprouts, garlic, onions, Chinese sausages, prawns, chili, and squid. People drive from miles around just to sample it.

Penang reminds me of Malibu, California. Not because of the prices—in fact, far from it. But the road fronting this area is right on the ocean, just like Malibu. It’s a lovely, leafy, coastal area and one of the oldest neighborhoods on the island. There is a large retired and working expat population on the island, and there are a plethora of clubs, art galleries, museums and cafés to keep you occupied for a very long time. Throw into that mix dinner parties, golf and tennis days and beach BBQ’s and you get a good idea of how active the expat population is.

Beach Living In Tropical Paradise Hua Hin for $2000

A couple with and Social Security income of $2000 can comfortably retire in the tropical paradise Hua Hin, Thailand. Aileen and Bob Young have been in their beach side retirement haven since 2013. Bob says, “we found a place that both of us like and that fits with our budget.” They live happily in a condo near the beach on Bob’s Social Security income of $1,992 a month.

In mid-2012, Bob was laid off from his job in Minnesota. He was nearly 66 years old and could not find another job at his age. Aileen, 58 years old, worked part-time as a library associate. That year, Aileen asked Bob to take a trip to Southeast Asia. They flew to Thailand and Cambodia in December to get away from miserable winter, freezing rain, and snow. Both came back from their trip at the end of January 2013 and decided to move to Hua-Hin, Thailand that October.

Hua-Hin is about two-and-a-half hours’ car journey from Bangkok. Aileen says, “The weather is just perfect: warm and never gets cold.” The temperature is between 76 F and 86 F all year round. There are occasional showers in June through November.

The couple pay about $470 a month for their two-bedroom condo. “Most average and above quality condominiums and apartments are in this range,” says Bob. You can get a condo for $300 a month if you want to stay away from towns and beaches. “We are close to everything including the beach, shops, and bars,” says Aileen.

Of their day-to-day meal costs, the couple spend less than $10 for their meals. “Food is fabulous and costs about 75% less than what we were paying in the States. If you want a meal in a luxury restaurant, you can get it for $20 or less. Though I’d rather have my $3 dinner at the night market,” says Bob. The night market in Hua-Hin is a favorite of both expats and locals. There are many seafood restaurants and local street food such as mango with sticky rice and Phad-Thai.

Another thing Aileen likes about Hua-Hin is that she does not feel like a stranger. “Many expats live here. There are a variety of expat communities you can join and make friends. Thai people are also friendly towards newcomers,” she says.

Another source of savings and comfort is healthcare. “The quality of healthcare service here is better and less expensive than the States. With doctors’ visits costing $15 on average, you can discuss with doctors and nurses as long as you want and get a prescription without additional fees,” says Bob.

There are many independent pharmacies around town where you can simply purchase drugs over the counter. “The cost of medicines is less in pharmacies than at the hospitals. If you feel unwell, you can get basic medical advice from a pharmacist and he or she will tell you what kind of drugs to take,” says Bob. Many antibiotics and allergy drugs are available over the counter. A pharmacist will tell you to see a doctor if he or she feels that you are seriously ill.

Bob’s Social Security check is more than enough for the couple to live well and enjoy life. They are happily settled in Hua-Hin. “Life is too short so if you are not taking steps today to enjoy where you want to be someday—you won’t get there,” says Bob.

Story narrated by By Ana Seal


Embracing Central American Culture in 3 Very Different Homes

My partner, Ian, and I get to peep inside beautiful homes and lose ourselves in fascinating cultures all over the world. We stay long enough to fall in love, but not so long that we get bored.

Panama is special for us and we were drawn to return last year. The island archipelago of Bocas del Toro, is home for a small (mainly retired) expat community, with a diverse mix of nationalities. Not just gringos, but adventurous types from all over Europe. On our recent visit we joined a weekly philosophy class hosted by a Parisian teacher.

Although off-grid and nestled in the dense jungle, the house we stayed in was well equipped, comfortable, and with uninterrupted views across the bay. Dolphins often played in the calm protected waters. Through a thick wall of vines and jungle plants, a family of indigenous Indians would regularly visit to charge their phones.

Off-grid living in Panama meant that our water came from the sky, electricity and hot water were generated by sunlight, and shopping involved a 40-minute boat ride into Bocas Town (weather permitting). Still, a well managed system and four huge water tanks meant we had flushing toilets and a washing machine—pure luxury.

The challenges of remote, off-grid, water-based living draws people together in ways I’ve not experienced elsewhere. There was plenty to get involved with, but pot-luck lunches and parties are what bind the people of Bocas del Toro together, providing much needed social interaction in an otherwise isolated environment.

By contrast, the bustling tourist city of Granada, Nicaragua provided a glimpse into living an expat lifestyle in a middle-class Nicaraguan suburb. Unlike most neighbors, we had a swimming pool. It filled most of the small courtyard, but was welcome in the intense summer heat.

This house met most expat requirements, with high speed WiFi, Netflix on two large flat screen TVs, and a wide selection of modern kitchen appliances.

While expats met downtown over cocktails, we engaged with locals, relaxing in rocking chairs outside their small homes. We embraced local living, encouraging visits from our mobile grocery lady with her basket of fruits and vegetables. We accepted 6 a.m.breakfast deliveries of nacatomales (steamed corncakes), and weekly drop-offs of fresh coconuts.

The amplified sound of gospel hymns regularly reverberated through the open windows of the house. Mild annoyance turned to amusement when neighboring dogs howled in unison as the enthusiastic singing began. Local culture surrounded us.

Our third Central American home is in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Recently we’ve been living in an upscale gated community at the top end of town, with beautifully landscaped grounds, a house keeper, and a gardener to help maintain the property. We have everything we need for luxury living. The area is home to some of the largest, most expensive properties and, as well as Americans, there are many wealthy Mexicans.

The city is stunning, and we’ve escaped the tourist crowds by frequenting local Mexican markets and wandering streets away from the busy center.

Every place we’ve stayed in has had its own special magic, but sometimes we’ve needed to step out of our expat safe havens to find this.

Story by By Vanessa Anderson

Luxury Living on an Exotic Island for $1,800 a Month

“Had we known how social this place is, how good the food is, how high the standard of living is, and how alike we are to the other expats who live here, I think I would have been pushing to move earlier. Maybe years earlier,” says expat Sharon Giraud, who has found her dream retirement on a tropical island. “We’ve only been here since September 2016, but it’s home. It’s not a second home, it’s actually home for us.”

This is no palm-fringed deserted island—it’s home to around 600,000 people, including a sizable population of expats from around the world. But it offers a sophistication and level of infrastructure that’s hard to beat, including some of the best healthcare you’ll find anywhere in the world. It combines the best of urban/suburban living with the sense of wonder that comes with a tropical island. And life here costs as little as $1,800 a month for a couple, all in.

Glitzy shopping malls dot the island, and a 60-cent bus ride will take you from the island’s capital all the way to the national park, 10 miles away. You’ll also find beaches of crunchy white sand, where you can stroll for a mile without seeing a soul, especially on weekdays.

Jennifer Solomons has been walking these beaches with her three dogs for seven years. Jennifer says, “There are a dozen of us that meet at 8 a.m. It’s a very social group, and it’s not just expats, either. It started that way, but our group has grown, and we now have locals that join us with their dogs, too. Let’s face it: After a few years here we are all locals, and it’s the dogs and the beach that actually bring us together.”

This island also delivers first-rate healthcare at just a fraction of the cost back home. It’s no surprise that two planeloads of tourists arrive daily for a wide variety of procedures. And when seeing a specialist of choice costs just $14, you can understand why. Doctors here are educated in the U.S. and U.K, and they all speak English. Indeed, you’ll have no trouble getting around in English on the entire island.

The weather is another constant. It’s always warm, sometimes hot, and it rains consistently throughout the year (more often between October and January). Downpours don’t last longer than an hour or so, and then it’s business as usual. With an outdoor average temperature of 82 F, it’s the perfect place to live if you like tennis, golf, hiking, and biking, or just lazing on the beach or beside your pool.

Condos are good value, and the quality is first-rate. Older blocks are better value and usually have high ceilings and marble floors. Most of them have sea and mountain views, and all of them have at least one swimming pool, a gym, covered parking, and 24-hour security. One 1,200-square-foot condo, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 180-degree sea views, a gym, two swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, can be bought for just $154,000. You can rent an apartment like this for just $585 a month.