Five of the best places in the world to retire to in 2022

Five of the best places in the world to retire to in 2022

Big OEs aren’t just for youngsters. With no workplace to tie them to one spot,

Big OEs aren’t just for youngsters. With no workplace to tie them to one spot, plenty of retirees choose to live out their days of leisure in the destination of their dreams, effectively enjoying a never-ending holiday.

While moving overseas can involve a lot of red tape, some countries actively welcome retirees, offering residence and tax benefits to those who meet their criteria.

You can live almost anywhere in the world and still get part or all of your New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension, but what you get depends on where you are going and how long you have lived in New Zealand. Work and Income’s international services team, who specialise in paying New Zealand benefits and pensions overseas, will be able to answer all your burning questions about how much you’ll get in your desired destination. In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to retiring to five countries actively courting retirees.

Greece is a dream retirement destination for many.

Matthew Waring/Unplash

Greece is a dream retirement destination for many.

Greece

With its ancient ruins, colourful fishing villages, sprinkling of sun-drenched islands lapped by the clear blue Aegean, and a cuisine that makes the most of the country’s superlative seafood, olive oil, feta cheese and fresh produce, Greece is a dream holiday and retirement destination for many.

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Introduced in 2013, Greece’s golden visa programme grants five years of permanent residence to non-EU citizens who invest at least €250,000 (NZ$394,000) in local real estate. You can renew your residency, which comes with healthcare and education benefits, after five years provided you’re still invested in property, and apply for citizenship after seven.

Greece is among the more affordable countries in Europe and, according to price comparison site Numbeo, the cost of living there is 28.82 per cent lower on average than in New Zealand.

New Zealand has a social security agreement with Greece which means Kiwis living in Greece may qualify for benefits or pensions from both countries. For more information, see workandincome.govt.nz.

Panama has topped International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index for 11 years in a row.

Chema Photo/Unsplash

Panama has topped International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index for 11 years in a row.

Panama

There’s much more to this sun-kissed Central American country than its world-famous canal. With quintessential Caribbean beaches on one side, Pacific surf on the other and wildlife-filled cloud forests and coffee farms in between, Panama has a lot to offer lovers of the outdoors.

Tropical in climate, yet completely outside the hurricane belt, Panama is hugely popular with retirees from the US. Many settle in cosmopolitan Panama City, from which both mountains and beaches are within easy striking distance. The buzzing beach town of Coronado, home to a significant expat community, is just an hour’s drive away, while the cool mountain towns of Cerro, El Valle and Sora are no more than two hours by car. If you’d really like to get away from it all, head to Boquete – a highland haven for retirees about six hours’ drive from the capital.

Panama has topped International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index – which draws upon information from editors and correspondents around the world along with factors such as housing, cost of living, climate, healthcare, governance, visas, residence, benefits and discounts – for 11 years running, and it’s not hard to see why. One of the world’s three carbon-negative countries, Panama also boasts excellent healthcare, a low crime crate and friendly people.

The Panama Pensionado (or Panama Retirement) visa is considered to be one of the most attractive in the world, although anyone aged 18 or over with a proven lifetime pension or income of US$1000 (NZ$1400) a month can apply.

The permanent residency visa affords tax exemptions on household goods and on a new car every other year, plus significant discounts on utility bills, transport services, dentistry, hotel stays, theatre performances and airfares. If your monthly pension falls between US$750 (NZ$1000) and US$1000 a month, you can still qualify if you buy local property worth at least US$100,000 (NZ$143,300).

The Sunshine Coast stretches from the coastal city of Caloundra, near Brisbane, to the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park. Pictured: Mooloolaba.

Tourism and Events Queensland

The Sunshine Coast stretches from the coastal city of Caloundra, near Brisbane, to the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park. Pictured: Mooloolaba.

Sunshine Coast

If New Zealand winters get you down but you don’t want to be a long-haul flight away from family and friends, this sun-kissed 100km stretch of Queensland could be a good option. The miles of golden beaches are dotted with numerous resort towns – the most famous including cosmopolitan Noosa and casually chic Caloundra – but there are plenty of cute, lower-key coastal towns for those craving a quieter life.

While the Sunshine Coast and Australia in general is not a cheap place to retire, cost of living figures on Numbeo show it is cheaper to live on the Sunshine Coast than in Auckland, Wellington and – to a lesser extent – Christchurch. Rental costs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, for example, are 33.72, 34.81 and 1.74 per cent higher respectively. Property prices on the Sunshine Coast have shot up over the past year, with Minyama and Sunshine Beach seeing the steepest increases. However, there are still plenty of towns and suburbs with median house prices of under A$830,000 (NZ$893,000), including Pomona, Golden Beach, Maroochydore and Battery Hill.

Most retirees who make the move to the Sunshine Coast though – and there are plenty of them – do so for lifestyle reasons. Don’t dismiss the hinterland when looking for your ideal place to settle. Cooler than the coast, it’s full of cute, often quirky, settlements with quality artisan food stores and markets surrounded by thick rainforest and fertile farmland that will make you feel right at home.

You’ll be able to continue getting your NZ Super or Veteran’s Pension for up to 26 weeks after you leave New Zealand, but you can apply for the Australia Age Pension if you are an Australian resident. To qualify as an Australian resident, you must have been there for more than 26 weeks or intend to stay for more than 12 months. Unlike NZ Super, the Australia Age Pension is income and assets tested, but the amount you get from both countries will be the same as if you had lived in Australia all your working life. For more information, see workandincome.govt.nz.

Portugal is among the most affordable countries in Western Europe.

Nick Karvounis/Unsplash

Portugal is among the most affordable countries in Western Europe.

Portugal

With cosmopolitan cities, whitewashed cobblestone villages, miles of long sandy beaches, and a culture that prioritises getting together with family and friends over good food, music, wine and (of course) port, Portugal is easy to want a long-term relationship with.

Live and Invest Overseas, a US-based organisation that specialises in retiring abroad, put Portugal at the top of its list of the world’s best places to retire in 2022, pointing to its low cost of living (among the lowest in Western Europe), easy residency, and tax incentives for foreign residents.

A retired couple could live there comfortably on as little as €1100 (NZ$1700) a month, the company says, while a budget of €1800 or more could afford you “a fully appointed lifestyle in the heart of Old Europe”.

International Living, which also included Portugal on its list of the best places to retire in 2022, commended the country’s healthcare system, describing it as among the best in the world, safety and the friendliness of the people.

Portugal’s Golden Visa programmes grants a two-year residency permit to expats who invest €500,000 (NZ$789,000) in property (in some circumstances, you can get one with a reduced investment of €280,000 or €350,000). The visa, which includes tax benefits on foreign income, can be renewed every two years, provided you spend at least two weeks in the country every two years. You can apply for permanent residency and citizenship after five years.

Another option for retirees and those who still want or need to work a bit is the D7, Retirement or Passive Income Visa. This enables non-EU citizens to gain Portuguese residency and work in the country provided they can prove an annual passive income about equal to its minimum wage. Again, you’re eligible for tax benefits and to apply for permanent residency and citizenship after five years.

Retirees can work part-time in Malaysia with a MM2H visa.

Geraldine Ng/Unsplash

Retirees can work part-time in Malaysia with a MM2H visa.

Malaysia

An expat magnet since the late 1960s, Malaysia is renowned for its diverse cities, UNESCO World Heritage-listed centres, idyllic islands, and ancient equatorial rainforests home to the likes of tapir and orangutans.

The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) visa grants visas to retirees who meet certain financial requirements. The Malaysian Government website and official portal for MM2H state that the visa is available to those over the age of 50 who can show proof of liquid assets of RM350,000 ($119,000) and an offshore monthly income of RM10,000 (NZ$3400). Upon approval, over 50s can either deposit RM150,000 (NZ$51,000) into a bank in Malaysia or prove they receive a government pension of at least RM10,000 a month, it says.

However, the financial requirements appear to have increased. Local law firm Skrine says on its website that MM2H visa holders must now have a minimum offshore income of RM40,000 a month, and deposit RM1 million into a Malaysian bank account. Stuff is in the process of confirming whether this is the case with the Malaysian government.

After a year, you will be able to withdraw a third of your local funds to buy a house, car, or for medical expenses or your children’s education.

Malaysia, set to reopen to overseas tourists on April 1, is one of the few Asian destinations where you can buy property freehold, and the cost of living is a fraction of that in New Zealand. Other benefits include a high-quality yet low-cost health system and the fact that English, as the country’s first business language, is widely spoken.