Retirement is often an expensive proposition. Not only will you be losing your steady paycheck, but, particularly if you retire young, your living expenses might actually go up. You’ll now have an opportunity to do all that traveling and eating out you never had time for when you were working; you’ll be able to pursue expensive hobbies and indulge in costly leisure pursuits. One way to make your retirement nest egg last a bit longer is to move to a cheaper location, where at least your ordinary living expenses won’t prevent you from enjoying your retirement.
Northwestern Arkansas has often been mentioned as a prime retirement location; the region, which includes the cities of Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale, is in the center of the Ozark Mountains, offering a variety of outdoor activities in all seasons.
The University of Arkansas is located in Fayetteville; this major university has all the amenities and activities of a large campus, and offers continuing education. Although state and sales taxes are not the cheapest in the United States, median home prices in Rogers are about $125,000, well below the national average; the cost-of-living index and health care costs are also well below national averages. This area offers the best combination of stimulating environment and low cost.
Another college community, Gainesville, Florida, is home to the University of Florida. Gainesville, located in the north center of the state, differs from the coastal areas in that it feels more like a traditional southern community than other Florida cities; there are pine forests rather than palm trees, and beautiful, historic homes rather than beach condos. Gainesville has not been overbuilt and maintains much of its traditional charm despite the presence of a major university. Median home prices are around $140,000; median rents for a two-bedroom condo, $875. Florida does not impose a state income tax, though sales taxes are 6.3 percent.
Mt. Vernon, Washington
At the other end of the country, Mt. Vernon, Washington, is about halfway between Seattle and Vancouver (British Columbia), on Skagit Bay north of Puget Sound. Mt. Vernon is the gateway to the San Juan Islands, a beautiful marine environment that offers boating and other outdoor activities. Although a bit more expensive (median home prices, $188,000; sales tax 8 percent; no state income tax), Mt. Vernon is only an hour from either Seattle or Vancouver, both vibrant metropolitan areas that are far more expensive to live in. Skagit County, surrounding Mt. Vernon, is a bucolic farming area, and although this part of the United States is notorious for chronically overcast skies, Mt. Vernon gets less rainfall than Seattle.
Few people would think of retiring in Omaha, but it’s one of the cheapest larger cities (population 410,000) in the United States; the median home price is only $113,000. Although not as dynamic as New York or Los Angeles, Omaha is home to two major universities (the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Creighton University), and is the home of movie director Alexander Payne, whose credits include Election, Citizen Ruth, and About Schmidt. Parts of those films were shot in Omaha and the surrounding suburbs. Omaha is also home to the legendary investor Warren Buffet; if you had invested $10,000 in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, thirty years ago, you could retire in style anywhere in the world.
Salvation Mountain Slab City
If you suffer from chronic wanderlust, you might consider retiring in an RV. You can summer in the Catskills and spend winters on the Gulf coast; you can change your venues every year. People who live in RVs do tend to slow down after a while, settling in certain parts of the country that they enjoy most; and longer-term stays at RV parks are less costly, on a daily basis, than short-term stays. If you join an RV club such as Passport America or Escapees RV Club,
You can get substantial discounts on overnight fees at member RV parks (as little as $10 a night, or roughly $300 a month). Many seasoned RVers are accustomed to “boondocking”: parking overnight without paying at a location with no hookups, such as a truck stop, a casino parking lot, or a Wal-Mart parking lot. Be sure you know that the local ordinances are regarding bookdocking.
The ultimate RV destination for the budget retiree is Slab City, close to the Salton Sea and the town of Niland in the southern California desert. Populated mostly by retirees and others who have grown accustomed to vagabonding, Slab City charges no fee to park an RV, but there is no electricity (residents use generators or solar panels) and no running water (supplies can be purchased in Niland). The region is unforgivably hot in the summer, but Slab City has about 150 year-round residents who take great pride in their community, which has gained some measure of fame and notoriety in popular culture.
Nicaragua, Panama, Costa rica
There are also a great number of possibilities for cheap retirement overseas. Thousands of North Americans have already discovered and moved to Costa Rica, which caters to foreign retirees. Léon, the second-largest city in Nicaragua, is a bit further off the beaten track. Léon is a university city with bookstores, cafés, and museums; Pacific coast beaches are 15 miles away. For about $1,200 a month, you can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, including $500 per month to rent a higher-end home. Another possibility in Central America is Las Tablas, Panama, right on the Pacific coast. The Panamanian government has made it easy for foreigners to retire in their country, and an influx of expats has driven up costs in Panama City. Las Tablas, however, remains quieter and cheaper, and $1,000 a month will purchase a comfortable retirement.
Chiang Mai Thailand
In Asia, Thailand’s second-largest city, Chiang Mai, is a prime destination for foreign retirees. Chiang Mai is far from Thailand’s beaches, but the slightly cooler climate in this northern city makes up for that. Chiang Mai boasts a major university, a large and active expat community, and vibrant cultural and artistic centers. You can live reasonably on $1,200 a month, but for a little more you can enjoy the city’s vast array of international restaurants more frequently.
And to the south, in Malaysia, Penang is another attractive destination. Rents are more expensive than in Thailand, but foreigners can purchase property; in Thailand, foreigners can only purchase condominiums.
The name “Penang” comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means island of the areca nut palm. In Malay, Penang’s capital George Town was called and labelled in old maps as Tanjung Penaga
Penang is an island off the northwest Malayan coast; this cosmopolitan center has great beaches and the British-founded city of Georgetown, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its British colonial
Penang embraces modernity while retaining its traditions and old world charm. These are reflected in its harmonious multiracial populace and well-preserved heritage buildings. Long regarded as the food capital of Malaysia, Penang also entice visitors with its beautiful beaches and scrumptious cuisines.
Chinese Shophouse Architecture.The commercial centre of every Malaysian town before World War II was characterized by one or more main streets lined with shophouses, usually two storeys high, with the lower floor used for trading and the upper floor for residential purposes. The emergence of this urban building type can be traced to the influx of Chinese immigrants from the densely populated southern coastal provinces of China in the 19th century until World War II. They brought with they both