Health & Spirit



International Retirement: Part 1

Marilyn Murray Willison on

Last weekend, I was spending time with a younger friend who had never seen the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and it seemed like as good a time as any to watch Maggie Smith and Judi Dench flex their acting muscles. If you haven't seen it -- I really hope you have -- the main plot has to do with a group of retired British subjects who, lured by the idea of spending their golden years in an affordable but upscale environment, travel to India. In the end, everyone benefits. But they do in unexpected ways.

Have you thought of spending your retirement years in another country? Most of us, of course, want to be close to family members, especially our adorable grandchildren. But there are plenty of innovative ways to retain those all-important family ties. And with assistance from today's technology and social media (Skype, Facebook, etc.), we can all feel close to friends and family no matter how far apart we may be.

In 2016, Natixis Global Asset Management published a list of the best countries for retirement, having calculated factors like health care availability, pensions and quality of life. The top five places to retire are Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand and Sweden; the bottom five were Turkey, Russia, Brazil, Greece and India.

For my money, however, a better source of overseas destinations for seniors is International Living Magazine. For over 20 years, this publication has named, ranked and rated what it has found to be the best retirement locales in its Annual Global Retirement Index. This year, it listed 24 retirement destinations, which were evaluated by taking into consideration a variety of factors including climate, cost of living, cultural activities, health care and retiree benefits. In addition, staff members met with local ex-pats to get their personalized input.

Here is a condensed look at their recommendations:

No. 10: MALTA. This is actually a small chain of islands in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and North Africa. Only two, Malta and Gozo, are well-populated, but they are so small that you can drive across each one in just a half-hour. There are 300 days of sunshine a year, and a round-trip flight to Paris on Malta Air costs as little as $175.

No. 9: PORTUGAL. Both property and cost of living are easily affordable in this historic country. The population tends to be friendly and laid-back, and most people speak at least some English. There are plenty of beaches, the weather is mild, and the country is known for its delicious cuisine.


No. 8: NICARAGUA. Ten years ago, this Central American country would have never made the list. But in the last decade, the infrastructure has dramatically improved, and everything from health care to coffee to chocolate is both affordable and top-notch.

No. 7: SPAIN. Right next door to Portugal, this country combines the best of healthy Mediterranean living with lots of culture and history. Most couples could live comfortably on about $2,000 a month. And the rest of Europe is right next door.

No. 6: MALAYSIA. There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites here, along with many stunning islands, beautiful beaches and unspoiled rainforests. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to really discover the country 600 years ago. Then came the Dutch, and then the English. The multicultural flavor makes it a unique place to retire, and the excellent low-cost health care can't be beat.

Next week, we'll look at the magazine's top five recommended overseas retirement destinations.


Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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