For many retirees, living abroad is a luxury they can’t afford. With the average Social Security check paying just $1,840.27 per month to retired workers, most of the well-known cities in foreign countries are simply out of reach.
But for those that draw $5,000 or more in monthly retirement income, the world is open for business. Even cities that are commonly listed among the most expensive in the world can be affordable at that income level, and most offer a high quality of life filled with luxury goods and services that many retirees would enjoy, on top of amenities ranging from more spacious homes to beaches, parks, cultural events and more.
To determine just which cities fit the bill, GOBankingRates sourced data from a number of sources, including Bscholarly’s Most Luxurious Cities in the World, Celebrity Cruises’s Luxury Cities in the World, Travel+Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2023, and PassionBuz’s Expensive Luxurious Cities. Cities were then cross-referenced with real-world data from Numbeo’s Cost of Living and Quality of Life, which provided information on how expensive each city was and how it ranked in terms of quality-of-life metrics like safety, pollution, climate, health care, traffic and so on. Safety and climate received weightings of 1.5 each, while all other metrics received a weighting of 1.0.
Take a look at the 10 best foreign cities to retire on $5,000, listed in reverse order.
10. The Hague, Netherlands
- Total monthly expenditures: $1,928.52
- Total score: 5.59013
The Hague boasts the enviable combination of the highest quality-of-life index in the whole survey, at 215.7, along with the second-best pollution score of any city surveyed, at 0.9712. However, the city known as the “international city of peace and justice” scores poorly in terms of “luxury,” with its total expenditure index at just 0.4015.
9. Canberra, Australia
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,893.14
- Total score: 5.67795
Canberra is one of three Australian cities to crack the top 10, due in large part to its amenable climate. Australia’s capital city also scores well in terms of safety and pollution, with index readings of 0.7326 and 0.8607, respectively.
8. Brisbane, Australia
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,706.97
- Total score: 5.70539
Brisbane has been dubbed the nature capital of Australia, thanks to its open-air cities, rainforests, mountains and beaches. All of those features help contribute to the city’s good 160.4 quality-of-life index. The city also sports an exceptional climate score of 0.98, by far the best in the top-10 and among the very best in the entire survey.
7. Vancouver, Canada
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,969.02
- Total score: 5.72296
Vancouver has a good quality-of-life score, at 159.6, and its climate score of 91.2 is among the best in the top 10. Unfortunately, the city has the lowest safety score in the top 10, at just 0.5355, keeping it far away from the top spot.
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,652.63
- Total score: 5.79501
Amsterdam scores very well across a number of different metrics, especially pollution, healthcare and safety. One-bedroom rents are relatively affordable for such an expensive, glamorous city, at $1,641.63. Amsterdam also has an incredibly high quality-of-life index. At 194.8, it’s second only to The Hague.
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,705.01
- Total score: 5.84039
For those looking to retire in a more northerly climate, Copenhagen may be the ticket. The safe, clean city has an extraordinary quality-of-life index of 182.8. But it also boasts good healthcare and relatively affordable rent while still offering a high-end lifestyle.
4. Sydney, Australia
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,969.28
- Total score: 5.94730
Sydney’s climate score of 0.9666 is second only to its sister city Brisbane’s 0.98, helping propel it near the top of the rankings. The home of the iconic Opera House also scores quite well in terms of pollution, and its average monthly rent of $1,801.68 is well below the most expensive cities on the list.
3. The Republic of Singapore
- Total monthly expenditures: $3,877.88
- Total score: 6.07771
Singapore is a tiny island nation whose strategic location has allowed it to grow into one of the wealthiest — and most expensive — countries in the world. Rents are pricey, and the climate is likely too hot and humid for many, but the country scores particularly well in terms of safety and luxury.
2. Geneva, Switzerland
- Total monthly expenditures: $3,748.87
- Total score: 6.44310
Geneva is one of two Swiss cities in the top 10, and that’s not a surprise given the country’s reputation for precision, elegance and luxury. The city has low pollution and a very high quality-of-life index, at 175.2.
1. Zurich, Switzerland
- Total monthly expenditures: $4,144.52
- Total score: 7.01631
Pricey Zurich snags the top spot in the GOBankingRates survey, with exceptional scores for safety, pollution and overall quality-of-life, with that index coming in at 178.4. If you’re looking for a luxury lifestyle, you’ll find it here, as the city has the highest expenditure score of any in the entire survey.
Methodology: To find the best foreign cities to retire in luxury on a budget of $5000 a month, GOBankingRates compiled a list of cities sourced from Bscholarly’s Most Luxurious Cities in the World, CelebrityCruises’s Luxury Cities in the World, Travel+Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2023, and PassionBuz’s Expensive Luxurious Cities. For each city on the list GOBankingRates found the cost of living for one person across multiple expenditure categories including; Restaurants, Markets, Transportation, Utilities, Sports and Leisure, Childcare, Clothing, Rental Prices, Salaries & Financing, and Average Square Footage Prices all sourced from Numbeo Cost of Living. The rental prices were calculated to find the average apartment rental cost for each city. The average rent and expenditure costs can be combined to find the total monthly cost for each city, and all cities above $5000 a month were removed. The quality of life was sourced from Numbeo’s Quality of Life across multiple categories including; Climate, Pollution, Safety, Purchasing Power, Health Care, Property Price to Income, and Traffic Commute Time. The safety index was scored and weighted at 1.50, the health care was scored and weighted at 1.00, the pollution index was scored and weighted at 1.00, the climate index was scored and weighted at 1.50, the monthly expenditure cost was scored and weighted at 1.00, the average rent was scored and weighted at 1.00. All the scores were combined and sorted to show the best foreign cities to retire in luxury on $5000 a month. All data was collected and is up-to-date as-of September 27th, 2023.
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