When it’s time to retire, you may find your Social Security benefits don’t go as far as you need them to. If you haven’t saved enough to continue to live the lifestyle you want in the U.S. — and many Americans haven’t — there are other places you can go.
In the United States, the average Social Security check of $1,349.25 a month falls short of the average cost of living of $1,699.76 by $350.51 a month. GOBankingRates looked at the cost of living around the world, including housing, utilities, groceries and transportation, to determine where your Social Security check will go the furthest. Of the 25 countries where the average Social Security benefit buys the most, nine are in Asia, seven are in Latin America, seven are in Eastern Europe and two are in Africa. These are the best places to retire in the world if you want your Social Security check to go as far as possible.
Last updated: Oct. 9, 2019
- Total monthly expenditures: $783.84
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $565.41
This coastal South American country is nestled between Brazil and Argentina and has beaches, plains and low mountains that contribute to its lovely scenery. It also has the second-highest monthly rent of the 25 countries on this list at $419.33, and the third-highest cost for groceries at $211.60. But you’ll still have money left over from your Social Security check if you relocate to Uruguay.
24. Costa Rica
- Total monthly expenditures: $782.53
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $566.72
Costa Rica borders the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, providing plenty of beautiful beaches to relax on. The interior of the country is mountainous and perfect for hikers and outdoorsy retirees, with the country’s tallest mountain, Cerro Chirripo, ascending 12,000 feet.
Of the 25 countries on this list, Costa Rica has the highest average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $424.47, but it is still much cheaper than the U.S, where it is $1,152.45. Costa Rica ranks second-highest for the average cost of groceries at $235.48, and third-highest for the cost of transportation at $46.16.
- Total monthly expenditures: $736.20
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $613.06
Latvia is located in Eastern Europe on the Baltic Sea and borders Russia, Estonia, Lithuania and Belarus. Historically, it has been under the control of Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Sweden, so the culture has been influenced by many different ethnicities, which can be seen in its architecture and art galleries. Of the 25 countries on the list, Latvia has the highest cost of transportation at $56.08 per month.
- Total monthly expenditures: $732.98
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $616.27
The landlocked central European country of Hungary has a history of fighting off occupations and invasions and conducting some of their own. In this picturesque country, you’ll find influences of the Romans, Mongols, Ottomans and Hapsburgs. From busy Budapest to spa towns and quaint villages, there’s a lot to do in Hungary.
- Total monthly expenditures: $721.53
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $627.72
The impact of Greece on world history and culture cannot be overstated. A popular tourist destination, Greece is now gaining in popularity as a retirement locale, and its reasonable cost of living may be part of the reason why. You’ll have quite a bit of your Social Security check left over after you pay for necessities.
- Total monthly expenditures: $709.08
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $640.17
The Baltic country of Lithuania has been influenced over the years by Russia, Poland and Sweden before declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. The Baltic coastline and its beautiful countryside make Lithuania a popular place to visit, and its affordable cost of living makes it a good place to retire.
- Total monthly expenditures: $698.57
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $650.68
If the allure of the exotic Far East appeals to you, try retiring inexpensively to Thailand. While this ancient land has the highest average cost for groceries at $237.98, the average rent isn’t much more at $350.78. Glistening beaches and rich history combine to make Thailand a fascinating retirement destination.
- Total monthly expenditures: $679.97
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $669.28
China has a population of about 1.35 billion people and is the fourth-largest country in the world by total area. Of the 25 countries on the list, it has the third-highest monthly rent at $407.66, but you’ll still have nearly half of your Social Security check left after you pay for necessities.
17. South Africa
- Total monthly expenditures: $675.72
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $673.53
In South Africa, one of two African countries on the list, you’ll spend just about half of your monthly Social Security check on necessities. Be sure you like warm weather, though — the average temperature is 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit in Cape Town, but it can reach into the low 100s in the summer, and the highest temperature recorded in the country was about 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
16. Saudi Arabia
- Total monthly expenditures: $610.31
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $738.94
While it might be nice to retire to Saudi Arabia and have more than half of your Social Security check left for discretionary spending, it’s difficult to do so. In order to get an entry visa, you must have a confirmed offer of employment in nearly all cases. One option is to marry a Saudi national, but even this does not guarantee that you will be granted an entry visa.
- Total monthly expenditures: $589.13
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $760.12
Retiring to Russia will leave you plenty of money to spend after you pay your living expenses. Cost of groceries is on the lower side at $152.70 per month, while rent is a reasonable $301.63. And you might meet more retirees who are around your age — Russia recently raised the pension age for men from 60 to 65 and for women from 55 to 60.
- Total monthly expenditures: $573.03
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $776.22
Vietnam has instituted a free market economy which has improved the quality of life for its citizens, yet it still maintains a low cost of living. If you retire here, you’ll spend less than half of your Social Security check on necessities. Of the 25 countries on the list, Vietnam has the lowest monthly cost for transportation at just $7.68.
- Total monthly expenditures: $555.17
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $794.08
Ecuador has 1,390 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, and a varied inland climate that includes jungles, plains and mountains. If you retire to Ecuador, you won’t need to worry about currency conversion, since the country uses the U.S. dollar.
- Total monthly expenditures: $532.53
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $816.73
Located in southern Europe, Bulgaria shares a border with Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania, and also has 220 miles of coastline on the Black Sea. Enjoy that coastline in the summer, because it gets cold during the long Bulgarian winters.
- Total monthly expenditures: $529.49
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $819.76
Brazil’s 4,654 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline is studded with gorgeous beaches. You’ll have plenty of money left over after you’ve paid for the necessities, although Brazil does have the second-highest cost of transportation on this list at $48.77.
- Total monthly expenditures: $524.86
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $824.40
Malaysia is a group of tropical islands just north of the equator in Southeast Asia. In addition to having an affordable cost of living that leaves you with most of your Social Security check for discretionary spending, the country is serene. There are exceptional beaches along the South China Sea, as well as rainforests and mountains.
- Total monthly expenditures: $514.30
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $834.95
Retiring to Argentina will leave you with plenty of money to spend on things other than necessities, like trips to the country’s vast wilderness. You’ll find gorgeous national parks with diverse landscapes in various parts of the nation, but head to its southwestern edge, where Argentina shares the stunning Patagonia region with its neighboring country, Chile. Explore the southern sections of the Andes Mountains, trek through impressive meadowlands or gape at stunning glaciers.
- Total monthly expenditures: $501.69
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $847.57
Like many Eastern European countries, Ukraine derives its architecture, customs and culture from Russian influences, and features spectacular architecture as well as mountains and coastline along the Black Sea. Ukraine has the third-lowest monthly cost for groceries at $121.21.
- Total monthly expenditures: $500.24
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $849.01
The Philippines is the world’s second-largest archipelago, consisting of over 7,100 individual islands. An endless array of beaches, cheap living and a warm climate are big draws for retirees. The Philippines has the third-lowest cost of transportation — it will cost you just $9.61 a month to get around.
- Total monthly expenditures: $467.02
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $882.23
Mexico has the sixth-lowest cost for necessities along with proximity to the United States to recommend it to retirees. Warm weather and 5,797 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico will satisfy the snowbirds. Mexico has the second-lowest average monthly cost for utilities at $36.01.
- Total monthly expenditures: $457.68
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $891.57
If you move to Colombia when you retire and you collect an average Social Security check, you could spend about one-third of that check on necessities and have two-thirds left over to spend on other things. This northernmost South American country has plenty of tropical landscapes along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Colombia has the second-lowest average monthly cost for groceries at $113.32.
- Total monthly expenditures: $450.89
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $898.37
If you’ve ever wanted to retire on an island in the Indian Ocean, Indonesia will give you over 18,000 to choose from. It’s part of the Malay Archipelago — the world’s largest archipelago — which consists of more than 25,000 islands. The country is also inexpensive — Indonesians pay the third-lowest average monthly rent at $195.14.
- Total monthly expenditures: $434.64
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $914.62
Turkey, situated in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, might not be the first retirement destination to pop into your mind, but its subtropical climate and coastline on the Black, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas may have you thinking twice. Turkey has the second-lowest average monthly rent at $191.03 and will leave you plenty of money left over after essentials.
- Total monthly expenditures: $432.02
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $917.23
Gathering influence from Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Morocco is rich in history and culture, but you don’t need to be rich to retire there. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest countries to live in. Morocco has the second-lowest average cost for total monthly expenditures overall, and the third-lowest average monthly utility cost at $37.42.
- Total monthly expenditures: $283.60
- Social Security left over after expenditures: $1,065.66
You will have more of your Social Security check available for discretionary spending in India than anywhere else on the planet, making it the best country to retire to if cost is the primary factor. India has the lowest average monthly costs for rent at $131.17, groceries at $107.52 and utilities at $35.61.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed 50 countries to see where your Social Security check would go the furthest. First, GOBankingRates found the (1) average monthly Social Security check amount ($1,349.25), as sourced from the Social Security Administration’s May 2019 Monthly Statistical Snapshot. Then, for each country, GOBankingRates found the (2) average monthly cost of rent, which was calculated by averaging the monthly costs of rent for both a one-bedroom apartment in the city center and outside the city center; (3) the average monthly cost of groceries; (4) the average cost of a monthly public transportation pass; and (5) the average monthly cost of utilities, all sourced from Numbeo.com. These cost of living factors were combined to give a (6) total average monthly expenditure factor. This factor was subtracted from factor (1) to produce the (7) Social Security benefits left after expenditures, which was the only factor that determined the ranking, with the largest amount ranking the highest. All data is correct as of June 17, 2019.
About the Author
Karen Doyle is a personal finance writer with over 20 years’ experience writing about investments, money management and financial planning. Her work has appeared on numerous news and finance
websites including GOBankingRates, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, Equifax.com, and more.