Quiz: Which Country is Your Ideal Retirement Spot?

Selecting the best country for retirement is not a straightforward choice.

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If you could retire anywhere in the world, where would you go? Which country would make the most sense for you? Here’s a pop quiz to jump-start your thinking:

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

 1. Which country offers year-round spring-like temperatures in some regions?

a. Ecuador

b. Panama

c. Mexico

2. Which country offers tax exemptions from import duties for foreign residents?

a. Panama

b. Belize

c. Malaysia

3. In which country can you reduce your annual tax liability as a foreign resident?

a. Uruguay

b. Panama

c. Belize

4. In which country can you employ a full-time maid for $150 a month or less?

a. Nicaragua

b. Uruguay

c. Ecuador

5. In which country could you live comfortably on $1,200 a month or less?

a. Thailand

b. Ecuador

c. Argentina

If you chose A in each case, you’re correct.

If you chose B in each case, you’re also correct.

And, yes, if you chose C in each case, again, you guessed right.

[See The 6 Best Places to Be a Snowbird.]

I don’t mean to confuse you. Rather, my point is to show you that choosing a place to live abroad isn’t a straightforward exercise. Each of the countries featured in this quiz is appealing to retirees for many reasons, and, in many cases, for at least some of the same reasons.

The first step is to make a list of what’s important to you and the reasons you’re interested in starting a new life in retirement abroad in the first place. Next, figure out how much money you will have available to spend on a monthly basis. Then compare and contrast how each country on this world’s top retirement havens list might meet your needs and budget.

But it’s not a simple matter of identifying a country where your retirement agenda can be met given the retirement budget you have to work with. Comparing one whole country against other whole countries is confusing. This approach won’t narrow your options. It will make it impossible to make a choice. You aren’t going to retire to Uruguay or to Thailand or to any other country. You’re going to retire to a neighborhood, a community, a region, or a seaside town.

Once you begin thinking seriously about the idea of retiring overseas, you realize quickly that you’ve got to focus your search. I call it thin-slicing your retirement options. You can’t plan to retire to Panama any more than you could plan to retire to the United States. Think about that. What would it mean to retire to the U.S.? It’s a silly question, and one that is impossible to answer. You could find out what the weather would be like in Scottsdale, Ariz., what the cost for groceries for a couple of retirees would be in San Diego, Calif., and what the view from your balcony might be like living on the coast of Naples, Fla., but you’d never be able to pin down the climate, the cost of living, or the surrounding scenery for the U.S. considered as a whole. Trying to do this would be silly.

[See The Most Tax-Friendly Places to Retire Abroad.]

So, too, is applying this kind of broad thinking when considering foreign retirement options. When contemplating retirement in Mexico or France, you have to consider what it might be like to live in the Mexican Pacific coastal town of Puerto Vallarta or perhaps in the French countryside around Languedoc. Your life in these places would bear little resemblance to a life in the Yucatán around Cancún or in central Paris.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.