Whether your retirement is just around the corner or you’re thinking long-term, we’ve put together a list of expat-friendly retirement destinations for South Africans. Retiring overseas is becoming an increasingly popular decision, as more people choose to start the next chapter of their lives afresh. How appealing a country is for retirement purposes reflects its accessibility, cost of living and quality of life. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the options available and the best best countries for expats to retire to.
Best countries for retirement
Retirement option 1: Panama
According to BusinessTech, Panama topped the charts for best country to retire to in 2022, offering plenty of opportunities for retirees, as well as straightforward visa and residency options for expats.
Panama uses the US dollar as its currency, and its ‘Pensionado’ program is considered the best of its kind in the world.
- In terms of the Pensionado program, it is easy and inexpensive to become a permanent legal resident, and this resident status gives you access to a number of discounts available to pensioners, which extends to dental care, transportation, hotel accommodation and entertainment.
The cost of living is relatively low and you’ll need roughly $1,000 (R15,000) a month to qualify for the Pensionado Program, which makes Panama one of the most cost-effective retirement options if you’re looking to stretch your savings without significantly toning down your lifestyle.
Once you’ve been approved, you’ll get to enjoy all the discounts—no matter what your age, unlike South Africa’s pensioner discounts that only apply to ages 60+.
- If you’re applying with a spouse, it’s possible to qualify with less than $1,000 each, and can even include dependents if you need to – you just $250 for each additional person on your application.
Retirement option 2: Greece
One look at the tourist photos and it’s obvious why Greece is one of the world’s top travel and retirement destinations. Where better to spend your golden years than on breathtaking beaches, living that sun-soaked Mediterranean lifestyle? If you’re willing to shell out €300,000 to invest in property you can obtain residency by investment in Greece.
- A smart way to do it is to buy both a residential property to live in, along with a commercial property that generates an income – the total investment just needs to add up to €300,000 or more.
- If an investment of that size is not feasible, you can also apply for the Greece financial self-sufficiency visa. All you need to do is evidence adequate liquidity, as well as a minimum monthly income of €2,500 for the main applicant. Where you have additional applicants with you, the income requirement goes up by an extra 25% or so.
Retirement option 3: Turkey
Turkey is one of those underrated, hidden gems when it comes to retirement destinations for South African expats, so it’s advisable to get in there while the going is good. What makes it so attractive for retirees? It has one of the world’s most affordable residency by investment programs, it is the cheapest option for citizenship by investment and offers some of the most value-for-money coastal properties in the world. The country has worked hard at developing residential properties for the purpose for sale to foreign investors, and as such there is an excess of property stock, which means it’s a buyer’s market right now.
- Retirees must apply for a residency permit first and to enroll in Turkey’s citizenship by investment scheme, you must have a net worth of at least US$ 250,000.
- Qualified foreigners who have lived in Turkey for eight years are eligible for the long-term resident permit, and you will need proof that you can financially support yourself when applying.
Retirement option 4: Malta
One of the first EU countries to offer residency and citizenship by investment, and although the Maltese citizenship option is quite costly, the residency programme’s investment requirements are on par with the other EU golden visa programmes.
- If you married well (i.e. your spouse has an EU or UK passport) you can easily obtain EU residency rights for you and dependent children in Malta, without having to make a property investment.
- Maltese permanent residence does allow non-EU nationals to live in Malta. You must renew your permanent residence permits annually to stay in the country legally. This permanent residence visa only allows you to live in Malta, not work. So you can receive your retirement income, but you won’t be able to work during retirement.
Retirement destination 5: Portugal
Famous for its Golden Visa Programme for third country nationals, Portugal offers many of the perks of European living, without costing as much as it would to live in countries such as France, Austria and Germany. Portugal has become an incredibly attractive travel destination thanks to its incredible weather and exciting cultural scene. It is also considered the third safest country in the entire world, which is particularly attractive to South African expats. In 2018 the investment requirement to obtain a golden visa was lowered to €350,000.
Retirement destination 6: Ireland
Ireland has many draw cards – picturesque scenery, friendly locals, great pubs and almost no crime to speak of, in comparison to South Africa. Property rental rates are attractive, particularly in rural areas. Using public transport means you don’t need a car which makes a dramatic impact on your living budget. Best of all? Long term residents over the age of 66 also qualify for free bus and train transport, while those over 70 qualify for national healthcare benefits, although most expats take private health insurance for little more than EUR1300 annually per member – which is a fraction of private medical aid membership fees in South Africa.
FinGlobal: cross-border financial services for South African expats
Looking to move your money with you when you go? FinGlobal can help. Whether it’s transferring your pension income abroad, maintaining your expat tax compliance or cutting your tax ties with South Africa, we’re ready to make it happen for you.
Leave us your contact details and we’ll be in touch to discuss your needs and put together your unique Financial Emigration Plan™.