Best Places In The World To Retire: 2014 Edition

With the unbearable weather in much of the country, you might be thinking how pleasant it would be to retire where the only ice you’ll see is in a refreshing drink.

If so, the International Living Annual Global Retirement Index, released on Sunday, is right on time. Six of its Top 10 countries — ranked based on data and International Living’s correspondents’ firsthand knowledge  — are in Latin America, including this year’s winner: Panama. Another three are in Asia and one’s in Europe.

“Ecuador and Panama usually slug it out for the number one position in our rankings,” says Dan Prescher, special projects editor at International Living, which runs a magazine, website and conferences for retirees and wannabees.

Why Panama Popped

This year, Panama — the southernmost country in Central America — won by recently making it easier to move there. Normally, you can get a Panamanian visa if you receive a pension of at least $1,000 a month; Social Security qualifies. But if you don’t have a pension, you might now be able to gain permanent residency through the fairly new “Friends of Panama” visa. You just need to have a local bank account there with at least $5,000 and either buy real estate, open a business or get a job in Panama.

Other reasons for Panama’s pop: “The weather is great, the value for the dollar is exceptional, the economy is robust and the government is stable,” says Prescher. “If there’s something you can’t get in Panama City, you probably don’t need it. And the rest of the country is just unconscionably gorgeous — it’s a tropical paradise with beaches, jungles and mountains.”

No place is perfect, of course. Panama didn’t score especially well in International Living’s infrastructure category. “Outside of Panama City, the roads are not that well maintained,” says Prescher. And in Ecuador, where Prescher and his wife Suzan live, “if you need your refrigerator repaired, it can take a long time, sometimes. There’s a lot of bureaucracy.”

Full text: www.forbes.com