The Top 3 Retirement Havens with Best Retiree Benefits Named


Last updated 5/9/2020 at 7:27pm

The three top retirement destinations were Panama, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The most popular destinations for retirees abroad offer a lower cost of living, great year-round weather, a less stressful lifestyle, and a tradition of respect for elders. But some locales are doing even more to actively attract retirees from the U.S. and elsewhere.

"In many of these countries, it's the cultural norm to treat retirees and older people with respect and deference," says Dan Prescher, a senior editor for International Living (IL). "Often this includes preferred places in line and significant discounts on transportation, entertainment and public services.

"But some of these special places go further to actively attract expat retirees by offering benefits and discounts like tax breaks, lower prices for services, and easy residency requirements.

"These are the countries that top the Benefits and Discounts category of our 2020 Global Retirement Index," says Prescher. "They are especially welcoming locales for older North American expats to relocate or retire."

The three countries that rank the highest in the Benefits and Discounts category in International Living's 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index are Panama, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

#1 Panama

Panama claims top ranking in the Benefits and Discounts category, scoring 96 points out of 100, in International Living's 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index.

"One area where Panama excels for retirees is the benefits and discounts it offers," says Jessica Ramesch, IL Panama editor. "The country's famed Pensionado Program is one of the best retiree programs in the world today and it's open to everyone. The program entitles pension-holding retirees to a long list of discounts...and I'm talking across the board.

"From medical expenses to entertainment, retirees in Panama can seriously stretch their dollars. Like 25% off airline tickets, 25% off your monthly energy bills, and up to 50% off hotel stays."

IL Chiriquí correspondent Nanette Witmer echoes the sentiments, "When women reach the age of 55 and men 60, they can automatically start using the benefits that the Pensionado provides. By showing your residency card you are entitled to discounts."

#2 Ecuador

Ecuador, the Land of Eternal Spring, takes second place in this category with 95 points. Here, not only can you retire on little money, you can also live very well.

For retirees 65 or older and looking for an incentive to retire overseas, Ecuador offers a lot. Ecuador's constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens, so expats can enjoy the same benefits as locals.

And the Ecuadorian Constitution actually guarantees those rights. Articles 36, 37 and 38 detail rights and protections for men and women 65 years and older - what Ecuadorians call "tercer edad," or "third age."

These articles spell out prioritized treatment and protections that include: tax exemptions on some municipal and utility taxes, exemption from notary and registration fees, preferential care in cases of disasters or emergencies, and special care and assistance for those with chronic or degenerative diseases...and much more. The constitution also states that abandonment or mistreatment of the elderly by relatives or institutions is punishable by law.

"I have never been happier than when I turned 65 and was able to take advantage of Ecuadorian benefits," said Donna Stiteler, IL Cuenca, Ecuador correspondent. "You get 50% off certain forms of transportation, including on buses and airline flights, a 12% reimbursement on sales tax and 50% off utility bills.

"But one of my favorite things is seniors don't have to wait in long lines at banks, government offices and grocery automatically go to the front of the line."

#3 Costa Rica

In third place with 88 points is Costa Rica.

"Once you have acquired legal residence in Costa Rica, a number of discounted opportunities await," says Kathleen Evans, IL Costa Rica correspondent.

"All of the national parks and some of the museums and attractions offer deep discounts for Costa Rican residents. It can be anywhere from 25-75% depending on the venue. At certain times of year some of the national airlines also offer a 'locals' rate for domestic flights within the country.


"If you are 65 years or older, you can apply for the Ciudano de Oro or Golden Citizen card for free. The Costa Rican culture shows respect to their senior citizens. And this card exemplifies that tradition. With this card, not only do you get preferential treatment, such as not having to wait in long lines, but there are discounts (2-20%) at over 5,000 retailers, plus free public bus rides.

"Even without residence, some expat community's restaurants will offer a local night cash discount where food and drinks can be as much as 25% off regular prices.

"All of this adds up to some pretty incredible money-saving benefits."

More information on the countries that offer the best benefits to retirees can be found at


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