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Best countries to retire: 5 places that expats call home

Bright lights, nighttime in Shibuya, Japan © iStock
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5 top global retirement destinations for expats

Most people don’t stray any farther from home than the local fine-dining establishments. But some trailblazers wander off to distant places whenever they get a chance — such as when the yoke of work is dropped in retirement.

In fact, millions of Americans have decamped for foreign soil in retirement. Some want adventure and others simply want to improve their lifestyle by moving to countries where they can get greater value for the dollar. Or, they want to return to their country of origin or their ancestral homeland, says Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications and public affairs at the Migration Policy Institute.

According to recent estimates from the U.S. Department of State, about 6.8 million Americans live outside the country.

Though it’s difficult to know exactly how many American expatriates live in any given country, the Social Security Administration, or SSA, keeps a database of all the countries in which Social Security beneficiaries receive checks or direct deposits.

According to SSA statistics, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom top the list of foreign homes to American retirees. Because of their obvious popularity, they might be considered the best countries to retire in.

We looked at the cost of living and the steps required to permanently settle in each country. We also talked to some expats about the unique culture of these places. Check out what we discovered, and have fun on your vicarious retirement journey!

  Retired workers Total monthly Social Security benefits paid (in thousands)
Canada 68,054 $38,749
Japan 32,143 $15,631
Mexico 27,512 $19,330
Germany 24,499 $13,015
UK 22,729 $15,255