Those legendary best places to retire ... I am sure you've come across one or the other list published by the likes of Forbes, Money Magazine and International Living.
They are a good starting point, but how do you find your very own best retirement places?
The first question you need to get answered is this: What are the most important factors for evaluating a country as your potential retirement location?
For me, the most helpful resource to answer this question is International Living's retirement index, published every September. Each year, they score 30 countries in the following categories:
Depending on your personal situation, you might want to add other factors, such as educational system (if you have children of school going age - yes, some of us retire that young), environmental awareness or ease of access to and from your home country.
Now look at the list again and sort the factors according to your priorities. What's most important to YOU? Is it the low cost of living, so that you can live comfortably on a limited budget?
Perhaps access to affordable and high standard health care tops your list. Or may be you just can't imagine living without playing golf and going to classical concerts once a week.
After you set your priorities, your list of criteria might look like this (this is my personal order of importance):
With your set of factors firmly in mind (or better written down on paper, the mind can be an unreliable thing ), you delve into your research. Perhaps the idea to retire in Central America appeals to you, so you start with reading about Panama. Then you move on to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Belize.
Trouble is: if you look at each country on its own, they all sound great. How do you compare them to find the one that best suits your criteria?
I found this to be the biggest drawback of the many resources on the net and in print. They might deliver in depth information about top places to retire, but there is no easy way to compare one location against the other.
The desire to fill this gap was one of the main reasons why I started RetirePedia.com.
Another approach to narrow down your list of best places to retire would be to define your top ten reasons for retiring. Don't have 10 reasons? Don't sweat it, 5 reasons or even 1 will do fine too.
Is it to slow down your pace of living? Then you will rather go for a small town or village than the country's capital. However, if you want to fill your retirement time with lots of cultural activities, the capital city would be your best choice.
Is your main motivation to escape the cold winters, or dull and rainy summers, as we have here in Ireland? Then you want to look into subtropical and tropical regions. Everything north or south of 40 degrees latitude is just tooooo cold.
There is no ONE ultimate list of best places to retire. There are as many lists as people searching for their retirement haven.
This is both good and bad news. Bad, because it means work for you. No one else can find your perfect place to retire for you -- which is also the good news.
Why? Because the decision is in your hands. Do your research, define your priorities, narrow down your best places to retire to the top 3, visit each of them... and then MOVE.