Aspire to retire: the best countries for kicking off the good life

Anna Allgaier

The world’s over 65 population is on the rise thanks to the likes of health care, social systems, and kale. In fact, by 2050 the world’s over 60 population is expected to double from 2015’s 12% to 22%. Big numbers.

That’s why we’ve put together a lovely list of the best countries to retire in. We’ve taken the cost of living, healthcare, quality of life, climate and happiness into consideration. So if you’re thinking about putting that pension to good use, packing your bags and putting that retirement cap on, here’s some food for thought.

Happy reading.

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The top 5 countries to retire in

1. Denmark

Their liquorice may be salty but the people certainly aren’t. It’s no surprise that a Scandi country is at the top of the list. The healthcare is 10/10, their happiness score is through the roof and the quality of life is notoriously great. The country's cost of living is relatively high but sits in the average zone in relation to the rest of Europe. Plus the high happiness score isn’t affected by the bills. So turn that frown upside down.

2. The Netherlands

Honestly the fact that the Netherlands is the land of Stroopwafel should be reason enough to retire there. But I assume you’re going to need more information, for some odd reason.

The country is known for its impressive standard of healthcare which is rated as one of the best systems in the world. It isn’t free but the prices aren’t extortionate and it still sits at 2nd on the leaderboard. It’s international friendly, immersed in nature and they love a bicycle there, so start prowling through Amazon for a cute basket.

3. Finland

The Finnish take more than just Eurovision seriously. They’re all about quality of life; with a fast-growing economy and healthcare system, it’s one of the safest places in the world to live in and they are deemed the happiest people on earth. ON EARTH.

4. Japan

Japan is well known for its gorgeous landscapes, food that makes us go “yummy yummy in my tummy”, bullet trains and a deep love of karaoke. They’ve also got niche things going on like the annual crying baby festival, if that takes your fancy.

In other news, they have one of the world’s longest life expectancies with Okinawa being part of the “Blue Zones” (areas where people are deemed some of the healthiest with low rates of chronic disease). The country has a fabulous quality of life, is safe, clean and boasts an excellent healthcare system.

5. Spain

Good weather, sangria, tapas, mic drop. Spain has an amazing quality of life, high mental and physical health rates among its population, great quality of life and is, of course, a beautiful country. Spain’s cost of living is low in comparison to other European countries and for your first five years of residency, private health insurance is free. Bonito.


What makes a place a happy one to live in

Quality of life

Quality of life feels like a pretty broad term but material comforts, relationships, education systems, leisure, nature, etc., all fall under its umbrella. It’s arguably one of the most important things to consider when making a move. While not on the list, Switzerland is the top ranking country in the world for quality of life with low unemployment rates, low tax rates, and thanks to booming financial and manufacturing industries its citizens' purchasing powers seem to balance out the high cost of living.

The power of relationships

A study from the National Institute of Aging found that loneliness and isolation can shorten a person's life expectancy by 15 years, making it just as impactful on a person's health as smoking. So it's no wonder that countries with stronger social relationships contribute to the overall health and happiness of its population.

Is low cost of living the be all and end all?

Finally, bear in mind that just because a country has a low cost of living, doesn’t mean it has a higher quality of life. Factors such as healthcare and welfare still need to be taken into consideration. And the fact that countries on the pricey side, like Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, rank higher up on the happiness scale, goes to show that there’s more to it than low cost of living.


Some helpful reading

Here are a few helpful links from our Wise team on how to make retirement easier.

The resources created for this ranking are based on data by Numbeo, Worldbank, Countryeconomy, put together by Wise in October 2022. To calculate the index, we normalised the data categories individually from 0 to 10 and then added up the results.

Cost of living – The country with the highest cost is weighted closer to 0
Healthcare – Lower healthcare rate are deemed less desirable so are weighted down
Quality of Life – Lower quality of life rate are deemed less desirable so are weighted down
Population Above 65 – Lower proportion of population is weight closer to 0
Climate – Lower climate rate is less desirable so weighted down
Happiness – Lower happiness rate is less desirable so weighted down
Safety – The country with the lowest safety rate would be weighted closer to 0

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