Best Countries to Retire in

A Guide to Choosing the Best Country to Retire In 

  • Norway is rated one of the top overall countries to retire to, due to its excellent healthcare, strong economy, beautiful scenery, and focus on work-life balance. 
  • Financial security, healthcare system, and lifestyle are the most common factors to consider when choosing a retirement country.  
  • Find retirement destinations with a lower cost of living, those known for well-being, and countries with the best quality of life. 

Do you know why retirement years are also called the "golden years"? It's probably because by now, you've earned immense value, wealth, and prosperity. So, it has to be a time filled with ease, comfort, and the chance to finally enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

But where you choose to retire can make all the difference in how you experience this golden age. The right destination can amplify your enjoyment, offering a perfect blend of affordability, a welcoming community, and a lifestyle that complements your interests. 

So let’s talk about the best countries to retire in, based on the latest global index.  

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Retirement Destination 

Here is what to consider when choosing the right retirement destination for your golden years of life:  

Financial Security 

First things first, where can you afford that daily cappuccino and fresh croissant without feeling the pinch? Research your target destination's cost of living. This includes groceries, transportation, and the big one – housing. And it's not just about the rent – factor in utilities and property taxes too. Plus, housing costs can vary greatly within a country, so explore different regions, as well. 

Another factor that impacts financial security is pension and other benefits of portability. So, figure out what happens to your pension and other benefits. Can you transfer them to your new country? Will you still receive them back home? Compare retirement plans and social security schemes – you want to ensure a comfortable post-work life wherever you choose to settle. 

Also, understand the tax implications of moving and transferring your pension. Some places have much lower tax rates than others 


Regular check-ups and consulting specialists become even more important as you age. Look for a place with quality hospitals, affordable assisted living facilities, reliable doctors, and nursing homes in your new country. 

You may also check for the availability of home care providers and senior activity centers to stay active and engaged. 

Finally, understand your financial responsibility for healthcare. This includes factoring in what medical facilities are subsidized by the government, including tests and medications. If necessary, you'll also need to consider the cost of doctor visits, prescriptions, and any potential ongoing medical needs. 

Pro Tip: Consider getting travel insurance for seniors with medical coverage to bridge any gaps in your healthcare plan while traveling abroad. 


Consider how you want to live in retirement. Ideally, your post-work life should maintain or even improve your current standard of living. If you enjoy frequenting specific restaurants or shopping at high-end stores, prioritize locations that offer similar options. 

Also, consider the climate and geography that suits you. Think about your ideal surroundings and choose a location that complements your preferences. Consider the activities you enjoy and ensure the area offers opportunities to pursue them. Look for places with hiking trails, golf courses, or vibrant city centers, depending on what excites you. 

Another non-negotiable is language. You want to feel at home in your retirement years. Many expat hotspots have communities that cater to international crowds. Or at least ensure that your spoken language is well understood in the chosen country.  



Top 10 Countries for Retirement 

Now, let’s talk about the best countries for retirement years based on the latest Global Retirement Index.  

1. Norway 

Norway consistently ranks high on "best places to retire" lists, and for good reason.  

Health is paramount in retirement, and Norway excels here too. Their top-ranked healthcare system keeps people healthy and living longer – exactly what you want for your golden years! You have the option to enroll in the Norwegian National Insurance scheme and receive healthcare services when you move here. Besides, the country offers permanent residency visas and naturalization to expats. 

Norway boasts a strong economy and a high standard of living. They rank highest in material well-being and have a high income per capita - that's the financial peace of mind the country offers.  

Moving to Norway allows you to enroll in the National Insurance Scheme for healthcare access. The country also welcomes expats with permanent residency visas and a path to naturalization. Plus, you can connect with a vibrant expat community, creating a social network in your new home. 

Norwegians are known for their love of the outdoors. The country's infrastructure is designed to encourage walking, cycling, and spending time in nature – all perfect for healthy aging. Breathtaking landscapes with fjords, mountains, and a stunning coastline provide endless opportunities for exploration and keep you active. 

2. Switzerland 

With beautiful scenery, beautiful snow-covered Alps, lakes and valleys, Switzerland is one of the top retirement countries. It is known for political neutrality, is ranked as being safe for residents, and offers low corporate tax rates.  

Switzerland has one of the world's best healthcare systems, with excellent facilities, highly-trained doctors, and cutting-edge treatments. This provides retirees with peace of mind, knowing they'll have access to exceptional medical care. 

While Switzerland offers a tranquil lifestyle, cities like Zurich cater to those who crave a cosmopolitan vibe. The country is multilingual, with German, French, Italian, and Romansh as national languages. Moving to Switzerland means embracing a rich culture and a consistently high quality of life. 

3. Iceland 

Iceland is home to some of the most otherworldly landscapes - geysers erupting skyward, cascading waterfalls, and black sand beaches. Not to forget - its volcanic craters and dancing Northern lights. But there are more reasons that make Iceland a compelling retirement destination. 

Iceland consistently ranks high in global safety surveys. It's a small, close-knit community with a strong sense of social cohesion. While Icelandic is the primary language, English is widely spoken, especially in Reykjavik, making it easier to integrate into local life. 

Apart from beautiful scenery, Iceland’s healthcare system provides Icelandic Health Insurance. Anyone residing in the country over six months gets automatic coverage. Influenced by Viking heritage, Iceland offers cultural exposure in the form of theaters, galleries, bookstores, and a symphony orchestra.  

The quality of life in Iceland ensures high life expectancy, ranked at the top most in Europe. If you want to enjoy the crisp air, the country has a very low level of pollution and is a global leader in water sanitization and renewable energy. It also has one of the best pension systems globally, ensuring financial security for retirees. 

If you enjoy staying active, Iceland offers endless opportunities for exploration. Hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and even glacier walks are all popular activities.  

4. Ireland 

In the land of rolling green hills, charming villages, and a pint of Guinness at the end of the day - the Irish know how to live the best life. The climate is temperate year-round, with plenty of rain that keeps the landscape vibrant but not excessive. You can expect mild winters and cool summers.  

Rolling green hills, dramatic cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, and charming villages – Ireland's natural beauty is a constant source of wonder. Whether you crave coastal walks or peaceful countryside rambles, the scenery will leave you breathless. 

Ireland has a rich and fascinating history, with ancient castles, Celtic ruins, and vibrant cities like Dublin and Galway steeped in tradition. You can explore historical sites, museums, and cultural events throughout the country. You'll also find a strong sense of community and a rich culture steeped in history, music, and storytelling. There's always a lively pub nearby with traditional music and friendly faces to chat with. 

Ireland has a high-quality public healthcare system, which is particularly important for retirees. While there may be wait times for non-emergency procedures, expats can also opt for private health insurance for more flexibility. 

English is the primary language spoken in Ireland, making it an ideal choice for retirees who don't want to struggle with a language barrier. This can make it easier to integrate into the local community and navigate daily life. 

5. Luxembourg 

Luxembourg might be small, but it packs a big punch for retirees seeking a comfortable and cultured life. Here's why it stands out: 

Luxembourg has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, with excellent infrastructure, a strong social safety net, and great amenities. Hike through lush forests, cycle along scenic trails, or simply relax in one of the many parks and gardens - it has stunning natural beauty.  

Luxembourg offers a high quality of life and healthcare. There is a compulsory healthcare system that covers about 98% of the population. The rise in Finances in Retirement makes it a haven to live a sustainable life. Moreover, the country has imposed new tax laws to elevate tax pressure and conform to the current inflation needs.  

The government is also very concerned about the water quality and sanitization, making the tap water safer for drinking. Local markets offer various luxurious brand stores and eateries. Being the richest country with the highest per capita income, Luxembourg has a strong economy.  

Luxembourg is a true melting pot, with French, German, and Luxembourgish all holding official status. This multilingual environment fosters a welcoming atmosphere for expats, and basic communication shouldn't be a hurdle. Lastly, Luxembourg has a naturalization law that offers citizenship after staying in the country for five consecutive years.  

6. Netherlands  

With 5th place in the happiness index rank, the Netherlands can be a great fit for those looking for a good social life and a safe stay. It also consistently ranks high in terms of overall happiness and well-being. If you like to stay fit by cycling daily or are looking for an effortless way to stay active, then the Netherlands has a bicycle-friendly culture

The Netherlands has one of the best pension systems around the world, which is capable of offering numerous benefits. There are three different pension schemes – state, workplace, and private.  

The Netherlands boasts a world-class infrastructure system, with well-maintained roads, bridges, and public transportation. This makes it easy to get around the country, whether you're exploring bustling cities or charming villages.  Trains, trams, and buses run frequently and reliably, and many cities are pedestrian-friendly.  

It's also great for overseas retirees. Why? If your home country has a bilateral agreement with the Netherlands, you can easily transfer your pension overseas. You'll have to pay Dutch taxes once you move to the country. Besides, you may benefit from tax-free savings of up to €50,000.  

7. Australia 

Australia is among the best countries to retire on a budget as it is at the third-best ranking in the world for Finances in Retirement. It has a strong banking system, with responsible lending practices keeping your money safe. You'll also benefit from a well-established pension system and robust economy.  

Australia's coastline is legendary, with pristine beaches lapping turquoise waters. Imagine spending your days swimming, sunbathing, or simply soaking in the breathtaking ocean views. From the world-famous Bondi Beach to hidden coves, there's a coastal haven for everyone. 

Both healthcare and lifestyle in Australia are ideal for someone looking for a reliable system. The government offers Medicare to citizens as well as people from countries with reciprocal plans to retire in Australia. There's an option to choose a renewable investor retirement visa lasting four years.  

8. New Zealand 

New Zealand holds consistent ranks among the world's top retirement choices. While it slipped slightly to eighth place in the latest GRI rankings, there's still a lot to focus on for retirees, considering this stunning country.  Despite a minor dip in ranking, New Zealand remains in the top ten for Finances in Retirement at 8th place. Retiring in New Zealand means a high quality of life category as it ranks in the eighth position.  

New Zealand enjoys a temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters. This makes it an attractive option for retirees looking to escape harsh winters or scorching summers. There's also something for every nature lover, whether you enjoy hiking, kayaking, skiing, or simply relaxing amidst breathtaking scenery.  

The country’s happiness factor is at 10th place, so you can expect a good time while immersing yourself in a pristine environment. It also has excellent education, low crime rates, and political stability - therefore a safe place to retire in. 

New Zealand's healthcare system is well-developed for both public and private services. Health care is government-funded for residents or visitors. Besides, coverage is offered by the country's Accident Compensation Scheme. 

9. Germany 

Germany is one of the best countries for Americans to retire, thanks to its contemporary charm and rich history. The current Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) secured Germany’s spot at number 9th from 11th. With a consistent improvement in finances in Retirement and material well-being, Germany offers a substantially secure life to retired expats.  

Germany’s excellent healthcare system ensures that retirees have access to high-quality medical care at an affordable price. With mandatory health insurance, residents can expect coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, and preventive care. 

You may enroll for the German pension, depending on your work history. Apart from this, financial security can be obtained via private pension schemes. The public transport system is well-connected in Germany, and good healthcare is cheaper.  

Germany goes beyond rich historic culture and stunning landscapes. It's a land of vibrant experiences, such as exploring black forests or Alpine trails. Music lovers can delight in the rich musical heritage, including composers like Beethoven and Bach. 

10. Denmark 

Ranking tenth on the list, Denmark offers a safe and clean environment to expats. It ranks high in the Finances in Retirement and Quality of Life sub-indices. The country is known for making efforts towards reducing air pollution to increase the environmental factors score, contributing to a healthy lifestyle. With advancements in renewable energy, the country is able to derive 60% of its energy needs.  

Denmark also has one of the world's best public pension systems. Residents qualify for a universal basic pension, with additional benefits based on your contributions throughout your working life. 

This Scandinavian country also offers universal healthcare, ensuring everyone has access to high-quality medical care. This is a significant perk, especially when considering the potential for needing more medical attention as we age. Due to a good healthcare system, even during the pandemic, Denmark’s life expectancy did not dwindle, unlike other countries.  

Approximately 90% of the population is fluent in English, making Denmark one of the best countries to retire to from the USA. The housing situation in Denmark is relatively affordable while still offering a good lifestyle. The well-developed public transportation system makes it easy to get around without a car.

Additional Retirement Havens to Consider 

Sub Indexes Top 3 Countries
Finances in Retirement Index Switzerland, Korea Rep, Australia
Material Well-Being Index Norway, Slovenia, Iceland
Health Index Norway, Japan, Luxembourg
Quality of Life Index Finland, Denmark, Sweden

Retirement Destinations with a lower cost of living 

These countries can offer the most budget-friendly retirements. 

  • Switzerland: While known for its luxury, certain regions offer a surprisingly affordable lifestyle. 
  • South Korea: Bustling cities and beautiful countryside combine with a lower cost of living compared to many Western nations. 
  • Australia: Known for its laid-back lifestyle, certain areas offer a more budget-friendly retirement experience. 

Retirement spots with great well-being 

Prioritize happiness and a healthy lifestyle in these countries known for well-being. 

  • Norway: Stunning scenery, a strong social safety net, and a focus on work-life balance create a happy and healthy society. 
  • Slovenia: Breathtaking natural beauty, delicious food, and a strong emphasis on outdoor activities promote a well-rounded life. 
  • Iceland: A unique culture, stunning landscapes, and a strong sense of community contribute to a high well-being score. 

Healthiest countries to retire 

Retire with peace of mind knowing you have access to excellent healthcare. 

  • Norway: Universal healthcare ensures top-notch medical care for all residents. 
  • Japan: Renowned for its longevity and advanced medical technology, Japan offers exceptional healthcare. 
  • Luxembourg: A small European nation with a big reputation for its excellent healthcare system. 

Countries with the best quality of life 

Experience the best of everything in these countries known for their exceptional quality of life. 

  • Finland: Renowned for its education system, social safety net, and focus on happiness, Finland offers a top-notch quality of life. 
  • Denmark: A strong social safety net, focus on work-life balance, and emphasis on happiness make Denmark a desirable retirement destination. 
  • Sweden: Well known for its progressive social policies, beautiful scenery, and focus on innovation, Sweden offers a high quality of life. 



Q: Are there any hidden costs to consider when retiring abroad? 

Research tax implications for your pension or income in both your home country and the potential retirement country. Changes in exchange rates and costs like shipping personal belongings, emergency travel back home, and language lessons should be factored in. 

Q: Are there any affordable retirement options in Europe? 

Yes! Portugal, Spain, Greece, and certain areas of Italy can offer a comfortable retirement for a reasonable budget. 

Q: How important is it to learn the local language when retiring abroad? 

It greatly enhances ease of daily life, but many popular retirement destinations have expat communities where English is widely spoken. 

Q: Are there tax advantages to retiring abroad? 

Potentially! Some countries offer tax incentives or exemptions for retirees, but it's important to consult with a tax expert or travel agent. 

Q: What are the steps involved in relocating to another country for retirement? 

Extensive research, obtaining visas/residency permits, finding housing, setting up banking, and potentially shipping belongings are some of the essential steps. 


Welcome to the AXA Assistance USA Travel Resources by AXA Assistance USA Travel Insurance! Best Countries to Retire Blog is intended to provide you with entertaining and educational information of a general nature. The articles are for editorial purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified professional. Please contact AXA Assistance USA if you have any questions. AXA Assistance USA, Inc.© 2024 All Rights Reserved. 



1. Global retirement security improves but few feel more secure. Natixis Investment Managers.  

2. The world's cycling nation: How the Netherlands redesigned itself as a country fit for bikes. Euronews.  

3. Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index 2023 sees the Netherlands return to the top spot and highlights the potential of AI to improve retirement outcomes. Mercer CFA Institute.  

4. Do They Speak English in Denmark? Universal Translation Services. 

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