While looking through the internet recently, I landed upon a question in regards to ones ability to retire by 30. However, this was not your normal “How do I make X amount of million dollars in five years and retire in my mansion” type post. This specific individual was asking whether it would be possible to retire on a relatively “normal” wage across the United States, UK or general European country…by moving to a “third world country”.
This got me thinking. In theory, of course the cost of living should be significantly less in more impoverished countries, and your dollar should go a long way. However, how realistic is this as an opportunity, and what would you need to sacrifice?
I did some research to find some people who had experienced this, as well as some general research on various countries throughout the world, and this is what I found…
Cambodian Retirement Experience
One individual I had come across online had retired to Cambodia. This individual had done their research across various countries, from China to Laos, but they had finally settled upon Cambodia.
He stated that living “well” in Cambodia could easily be done for $500/mo.
It isn’t exactly clear what the definition of “living well” is. However, judging by the photos posted of food, the views, and rooms. It is a whole lot better than I could live on for $500 where I live.
The guesthouse in which he stays has a sea view, and is rented for the tiny cost of $6/day. I challenge you to get onto Airbnb (or similar) and find somewhere for anywhere close to $6 a day. Especially one in which you would get sea views.
In terms of food in Cambodia, this has been described as being very fish, rice and vegetable based, and can be had for around $1.50 per meal.
Where I live (which is a relatively expensive to live on island off the cost of the UK), my lunch on an average work-day would be around the equivalent of $4-5. Maybe a bit more if I wanted to treat myself. However, that would be for a sandwich, snack and drink. The $1.50 is for a fully made meal.
Comparatively, it is far cheaper. But, there’s no doubt there are a lot of sacrifices that come with the cheaper accommodation and cheaper meals.
Downsides of retiring in a third world country
While the above individual was a promoter of living a life in Cambodia, there are others who have a differing view.
Some felt as though, while the cost of living was of course significantly lower, the negative aspects were not enough for them to make a permanent move to these countries. One user stated:
“Living conditions are incredibly difficult. Healthcare is essentially unknown. Some struggle to get water. Retiring early, to live near such misery, would be a terrible thing. We can be thankful, for the blessings of living, in a highly developed country”
Another user pointed out the somewhat lack of legal strength in some counties. Whether it be the ability to bribe police officers, or just how lenient the rulings on laws are. Corruption within the legal system in countries you may be from are likely a rarity, but they may not be that rare in some emerging countries.
Which brings me onto a question everyone would need to ask themselves in this situation…
Is the sacrifice worth the cost of living…for you?
Everyone is going to have a different answer to this question at the end of the day. Some may be attached to their home creature comforts too much to consider moving away.
For example, if you live in the UK, you may have a heavy reliance upon the NHS (free healthcare), which you wouldn’t get by retiring to a developing country.
I think it is incredibly difficult to answer any questions based on a general viewpoint of “retiring to a 3rd world, or developing country”. Each country is going to be unique with its own quirks, benefits, downsides etc.
The best thing to do would be to research, in depth, and even travel to the countries in which you are considering retiring to. That way you can make an educated decision on whether the cost savings of retiring early in these countries is worth the loss of things such as legal systems, healthcare, fast internet and so on.
The Best Places to Retire by 30 in 2018
I would recommend having a read of this blog post at International Living. In that, they go over some of the most popular countries to retire, in 2018.
Bear in mind that not all of these countries could be considered anything close to “third world”, but are still relatively low cost to live in compared to your native country.
Don’t want a Permanent Location? Travel!
At the end of the day, you don’t need to stick to one country. At the cost of living in some of these locations, it is very possible to simply move from country to country, and still spend less than you would by staying in your native country. This would give you a far broader experience of many countries as well as many different cultures.
IF (note the “if”) I was looking to retire by 30, this is exactly what I would do in terms of moving. I would just sell everything material I own in my home country, and just go and explore. Depending on how strong your investment portfolio is, it is very possible that you could comfortably pay for your cost of living while travelling around the world.
All I have to say as a final note is that make sure this is exactly the experience for you. It can be life changing, but not always for the better. If you haven’t budgeted correctly, you could find it difficult to come back home. Retiring in these countries definitely doesn’t necessarily mean an easier life. If your finances are strong enough, this may be the case. But I suspect the readers of this article may be looking to retire with minimal capital, as opposed to millions at their disposal.
Summary – Retire by 30, in a Third World Country
- Incredibly cheap way of living – houses for $6 a day
- Food can be found for $1.50 a meal
- Crime can be a significant factor
- Healthcare is likely not as advanced or available as in your native country
- May not be as affordable in the long term as you expected
- Incredibly opportunity to travel and learn new cultures
- Check out the InternationalLiving blog
- Travel the world – don’t retire yet!
- Take a look at some of our other Personal Finance blog posts