3 Retirement Destinations Under $1,000 a Month

Jeff Cuellar



If you’re turning 55 between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014 you’ll have to work harder to reach your CPF minimum of $148,000. How long do you think that amount will last in one of the world’s most costly places to live?

Believe it or not, you can survive and live quite comfortably on your CPF abroad – but only if you’re willing to give up Singaporean cuisine (I don’t blame you for putting up with the high cost of living – if only for the lovely food). But if you’ve got the stomach (no pun intended) for adventure, you can live out your retirement years making the most of your hard-earned CPF.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll be using a baseline payout of $1,000 (since, well, apparently you can even buy an HDB flat earning $1,000 a month). But you can calculate your monthly CPF payout here.


Vilcabamba, Ecuador ($750+ Per Month)

Also known as the Valley of Longevity for its long-living residents, Vilcabamba (pop. 4,000) is located in a scenic valley in Southern Ecuador. Don’t let its rural appearance fool you – Vilcabamba has access to many of the modern conveniences you can’t live without, such as internet access, spas, medical facilities and most importantly, cheap beer.

What’s to Love?

  • Great Climate: Imagine a place where you’re not constantly sweating in bed like you have a bad case of malaria. You don’t even need air conditioning or heating with temperature averages like these.
  • Affordable Housing: Depending on the location, size of the room, and the amenities you desire, your monthly rent can range from $200 – $1,200 a month.
  • Close to Nature: If you love nature but your closest “natural” experience was a visit to the botanical gardens, you’ll really love Podocarpus National Park where you can take adventurous tours lasting from a few hours to a few days.
  • Diverse Expat Community: Aside from attracting a wide range of retirees from North America and Europe, Vilcabamba also attracts travelers from all over the world who are drawn to the location’s legendary status for longevity (and cheapness).

Cost of Living

If you base your cost of living expenses for someone currently living in Vilcabamba, expect to pay the following monthly expenses:

  • $300+ per month for a 2-bedroom place
  • $100+ for utilities (electricity, internet, gas, etc.)
  • $200+ for groceries
  • $150+ leisure activities (travel, spa, yoga, etc.)



 Granada, Nicaragua ($925+ Per Month)



Your lakeside view now comes with 100% less oil tankers and cargo ships!


It’s hard to enjoy the view of Singapore’s shorelines… unless you have a strange fetish for cargo ships and oil tankers. Fortunately, Granada (pop. 110,000) happens to be located near one of the world’s most beautiful lakes (Lake Nicaragua). Granada also has colonial charm that’ll remind you of Malacca or Penang (right down to the tuk tuks). Because it’s a larger city, you can access just about every modern amenity you can find in Singapore.

What’s to Love?

  • Colonial Charm: Granada has its share of historical plazas, museums, fountains and churches that will make your retirement feel like a holiday.  
  • Beautiful Natural Attractions: You can take a boat onto Lake Nicaragua to do some fishing, visit Granada Islands, or see the Domitila Wildlife Preserve to be one with nature… or hunt a Predator. Oh, I forgot to mention there’s an active volcano (Mombacho) that you can trek for some retirement exercise (don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted since 1570).
  • Affordable Housing: Rent is as cheap as $250 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment. If you’re lucky, you can even land one with internet and cable television included.
  • Cheap Food and Beer: Granada is also famous for its affordable produce and beer, which is less than $2 a bottle – that’s twice as cheap as anything you’ll find at a local hawker.

Estimated Monthly Cost

If you base your cost of living expenses on someone currently living in Granada, expect to pay the following monthly expenses:

  • $600+ per month for a studio apartment
  • $75+ for utilities (electricity, internet, gas, etc.)
  • $150+ for groceries
  • $100+ leisure activities (restaurant, beer, etc.)


 Santa Fe, Panama ($750+ Per Month)


Nothing like a dip in this raging river after outrunning raptors – just another retirement weekend.


Santa Fe (pop. 2,800) is one of most adventurous (and cheapest) retirement destinations in the world. If your idea of the wilderness is somewhere near Woodlands MRT, then Santa Fe will make you feel like you’ve ventured onto the set of Lost. This destination is only for the most self-sufficient, adventurous retiree – so if you think you’re the Singaporean equivalent of Richard Branson or Indiana Jones, you’ll really enjoy retiring here. Santa Fe’s a bit farther away from civilisation, so it may lack modern conveniences – but that’s an attraction in itself to many retirees here.

What’s to Love?

  • Forget Rent, Land’s Cheap: Land is unbelievably cheap. You can purchase a 1,000 m2 plot of land in Santa Fe for about $30,000. If you have the patience of Noah (the one who built the Ark, not that crappy Notebook guy), you can build your own place instead.
  • It’s an Outdoors Paradise: Imagine yourself swimming in pristine rivers, bathing under majestic waterfalls and trekking through unexplored wilderness. You can do all of this and more in Santa Fe – even horseback riding if you want to live out your Seabiscuit fantasy.
  • It’s Not Overrun By Developers: Santa Fe is still developing, but it isn’t swarming with developers like Singapore – so don’t expect two or three years of sleepless nights because someone decided to build a condo next to you.

Cost of Living

If you base your cost of living expenses on someone currently living in Santa Fe, expect to pay the following monthly expenses:

  • $400+ per month to rent a home
  • $100+ for utilities (electricity, internet, gas, etc.)
  • $150+ for groceries
  • $100+ leisure activities (restaurant, beer, etc.)


Moving Requires a Few… Adjustments


feet on the beach
Wow, retirement’s just like watching Point of Entry. After a while, you can’t tell if you’re asleep.


I think it’s apparent that these retirement locations present a few things that you’ll need to adapt to, such as:

  • Learn Spanish: You won’t have too much trouble finding people who can speak English. So relax, you don’t have to know Spanish well enough to recite Don Quixote in its entirety – you just need to know the basics so you can negotiate things like rent.
  • No Singaporean Food:  Unfortunately, the only way to get your nasi lemak or chicken rice is to cook it yourself. This might be a good time to brush up on your cooking skills and get in good with relatives so they can mail ingredients to you.
  • Learn the Local Laws: This probably won’t be too much of a hassle as you think since Singapore already has some of the strictest laws in the world. If anything, you’ll have to adjust to having more freedom.  
  • Clean Air: You can forget about the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at these places, so leave your respirator at home and enjoy fresh air for once. 


Image Credits:
Paradise Properties Santa FeHelen STfedramga,

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.