This post is geared to low-income single women no matter what country they’re living in. It’s just that I’m more familiar with money available for Canadian seniors, with only a vague knowledge of similar funds for seniors in the states.
Money for seniors
I’m going to touch on a couple of Canadian products available for seniors. As far as I know there’s a similar program in the United States called Social Security, but I don’t know how it works.
The reality for many low-income single women is we’ll probably be at our highest income once we turn 65 years old. In Canada, we’ll get CPP (Canadian Pension Plan) if we worked jobs with regular deductions off our pay checks. The amount of CPP we receive is directly related to the income from our working years.
If I take CPP at age 60 I’ll receive about $400/month. If I wait until I turn 65, I’ll make around $600/month. I hate hearing that the average CPP for Canadians is around $700/month. I’ve worked hard all my life at low income jobs and I don’t even qualify for the average amount Canadians receive. CPP tops out around $1200/month. Those must be the really high income earners.
Once we’ve applied for CPP, the amount we receive each month stays the same for the rest of our lives. We can receive CPP even if we live in a foreign country.
OAS (Old Age Security) doesn’t matter about your work history or even if you worked. It’s available to Canadians once they reach 65 as long as they’ve lived in Canada for 40 years after the age of 18. It’s the same amount for all seniors, currently around $600/month, and it’s adjusted for inflation annually. There is an adjusted amount if you lived in Canada for less than 40 years. Say you moved to Canada at age 30. When you turn 65, you receive OAS minus a certain percentage for each year, because you only have 35 years of Canadian residency.
In most cases, you don’t have to apply to receive the OAS. It’ll automatically start rolling in the month after you turn 65. We can receive OAS if we live outside Canada, as long as we’ve put in our time – 40 years after age 18!
Low income Canadians can apply for GIS, Guaranteed Income Supplement at age 65. That can bring in an extra $500 to $900/month depending on your annual income, or combined income if married. Like I said, many Canadians might be at their highest income level once they hit 65. Perhaps earning $2,000/month from the various senior income assistance available from the government.
GIS is only available if you’re living in Canada. However, if a Canadian is doing the snowbird thing and lives in Canada for six months a year, they’re eligible.
Things that make you go hmmm…
Tally up our senior pension money
Most low-income single Canadian women will make $1,000 to $1,200/month from the combined OAS and CPP. From reading articles about social security in the states, the amount single senior women receive is in the same ballpark – $900 to $1200.
$1,000 Canadian dollars is equal to about $750 US dollars. So Canadian women are behind our American friends. For years the exchange rate has been hanging around the US dollar being worth 75¢ to buy a Canadian dollar. There’s no reason to think it’s changing anytime soon!
Look at that $1,000 to $1,200 a month. I can’t afford to retire in Canada. I don’t see how other lower income single women would be able to either.
Most of us probably weren’t lucky enough to find a job with a pension. I know I wasn’t, though I did have a job where pension-like money had to go into a Locked In Retirement Account after my employment ended. Locked in means just that. Until I’m 65 years old and can access it. Just a few extra bucks a month, but every little bit counts. Grocery money. If I eat less, that is.
So, without a company that has a pension plan or matched savings to a retirement account, we have to find any leftover money to save for our future selves. Yeah right. After we pay our rent and other bills. Any time we save a little money, something happens like a toothache turns into a thousand-dollar root canal or the car dies.
Can we afford to retire?
We get older. We wonder if we’ll be able to retire when we get to 65 or will we have to keep working.
The seniors who do need to work just to pay the bills often have medical issues. They might not even be physically capable of working so there’s no chance to bring in extra money.
I’m always sad when I see a senior who is working because they have to, not because they want to.
Feeling the cold
Our circulation decreases when we get older and we start to feel cold faster. I’ve sure been noticing this the past couple of years.
If you live in a cold climate, you might want to relocate to a warmer climate when you get older.
Lucky for you American ladies – some of the states are warm year round and you can move to one of them. I live in the Greater Vancouver Area, the mildest climate in Canada, and we can still get freezing temperatures and snow. There is nowhere warm in Canada year round!
Back in the early 1990s I read an article about a senior woman from Idaho freezing her buns off in the winter months. I’m not sure if she had any money other than social security. She moved to Belize and lives in shorts every day and her monthly expenses were below $1000/month.
Yeah, Belize got on my radar as a place to retire.
I eagerly click on articles about places where one can retire on the cheap. But there’s more to living cheaply. What price do you put on your safety and your healthcare? These are also important things to consider. You might be able to find a country with a great climate where rent and food are less than $1,000 a month. But what if you don’t have fast access to good healthcare in an emergency? What if drug dealers are running boats past your beach all night long, pursued by rival gangs or the police and and everyone’s shooting at each other?
There are many expat communities around Mexico and other Central and South American countries where Canadians, Americans, British, and other Europeans live. Usually these places are popular with tourists. At least when there’s not a pandemic going on. Safety in numbers is always a good thing. I wouldn’t be comfortable living in an isolated community where I don’t speak the language and no one there speaks English.
Where to retire on the cheap and not shovel snow
I see the same countries show up over and over on lists written by just about everyone who’s written an article about cheap places to retire. Generally, the lists include countries in southern Europe, southeast Asia, Mexico, and South America.
As a Canadian, and due to the strong American dollar, I eliminate countries that use the US dollar or whose currency is tied to the US dollar.
I look for cheap, warm countries where the currency is favorable with the Canadian dollar.
Some of those US currency countries can be very appealing. However, renting an apartment with a swimming pool and ocean view for US $700 a month is all of a sudden $1,000 Canadian. Those three hundred bucks can make a world of difference to retiring on a low-income.
Now, if you’re an American woman and you’re getting your social security or any other monies in US dollars – that’s not going to be an issue for you. That country might even be more appealing because you don’t have to deal with currency conversion.
Out for me (sob!), but maybe in for American women, are places like Panama, Ecuador, Belize, and Puerto Rico. And that sucks, because every one of those countries appeals to me. Though Puerto Rico not so much because it keeps getting hit with hurricanes.
Yeah, that’s just another thing to keep in mind – the weather. We want to live somewhere warm so we don’t have to deal with freezing temperatures and snow and ice. However, many of these hot spots get hit with some pretty wicked weather that we don’t normally see in North America.
Articles with cheap places to retire
I’m sure I could dig up hundreds of lists of countries to live on the cheap with a better lifestyle than what the same money gets you in Canada or America.
I think some of the writers add cities and countries to their lists because they’ve done a little research, and none of it in person. Just because you heard of a person who lives in Cuenca, Ecuador who found a furnished three bedroom house with a swimming pool in a nice part of town for $500 a month doesn’t mean we’re all going to find a good deal.
Here’s a cheesy list from Mapquest that lists the usual countries, but doesn’t give details on where the listing agent is on that 1600 square foot apartment in Malaysia with the pool for $850 a month. The Cheapest Places to Retire in the World.
I totally disagree with this Forbes article that puts France on the list of cheap places. I’ve only been in France once – in 1993. A can of Coke cost $5 or $6 back then, Thanks to inflation, the price can only have increased in the past 30 years! Again, food for thought but no actual links to property managers who have these steals of homes for rent. Quit Your Job and Live Abroad.
Although this list is from the Canadian magazine, Slice, and geared to Canadian snowbirds, the advice is also good for American women. As a Canadian, I disagree with the very first city on this list – in Panama! Another city in Panama weighs in at number four. Nothing against the country, but as a low-income Canadian, I’m avoiding countries that use the US dollar due to the high exchange rate. Guam intrigued me, until a double check of the currency and – you guessed it – they use the US dollar. The Canadian dollar does not go as far in any country that uses the mighty US dollar for currency. Again, mostly food for thought with no actual links to rentals. 20 Affordable Places for Canadian Snowbirds to Retire
A real rental
Let me actually toss out a link with a real place for rent in a warm, cheap spot near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. I’ve never been there and can not say for sure the house is as promised in the ad. Looks like a really nice place with two bedrooms and a pool, about 250 feet from the beach for USD $900/month. https://www.sosuarentals.com/Villa_B.html
Too expensive? Then check out this cute 1 bedroom guesthouse with a pool for USD $600/month. Keep in mind where there’s a guest house, there’s probably also a main house, meaning other residents are on the property. Maybe even the above two bedroom house because, ironically, the beach is also the same distance. Safety in numbers. I’d be comfortable living in this type of arrangement, especially if the other occupants speak English and don’t smoke. https://www.sosuarentals.com/1-bedroom-apartment-A-extra.html
That little round up was just to get you thinking.
And here’s what you should think about.
You might retire and continue to struggle on your monthly income in Canada or America, but you could have a better standard of living in another country.