If you dream of retiring on a sunny island with delicious food and a thriving local culture, it may be time to look at Greece. The country offers hot summers and mild winters. You can live in a metropolis, like Athens, or a picturesque town on Santorini. Greece has a long history with centuries of fine architecture, delicious foods and a thriving culture. So is Greece the right retirement destination for you? It’s good to get an expert opinion, like from a financial advisor, but this guide will help you answer some basic questions about whether you could afford to live in Greece and whether or not it would be a feasible option for you.
Cost of Living and Housing
According to numbeo.com, a website which provides cost of living data for cities around the world, the cost of living in Greece is just over 17% lower than in the U.S. Rents are also significantly lower. In general, you can expect to pay less than $500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of the Greek capital Athens. For a comparison, a one-bedroom in the heart of new York City averages just under $3,100 a month. Rents vary depending on the size of the apartment and the location – neighborhoods with other expats can typically cost more – but you can still expect to pay less than $1,000 for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center.
All in all, you can expect to live comfortably on a budget of $1,500 each month, which includes average monthly costs and rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Athens. However, you could potentially cut your costs even more. Beyond just living frugally, living in a more remote area will save you money. Greece has hundreds of sparsely inhabited islands with small towns. These locations are farther from big cities but still have a lot to offer.
Retire in Greece – Residence Permit
The documents you need to live in Greece will depend on your specific situation. If you plan to work in the country before you retire, you will want to get a work permit. If you only want to retire in Greece, you will need to get a residence permit.
There are a few things to note. U.S. residents can visit Greece for up to 90 days without needing any kind of visa or permit. If you want to stay more than 90 days, whether for business or another reason, but you still plan to live permanently in the U.S., then you will need to apply for a visa. Also keep in mind that if you have citizenship in one of the European Union’s 28 member states, you have the right to live in Greece without getting visas or a residence permit.
Applying for a residence permit will take some time. You will need to apply while living in the country, so you may want to get a visa first. The visa will allow you to stay in Greece for more than 90 days, and that way, you can live in the country for the duration of the application process.
The basic requirements for a residence permit application are a passport, proof of current and continuous medical insurance and proof of either a regular income of at least 2,000 euros per month or at least 24,000 euros in a bank. (One euro is equal to about $1.18.)
Medical insurance is necessary for your application, but you can drop or change your insurance once you become a resident. Medicare and Medi-Cal will not satisfy this requirement, because they are not effective when you leave U.S. territories.
To get more detailed information about Greek residency, you should contact the nearest Greek consulate.
Retire in Greece – Healthcare
Greece has very good healthcare, and you will find that it is cheaper than in the U.S. As mentioned above, you will already need to have medical insurance to apply for residence in Greece. Once you become a resident, it’s possible to get rid of that coverage in favor of coverage from a local provider. However, you will need to have private insurance either way. Greece has universal healthcare for its citizens, but you will not qualify for it unless you become a citizen.
While healthcare is cheaper than in the U.S., your best bet may be to extend your insurance from your current provider. Doing this for at least a bit will allow you to compare local prices without ever losing coverage. If you find that it’s a better option to get coverage from a local provider, you can look to switch. Individuals who need relatively little healthcare coverage may even find it’s cheapest to pay for services only as needed.
You should also take healthcare into consideration when you are looking for a place to live in Greece. The country has excellent healthcare, but you will need to live near a hospital to receive the best service. If you want to live in or near a big city, this won’t be a problem. If you want to live in a more remote location, you will be farther from the big hospitals. So if you foresee needing regular hospital visits, you should consider living near a city. You may also want to look for hospitals that specialize in certain areas if you know that you will need specific care.
Retire in Greece – Taxes
Whether your income is from a Greek or international source, you will need to pay taxes on it. That means you will need to file an annual tax return. Greece also applies to same tax rates on employment income and other retirement income, such as Social Security benefits. Rates range from 22% up to 45%.
Make sure you also consider property taxes if you plan to buy a home or property. The property taxes are relatively high and have risen in recent years.
Retire in Greece – Special Considerations
One final thing to consider with Greece is the economy. The Greek economy has struggled over the past decade. The country’s economic crisis has been compared to the Great Depression in the U.S. There are high levels of unemployment and incomes have decreased. As part of its multiple bailouts, Greece has had to make cuts to many public services, including medical services.
For the most part, you will not face the full brunt of the economic crisis as a retiree. However, things will be more pronounced if you have plans to work in Greece. So if getting a job is part of your plan, you should do some research on the Greek economy to make sure you understand how it challenges could affect you.
Greece offers everything you could want from a retirement in Europe. There’s great food, culture, history and sunny weather. Most importantly, it’s affordable. You could live happily on a budget of $1,800 or less per month. There is also high-quality healthcare at at a decent price. The biggest challenge for a retiree is likely just getting a residence permit. The application will take some time, and you will need to provide quite a few documents with proof of citizenship, medical insurance and either regular income or a certain amount in retirement savings. Those who plan to work in Greece should also read up on the country’s economy before moving.
Tips to Make Your Retirement Savings Last
- Before you move to another country for retirement, it’s a good idea to talk to a financial professional. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Because of its relatively low cost of living, many retirees will be able to pay most of their bills just with their Social Security benefits. To get an idea of how much your benefits will cover, you can use this free Social Security calculator.
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