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retire in greece

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. If you think Greece is the right retirement destination for you then it might be a good idea to get an expert opinion, like from a financial advisor, to see how you can financially make it become a reality. 

Cost of Living & Housing in Greece

According to numbeo.com, a website that provides the cost of living data for cities around the world, the cost of living in Greece is nearly 23% lower than in the United States. This data includes rent, meals, healthcare, transportation and more. 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 comparison, a one-bedroom in the heart of New York City averages just under $3,100 a month.

Obtaining a 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. However, U.S. residents can visit the country for up to 90 days without needing a visa or a permit.

If you want to stay more than 90 days, whether for business or another reason, but you still plan to have the U.S. as your permanent residence, 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 a visa 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 can contact the nearest Greek consulate.

Healthcare Requirements & Options When Retiring in Greece

retire in greece

Greece has very good healthcare, and you will find that it is generally cheaper than in the states. 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.

Tax Considerations

Whether your income is from a Greek or international source, you will need to pay taxes on that income. You will be on the hook for taxes in the country you are a citizen. That means you will need to file an annual tax return in the United States if you maintain your citizenship.

You might be required to pay taxes to Greece for certain things, especially if you earn an income within the country. In 2020, Greece passed a law that taxes all foreigners who move to Greece, and make their tax residency Greece, a flat 7% rate on all their retirement income. Plus, in an effort to make more people move to the country they tabled the law meaning there will be no tax on that income for 10 years from the date of its passing.

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 so it should be considered if you’re looking at properties that look like a good financial investment before making your final decision.

Special Considerations For Retiring in Greece

One final thing to consider with Greece is the economy. The Greek economy has struggled for more than a decade. The country’s economic crisis has been compared to the Great Depression in the United States. 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 before full retirement is part of your plan, you should do some research on the Greek economy to make sure you understand how its challenges could impact you.

How Much Money Do I Need to Retire In Greece Comfortably? 

All in all, you can expect to live comfortably on a budget of 2,000 Euro per month, which includes average monthly costs and rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Athens. A couple retiring in Greece together would nearly need to double that number in order to maintain the same quality of living standards as they would have in the U.S.

However, you could potentially cut your costs, depending on your lifestyle. 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.

Bottom Line

retire in greece

Greece offers everything you could want from retiring in Europe. There’s great food, culture, history and sunny weather. Most importantly, it’s affordable. You could live happily on a monthly budget that is considerably less than the one you currently have. There is also high-quality healthcare 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.

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 up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can 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.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Grafissimo, ©iStock.com/eggeeggjiew, ©iStock.com/Ihor_Tailwind

Derek Silva, CEPF® Derek Silva is determined to make personal finance accessible to everyone. He writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, serving as a retirement and credit card expert. Derek is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®). He has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has spent time as an English language teacher in the Portuguese autonomous region of the Azores. The message Derek hopes people take away from his writing is, “Don’t forget that money is just a tool to help you reach your goals and live the lifestyle you want.”
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