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retire in portugal

If you dream of retiring in Europe, Portugal should be on your list of possible new homes. It’s one of the most affordable European countries and many people speak English, especially in the main cities and on the coast. There are sunny beaches in Algarve, wine in Porto and a historic metropolis in Lisbon. What’s more, in recent years the Portuguese government has eased residency requirements and taxes to make the country more appealing to tourists and expatriates. You may be eligible to receive up to 10 years of tax benefits, which will certainly help you extend your retirement savings. A financial advisor can also help you stretch your nest egg – and help you decide if Portugal is where you should spend your golden years. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of what you need to know about Portugal.

Cost of Living and Housing

Portugal is an increasingly popular retirement destination in large part because of its low cost of living. On average, the cost of living is almost 30% lower than in the U.S., according to numbeo.com. Even if your only income is the average Social Security benefit, $1,400, you can live comfortably. This would require you to live a bit frugally if you want to reside in a major city, like Lisbon, but you could get more bang for your buck if you live outside of a city. Having a monthly budget of about $2,000 would allow you to live a more luxurious lifestyle.

For housing in particular, you can expect to pay $750 or less for a one-bedroom apartment in the center of a big city, like Lisbon. Living farther from the city center will save you as much as a few hundred dollars per month. Living more like a local, in the countryside, would also save you money.

If you do plan to spend years in Portugal, it might even be worth buying your own home. You can find apartments both in and out of the city at a price where your mortgage would be similar to the cost of renting.

Retire in Portugal – Visas and Residence Permit

In order to move to Portugal as a retiree, you will need to get a residence permit. As with other countries in the European Union (E.U.), getting residency in Portugal is rather easy for E.U. citizens. But the process is also simple for U.S. citizens. In fact, getting residency in Portugal is easier than it is for getting residency in other European countries. The country’s government has specifically taken steps in recent years to make itself a welcoming place for expatriate retirees.

For a U.S. citizen to apply for residency, you should visit a nearby consulate. You will need to complete an application and provide some documents, such as your passport, proof of income and evidence that you have health insurance. You will also need to go through a criminal background check.

After you go through the application process, you can obtain a temporary residence permit. This will last you five years. You can apply for a permanent permit when your temporary one expires.

Retire in Portugal – Healthcare

retire in portugal

The National Health Service in Portugal (Serviço Nacional de Saude) provides free healthcare to Portuguese citizens. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t eligible for this free healthcare until they’ve lived in the the country for five years and have become permanent residents. (E.U. citizens have access right away.) So you will need to pay for any health or medical services you use.

As noted earlier, though, you will need to have health insurance before moving to Portugal anyway. One of the requirements for applying for residence as a retiree is proof that you already have health insurance. Once you live in the country, you can change to a Portuguese private health insurance plan, which tend to be cheaper than U.S. insurance.

In terms of cost, what you pay for private insurance will depend on your age. According to InternationalLiving.com, private insurance, which the middle class and upper middle class tend to have, can cost as little as 4 euros a month. But that low rate is only available to people who are younger than 55. Many insurers won’t offer policies to people who are older than that. Three companies that do are Fidelidade/Multicare, Tranquilidade and Millennium Bank/Médis. Also, the Médis company sells plans to people up to age 75, and will not cancel policies once you have one.

Retire in Portugal – Taxes

Portugal typically taxes all income. This includes pension income and income from international sources. However, as mentioned earlier, the Portuguese government has taken steps to make the country a welcoming place for expatriates. This includes something called Non-habitual Residence (NHR) status. NHR applies to people who have not been tax-paying residents of Portugal in the previous five years. If you qualify, your income is exempt from Portuguese income tax for 10 years. This includes income from work, investments, capital gains, pensions and rental income.

Qualifying for NHR can save you a considerable chunk of change, so it’s a good idea to look into it. If you have specific questions on how to apply or whether you can apply at all, talk to an expert like a financial advisor who specializes in international tax law.

The Takeaway

retire in portugal

Portugal offers the best of both worlds if you’re looking to retire abroad: it’s a beautiful, European destination, and it’s affordable for the average retiree. Recent changes by the government to help attract foreigners could also allow you to save money on taxes for up to 10 years. In order to retire in Portugal, you will need apply for residency. The process may take some time but it is straightforward. The application requires you to provide a passport, proof that you have regular income and proof that you have health insurance. You will also need to submit to a criminal background check. And while this process may sound like a hassle, it will be worth it when you’re kicking back and enjoying your golden years in European style.

Tips to Help You Afford Retirement

  • If you have the money to move abroad, an advisor can also help you understand the finer points of relocating, including the tax implications. Finding the right financial advisor who 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.
  • As mentioned above, you can retire comfortably in Portugal, in a large city, on an income of $1,400 per month — or less. For some people, the value of your Social Security benefit is enough to cover your costs of living. You can estimate your benefit amount with this Social Security calculator.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Sean Pavone, ©iStock.com/Silvia Bianchini, ©iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

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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