The foreign retirement publications have named Medellín one of the top foreign retirement locations but we look at why these publications tend to get Medellín and Colombia wrong.

Each year Medellín continues to attract more foreign retirees with its low cost of living, “eternal spring” climate and good healthcare. We previously looked at 11 reasons why Medellín is a top foreign retirement location.

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked questions recently about the foreign retirement publications coverage of Medellín and Colombia that they believe is inaccurate.

Several readers asked questions about Live and Invest Overseas’ top foreign places to retire list for 2019 wondering why Medellín didn’t make it on the list of top 10 and why Medellín was ranked only #9 in 2020.

So, we now look at why the coverage by the retirement publications frequently get Medellín and Colombia wrong.

Photo of Medellín during a pretty day in the city of eternal spring

Photo of Medellín during a pretty day in the city of eternal spring

Foreign Retirement Publications Coverage of Medellín and Colombia

Both the Live and Invest Overseas and International Living publications have ranked Medellín and Colombia as top foreign retirement locations.

Live and Invest Overseas ranks Medellín as #9 in its 2020 list of top foreign retirement locations. And International Living ranks Colombia as #5 in its 2020 list of top foreign retirement locations. And this coverage has resulted in more retirees moving to Medellín and Colombia.

However, in my opinion, the retirement publications tend to rank Medellín and Colombia lower in their top foreign retirement location rankings than they should. This is likely due to some bias and also questionable methodologies used to select the top foreign retirement locations.

Also, the foreign retirement publications like Live and Invest Overseas and International Living tend to portray Medellín and Colombia and other locations they recommend through rose-colored glasses. These publications typically only cover the positives and rarely discuss the downsides of the places they recommend.

Live and Invest Overseas – Top 10 Places to Retire in the World for 2019 and 2020

Live and Invest Overseas ranks cities and regions in its list of the best places to retire in the world. Here is their list of the top 10 places to retire in the world for 2019:

  1. The Algarve, Portugal
  2. Annecy, France
  3. Bled, Slovenia
  4. Canggu, Bali, Indonesia
  5. Cascais, Portugal
  6. Città Sant’Angelo, Italy
  7. Cuenca, Ecuador
  8. Da Lat, Vietnam
  9. Da Nang, Vietnam
  10. Fortaleza, Brazil

This 2019 list was surprising as the list was Europe heavy with half the locations and it no longer included any locations in Panama and Colombia as it has in the past. For Live and Invest Overseas’ list in 2019 they only ranked 21 places in 14 categories. And 10 of the places they ranked were new.

And here is Live and Overseas’s best places to retire in the world list for 2020.

  1. The Algarve, Portugal
  2. Mazatlán, Mexico
  3. Cuenca, Ecuador
  4. Valletta, Malta
  5. Città Sant’ Angelo, Italy
  6. Ambergris Caye, Belize
  7. San Ignacio, Belize
  8. Bled, Slovenia
  9. Medellín Colombia
  10. Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Live and Invest Overseas’ 2020 list only includes four locations from their 2019 list. So, in one year how did six “top retirement” locations suddenly become not top locations?

Also, I question their methodology as Medellín in my opinion beats most if not all in their list of the top 10 places for 2019 and in 2020. Also, I questioned the inclusion of Fortaleza, Brazil as #10 in 2019, which is ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the world and doesn’t compare well to Medellín (see our Medellín vs Fortaleza comparison).

Medellín vs Fortaleza: Medellín easily wins

Medellín vs Fortaleza: Medellín easily wins

In addition, I question the inclusion of Valletta, Malta as #4 in 2020, which is an expensive place to live and doesn’t very compare well to Medellín (see our Medellín vs Valletta comparison). And I question the inclusion of Mazatlán as #2, which doesn’t compare very well to Medellín (see our Medellín vs Mazatlán comparison).

Furthermore, Live and Invest Overseas’ 2018 list of the top 10 foreign places to retire was very different and included seven cities that weren’t on their 2019 list. In 2018, Live and Invest Overseas’ top five were Lisbon, Portugal; Cali, Colombia; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; San Pedro – Ambergris Caye, Belize and Saint-Chinian, France.

Also, in my opinion, Medellín beats Cali and Medellín wasn’t on the Live and Invest best places list in 2018 (see our Medellín vs Cali comparison).

So, if appears that the methodology used by Live and Invest Overseas tends to promote new top foreign retirement locations each year. This is a questionable practice.

International Living – 10 Best Places to Retire Overseas in 2019 and 2020

International Living’s list of the best places to retire overseas ranks countries instead of cities. Here was their list of the top 10 countries to retire overseas for 2019:

  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Mexico
  4. Ecuador
  5. Malaysia
  6. Colombia
  7. Portugal
  8. Peru
  9. Thailand
  10. Spain

This 2019 list is similar to International Living’s 2018 list, which had the top six as Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, Malaysia and Colombia.

And here is International Living’s list of best countries to retire overseas in 2020.

  1. Portugal
  2. Panama
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Mexico
  5. Colombia
  6. Ecuador
  7. Malaysia
  8. Spain
  9. France
  10. Vietnam

Eight of the countries on the 2019 International Living list made it on the 2020 list but in a different order.

However, in my opinion, the methodology used by International Living appears to be flawed. They only rank countries in 10 categories and the rankings in many cases look to be inaccurate or biased.

For example, in 2020 International Living ranks the healthcare better in Costa Rica than in Colombia and ties Colombia with Panama. But Colombia has many more of the best hospitals in Latin America than any country in Latin America. Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the healthcare in Colombia as the best in South America.

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in South America

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in South America

Colombia has 24 of the 58 best hospitals in South America, which means 41 percent of the best hospitals in all of South America are in Colombia. And nine of these best hospitals are in Medellín and nine in Bogotá. In comparison, Panama only has one and Costa Rica only has one of these best hospitals in South America.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked. Also, no other countries in South America were ranked higher than Colombia. According to WHO, Colombia has the best healthcare system in South America.

So, how can International Living objectively rank the healthcare in Costa Rica as better than in Colombia and Panama tied with Colombia if WHO ranks Colombia’s healthcare as better and Colombia has many more of the best hospitals in South America.

The Medellín Guru City Comparisons

We have comprehensively compared living in Medellín with living in 13 different foreign locations.

In our comparisons, we compare Medellín with other foreign locations in 19 to 21 categories, which is more categories than the retirement publications use.

We compared Medellín with The Algarve, Cuenca, Valletta, Mazatlán and Fortaleza, which were on Live and Invest Overseas’ list of the top 10 places to retire in the world for 2019 and/or 2020. And we found that Medellín beat The Algarve, Cuenca, Valletta and Fortaleza. But Medellín was not included on the Live and Invest Overseas’ 2019 list and was ranked #9 in 2020. So, this brings into question the objectivity of Live and Invest Overseas.

Also, we compared living in Medellín with Costa Rica, Panama City and two cities in Mexico. And we found that Medellín compares well but International Living rates Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico ahead of Colombia in 2020.

Medellin Guru’s Comparisons of Cities in Colombia

In addition, we have compared living in Medellín with several cities in Colombia, including:

In our city comparisons, Medellín ties with some larger cities like Mexico City, Lima and Bogotá. These larger cities have more things to do, more restaurants, more shopping, more education options and more employment options. But Medellín still compares well with is lower cost of living, good climate and good healthcare.

Medellín, a top foreign retirement location, photo by Jenny Bojinova

Medellín, a top foreign retirement location, photo by Jenny Bojinova

5 Reasons Why the Retirement Publications Get Medellín and Colombia Wrong

Here is a list of five likely reasons why the retirement publications tend to get Medellín and Colombia wrong (in no particular order).

  1. Methodologies appear to be flawed. The methodologies used by the retirement publications to select the top foreign retirement locations are missing several categories and don’t seem to consider all the downsides. Also, it appears that they are not objective in their rankings.
  2. Retirement publications tend to have conflicts of interest. The foreign retirement publications host conferences with real estate companies pushing the sale of properties. Also, the retirement publications collect commissions and payments from real estate companies in locations they cover.
  3. The retirement publications sugar-coat places they cover. These publications don’t really discuss most of the downsides. And you will never see something like our list of 11 downsides to living in Medellín or 8 downsides to living in Colombia in the retirement publications. The retirement publications tend to primarily cover the positives. On the Medellin Guru website, we do not sugar-coat things.
  4. The retirement publications tout low costs of living in places they cover but do not include all the costs. The cost of living may be low in places these publications recommend but not as low as they claim. For example, you typically won’t see healthcare costs, medical insurance or taxes in the cost of living budgets they publish from what I have seen.
  5. Changing the top retirement locations each year may be a marketing ploy. If the top retirement locations change each year, the retirement publications have new content to sell and feature at their conferences.
Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location but the retirement publications frequently get Medellín wrong

Medellín is considered a top foreign retirement location but the retirement publications frequently get Medellín wrong

The Bottom Line: Why the Retirement Publications Get Medellín and Colombia Wrong

My background is that I am a research analyst very familiar with the proper ways to conduct in-depth research. And I question the methodologies of the retirement publications, which are used to select their top foreign retirement locations.

The list of the top foreign retirement locations by Live and Invest Overseas tends to change each year. Medellín is sometimes included like in 2020 but not in 2019, even though Medellín arguably beats many of the places included each year.

The list of the top foreign retirement countries by International Living includes Colombia each year. But, in my opinion, Colombia should be ranked higher.

In addition, the retirement publications tend to only discuss the positives and advantages about living in Medellín and Colombia. And the downsides are glossed over or may not be mentioned for the places these publications cover.

But there are downsides to living in Medellín such as traffic and pollution that should be considered. And there are downsides to living in Colombia such as corruption and the need for many foreigners to file income taxes twice. No place is perfect – every place has some downsides.

The bottom line is when you use information from the foreign retirement publications, keep in mind they have some biases and tend to primarily cover the positives. So, make sure to do additional research.

In conclusion, the best place to live is the best place to live for you. Everyone has different priorities. The only way to know which place is the best for you is to spend time there.

Readers, what do you think about the foreign retirement publications coverage of Medellín and Colombia?

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Editors note: updated on October 29, 2019 with new 2019 hospital rankings in Latin America.

Editors note: updated on February 10, 2020 with the 2020 top foreign retirement location ratings.

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