To come up with our list, we considered climate, cost of living and access to health care.

-- Costa Rica. Health care is excellent and inexpensive, and a couple can live comfortably on $2,500 a month. The average temperature is 72 degrees, although coastal areas are much warmer. San Ramon, in the Central Valley region, is only 45 minutes from the international airport outside San Jose. The country's modern telecommunications system makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Costa Rica is also one of the most politically stable countries in Latin America, which is one reason it's so popular with retirees.

-- Ecuador. The weather is mild; temperatures range from springlike in the Central Valley to tropical in the rainforest areas. The cost of living is very low: A retired couple could live well on $1,500 a month. Expats can import their household items duty-free. There are up-to-date hospitals and English-speaking doctors in Ecuador's three major cities, Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil. Private insurance plans are available for about $70 a month. Smaller communities, such as Cotacachi, provide a laid-back lifestyle for retirees seeking respite from city life. Retirees who want a beach lifestyle may prefer Salinas, Ecuador's largest coastal resort town.

-- France. You shouldn't retire here in search of a low cost of living. That said, once you get away from the major cities, France is more affordable. In the Provence and Languedoc regions, you can expect about 300 days of sunshine each year; winters are mild, but summers can be very hot. Aix-en-Provence offers low-cost cultural activities for seniors. The Anglo-American Group of Provence, made up of about 400 families, hosts regular conversation groups and other activities to help expats adapt to life in France. The French health care system provides outstanding care at a fraction of the cost of health care in the U.S. Public hospitals are well equipped and up-to-date on the latest medical techniques.

-- Ireland. The housing crisis in Ireland has made real estate affordable for retirees. Although Ireland is more expensive than popular retirement destinations in Latin America and Asia, a U.S. couple can still live comfortably on $2,500 a month. Ireland has one of the best health care systems in the world; retirees who qualify for residency can purchase private insurance for about 555 euros (or about $721) a year. Other pluses: beautiful beaches, a verdant countryside and festivals celebrating everything from oysters to horse racing. Just remember to bring your wellies, because it rains pretty much year-round. Temperatures range from the mid 40s to high 60s.

(Sandra Block is a senior associate editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to And for more on this and similar money topics, visit