Monday, January 31, 2011

Best Places to Live in Canada

MoneySense Magazine, a division of Canadian Business has ranked the Best Places to Live in Canada. Their index is based upon data the compile for around 180 different Canadian cities and towns. The MoneySense index rates and ranks these communities for things like - climate; healthcare; crime (safety) house and rental costs; income and other lifestyle categories. Like the International Living Quality of Life Index the overall list is based on total average so one community could fare substantially better in a category than another but still be below them on the total rank list.

It takes quite a while to compile all of the data so we are always looking at the previous year. In this case we're looking at the best places to live in Canada in 2010.

The top city for Best Place to Live in Canada was Ottawa.  For more about Ottawa's honour check out this report on CTV news - Ottawa the best place to live in Canada, magazine decides - CTV News

The next nine spots went to:

The Best Places to Live In Canada

#2 Kingston
#3 Burlington
#4 Fredericton
#5 Moncton
#6 Repentigny
#7 Brandon
#8 Victoria
#9 Winnipeg
#10 Lévis

What is interesting and pretty cool about the list is that the top places to live are really spread right across the country. When looking at the extended list of the Top 25 Places it really shows how quality of life is diverse and truly spread from East (St.John's) to West (Victoria) and from North (Yellowknife) to South (Windsor).

The other thing that strikes me about the MoneySense index is how comprehensive it is. International Living looks at Quality of Life from nine different directions (categories) while MoneySense looks at 6 categories but MoneySense goes much deeper into each category. When you add in the sub-categories the MoneySense index looks at 25 different factors altogether. That's a pretty in depth view of any community. It doesn't come right out and present the Cheapest Places to Live in Canada but it gives you a lot of data and certainly enough to determine if the standard of living in each Canadian location is one you can afford.

With this kind of detail it's not too difficult to extrapolate the data for different uses. Whether you're looking for the Best Places to Retire in Canada or the best places to live from almost any other perspective the MoneySense index works.

Best Places to Live in the World

Over the past few weeks we have reviewed the Top 5 Best Places to Live in the World according to International Living Magazine's Quality of Life Index. It's time for a bit of a recap and perhaps a Big Picture view of this list.

First the recap -

The Top 5 Leading Countries for Quality of Life in 2011 are -

#1 - The United States - this year hits the top as the Best Place to Live in the World
#2 - New Zealand
#3 - Malta
#4 - France
#5 - Monaco

Now let's back up and take a look at the 'Big Picture' meaning the top 20 countries -

The Top 20 Countries for Quality of Life in 2011 -

#6 Belgium
#7 Japan
#8 The United Kingdom (UK)
#9 Austria
#10 Germany
#11 Netherlands
#12 Portugal
#13 Australia
#14 Andorra
#15 Italy
#16 Norway
#17 Argentina
#18 Hungary
#19 Slovenia
#20 Spain

Each year International Living rates and ranks almost every habitable country in the world to determine which ones offer the best Quality of Life. The overall ranking (Top 20 listed above) are ranked based on their average total score across nine different categories - Economy; Cost of Living; Culture; Environment; Health Care; Freedom; Infrastructure, Climate and Safety. Each country is rated from 1 to 100 on each of those categories. It's not just a few I.L. contributors sitting around a table and making subjective assessments, no they use official data and stats from different sources like - W.H.O. (the World Health Organization); Governments (like Statistics Canada); UNESCO and others.

Friday, January 28, 2011

10 Worst Places For Foreclosures

Well this next list would probably be one I wouldn't want to be on. It's the '10 Worst Cities for Foreclosures' list which was released today by CBS MoneyWatch.

Here's the scoop - RealtyTrac actually collected the data and published the list, CBS just reported on it.
And here's the list of the Worst Places in America for Foreclosures:
#1 Las Vegas - Paradise(?) Nevada
#2 Cape Coral - Fort Myers Florida
#3 Modesto California
#4 Phoenix - Mesa - Scottsdale Arizona
#5 Miami - Fort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach Florida
#6 Riverside San Bernardino Ontario California
#7 Stockton California
#8 Merced California
#9 Orlando Kissimmee Florida
#10 Vallejo Fairfield California

Here's what really strikes me first about this list - 5 of the top 10 cities for foreclosures are in California. Isn't that ironic considering we just looked at two places in California which hit two very different lists. It also goes back to a post I made a few days ago about Germany and how shocked they were to find prices varied from one city to the next in the same country. Here we have cities that are almost in the same county on opposite ends of the scale!

Back to the list and to put it in even starker reality, RealtyTrac found that in Vegas one out of every 9 'housing units' was foreclosed upon. That's almost 11% of all house in the Las Vegas metro area! WoW! I know that there are what have been referred to as the cheapest times to go to Vegas and considering the real estate market there now, it would not be a great time to buy in Nevada... or would it?

Not to belittle the stress and strain that has places on so many families but these areas might also make our 'Cheapest Places to Live' list if this trend continues. Sad but true.

When it comes to being on a 'Best Places' list this is one list you probably don't want to be on!

Source: CBS

Pleasanton California - Best Places to Live

Later next month I have the opportunity to do some consulting for a wonderful little company in Pleasanton, California. It could be considered a contender for the best place to live in California for some but not to me. I've been there before, a number of times actually, but I wanted to brush up a little on the town - I always like to have a little geography and history about a place I'm going. I believe it helps me tap into the energy of the place before I ever get there.

Anyhow, my reading today revealed some information I never knew before. One thing that jumped out at me is the Pleasanton was on CNN Money Magazine's list of The Best Places to Live in 2010. That of course is the Best Places to Live in America. Another interesting fact is that a few years back Pleasanton was ranked the wealthiest middle-sized city in the United States by the Census Bureau. The one list I don't think we could put Pleasanton on though is - the cheapest cities to live in California!

As for geography Pleasanton is located in the San Francisco Bay area 25 miles east of Oakland. Pleasanton has a sister city right next door called Dublin.

Info Source: Wikipedia

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best and Worst Cities

In our last post we discussed the idea of home values having a big impact on the best place to live. Interesting that just now I read a new article by Morgan Brennan about U.S. home values in 2011. The data in this article could very well help you decide if you fit in that 'sell high' category for where you are living right now. Of course if you're looking for the best places to retire - that is places that offer a lower cost of living - this data will help you too!

So, cutting right to the chase - the epicenter of the real estate bust, California appears to be rebounding. However, the other sunshine state, Florida is still wallowing under a near collapsed real estate market with no turn around evident, at least in the short term. The best cities to live in Florida are sometimes elusive but they are there.

The Local Market Monitor out of North Carolina recently presented their lists for the best and worst cities for home values in 2011.

The Best cities for home values in 2011

The following list represents the top 5 cities where home values are expected to rise this year.
#1. San Jose, CA - home values expected to rise 3% this year and 2% per year over the next 3 years.
#2 - Santa Ana, CA - values also expected to rise 3% this year and 2% per year over the next 3 years.
#3 - Bethesda, MD - home values expected to rise 2% this year and 2% per year over the next 3 years.
#4 - Pittsburgh, PA - values also expected to rise 2% this year and 2% per year over the next 3 years.
#5 - San Diego, CA - - home values expected to rise 2% this year and 2% per year over the next 3 years.

The Worst cities for home values in 2011

The following list represents the 5 cities where home values are expected to decline more this year.

#1 - Daytona Beach, FL - home values expected to drop by 11% this year.
#2 - Lakeland, FL - home values expected to drop by 7% this year.
#3 - Orlando, FL - values expected to decrease by 6% this year.
#4 - Boise City, Idaho - home values expected to drop by 7% this year.
#5 - Las Vegas, NV - home values expected to decrease by 5% this year.

So, what does this all mean and how can you take advantage of it?

Well, it's a matter of following the math. If you happen to live in one of those 'Best Cities' this could be your year to sell high and then turn around and buy low in one of those 'Worst Cities'. Oh, and don't be afraid those cities on the worst list are going to continue to slide in value to oblivion. According to LMM almost all of those cities are expected to rebound and experience an increase in value over the next three years.

There's some food for thought as you explore your options for the Best Place to Live or perhaps the Best Places to Retire.

Source: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

Priciest Places to Live

I'm going to skip ahead for just a moment here in our review of the Best Places to Live according to International Living's Quality of Life Index for 2011. Germany is ranked 10th on the index and while I will have more to say about Germany when I get to that part of the list I came across something in the news today which I found interesting and a little humorous.

Germany's English news, The Local, reported this morning, "Survey reveals Priciest Places to Live". Now just to clarify this is German news speaking specifically about Germany, not the 'priciest places in the world' - I actually think I wrote about that a while back. Anyhow, the article goes on to say the Munich residents are paying double the national average for real estate and rentals. I had to chuckle a little. It just made me realize our perspectives are so different around the world. In smaller European countries citizens expect prices and cost of living to be relatively consistent throughout the country and double from one area to another is considered quite extreme. It's funny to those of us who live in the massive countries of North America. Yesterday I wrote about Canada's Cheapest Place to Live, Nova Scotia. Where a nice three bedroom home on a large plot of land can be found for under $150,000 all the while no one even raises an eyebrow to condominiums selling in Toronto or Vancouver for millions of dollars. The same goes for the United States. Last year Detroit reported the cheapest house sale ever at under $10,000 while New York City and L.A. have their multi-million dolar condo markets. In North America we don't think twice about real estate varying ten fold or more.

Back in Germany eight most expensive places to live are all in Bavaria while Hamburg was ranked the most costly place to live. The eastern areas with the Saxony town of Görlitz in particular represented the least expensive places to live in Germany.

Source: The Local:

Best Place to Live in America

Here's an interesting little (?) study reported by CNN about the Best Places to Live in America. The list actually comes from Money's list of America's best small cities so, the 'small' part may skew the results somewhat. That said many people probably would agree that 'small' is better when it comes to lifestyle and quality of life. Drum role please....

Eden Prairie, Minnesota tops Money's list as the Best Place to Live in America.

Ismat Mangla reports that this small city is family friendly and has a "dynamite economy". For 2010 the unemployment rate was 5.1% which is almost one point less than the rate of the county and more than four percent lower the national average. This small city boasts 50,000 jobs right in town.

The major major companies in Eden Prairie are C.H. Robinson (A Fortune 500 trucking co); Starkey Labs (A major manufacturer of hearing aids) and the beloved Minnesota Vikings, who have their practice facility and their front office based right here in Eden Prairie.

Unlike many small cities in America Eden Prairie doesn't have a vibrant downtown. That's certainly something they could work on and benefit greatly from. If you read my post about San Luis Obispo you may have picked up on the fact they built their small city into the Happiest Place in America by revitalizing their downtown core with extra wide sidewalks and ordinance changes to encourage open air cafes and restaurants. The changes have been a boon for SLO. But that missing piece aside Eden Prairie has an abundance of outdoor beauty including gently rolling hills and 17 nearby lakes which local residents flock to for vacation and liesure. EP residents love their rural liesure pursuits like lake swimming in summer and ice skating in winter. Parks within and around the city are also a major part of the lifestyle here with more than 125 miles of running, hiking, and biking trails. With that kind of activity level it's no surprise that EP residents are among the healthiest people in America too. Finally to put icing on this lovely mid-west cake Eden Prairie is known for it's low crime rate (safety) and top of the class schools. What more does is needed to be one of the best cities in America? I can't think of much else!

A few stats about Eden Prairie:
Ranked #1 pf 100 (Winner) by Money Magazine as the Best Small City to Live in.
Population - 64,000
Unemployment Rate - 5.1%
Moody's Bond Rating - AAA

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

San Luis Obispo one of the Happiest Places in the World

San Luis Obispo California was recently designated as "One of the Happiest Places in the World" by National Geographic. It all stems from a book produced by N.G. which came out in October. In the book titled "Thrive", by author Dan Buettner, San Luis is the only place in America which gets a mention. Of course that info caught the attention of Oprah's producers so tonight, JAN26, the Oprah show will feature the lovely town of San Luis Obispo - SLO. The San Luis Obispo Tribune is thrilled and has been covering the Oprah producers visit to their happy little place.

This Oprah episode is titled, 'Are You Happy?' and also features interviews with SLO mayor Jan Marx and other town residents.

It's quite a big deal for SLO as around 150 countries air the Oprah show so like the huge success promoting the 'down under' in her Oprah in Australia shows which aired last week SLO could benefit greatly.

Now that Oprah is in her farewell season perhaps she has a new calling in tourism - promoting destination around the world. I'm sure many countries are already lining up to get a little of the Midas (Oprah) Touch!

Editors note - does "Happiest Places in the World" equate to Best Places to Live? What do you think?

Best Places to Live Monaco

Yes, we're half way through our review of the top ten best places to live in 2011 with Monaco coming in 5th. This of course is based on International Living's Quality of Life Index for 2011. By way of a quick recap - The U.S. took top spot as the Best Place for Quality of Life, followed by New Zealand, Malta, France and now Monaco.

Monaco doesn't make our top ten list for the Cheapest Places to Live but it does have a lot of other wonderful aspects which help it make the top 5 list. If you're interested in living the Riviera lifestyle with fun, sun, and that sexy James-Bond style excitement, than you really want to put Monaco at the top of your list of places to live. Monaco is probably one of, if not THE most prestigious places to live in the world. It's well known as one of may playgrounds for the rich and famous. But, for those who may not be so rich it is still a beautiful place for enjoying the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco also has one of the best man-made beaches in the world.

The name Monaco conjures up many images and is known for many things, foremost are gambling, being a tax haven and car racing - after all the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most famous races in the world. As a European destination Monaco is one of the most popular spots for those with money to burn and time to enjoy the fabulous weather, casinos, luxury shopping and high-end yachting. Similar to Malta, our 3rd best place for quality of life, Monaco is very small. It actually covers less than 500 acres - Now, that is one small country! But even though it covers such a small area it's still one of the most densely populated places on earth.  Monaco's population is 32,000 - that's more than 60 people per acre. The official language in Monaco is French but you'll find lots of English and German speaking people too.

So, if Monaco is the playground for the rich and famous how could it also meet the criteria for being one of the best places to live?  It's true Monaco ranks pretty low when it comes to cost of living, in fact it's 23 on the list. But were it fails in expense it more than makes up for in Climate, Freedom, Economy, Infrastructure and Safety.

Monaco is Top's for Climate

Here the climate is very mild year round because of its location on the Mediterranean Sea. The skies are almost always sunny with less than 60 day of rain per year.  Summers are warm, usually in the 80's F while winters never drop below 50 F.

Monaco is a Monarchy

The government is a constitutional monarchy with the Prince of Monaco as head of state. There is also an executive branch and cabinet in parliament. The government known to be very stable and fair.

Where is Monaco?

This small country is actually a sliver out of France right on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Best Places to Stay in Sydney Australia

Oprah just finished her whirlwind tour of Australia witha grand gala show at the Sydney Opera House. I thought this Guest post By Fraser Brown was perfect to celebrate one of the best places in Australia and to commemorate Oprah's farewell show from Australia. Thanks for sharing Fraser!

One of my most favorite places to visit in Sydney Australia is Bondi Beach. This is the closest beach to   the centre of Sydney, and is a very popular spot. Bondi beach gives true holiday pleasure with its stunningly blue transparent water, beach front residences places and hip restaurants. This place is the just the best place as a holiday destination for students, family and large groups. Here are my Sydney Accommodation reviews for Bondi beach and area:

Bondi Beach has a huge number of residential places which are equipped with all the modern luxuries. It is situated in south Wales which is in the heart of Sydney. The usual season of popular congregation is summertime, which is an obvious guess, as its quite hot in that time so students and other people of Sydney gather around at this destination - as this is not only a beach. This place is known to have all types of water sports, markets to shop around in, bars and restaurants to dine in, and some cultural programs are also organized, along with some events and other celebrations.

This hotel is a mixture of cozy and luxurious atmospheres, which are decorated by oil paintings, antique sculptures and tapestries which add to the overall ambiance of the structure. Here you will get to see blend of two things: the traditional setup, along with latest amenities. That is what anyone will look for in a good place to spend a few memorable days.

One of the most ideal things about a great tourist destination like The Rocks is that when you visit, you can stay at the town favorite hotels and residential places. Sydney offers tons of luxury hotels, and five start establishments. One of the most well-known is the Amora Hotel, which is a popular spot for business travelers to stay at. Families on holiday also enjoy visiting this hotel as well. Staying at the Amora will place you right in the center of all town festivities.

Another hotel that you will likely enjoy staying at during your visit to The Rocks is the Park Hyatt. This hotel is also located in the heart of Sydney. It's location is especially beautiful, as it's located on the shoreline, nestled along the water. In your room you will have a lovely full view of the harbor, and you can walk to the Opera House whenever you would like to take in a show. These are two of the things that make this trip a five star destination for so many individuals.

If you are interested in staying in house, and enjoying your stay, then there are various facilities available such as a wireless internet to surf on while enjoying wine in the bar, along with listening to classic music. There is also a martini club known for its colorful history. You can also enjoy running around throughout the day shopping, or enjoying the gaming zone.

If you think that you're going to be bored, then you are sadly mistaken. You will find all sorts of activities that you can participate in. The Rocks offers museums, art galleries, theaters, and historical tours. It also has brilliant shopping available at it's local market - which is huge. You can shop in a calm and pleasant marketplace, and buy anything your heart desires. You might want to follow your shopping trip with a walk along the bridge, or a bicycle ride along the quaint bike routes. Most people visit The Rocks, and travel throughout the area by foot. They walk from the nearest railway station, and sometimes they will also take the circular quay on foot as well. Bus service is also available from and to many locations. Common buses taken are the 431 or 432. Wynard is another location that is very location, that can be reached by bus or on foot.

If you wish to reach the Bondi Beach, then the options available for you, are either train or bus. You can take a train to reach the Bondi junction, and then take a bus, which will go straight to the beach. And if you're coming by plane, then the beach is about 25 minutes away from the Sydney airport. From there, you can take a bus directly or hire any private vehicle to reach the beach. So when you have a chance, do not wait to get drenched in the beautiful water of Bondi Beach in the hot summer and chill, as your spirit cheers!

Editors Note - this year Australia once again appears prominently on our Best Places for Quality of Life.

About the Author:

Remember last year when Australia rocked as one of our Best Places to Live?

Cheapest Places to Live in the World

If you're looking for the cheapest places to live in the world then home values will have a big impact on where you land. Of course we all want to sell high and buy low - it's the ultimate investment strategy. So, if you're thinking of a move, particularly if you are at or near retirement than there could be some fantastic opportunities for you. The Best Places to Retire are also those that have the lowest home prices and the least cost of living. If you happen to be working in a place where home prices and the cost of living is high and you're ready to retire - Bingo! You just hit that ideal investment jack pot.

Cheapest Places to Live in the World
On the other end of the 'life - earnings scale' is when we enter the job market. One of the biggest challenges we face after graduation is finding a job in a nice area where we can be happy. For some that may mean raising a family for others it means living an active social life in a vibrant city. But things change when we approach retirement. This time of life can literally open a world of possibilities. Now when we think about the best places to live our criteria changes completely. We are no longer dependant on the job market for where we live. That is one huge factor. This is why we see so many lists showing the Best Places to Retire are in small foreign countries. Often these countries have annual average wages which are less than the average North American is accustomed to earning in one week! That equates to one low cost of living for a retiree but one poor opportunity for someone looking for work.

So, the next time you are commiserating about how, when and if you will be able to retire think about the world of opportunities you have before you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Healthiest and Wealthiest Countries

I just came across this fantastic little video on YouTube. On the BBC show, The Joy of Stats, Hans Rosling gives us, '200 Countries over 200 Years in 4 Minutes. This video clip shows in just 4 minutes how our world has gone from sick and poor to healthy and wealthy over the past 200 hundred years.

This is just a great example of how and why the world is advancing and opening up to everyone. It's fantastic to see how a multi-media presentation can take information, which could be boring and take a long time to present, sped up and brought to life.

This is demonstrates statistically why we are even having a dialogue and discussion around where in the world to live. It explains and illustrates why we have more options each year - more countries available as Best Places to Retire and Best Places for Quality of Life.

Great stuff!

Least Expensive Places to Live

It's true this place may not be in the top ten best places to live list but it still has a lot going for it including being one of the least expensive places to live. But it's not just living cheap that makes this place so popular. It's known as one of the best places to retire for many other reasons too. Like...

The Best Climate

Could this be considered the ideal climate for life and living - daytime high of around 77º and down to around 50º at night? That sounds like a place where there is no need for air conditioning and a nice warm blanket will keep you cozy while you sleep. In this special place you can find yourself wandering the streets of an historic yet sophisticated city, -or- hiking a tranquil pine tree lined mountain trail ending with a relaxing and rejuvenating soak in a natural warm thermal pool -or- discovering the species of an exotic coloured bird in a lush rainforest jungle. Oh, it doesn't end there. How about walking barefoot along pristine beaches where the only footprints you see are your own?

It may sound like a fantasy but this place actually exists. The country is Ecuador and last year it was rated the Best Place to Retire by International Living Magazine. One of the big reasons is the ability to live comfortable on a very low income. Here's an example of why this is one of

The Least Expensive Places to Live

Lee and Peggy are American expats who live in Cotacachi, Ecuador. One couldn't call them cheap or shut-in's who avoid steeping out to save money. No, they dine out for practically every meal. Not only that they even have a maid who cleans their apartment and does their laundry too!

Here's how much Lee and Peggy spend each month -
Rent $150
Food $250
Water $6
Electricity $13
Propane $7
Medications $50
Laundry $24
Housecleaning $40
Dog food $40

That's a total budget of just $580 for two people and a dog! Now you might be thinking, yes, but what about all of those other little expense you're not telling us about? Well, let's see if we can fill inna few more of the details for you, like - a hair cut for $2, $2 manicures, $7 for a case of beer, 25 cents for the bus, and if you don't feel like doing the paper work for your medical insurance you can just pay the doctor $10 for the occasional visit.

Best Places to Retire
Another couple, John and Sue, live in Vilcabamba. But they were able to purchase their home so they don't pay rent. They say their monthly expenses are even less at under $500 a month!

So now you're likely thinking, "It's too far. It's probably one of those 'third-world' countries. Or perhaps you're thinking Ecuador isn't safe or the government isn't stable?

The reality is none of those things are true.

The Best Place to Retire

International Living recommends Ecuador as one of the Best Places to Retire and has been doing so for ten years now.

The truth is Ecuador continually exceeds expectations.

How's this for inexpensive - a four course lunch including soup, juice, meat, salad, rice, and dessert for just $2. A taxi fares in Quito average a buck. A 30 minute massage, just $15.

And like Panama (the 2nd Best Place to Retire) Ecuador's official currency is the U.S. dollar. So no need to worry about exchange rates.

And real estate is cheap too. In fact some of the lowest prices in the world. Check this out - a brand new two bedroom, two bath condo with city or ocean view for under $50,000. A Spanish Hacienda style home with lots of land in the mountains for under $90,000.

These aren't the lowest prices. These are just the typical prices!

Coldwell Banker studied 83 countries for it's annual International Home Price Comparison Index and found Ecuador has had the lowest priced real estate for the past two years.

Best Places to Live #4 France

The Quality of Life Index for 2010 gave France top spot as the best place to live. This year France slipped a little to 4th place mostly due to a rising cost of living - thanks to the economic melt down in Europe and across the developed world. So, while France may not be the Cheapest Place to Live it's still considered first class for many other lifestyle reasons.

Living in France brings romantic visions of Paris, cafes and lingering over fine French cuisine. But these days living in France brings more than the thought of romance and culture, living here also means exceptional care - health care that is.

Best Health Care in the World

As that wave of consumers known as the boomers rolls steadily across the markets everything changes. Today aging boomers are perhaps more interested in health care than romance and that may very well be the reason people are now looking to France for more than just a cup of coffee or a glass of fine French wine. A decade ago the W.H.O. (World Health Organization) gave France top marks with the designation of "Best overall health care system in the world". No one goes with health care in France even if your a non-citizen. French law makes private medical insurance mandatory for non-citizens who reside in France.

Moving to France

If you’re thinking about moving to Europe, then a move to France could be top of your list for consideration. When it comes to Quality of Life France has everything you want to look for. In this years Quality of Life Index France scored top marks (that's 100 out of 100) for Culture, Freedom, Health and Safety. Add to that list the beautiful unspoiled French countryside, the world's best health care system, history and colourful traditions and you've got almost everything you could wish for.

Now if you are seriously considering a move to France, your biggest challenge will be determining which region of France is the best place to live for you. Whether it's Celtic Brittany sun drenched Provence, or grand Paris France has something fort every appetite.  There are numerous reasons to chose France and good reason it's #4 for the best places to live. What are your reasons for wanting to move to France?

Moving to France for Climate

France is one of those fabulous countries that offers a diverse climate with something for everyone - moving to France means you have the mountains, beaches, and countryside all within a few hours.

Moving to France for Life Balance

France seems to always find itself toward to top of the list when it comes to the Best Places to Retire but it's also a very attractive place to work and raise a family. In the west Americans have the reputation for working way too much! The French begin with five paid weeks of vacation each year. They insure work doesn't intrude upon a quality life by working less hours each week too. As we mentioned previously France has the best health care system in the world. The French are known to live longer and have much healthier lives, less stressful than Americans. So, if you're ready to escape the rat race behind France maybe just what the Doctor ordered.

Interestingly our next Best Place to Live in the world is not consider part of France but is a small country on the French Riviera. Watch for it!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cheapest Place to Live

This blog started as an exploration of the Cheapest Places to Live in the world and I'm still continuing that quest but the blog has evolved into much more than just that. We're also looking at the Best Places to Live based on a variety of criteria - not just whether they are cheap. After all, would you agree the term 'cheap' is pretty subjective and relative to each individuals circumstances. From one perspective cheap may simply mean the least expensive place to live - lowest rent, lowest real estate cost - literally THE cheapest place but for most people that is an unrealistic measure and one that isn't very useful. When I write about and we as a community discuss the concept of living cheaply what we are really trying to look at is that whole bundle of objective and subject qualities that when taken together result in value. For me it's about a lifestyle that represents the best value. How can I get the most out of life and living for the least amount of money.

What is the Cheapest Place to Live?

To answer that question you first need to figure out what your true costs of living are. Sure some of those are pretty easy to figure out. Things like the cost of housing, the cost of food, the cost of utilities, etc. Now it's important to really develop a comprehensive list of your costs of living. Don't forget to look at insurance, fuel, transportation, education - you really want to brainstorm every single thing you purchase to maintain your quality of life. Pull out bank statements and credit card statements. Examine what you purchase daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and occasionally. It's a pretty straight forward project to accomplish.

How do you measure Quality of Life?

The second part of the analysis is a lot trickier and a lot more individual - it's the subjective measures of quality and of cost. But these subjective items often become the most important. I believe they actually are the most important things of all. So, what am I really talking about here? It's probably easiest to explain the concept by way of example. Let's say I want to find the Cheapest Place to Live in the United States. If I look solely at objective criteria I'm likely to end up somewhere north, somewhere cold, somewhere that not many people want to live. So, my rent may be cheap but what are the other non-monetary costs I'm paying for having that cheap rent? My health may suffer. I have to pay more for heating. My car will wear out faster, These are some of the subjective costs of living I need to take into consideration.

So, as you read this Blog and particularly as we examine the Quality of Life Index for 2011 I'm hopeful your mind and our discussion broadens and gets into some of these more interesting aspects of determining the best place to live - for you and for me.

For those who are following the discussion around our leading countries for quality of life tomorrow I'll get back on the trail and give you more information about our 4th best place for quality of Life, France.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cheap Places to Live Abroad

As I read through the International Living Quality of Life Index for the best places to live in 2011 I can't help but be drawn to that one very important category - Cost of Living. It's such an important topic since the economic melt down. Retirees were sitting pretty and thinking they could settle down just about anywhere they wanted on the planet but then overnight it seemed their nest eggs disappeared or at the very least have been diminished to a great extent. It's really quite sad and when I hear people who should be retiring saying things like, "I don't know if I will ever be able to retire". It breaks my heart.

Now savvy and global thinking retirees aren't about to give up on their dream. In fact they were probably planning alternative scenarios for retirement many years before the collapse. And that's where this index can really come into play. Restricted budgets and income losses don't mean retirement has to be put on the back burner. It does mean finding the cheapest places to live has become a greater concern and a higher priority.

This is the fun, interesting and helpful part of having Quality of Life for each country broken down by nine different ranking categories. Let's revisit our list of the Best Places to Live based on average quality of life and determine the potential Best Places to Retire based and rank ordered by Cost of Living -

Cheap Places to Live Abroad

#1 - Hungary
#2 - The United States
#3 - Argentina
#5 - Portugal
#6 - New Zealand
#7 - Malta
#8 - Uruguay

#9 - Slovenia
#10 - Belgium

Of course we are talking about entire countries here so the data and the index once again can be a bit suspect and perhaps even misleading. The United States is the best place to live and has the second lowest Cost of Living according to the index. Now we know the U.S. does have a very low cost of living in some places. And, it has very cheap housing BUT it also has some of the most expensive real estate on the planet! It's a huge country so the averages can be quite misleading and will skew the results. Sure, you can live very cheaply in some very rough neighbourhoods in the U.S. You can live cheaply in some very cold and snowy places in the U.S. On the other end of the spectrum we have very small countries like Malta with a high quality of life score. But, in Malta the climate and cost of living is pretty consistent throughout the country. This is why quality of life really needs to be considered as a basket of items including such very important things like climate.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best Places to Live in 2011 - Malta

Next on the list for International Living's Quality of Life Index and at position #3 for the Best Places to Live is Malta.

Like New Zealand Malta gets high marks for Culture, Freedom, Climate and Safety. Malta is also a bit of a darling for those with capital who are looking for the best places to retire where they pay the lowest taxes. Although Malta has taxation agreements with most EU countries and the United States those who manage a work around and show earnings from elsewhere get taxed at a lovely low flat rate of just 15%.

Malta has been growing and attracting a lot of expats over the past six or seven years - basically after they chose to enter the European Union in 2004. As a result the country has become more and more of a multi cultured mix of nationalities. You'll find people who have moved to Malta from just about every european country you can think of in addition to most other parts of the world.

So why move to Malta?

Well besides the opportunity to save big time on taxes there are lot sof reasons to live in Malta. Climate is probably top of the list. This is the place where outdoor living is not only desired but extremely comfortable and easy to do. If you're retired the cost of living is reasonable but if you're still in the job market wages are definitely lower than say the U.K. But many people are willing to accept less pay for a higher quality of life aren't they? Malta has lovely warm weather and beauty in all directions particularly in it's architecture with grand stone houses and flowers running wild along stone walls and fences.

It can be hard to think of Malta as a country because it's really just a grouping of small islands. It's located south of Italy and north of Africa. in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta is often referred as the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The area it covers is quite small as just 122 square miles. To put that in perspective Malta is about twice the size of Washington D.C.

Malta may not be one of the cheapest places to live in the world but it is certainly one of the cheaper places to live in Europe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best Places to Live in 2011 New Zealand

We talked a little about our #1 winner for the Best Places for Quality of Life in 2011, the United States. But we've talked a lot about the U.S. on this blog and I know we will again! So, let's move on a talk about our runner up for the Best Places to Live in 2011, as ranked by International Living Magazine in their annual Quality of Life Index.

New Zealand - a land that prides itself on Life Balance.

The best things about New Zealand include the unending belief and action for living life in balance. Meaning work is just one part of a quality lifestyle. A place where working part time is not something to be embarrassed about but something that is celebrated. Employers recognize that quality performance comes not from cracking the whip but from happy, healthy and satisfied employees. Employers are open to and work towards policies that can insure work flexibility.

Of course New Zealand is english speaking, extremely safe and the quality of education os excellent. Housing, environment, abundant fresh food and water, superior infrastructure and health services all make New Zealand an easy pick for runner up. It's no surprise that New Zealand ranks high, above 90 pts, for Culture; Healthcare; and safety. It does rank a little lower for cost of living but still ranks in the top ten.

Best Places to Live in New Zealand

A lot of people who emigrate to New Zealand live and work in and close to Auckland. But if you talk to a Kiwi (New Zealander) they will quickly tell you that Auckland is thought of poorly. In fact it's one of the locals less favourite places to live. This is due to the generally inflated real estate prices, the high cost of living, and a higher than average crime rate. It's also because of the larger number of immigrants making this city their home!

So if you're wondering where the best places to live in New Zealand are, it's best to ask a New Zealander.  According to the locals the best places for lifestyle in New Zealand reasons are Christchurch in Canterbury, and Tauranga, Waikato and Otago in the Bay of Plenty.

New Zealand is a land of natural beauty and a place where the people are known to be exceptionally friendly, hospitably and happy. I discovered this Unique Guide that reveals insider secrets on how to migrate, live, work or invest in New Zealand - you can learn more about it by Clicking Here!

Editors Note: Last year New Zealand ranked 5th of the Quality of Life Index.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Cheapest Places to Live: Where Should I Live in 2011?

Where Should I live? I agree it is a great question to ask! We really can live Globally but some many people get stuck in their history - "My mum and dad have always lived here and so should I." What rubbish! I agree with PanamaMark - patriotism is truly an outdated concept - aren't we intelligent and strong enough to stand up for our own personal values where ever we land on the planet? It's time for us all to grow up and be patriotic about the whole world and all of the people on it!

Where Should I Live in 2011?

Last year I first asked the question, 'Of all the places in the world, Where Should I live?' This lead to a quest to find the cheapest and best places to live as ranked by authorities who do just that - rank places based on a variety of statistics. A year ago I presented what I thought was a pretty interesting and credible list - the International Living Quality of Life Index. I had so much fun reviewing that piece and such great feedback that I decided to subscribe to, a monthly publication. I've learned a ton about new places to live which are emerging all the time. It's such a great resource - I highly recommend it - you can get more details on he magazine and subscriptions by clicking on that box over to the right or on any of the numerous links I've placed in previous articles.

Well yesterday I announced that the annual Quality of Life issue had arrived and I let you know about the top ten places to live in the world - that is to say the list of those places offer the very best Quality of Life and Living for 2011. You can just look below at that post to learn more.

As I did last year I'm going to spend the next few weeks going over the list in-depth. I'll talk about each country and some of the things which may not appear in the index like, which ones are also the Best Places to Retire and where I can find data I'll explore the cheapest places to live within each country.

The index is just that - an index. So it ranks countries by a number of factors and the overall winner is the one with the highest overall rank. Yesterday I announced, much to my surprise, that the United States Quality of Life was determined to be the best with a final score of 86.43. Now numbers aren't the whole story. Sure the U.S. ranked high on Economy - let's face it, depression, recession whatever you want to call it the U.S. still it has the largest economy on the world. or - at least compared to the other 191 countries in the complete index - well no, not really - it is the biggest in the world! The United States also scores very high when it comes to infrastructure - sure if you live in the States you may be contenting with pot holes and other challenges which would cause you to question that but again overall when looking at all of the countries the U.S. stands in pretty good stead when it comes to infrastructure. And it continues to score relatively high across all of the other nine categories (see previous post).

Now all of that said this is a list which is determined by averages so a huge country like the U.S. can really skew the results. For example, while the U.S. does offer some of the cheapest places to live in the world - check out Waco Texas or some of the mid-mid west States like South Dakota or how about Detroit where, due to a devastated auto industry, the cheapest house on record was sold last year - it also has some of the most expensive lifestyles and cost of living on the planet - check out downtown Manhattan or Malibu Beach. The same goes for weather - 40 below in the North is tempered by balmy warm winters in Southern Florida and Southern California.

In future posts we will move beyond the U.S. borders but may check in with comparisons from time to time. For now, read on as we explore and try to answer that question, 'Where Should I live in 2011?'

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Best Places for Quality of Life 2011

I just received my brand new January 2011 issue of International Living Magazine. Can you believe it's been a whole  year since we looked at I.L.'s  Best Places to Live? Well it's true. One year ago almost to this day we counted off the International Living Annual Quality of Life index highlighting the Top 10 places to live on the planet.

The 2010 List of Best Places to Live was:

1. France
2. Australia
3. Switzerland
4. Germany
5. New Zealand
6. Luxembourg
7. US
8. Belgium
9. Canada
10. Italy

For 2011 the Best Places for Quality of life have changed up a little. In reverse oder, here's where I.L. thinks we'll find the highest quality of life in 2011 -

10. Germany (4th in 2010)
9. Austria (not in top 10 last year)
8. The United Kingdom (not in top 10 last year)
7. Japan (not in top 10 last year)
6. Belgium (8th in 2010)
5. Monaco (not in top 10 last year)
4. France (1st in 2010)
3. Malta (not in top 10 last year)
2. New Zealand (5th in 2010)

and the Best Place for Quality of Living in 2011 goes to,

The United States ! (The United States was ranked the 7th best place for quality of life in 2010)

It's interesting to note that half of these countries weren;t even in the top ten last year. So, what's changed? Well over the next few weeks I offer some comments on each country that appeared on this years list. Of course I will also attempt to build in some info about the cheapest places to live in each country and which ones may present as the Best Places to Retire.

Last year I had a few comments and questions about how the list is created. It's pretty much the same story every year and I will admit I.L. has soem huge gaps in how they measure Quality of Life but they do at least focus in on some pretty important criteria that most people would actually use in their personal judgement. I.L. considers the following when creating their list - Cost of Living; Culture; Economy; Environment; Freedom; Health; Infrastructure; Safety and Climate. Of course the rating is subjective and done by their staffers so it's not exactly an unbiased view. But admittedly they say, "Every index is prone to nonsense by numbers which is why we include some subjectivity."

Regardless, I quite enjoy this list  picking it apart and looking at each country. It's fun, interesting and always giving me food for thought when I think about where I want to live, next!

Waco - Cheapest place to live in U.S. but...

Browsing the net today I came across a small item on the Channel 25 News site serving Waco, Killen and Temple, Tx. claiming "Waco as one of the Cheapest Places to live in the U.S.A.

The article basically drew on data compiled by the Real Estate research website, Homefacts listed Waco as one of the top ten cheapest places to live in the U.S. based on cost of living data they compiled from the U.S. department of housing. Waco was #7 on the list.

I always find these little snippets interesting - its often what's not reported that is most interesting. If available, the comments people leave can be quite revealing. In this case the comments were pretty negative. Confirming that Waco is in fact one of the least expensive places to live but perhaps for good reason. Posters trashed the place for high taxes and what sounds like a pretty nasty crime and poverty problem.

A comment by one poster may just sum it all up, " Woo Hoo Waco! - Save money, get robbed, shot or maybe raped. Thats the place I want to raise my family..."

As I mentioned its a pretty small piece and what I've written here captures it all but if you still want to check out the original source you can go here - Source:

Yes, it's true Waco is the cheapest place to live in the U.S.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How To Make The Most Profitable Investments In Panama

Guest post By Jorge Rodriguez

Panama is no doubt one of the biggest success stories of Latin America. Fifty years ago this country on the Southern tip of Central America was dirt poor. Today it's classified as a high income country, in the same group as countries such as Argentina and Chile. In the following paragraphs we will take a quick look at the most profitable investments in Panama City.

An investment in real estate in this country can be very lucrative. As a result of increased foreign demand, the Real Estate market in Panama is in a better state than in most other countries in Latin America and even the world. This is mainly a result of increased international property investments after steps taken by the Panama Government to encourage foreign investment in this market sector.

Nowadays any foreigner can easily buy property anywhere in the country. You get full ownership and the transaction gets recorded at the deeds office. You can afterwards sell the property to whoever you want at a time of your choice. You are also free to send the profits back to your home country. The only applicable tax is a 2% transfer tax which is levied on this type of property sale.

New property investments - construction -  in the country are under current law exempt from paying property taxes for up to two decades. If you need to import building materials to build a commercial or residential property, these imports are also exempt from import duties. The rental income you derive from the building will also be tax free for a specified period and under certain conditions.

You also have the option of investing in a business in Panama. The country is politically stable and offers higher returns on investments than in the majority of developed countries. You are free to invest or repatriate your profits, subject to certain conditions.

If you should decide to invest your money in a business in this beautiful country, you have the choice of investing in an existing business or starting a new one. A new business has the advantage that you can structure it to your own liking. An existing business, on the other hand, already has a customer base, so you can start making money immediately.

Commercial and industrial businesses and real estate are some of the most profitable investments in Panama. If you make sure you only deal with trustworthy partners, your investment will undoubtedly prove to be a highly profitable one. First, however, make sure you are aware of all legal requirements applicable to your case. In this regard a good investment lawyer on your team will be a great asset.

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