On our YouTube channel, we’ve covered countless topics around financial independence and early retirement. Amon and I spent eight years on the path to financial independence, and once we achieved our overall goal, we were able to quit our government jobs and retire at just 39 years old.
But it was the next part of our journey that piqued a lot of interest - because we chose to leave the United States and retire in Portugal with our children. Many people want to know why we chose Portugal.
So today, I’m going to answer that question as thoroughly as possible! So you can understand: 1) how life in Portugal compares to life in the U.S. and 2) why we left the United States in the first place.
How safe is Portugal? I get this question all the time.
Let me start by saying that Portugal is an incredibly safe country! It’s so safe in fact, that the World Population Review ranked it as the third safest country in the world. Compare that to America, which was placed at a jaw-dropping 128 . . . does that answer the question?
Here’s another stat to clear things up: As of 2018 Portugal had an average of 0.8 people killed per 100,000. The U.S had an average of 5 per 100,000. That is more than 5 times the murder rate in the US compared to Portugal!
Our sense of safety in Portugal can be summed up in 3 words: Peace of mind. We feel secure traveling anywhere in this country, compared to the US where there were definitely places that we just didn’t feel safe in, or would never visit for safety reasons.
When it comes to healthcare, there’s no competition.
To be blunt - Portugal has a higher average life expectancy than the States: 83 years old, compared to 79. This is just one indication of the quality of healthcare in this country.
And if that’s not enough, consider this: Portugal’s healthcare system is also ranked the 12th best by the World Health Organization compared to the US, which ranks at 37. If that isn’t enough, it’s also considerably cheaper here than it is back home. We only pay $125 per month for private health care for a family of four, compared to our lives in the U.S where we were looking at $25,000 a year for near-equivalent healthcare!
Cost Of Living
This is a difficult one because costs of living can vary hugely across the United States, so I can only really speak from our experience living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Back then, our expenses in the Bay Area were astronomical. Here in Portugal, we spend roughly $2,000 a month for our family of four - and that includes private healthcare and the cost of sending our girls to private schooling here in Portugal.
You can indeed spend less money in the U.S living in cheaper places, but that same logic applies to Portugal. There are many places here where you can spend less than we do. For us, the cost of living in Portugal is far more manageable.
This doesn’t apply to everyone, but travel is a favorite pastime of ours. Back in the U.S our favorite holiday destination was Hawaii, because of the beautiful beaches and weather. From San Francisco to Hawaii return flights would cost around $500 per person.
Compare that to travel in Portugal where we can fly to Poland or the Netherlands for less than $300 for our entire family of four! If you want to pay even less, you can catch a bus or train and be in another country within a matter of hours.
When we lived in California we could drive or even fly for hours, and we would still be in California. In Portugal, there are so many more options, and new cultures and experiences are right at your doorstep.
Food and Drinks
Now, this is one category where I have to admit that the states come out on top. It probably helps that Amon and I have spent most of our lives with a very American palate, but at the same time the U.S just has more variety. Almost everywhere you go in the states (or at least California, where we’re from), you can find Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Italian, and more just around the corner.
While you can find these kinds of foods in Portugal, you can’t find as many varieties of them and they aren’t as prevalent as they are back home. As much as I love Portuguese food, the U.S has more options!
As for grocery stores? I’ve actually looked into this extensively. For the most part, you can find everything you would need back in the U.S in Portuguese supermarkets and grocery stores. You can even find more obscure items. If you have specific dietary restrictions like gluten or wheat allergies, you’ll find the right products here too.
Now for one of my favorite subjects! To compare real estate options between the two countries, let’s look at median house prices. In the U.S it’s $320,000. In the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived, it’s closer to $996,000 . . . which is insane.
But in Portugal, you can find many, many houses on the market for less than $200,000! And I’m talking gorgeous homes, the kind that would cost millions in the Bay Area. Real estate transaction costs are also much more affordable here. So for real estate, Portugal was a clear winner for us.
This may sound a little odd, but one of the most notable differences between Portuguese people and Americans is . . . sports. Portuguese love soccer. For people here, football is life, and every city, town, and even neighborhood has a soccer team that represents the locals. American’s enjoy sports too, but not to the same extent.
People in Portugal also tend to eat dinner later. In Portugal, people can start dinner at 9:00pm, compared to 6 or 7;00pm in the U.S. Dinners and lunches can also last for hours in Portugal. It’s basically a leisure sport! And that says a lot about the atmosphere in Portugal. People live at a slower, more leisurely pace. They like to enjoy themselves.
There are a lot of English speakers in Portugal, which has helped to make the transition here much easier. But in general, people speak many languages here in Portugal. For example, in elementary school here in Portugal, 85% of students learn one or more foreign languages! Compare that to the States, where only 25% of schools offer foreign language classes. It’s easy to see why so many speak English here!
So these are not only the biggest differences between the two countries, but they all played a part in why we chose to move to Portugal from the United States. Who knows - maybe one day you’ll be inspired by my list of differences . . . and maybe you’ll move here too!
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