(Go BankingRates) - Some retirees want to stretch their dollars, while others are most concerned with proximity to family, fishing holes or golf courses. Plenty of other folks just want to feel safe as age, and if security and safety are at the top of your retirement checklist, America might not be the place for you.
Every year, the Institute for Economics and Peace releases the Global Peace Index, which ranks the nations of the world based on criteria like violent crime, internal conflict, homicides, access to weapons, political instability, violent demonstrations, terrorist activity, the population of imprisoned people, safety and security, and militarization.
The United States ranks No. 129, just ahead of Brazil, Burundi, Eritrea and Palestine, but just behind Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe, Egypt and the Philippines. So, not too good to say the least.
If you’re looking to retire abroad but not overseas, good news. You can drive to one of the safest countries in the world — just make sure you head north and not south.
Canada ranks No. 12 on the Global Peace Index. It’s a politically stable country with very low violent crime, internal conflict or conflict-related deaths. It ranks very high in safety and security and very low in militarization and displaced people. It’s one of only four non-European countries in the world to make it into the elite top 15.
Canada might be closest, but if you sail west a little more than halfway between North America and Northern Europe, you’ll hit Iceland, which has claimed the title of the safest country in the world every year since the mid-2000s.
Yes, it brushes up against the Arctic Circle, and yes, the alphabet gets a little weird if you’ve lived stateside your whole life, but there’s a whole lot to like about the island nation, which, like Canada, is one of the rare non-European countries on the list. Aside from its famous geothermal pools and astonishing natural beauty, Iceland also lands at or near the top of the rankings for the world’s happiest countries year after year as well.
The No. 2 safest country in the world behind Iceland is also an island nation without a home continent and is also one of only four non-European countries to make the list. According to the French travel company Evaneos, “New Zealand is a country known for its safety, and the relaxed attitude of the Kiwis will prove it to you.”
The site adds that many locals don’t lock their doors and often keep their engines running when they make a quick stop at the store. Generally, you won’t see people on high alert at night, clutching their handbags or avoiding conversations with strangers.
Though the country was long known for militarization, ethnic and religious conflict, terrorism and violent demonstrations, those problems are nearly non-issues in modern Ireland. The island can now boast the title of the No. 3 safest and most secure country in the world. On top of that, American retirees who move there would only have to adapt to a slightly different brand of English.
According to Travel Safe Abroad, Ireland was a poor country for much of its history, but after joining the European Union in 1973, it enjoyed a massive influx of foreign investment and became the European base of many multinational companies, making it one of the wealthiest and most stable countries on the continent today.
Denmark joined the EU the same year as Ireland, and nearly a half-century later, it is one of the statistically safest countries in the world. However, the U.S. government recently warned of a heightened risk of terrorism in the tiny Nordic kingdom.
Beyond that, though, homicides and other violent crimes, militarization, political instability, violent demonstrations and other red flags exist only as the rarest of outliers. Like Iceland and the other Nordic countries, Denmark is a perennial presence near the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries as well as the safest.
Rounding out the five safest countries in the world, Austria is one of a cluster of Central European nations that all rank in the elite top 15. Others include Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “Austria is a free and stable democracy with a social market economy,” and “Austria and the United States are partners in promoting global security, strengthening economic cooperation, and collaborating to promote and defend our shared values around the world.”
Back over to Western Europe, Portugal is the No. 6 safest country in the world. If you classify Switzerland among the Central bloc and separate the Nordic countries, Portugal and Ireland are the only countries in Western Europe to claim spots in the ranking’s elite top 15 safest countries in the world.
Despite its impressive ranking, Portugal has actually slipped a little. It was ranked No. 3 behind only New Zealand and Iceland in 2020, and in 2021 Portugal took the No. 4 spot.
Slovenia and the Czech Republic rank higher than Singapore, but if you’re looking to retire somewhere safe in the East, Singapore is one of your only two options. It ranks as the No. 9 safest country on Earth.
According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, the country ranks No. 1 in all of Asia for quality of living. It’s also the second safest city in the world and the best place in Asia for expats to live. It cites Gallup data showing that 94% of Singapore residents feel safe walking alone at night compared to 69% worldwide. It credits this to “consistently low crime rates, a transparent legal system, and a reliable police force supported by proactive citizens.”
The only other Asian nation to make the top 15 and the last on the list outside of Europe is Japan, which holds the No. 10 spot in the ranking of the world’s safest countries. Japan routinely ranks near the top of the list thanks to low crime rates, including both violent crimes and property crimes.
According to Intrepid, the biggest danger there comes not from criminals, but from Mother Nature. Not only is Japan prone to typhoons, but its location in the Ring of Fire makes it susceptible to devastating earthquakes and tsunamis.
Rounding out the list is Switzerland, which takes the No. 11 spot on the Global Peace Index. It’s long been known for stunning mountain scenery and other natural beauty, a generally pleasant and welcoming local population, rich cultural history and very low crime.
In fact, many villages and enclaves are virtually crime-free.