Over the last couple of years, various countries have emerged as popular retirement destinations for retirees worldwide. Among these destinations, two North American countries, Canada and the U.S.A., have established their eminence. As a result, retirees looking to retire in North America are often uncertain when choosing between these two renowned neighboring countries.
Canada is known for its snow-capped mountains and unmatched love for ice hockey. On the other hand, the U.S. is famous for its thriving multicultural atmosphere and high living standards. Canada and the U.S. have many similarities, such as a booming economy and a diversified population.
Between population, natural scenery, currency, food, politics, healthcare system, and living cost, there are many differences between these two neighboring countries. In this guide, we’ll look into these unique aspects to consider when choosing your retirement destination. Read on to get a glimpse of what each country has in store for you.
Despite their striking similarities, here is an outline of the distinctive features of Canada and the U.S.A:
|Current population|| 38,067,903
|Cost of living||Higher in the urban areas but relatively affordable
|Relatively high in the urban areas|
|Notable attractions||Niagara Falls
Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)
Gros Morne National Park
Banff National Park & the Rocky Mountains
White House in Washington D.C.
Las Vegas Strip
Polar bear safari
Playing casino games
|Climate||Varies from arctic and subarctic in the North to temperate in the south
|Varies from temperate, tropical, arctic, semiarid, and arid|
|Healthcare||Affordable Universal Healthcare System||More established private healthcare which is costly
Canada, also known as the Great White North, is the second-largest country in the world (in square kilometers) after Russia. Its capital city is Ottawa. However, despite its large size, it is one of the sparsely populated countries, with the older generation (retirees) constituting a good percentage of its entire population.
Canada boasts its bilingual state, with English and French being the dominant languages. As a result, it has attracted a high number of immigrants from different parts of the world.
Bordering the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans, this country has a diversified topography that includes highland plateaus, mountain ranges, plains, rivers, and lakes, as well as lowlands. Due to its location, the weather in Canada’s different states varies based on their distance from the ocean.
The North’s states mainly experience arctic and subarctic climates, while those to the South experience temperate climate.
Canada has a thriving economy that’s run on the Canadian Dollar (CAD). When it comes to living costs, the range varies depending on your lifestyle and your location. Life in the busy urban cities is often expensive compared to the smaller towns and rural areas.
This country also boasts its natural sceneries, including glaciers, mountains, forests, and greenery, making it an attractive place to retire.
Canada has something for everyone, regardless of your preference in life; it offers a haven of activities and entertainment for the urban lovers and a calm and peaceful rural life for the reserved retirees.
United States of America (U.S.A.)
The U.S.A., also known as the U.S. or America, is one of the world’s most famous countries known for its politics, industry, economy, and culture. It’s one of the countries topping the ‘to visit’ list of many individuals. Other than being a popular destination to visit, it also attracted a good number of retirees.
The U.S.A. is the third-largest country globally after Canada but with a higher population than its predecessor. Its capital city is Washington, D.C., one of the busiest and most modern North American cities.
This country is tucked between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, creating a serene environment to live in. When it comes to the physical environment, the U.S.A. is highly diversified, boasting low-lying land, moist rainforests, rugged mountain ranges, and arid deserts.
Its location, coupled with its diversified physical features, contributes to the varying climatic conditions within its various states. The climate here varies between temperate, tropical, arid, arctic, and semiarid.
The U.S.A. has some of the world’s largest urban concentrations with a highly diversified population. This diversified population results from the massive immigration of different people groups from all over the world.
It is also the hub of numerous tech companies and other processing industries contributing to its booming economy. The U.S. economy is run on one of the globally accepted currencies, the United States Dollar (USD) ($).
Generally, this country offers an excellent home for everyone, talk of great urban life for the urban lovers, productive agricultural land, amazing outdoors, conducive beach life, and reserved rural life. There is something for everyone.
Although the cost of living may seem relatively high in most parts of the U.S.A., it may be well worth it, depending on what you are looking for.
With this general understanding of these countries in mind, let’s now analyze their distinctive features.
Occupying a total area of 9.98 million square kilometers (3.85 million square miles), Canada is home to 38,067,903 people. The majority of the people here live in urban areas where they have access to modern social amenities.
Given its geographical size and the current demographic statistics, this country displays a sparse population. Additionally, it boasts a high life expectancy of approximately 82.66 years, with most of its residents being the elderly (retirees). Therefore, if you’re looking forward to retiring in a country that’s sparsely populated, Canada may be a perfect location for you.
Most U.S. residents live in the big cities, making it one of the countries with the highest urban population. It offers its residents a dense urban atmosphere.
Healthcare is another critical factor to consider when choosing your retirement destination. It becomes more critical if you have a health condition that may need emergency medical attention. Choose a location with a well-established, accessible, and affordable healthcare system in such a case.
Canada has an established universal healthcare system (medicare) available to all its residents. This publicly funded healthcare plan aims at providing medical care to all Canadians based on their needs rather than their ability to pay.
This healthcare plan means that despite your income stream, as a Canadian resident, you’ll have the right to access quality medical care. Canadians view universal healthcare as a national pride that brings together the haves and the have nots in the country.
Through this plan, medical facilities are distributed throughout the country, ensuring equitable access to physicians, doctors, specialists, and medicines within its boundaries.
Since this plan covers only Canada’s citizens and permanent residents, if you’re on a temporary visa, it’s advisable to take out private health insurance to cater to your medical emergencies.
Additionally, if you want to move to the country as a permanent resident, it’s advisable to take out private health insurance. This caters to your medical expenses as you wait to receive the permanent residency card that qualifies you for the public medicare system.
As a retiree, healthcare should be a priority, and if you are looking for a perfect blend of affordable and convenient health care services, Canada should be your perfect place to retire.
On the other hand, the U.S.A.’s health care system ranks among the best in the world. It features highly modernized medical facilities with skilled practitioners and attracts many medical tourists from different parts of the world.
Compared to Canada, the U.S.A. lacks universal health care coverage where most of its facilities are privately owned. As a result, healthcare services prices are relatively higher in the U.S.A. than in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
Most residents here take out private health insurance (for which premiums are relatively high, especially for low-income earners) to cater to the high medical fees. Following the private sector dominance in the U.S.A.’s healthcare sector, there is an uneven distribution of services in the country.
Most medical facilities are based in urban areas catering to those who can afford their services. This means that low-income earners and the people living in rural areas are often disadvantaged when it comes to healthcare services.
Most of them fail to visit medical facilities whenever they fall sick due to the high cost of treatment. As a result, the U.S. has recorded a rise in chronic illnesses over the years.
Despite having modern medical facilities with state-of-the-art technology, the U.S.A. is one of the countries with an overly expensive healthcare sector in the world.
As a retiree living in the U.S.A., you may be forced to dig a little deeper into your pockets to cater to your medical expenses. Therefore, it’s advisable to review your budget allocation for medical care before retiring in the U.S.A.
Climate is another vital factor retirees consider when choosing an ideal place to spend their golden years.
Although Canada is associated with snow and cold weather, its climate varies from one region to the other within its territorial boundaries. Since Canada borders two large water bodies, ocean currents and winds affect the prevailing climatic condition.
Central Canada and parts of Northern Canada, mostly arid areas, are dominated by arctic and subarctic climates. In a nutshell, these areas are characterized by long winters and short summer seasons. Temperatures here can be so low that they drop below −20 °C (−4 °F) on most winter days.
In most northern provinces, ice and permafrost can persist all year round. Additionally, the central-southern part of this country boasts a typical continental climate characterized by hot summers, frigid winters, and sparse precipitation. The remaining southern parts have a temperate climate, which features cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers.
Except for the relatively warmer west coast, most Canadian regions have long winter seasons with temperatures going below the freezing point. During winter, the regions farthest from the open waters are extremely cold while warmest during summer. The long periods of snow and permafrost make Canada an ideal spot for ice hockey.
If warmer climates are your preference, Canada is perhaps not the right place for you. Therefore, if you decide to retire in Canada, it’s best to check on your chosen area’s temperature variations.
Like Canada, the U.S.A.’s climate varies depending on a particular state’s location relative to the large water bodies and physical features such as mountains. However, unlike Canada, which is dominated by longer winter seasons, the U.S. has fairly longer summer seasons.
The northeastern part, which includes states like Pennsylvania, New York, Washington D.C, Maryland, and Massachusetts, just to mention a few, has a conducive climate that attracts most retirees. Its summer temperatures are fairly warm to moderate, while the winter temperatures range from cool to frigid.
The further you move to the North, the cooler the temperatures. These states also experience moderate rainfall, and during winter, the freezing rain comes with snow.
In the midwest region, which includes states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Ohio, temperatures display great variations because there are no oceans to moderate them. During summer, the temperatures can be extremely high and vice versa during winter.
Rainfall is common in these regions, and they are also prone to tornadoes. If the rain is relatively high, the low-lying regions can experience flooding.
Generally, the temperature and rainfall in the United States vary depending on the season and state, but the climate is relatively warmer. Florida and Hawaii are the warmest states, while Fairbanks and Alaska are the coldest.
Therefore, before packing your bags and moving to either Canada or the U.S.A., take your time and study the prevailing weather conditions. Is the climate in the region what you need? Make a wise, well-thought-out decision to avoid future regrets!
Both Canada and the U.S.A. feature high living costs depending on where you live and your lifestyle.
If you’re looking forward to retiring in Canada, it’s important to know how much your new lifestyle will cost. Consider the cost of food, rent, healthcare, and social amenities.
To start, we’ll look at the city living in Canada. Vancouver is ranked as the most expensive city to live in, closely followed by Toronto. You can part with approximately CAD 2,793 (USD 2,193) per month for a two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver.
If you’re looking for a cheaper city, consider Hamilton and Edmonton. For urban lovers, Edmonton is the cheapest major city you can retire in, with the monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment amounting to CAD 1,250 (USD 981).
If city living goes beyond your budget, you can rent apartments away from the major cities where rent is more affordable and the quality of life is still high. A good example is Timmins, where rent is about CAD 1,049 (USD 823).
If you’re a fitness enthusiast and may need to enroll in a fitness program, it’s also important to know how much you’ll be spending. Gym membership fees in Canada vary from CAD 10 (USD 7) for a basic gym facility to CAD 205 (USD 196) for a high-end gym. Other fitness programs such as Yoga, CrossFit, and Zumba vary in price depending on the location.
It’s also important to look at the cost of food. Will you be eating out or relying on in-house cooking? Eating out can be pretty expensive, adding to your retirement budget. However, although in-house cooking can be cheaper, keep in mind that imported groceries are more expensive than locally produced agricultural products.
Your main concern would be heating your home during the long winter seasons when it comes to bills and utilities. However, this shouldn’t be a cause to worry because the apartment rent includes hot water and heating costs.
United States of America (U.S.A.)
The cost of living in the U.S.A. is similar to that of Canada. The urban areas have a higher concentration of people but with a relatively high cost of living.
Generally, New York is the most expensive city in the United States, followed by San Francisco. These cities face a high demand for housing because they have modern and state-of-the-art facilities. In New York, a one-bedroom apartment within the city goes for approximately US$3,353, while a three-bedroom apartment goes for about US$6,693.
These housing prices are relatively high if you intend to live on a budget. If you want cheaper city life, consider retiring in Wichita Falls, Texas, or Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to mention a few.
The interior rural areas also offer cheaper living conditions. The cost of basic utilities, such as electricity, water, and heating, varies depending on your location. The cost of consumables, such as groceries, is relatively higher here than in Canada.
Although you will be paying cheaper for house rent and healthcare in Canada than in the U.S.A., you’ll spend more on utility bills. This means the difference in living costs between these countries is pretty negligible. Therefore, your choice here will depend on your taste and preferences.
Retirement doesn’t mean you should lead a boring life. If you are a nature or outdoor enthusiast, it’s a good time to explore the wonders of nature.
Canada is home to beautiful sceneries, mountain ranges, national parks, waterfalls, forests, glaciers, greenery, and amusement parks. Here, you will enjoy exploring the famous Niagara Falls and Niagara Gorge—Canada’s major tourist attraction sites.
If you are into history and culture, the Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec) will likely become your favorite spot as it is one of Canada’s historical gems.
For all your winter sports needs, such as skiing, Whistler, the famous ski resort, is located 2 hours drive from the big city, Vancouver. For cityscape escapades, you can visit Old Montreal, a vibrant modern city with plenty of historical buildings, offering an ideal environment for shopping and fine dining.
The U.S.A. boasts incredible cityscapes and natural resources sprinkled throughout the country. If you have the time and resources to explore the U.S.A.’s amazing scenery, your ‘to visit’ list will be quite long. You can visit the dramatic Grand Canyon and the incredible Yellowstone National Park.
If politics is your thing, retiring in the U.S.A. means you are a step closer to the famous White House in Washington D.C., where the president of one of the most potent political states lives. A White House tour can allow you to learn more about America’s political history and leadership.
If you want to spend your retirement years in a haven of entertainment activities, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Most cities in America are known for their amazing nightlife, clubs, and casinos. They include Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, and Miami. You get to spend your golden years like a youth!
Other notable sites worth exploring include Times Square, Walt Disney World Resort, Kilauea, and Mount Rushmore. The prevailing relatively warmer climate in the U.S.A. makes it more ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
With time and resources on your side, your golden years won’t be boring whether you spend them in Canada or America.
If you want to lead an active retirement life, consider the outdoor activities your chosen destination offers.
Some of the activities you’re likely to engage in while living in Canada include canoeing, skiing, bungee jumping, whale watching, mountain climbing, polar bear safaris, etc.
In the U.S.A., the list of activities is endless, and we’ll just mention a few, such as biking, trailing, sunbathing, playing casino, etc.
When deciding on your perfect retirement destination, it’s vital to look at the rules governing foreigner’s residency. Any country making it hard for foreigners to acquire permanent residency is perhaps not an ideal retirement destination.
In Canada, Canadian citizens or anyone with a permanent residency can use the super visa program to apply for their parents’ or grandparents’ residency. This program allows you to stay in Canada for up to two years.
However, you won’t be entitled to the universal healthcare plan. Here, your children or grandchildren will be required to write a letter confirming they are financially responsible for you during your stay.
Additionally, retirees with family members in Canada can apply for permanent residency through the Parents and Grandparents Program. This program allows for family reunions, and about 30% of immigrants obtain residency through this plan.
Another way of obtaining Canadian permanent residency as a retiree is through the Express Entry system.
When it comes to permanent residency in the U.S.A., retirees can use various approaches. One way is through the EB-5 Green Card investment. Through this plan, any retiree seeking to have a permanent residency in America can use this direct way of obtaining a Green Card by investing a minimum of $900,000 into a U.S. government-approved business.
The EB-5 is a sure way for the applicant, their spouse, and children below 21 years to gain permanent residency in the states.
Another way of gaining permanent residency is through the family-based visa petition. Here, a family member who is a citizen or a permanent resident in the U.S. applies for your visa petition through USCIS Form I-130. If all the necessary documents are accepted and approved, confirming your family connection is real, you can freely obtain your permanent residency.
Both Canada and the U.S.A. offer good permanent residency plans.
When looking for a place to retire, you should not overlook the prevailing tax rates. Generally, the tax rates in Canada are relatively higher than in the U.S.
In Canada, the provincial tax rates vary from one province to another, starting from 10% and stretching beyond 15%. To help everyone understand their tax bracket based on their location, the Canadian government has designed a website that analyzes the different tax rates in each province.
In the U.S., the state tax rates also vary significantly. In some states, such as Florida and Texas, residents do not incur any income tax. However, in other states like California, the income tax may extend up to 10%. Therefore, the tax on your income benefits largely depends on your location.
Holding other factors constant, the U.S. takes the win over Canada in terms of taxes. Therefore, other than the favorable weather conditions, the U.S.A.’s lower tax rates lure most retirees from different parts of the world.
Retiring in a new country can be challenging if not well planned for. Take your time and analyze what each country has to offer. Consider these factors:
- Cost of living
- Notable attractions
- Tax rates
Comparing Canada and the U.S., both countries portray several striking similarities, with the main differences revolving around weather and tax rates. If cold weather isn’t a turn-off for you, then Canada can be a good fit, where the cost of living is also low. However, if you prefer warmer climates, retire in the U.S.A., where you’ll also enjoy low tax rates.
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- Macrotrends: U.S. Population 1950-2021
- Macrotrends: U.S. Life Expectancy 1950-2021
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- Wikipedia: Health Care in the United States
- OECD: About the OECD
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- Wikipedia: Subarctic climate
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- Wikipedia: Tornado
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