Expat Advice: Retiring in
An experienced expat who has lived all over the world shares his experiences as an expat retiree in the Ajijic/Lake Chapala area. From little tips on how to get there to how to settle in and adjust, this is a very in depth report on retiring abroad. A Must read!
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Why did you choose to retire abroad?
Three main reasons:
a. Cost of Living
b. Cost of Future Assisted Living and Care
c. Another Adventure
Why did you choose the country you retired to?
a. Cost of Living
b. Extensive expat population
c. Accessible to the U.S.
d. Excellent medical and assisted living options.
Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?
Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?
We have lived abroad for over 20 years. I have lived in France, Germany, Turkey, Moldova, Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. My wife shared most of this except for Afghanistan, Moldova and Iraq... So we are no strangers to adapting to other cultures..
How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?
We just arrived a month ago... We had made a discovery trip earlier this year. This was on top of a 2 year on line due diligence effort. We looked at Central and South America but chose Mexico
How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?
What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?
So far everything has moved right along except at a slower pace... We used the services of a recommended local attorney and we have a property manager. Between the two we have taken care of buying a home, car and paying the bills... If we had to do this alone it would take more time and probably peg the frustration meter...We will eventually take over the bill paying etc but for now this has proven to be a worth while expenditure.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?
Every day is an adventure... Shopping is fun as we try new products each week... Some are not as good but many are as good or better than NOB (North of the Border).
The cost of living allows us to eat out more and the dining selection here is excellent..
What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?
Most international blogs suggest that people rent for a year... In our case we decided to buy which has worked out well for us. The fact that our home in Washington sold in 3 days put us on a fast track. We selected a home that did not meet our perceived needs but has worked out OK...
What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)
Ajijic is definitely a retirement area. The majority of the expat population appears to be over 60... That said, there are numerous cultural activities plus exploratory trips around the area and other Mexico venues. Night life is somewhat subdued...but at 75 bed time comes early for us..
What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)
We used our recommended attorney, which was a great move. We applied at the Mexican consulate in Seattle which took four hours ... We brought proof of income, passports and that was it. Our attorney had suggested that we apply for one permanent (for me) and one temporary visa for my wife... This allowed us to bring the car down under her name. It also sped the shipment of household goods using her temp visa. The cost of the attorney (minimal) was well worth the price.. He had the local connections that moved the paper along.
When we arrived in Ajijic we immediately started the local paperwork for our visas. After being finger printed and filling out a couple of forms, we had our visas in 10 days.
Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)
We purchased a home... Buying is easy but selling is a challenge so they say... Ours went well and we have moved over 20 times in our marriage so buying and selling homes is not new to us... One serious recommendation is to get an attorney to look over the papers and assist in closing. Realtors here run from great to not so and having a knowledgeable third set of eyes makes the process painless.
Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?
Initial indications are that living in Mexico will meet or exceed our expectations. Our motivation was to find a place where we could live within our income until such time as we may require assisted living... Having gone through a number of years of paying over $6,000 a month for a family member in assisted living was a big reason for our move. We didn't want to put this kind of burden on our children.
Assisted living here, if needed, is affordable and the care meets or exceeds what we paid for earlier...
What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?
For us, living within our budget now and if assisted living were required was our main motivator to moving.
Monthly living should not exceed $2500 a month for us since we own our home. That is a bit less than half of what it cost us in the States. Taxes are minimal and we have health insurance that covers us here.
Our selection of Mexico was to live a comparable lifestyle in retirement and to not outlive our savings
this NOB if neither of us required assisted living.
How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?
If one buys local or Mexican brands, food is relatively inexpensive. Eating out is 1/2 or less than in the U.S.
The cost of living monthly is dependent on:
a. If you own a home.
b. your lifestyle.
We projected that we will save between $8 -10,000 annually by living here.
Gone are the $150/mo. water and sewer bills and the $180 / gas and electricity. Every little bit of savings adds up.
Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)
We have not had to use hospital services as of yet. However, Guadalajara has exceptional hospitals that are affordable and an hour away.
Local dentist and medical services receive high marks from those living here any length of time.
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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)
There is less crime here than where we lived NOB. There is some petty crime.. burglaries and an occasional mugging. But these appear to be no worse than many places up north.
Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?
We have a car which gives us a certain amount of flexibility... The local bus system is very good and if you live in the village there is possibly no need for a car.
A trip to the airport is only abut $35 with a driver and at night we feel is worth the money.
Is there high-speed internet access where you live?
Ah the internet! There appears to be different results in different areas... Ours is often hit or miss... We changed routers and that made a difference but in our area if I worked on line the internet connectivity would be a problem...
Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?
My wife says that I have all the patience in the world.... because I have never used any... That might be a bit extreme but having lived overseas for 20 some years I have learned to adapt...
Here are the things that I have found important to surviving and enjoying a new country:
Flexibility is a requirement for successfully living abroad. Do your schedule in pencil not pen.
Lose your comparisons with your former home. It is what it is... Learn the local ground rules and play the game.
Have or obtain a sense of humor... Without it one will not last long in any environment and certainly not outside his native land.
Have or obtain a sense of adventure. This is an opportunity to meet new people, experience new things and to learn a new culture.
Learn basic local language niceties and build your vocabulary... A simple Gracias coupled with a warm smile will work wonders...
More Expat Advice about Retiring in Mexico