Retiring Abroad – Could We Do It?

We are in the middle of our seven week adventure in Mexico right now.  Although we traveled to Mexico just for fun, I’m also viewing the trip as an opportunity to explore a few places where we might spend prolonged periods of time in the future.  That might mean spending a year or more living abroad or spending summers or winters chasing nice weather.

Mexico tends to top the lists of places to retire abroad.  I think I know why: inexpensive living, good weather, and close proximity to the US.  But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns south of the border.

Throughout the decade of building my retirement stash, I was always intrigued by the early retirees that chose to live overseas.  Jeremy and Winnie, who blog at Go Curry Cracker retired in their 30’s and have traveled or lived in various locales in Latin America and Asia since then.  Billy and Akaisha Kaderli also retired in their 30’s and have been traveling the world for the past 25 years.  The maybe-retired Jed at Bucking the Trend is living in Granada, Spain at the moment with his wife and two kids.  The folks at Bumfuzzle, though not likely to self-describe as “early retired”, have trotted the globe by van and by boat for around a decade now (and are currently in Mexico not far from us).  They also had a couple of kids along the way.  Others are doing it, so I know it’s not impossible.

Moving to a low cost of living destination overseas that many people visit on vacation sounds exciting.  It’s not currently our Plan A but might be a decent Plan B or Plan C.

Here’s my take on the pros and cons of retiring abroad:

 

The Pros

Living in Mexico is cheap.  Virtually everything is the same price as in the US or less.  Sometimes much less.  Fruits and vegetables are half the price of what we pay in Raleigh.  There are amazing bakeries all over called “panaderias” that serve up hot and fresh breads and pastries for well under a buck each.  Sit down restaurants run roughly 30-50% less than Raleigh, while incredible street food can be 50-75% less than something similar back home.  Check out our $12 USD lunch of steak tacos, soup, fish, and french fries.

That is way too many french fries for one family to eat.

That is way too many french fries for one family to eat.  In the bags are ketchup, spicy salsa, cilantro and diced onions, sliced onions and peppers, limes, and radishes (free stuff they give you when you order take out).

Beyond the price of food, there’s also the freshness of the fruits and vegetables.  Because the climate allows year round growing seasons, there are lots of somewhat locally grown fresh produce all the time.  Many tropical fruits like mangoes, pineapples, and avocados are hard to find at peak ripeness in Raleigh at any price. But that’s not a problem here where fruit stands are plentiful.

As far as access to US goods, it’s pretty easy to find almost anything you want here.  There are Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs, Costcos, and a variety of other similar warehouse and big box stores offering any grocery product, electronic item, household good, or clothing article you want.  The styles and varieties might be different than what you are used to, but overall it’s not hard to find what you want.

Housing can be cheaper than many parts of the US, though maybe not by much if we were to stay in an expat area or a decent part of Mexico City.  Our current rental apartment of about 700 square feet in Mexico City costs $135,000 USD, similar to our 1,800 square foot house in Raleigh.

Our swank little Mexico City rental.  At nightly airbnb rates it's $350 USD per week furnished including all utilities.

Our swank little Mexico City rental. At nightly airbnb rates it’s $320 USD per week furnished including all utilities.  Monthly rentals would drop the rate quite a bit.

Transportation is about $0.30-0.35 USD (5-6 pesos) for local buses or the subway.  Mostly clean, generally fast, and with a more respectable clientele than what I’ve experienced on public transit in the US.  Taxis are incredibly cheap, with fares starting around $2 USD for a short trip and usually no more than $3-4 for most places around town.  Cheap and convenient buses, subways, and taxis make it easy to skip car ownership, unlike where we live in Raleigh.

Some public areas like parks and playgrounds are very nice but it’s highly variable.

climbing-wall-in-park

Services like housecleaning and repairs are very affordable.  Essentially any labor-intensive service won’t cost a lot compared to US prices.  In Mexico City, 4-5 hours of housekeeping runs about $20 USD (300 pesos).  In San Miguel de Allende, we were asked to pay the maid an extra $2.67 USD (40 pesos) per hour if we have her cook for us or render additional services.

Saving money isn’t the only good thing about Mexico.  The weather is incredible.  This summer the temperatures have been in the 70’s and low 80’s during the day then dipping into the 50’s at night.  Air conditioning isn’t necessary at all at these temps.  Back home in Raleigh it’s been a steady 90-100 degrees almost every day.  Some folks winter in Mexico, but we are tempted to summer in Mexico.  The weather stats I’m throwing out pertain to the central highland area in and around Mexico City.  It’s crazy hot and humid in many coastal locations similar to the southeastern US during summer.

We’re also enjoying the novelty of new parks, museums, food, music, customs, and culture.  A trip to the grocery store or market is an adventure, whereas at home it’s just a chore.  I imagine the novelty would wear off after a certain point though.

 

The Cons

Some costs are higher, such as imported foodstuffs or items that aren’t very common in Mexico.  Spaghetti sauce, for example is $1.50-$2.00 per not very tasty can here (or $3 for a jar of Prego), whereas back home I can get decent pasta sauce for $1.00 per jar or can.  Italian deli meats are crazy expensive and you’re mostly stuck with expensive cooked and pressed ham or uninspired turkey meat if you want sliced meat for a sandwich.  It’s obviously smart to live like the locals when imported goods are expensive.

“Don’t drink the tap water”, they say.  As a result, you have to buy bottled water ($.50 for a small bottle or a few bucks for five gallons) and can’t simply quench your thirst at water fountains scattered around town at parks and in stores and museums.  Brushing teeth and washing produce require extra effort compared to using tap water.

At $2.60 USD (39 pesos), this 750 mL of tequila is cheaper than mouthwash.

At $2.60 USD (39 pesos), this 750 mL of tequila is cheaper than mouthwash.

It’s easy to save money on almost everything down in Mexico, but flying back to the US to visit friends and family would eat into any cost savings (particularly for our family of five).  We could partially offset the flight costs by travel hacking credit cards (which is how we got free flights to Mexico this year!) but I’m not sure if we could get free flights indefinitely through travel hacking.  Eventually the kids would be out of the house and at that point, buying two round trip tickets is much more affordable for the occasional trip back home.

As foreigners not quite fluent in the language, we are occasionally subjected to the “tourist tax”.  Cashiers and shopkeepers sometimes “forget” to give us the correct change.  Taxi drivers know we don’t know exactly what a trip should cost, so we end up paying a little extra.  We have been fairly vigilant about not getting ripped off but it will happen.  No point in getting mad.  It’s just a cost of doing business.  The longer you are here and the more fluency you have in the language, the less likely you are to pay tourist rates for anything.

On the subject of language, it’s a big deal.  Unless you’re staying in an expat area that caters to English-speaking Americans and Canadians, not knowing the local language will make life a lot more difficult.  On the flip side, living here forces you to learn more Spanish since you can’t avoid it.  “Language” could be a positive aspect of life abroad if you are interested in learning the language (which we are).

Culture shock can be challenging.  Clothing choices, for example, vary between the US and Mexico.  No one here wears shorts.  Trash is pretty common on the streets in Mexico, whereas the US does a better job of providing (and emptying) trash receptacles and enforcing litter laws.  Dog poop on the sidewalks is another common sight here, whereas in the US it’s mostly picked up by the dog’s owner.  Otherwise, our societies share a lot of common characteristics given our western European cultural origins.

For long term residents, immigration issues can be an issue.  In Mexico, everyone gets a 180 day tourist visa no questions asked.  Without filing for residency, you’ll have to make a border run every six months to reset the clock on your tourist visa.  I’m not up to date on Mexico’s take on “permanent tourists” that make visa runs every six months, but they might catch on and deny you entry (at least in theory).  And leaving the country every six months could grow tiresome pretty quickly if you just want to relax and enjoy life at home.  Plus it’s not cheap to buy plane tickets for a family of five twice per year (though travel hacking credit cards helps), nor do we enjoy quick weekend trips like making border runs to renew visas since we have young children.

 

The Kids’ Perspective

Since we have three kids between age three and ten, we have to keep them in mind when deciding whether we want to live overseas in retirement.

After three weeks of living in Mexico, the kids have developed a routine.  Plenty of down time, some time at the park, some time on chores (they are the official Root of Good dishwashers!), and some touristy stuff like visiting pyramids and museums.

When I asked the kids what they thought about living in Mexico, they say they don’t want to live here (yet).  The tap water isn’t clean and according to them, “you could die from it”.  I’m not certain you could actually die from ingesting Mexican water, but you can get a stomach ache.

On the upside, the kids realize that their money goes further here in Mexico as measured by ice cream.  Prices range from $0.25 USD for a popsicle up to a buck or two for a large cup or cone of hand made ice cream in tons of different flavors.

pyramid-of-teotihuacan

Our 3 year old keeps asking to go back to the pyramids. Guess he’s a fan!

They are able to keep in touch with family and friends through video chats on Skype and Google Hangouts, so they aren’t socially isolated while we’re on the road.  If we lived here on a more permanent basis, they would eventually make new friends and learn enough of the language to get by.

The final concern with living abroad with kids is schooling.  We could always home school, and incur minimal costs for a curriculum and materials.  If we wanted to go the traditional schooling route, there might be substantial costs for a private school if the public schools near where we live are not adequate (though we are no strangers to less than perfect schools).

A rough estimate of costs for tuition at a private school range from $2,000 to $5,000 USD per year per kid.  If we went the traditional schooling route and wanted an education similar to what we can get in the US, it will be very expensive.  In fact, paying for private education would likely offset any cost of living savings from housing, food, and transportation costs.  Homeschool might be our best option if lowering our cost of living is the primary objective of living in Mexico.

 

Why Retire Abroad?

Why would we want to retire abroad?  Lower cost of living is a prime motivation.  Or phrased a different way, we could stretch our dollars further and live a nicer lifestyle than we can afford in the US on the same budget.

We are able to get by on a retirement budget of about $33,000 per year including a paid off house.  We could rent our house in the US and net $800-900 per month which might be enough to allow us to rent a decent furnished house or apartment in Mexico.  Almost all of our costs would drop, but we would have to use part of our $5,300 vacation budget for visits back to the US.  Food, transportation, and entertainment costs would drop.  Electronics and appliances tend to cost the same or more down here, so we might see an increase in these expense categories.  Overall, I imagine we could live a slightly more luxurious lifestyle on a little less money.

But should we move 2,000 miles away just to save a little money?  That’s the tough part of the equation.  I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse in Mexico assuming you have adequate funds to live on.   Just different in some aspects.  There’s a vibe here that’s hard to explain.  The parks seem to attract more people having fun.  There’s always a festival or parade or protest going down.  Running errands can be a cultural and language adventure.

So far, we aren’t committed to retiring overseas, but I’m still taking notes on the three cities we are visiting for extended periods of time.  Our next step in pursuing overseas living would be to spend an entire summer in a longer term rental to see how we like it.  Although we miss a few things about home, no one has broken down in tears crying to return to Raleigh just yet.  We’ll see how the next month of travel treats us.

 

 

Could you retire overseas?  What would it take to motivate you to leave your home country and live abroad?

 

 

63 comments

  • We would like to live overseas when we retire, but not for too long, probably only a few months at a time. We have travelled to a lot of countries and have decided that we prefer the facilities of the western world.

    We are thinking of living in Germany for three months and perhaps England (again) for longer as the visa situation is better. Neither of these places is cheap though.

    While I appreciate the cost savings of living in a lower cost country, I prefer to visit them as holiday destinations.

    • I’ve read that Germany isn’t too bad as far as costs go (roughly in line with the US). That’s on my list for a long term stay at some point, possibly next year. And some of the cost savings of the low cost of living countries assume you’ll be living like a local and not consuming like an American (western goods, large house, air conditioning, etc might all go away). Once you tack on all the modern conveniences, you might end up paying close to what you pay at home.

      • I was expatriated in Bavaria for about two years, and can vouch for the moderate cost of living. Food was cheaper on the economy than at the military commissaries. My electric bill was about 15-20 euros a month because there was no AC; the fix was to just close the shades during the day and open the windows at night. Group tickets for the train made the round trip downtown around a few euros a piece (includes a designated driver! :). Buy beer by the rack at the bottle shop for less than 1 euro each. Even a fancy dinner for two from the local butcher was only 15-17 euros.

        Gasoline, auto rentals, and one-way single train tickets are by far the biggest expenses I incurred. Luckily the first two were reimbursable!

        I could go on. But I won’t. But I could. Ich liebe Deutschland!

        • Sounds wonderful! I researched Germany quite a bit in terms of cost of living and it was shockingly inexpensive compared to, say, London and France. Rental housing (via Airbnb or similar) seemed cheaper than the US or the same. Groceries didn’t look to be too bad. Restaurants weren’t crazy (decent options for 10 euro per plate or much less for take out/fast food type stuff). Train tickets were available for a family of 4-5 I think so that fits us perfectly and it wasn’t that expensive.

          Did you live in Bavaria recently? Curious if your price data points are recent.

          • I lived there on and off since 2010 (between deployments). I moved out in August 2014.

            Yes, restaurants aren’t so bad indeed. The best lunch I’ve had was from the butcher itself. 6 euros per plate of cafeteria style deliciousness. Heck, even downtown you can get the traditional Schweinebraten plate for 10 euro, although on tap beers will cost 3x the bottle shop price. And the best-of-best street food IMO is definitely the döner kepbap for about 4.50 euro, found nearly everywhere.

            • So those figures are probably the same today given the low inflationary environment in the eurozone. That lines up roughly with what I saw elsewhere. I don’t count on fine dining for under 10 euros a plate, but it sounds like it won’t be hard to find good food at that price point.

              Tell me more about the butcher. Do they cook up some of the meat and fixings? Right now we’re in Mexico City a couple blocks from a huge grocery store and they have a hot foods section where they sell probably 30-40 different dishes a la carte. You pay by the kilo and buy as little or as much as you want. We’ve been getting a container of thin sliced steak occasionally for about $3.30 USD per pound. Instant steak and cheese sandwich or steak tacos with no cooking. This is an excellent compromise between cooking all the time to save money and going out to eat all the time for convenience. I’m hoping that German butcher shops (or grocery stores) offer something similar.

          • Yes, they cook up a variety of food to choose from for lunch. It’s not the massive variety that you mentioned, but more based off a weekly menu, plus some extras. Get the menu item or a little bit of this, a little bit of that. If I remember correctly it’s also priced by weight. And all of the regular meats/cheeses/sausages are all, of course, priced by weight. I struggle with the German language so I can’t really tell you much more than that. It did make it convenient, like you mentioned, to get some prepared food while stocking up on things for the week.

            http://www.metzgerei-hecht.de/ is the one I lived near.

            I nicknamed the grocery stores “one stop shops” because they had the big three inside one building: the grocery, a bottle shop, and a bakery. As an added bonus, the Rewe had a döner stand in the parking lot, and the Edeka had a rotisserie chicken truck a couple times a week. This offered a similar convenience since a whole chicken provided the meat for 2-3 meals.

            • Thanks for the info! I’ll put butcher shops on my radar for Germany. And I’ll have to brush up on my nearly non-existent German like asking “How much?” and “What is it?”. Those cafeteria serving trays are perfect for the novice speaker to view what the food is exactly. Here in Mexico, I’ll go through the trays, point at them and ask “Is it beef?” and then they will tell me “Yes” or tell me what kind of meat it is. And it’s not rude to taste a little bit before buying a whole container full (at least I’ve seen others doing so).

              The grocery store sounds awesome too. That rotisserie chicken truck is a huge help I bet. We got rotisserie chicken in San Miguel de Allende so many times we got sick of it! But $4 USD for a freshly roasted chicken, roasted potatoes and onions, peppers, slaw, and tortillas is hard to pass up.

      • I did very well in Tokyo, I taught English for $40 an hour for private lessons and in 2 years I tucked away 100K in cash which made for a very nice cushion upon returning stateside–and this was in the 80s.

  • Having spent about 5 years overseas with our 2 kids, there are always pros and cons, but typically the first 6 months are the easiest. Kinda like a ‘honeymoon phase’, all of the differences and refreshing and are taken in stride. Even that first year generally goes well, settling in to new routines and seeing how different cultures handle different holidays, etc.. It isn’t until after the second year that you really know if it is a fit for the long haul. I can envision us living overseas when the kids are grown, and was a positive travelling while they are young (for example, they facilitate interactions with locals), but I don’t want to live overseas when they are near or in high-school. I think our lives will be ‘exciting’ enough! Enjoy the rest of the holidays RoGs 🙂

    • Thanks for your perspective. I kind of figured there would be a honeymoon period, as you say.

      And I’m with you on the schooling. Ours are entering middle school in one more year and that’s when the academics get more serious. So far the kids aren’t pushing us to live in Mexico (or anywhere else for that matter). We’ve thought about spending a a few months up to 4-5 months in the next year traveling (month long stays in a few different spots) before they get into the more serious parts of schooling.

  • I don’t think I would permanently retire overseas. I’m too comfortable in the USA and would not like being that far from friends and family, just to make my dollar go further. What I could see myself doing is taking month long vacations overseas during FI. It would quench my thirst for travel, but I’d still have a home base in the US. Maybe this home base would be in a very tax friendly state such as Florida or New Hampshire.

    • I’m leaning that way, too. Life at home in Raleigh is very easy and not that expensive. If there were a huge cost differential (perhaps when the kids are out of the house??) we might consider it more strongly.

  • Have read their emails and subscribed to “International Living” off and on for a number of years now. They, along with the Kaderlis and others, got me interested in the potential of overseas living. Plus the fact that Deb has a cousin who has been living in Nicaragua for a number of years has helped to pull here in to that possibility.

    Moving to TN from the North five years ago helped to quell wanderlust, since it is a big difference in lifestyle (positive) and our costs went down as well. We have a lot of vacation alternatives to utilize as well (Wyndham Vacations and RCI) so getting away regularly is not an issue. So why do I still keep considering overseas? The big one you already mentioned – costs. There are many countries that we can live better for even less. Another reason for considering overseas is the crumbling nature of the US. I am not talking infrastructure, more the value systems of many. If the US continues to spiral downward (in our view) we may still pull the plug and move overseas. The biggest country still on our list is Ecuador, but there are others.

    Stay safe down there in Mexico. Looking forward to responses to this post and your feedback as well.

  • When I read your blog and all of the cost savings you acquire by living in Raleigh, I’m thinking: Raleigh is to San Francisco as Mexico City is to Raleigh. For instance, two bags of groceries at my local store in SF equates to an entire month of your food budget. Your family of five lives on my entire yearly budget. Also, the language and customs of the South can seem pretty unusual to a big city dweller (even one of hillbilly extraction like me). While you’re asking the question of whether you could live in a foreign land, I’m wondering the same about an “exotic” location like North Carolina. Keep pondering!

    • Ha ha, yes. It’s like we’re living in two different countries. Although Raleigh is culturally closer to SF than Raleigh is to the lesser populated counties in North Carolina. It’s just rather inexpensive to live in Raleigh when compared to the Bay Area.

      I think the biggest cost savings for overseas living would come from a SF or NYC transplant moving straight to Mexico or Thailand or somewhere. Even though you could get almost all the way there by moving to one of the lower cost of living states in the US where they at least speak some version of English. 🙂

  • I wouldn’t do it to save money. In many cases the cheapest place to live is probably in a mid-size town in the US Midwest withing biking distance of Costco or Super Walmart. Having Grandma nearby to watch the kids is also nice

    I would do it for cultural immersion, personal growth, adventure, and perpetual youth 🙂

    • That’s the conclusion I’m slowly reaching. We know how to economize big time back in the US, and overseas it would be steep learning curve constricted by language skills. We aren’t far from mid size town in the midwest costs in Raleigh since we are in a below median priced neighborhood. We have some transit and lots of walkable/bikeable stuff nearby, but I don’t think we would want to go from 2 cars to zero (though dropping to 1 car is a possibility).

      You’re right about the reasons for living abroad. If costs are the motivating factor, I bet we would get burnt out given the minimal cost savings vs. living in Raleigh (or a mid size town in the Midwest).

      • I think Jeremy has a valid point: “would do it for cultural immersion, personal growth, adventure, and perpetual youth”.

        For years, we have had dreams of spending at least 6 months living in Germany. It would be easy for us since half of my family lives there and I have visited many times in my childhood. It would be a great way to reconnect with family and visit Europe. This would give me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the culture and learn the language.

        I know for us we would still keep our home base in Northern AZ.

        • That trip to Germany sounds nice! I’d like to spend at least a month or two there (though I’ve never been before). And with your connections to the place, I imagine your trip over there would be much easier than mine!

  • I would love to retire abroad fulltime, but the family wouldn’t like it. Mrs. RB40 is much more rooted in the US and she likes it here. Once RB40 Junior is out of the house, I would like to live abroad at least half time. There are so many places to explore and I want more time to do that. 3-4 weeks isn’t enough. You need to rush through everything.
    I don’t really want to raise our kid outside of the US. Maybe one year, but no more than that. I want him to have a somewhat normal childhood. We moved around way too much when I was young and I never made deep connections until I went to college.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • This is probably what we’ll end up doing. Taking extended trips but keeping a home base in the US.

      Mrs. RoG is more reluctant to spend time living overseas than I am.

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead

    My wife’s family is from Mexico, so that would be the most likely place for us to try an extended vacation or to retire there. I am not sure yet, but the appeal of lower costs sure is nice! I think my concern is mostly on what affect would it have on the kids? Good, bad, or neutral?

    • I think it would be a neutral experience for kids, all things considered. The culture and language lessons would be amazing, as would acquiring life skills. On the other side, you might struggle to find highly competitive free schools in Mexico and/or face paying $$$ for tuition to an international private school (and possibly face a looooong commute).

  • We’re planning on doing some slow traveling after we FIRE (hopefully by boat), but I think it’s easier when you don’t have kids. Nonetheless, we’d still keep our house as our home base. We’d probably rent it out while traveling for longer stints but always have it to come back to if we need to.

    • Sounds like a nice plan! It would be hard for us to give up our house for good (it’s on a lake in the city but doesn’t come at a premium price and would be hard to find a similar replacement). So if we travel long term, renting it out would be the best we could do financially.

  • We’ve considered retiring abroad to the Caribbean, but the fear of schooling always makes us revert back to the U.S.

    I’m most scared of something “going wrong” if we retired abroad. If I had to sue somebody or if we were robbed, I’d be scared to death to get involved in court systems or criminal proceedings abroad.

    Eric

    • My concern around the educational aspects comes from a complete lack of knowledge. Other than googling for a few minutes and tidbits of anecdotal knowledge gleaned over the last decade, I don’t know a whole lot about K-12 education in Mexico, other than many middle and upper income folks choose private school. Probably more frequently than in the US.

  • If money was my motivating factor in order that I could live a more luxurious lifestyle…I’d just work another year.

    You are young enough you have lots of options if that’s your motivation, and that seems easier than convincing a reluctant wife to make the move. Happy wife happy life they say, and I’d happily give up one more year to work in order to avoid the stress of convincing mine to move and have something not work out.

    Glad the vacation is going well.

    • That’s a good point. For every extra year we work (assuming we could both get our old salaries), we could increase our spending power by about 8-10%.

      The problem would be if we couldn’t find decent employment or something that paid close to what we used to earn. We might end up working hard for a year just to increase our ability to spend by 3-4%.

      Which is why I consider moving overseas to save money or increase our standard of living to be a plan B or C. Not our first choice (right now) but it may make sense in the future if we can’t get good jobs again or don’t want to work again.

      The one thing we won’t do is go live abroad just to squeeze out a couple thousand dollars of savings versus living at home in Raleigh unless we want to live abroad for non-financial reasons.

  • I don’t think I would be as concerned about school opportunities for your kids, because as you mentioned you can homeschool (Khan academy and all that), or possibly choose the public school route. I would be concerned about whether or not you can support their “other aspirations” from an international locale. For example, if you moved abroad, could you get connected quickly enough to support athletic, musical, business, spiritual or scientific goals that you would normally support if you lived in the states. Have you given consideration to that yet?

    • That’s a good point and one I haven’t given a lot of thought to. I bet most metro areas have programs and clubs for many of those focus areas that might not get addressed fully in school. And as a positive, the costs of those extracurriculars would (probably) be a lot lower overseas than at home.

  • We’ve talked about the possibility of retiring abroad as well (to somewhere with a cheaper cost of living), but the big sticking point for us is the distance from family. We already live pretty far away from family within the US and we can’t quite see ourselves going even farther. And, at least for the time being, I like the idea of giving birth to our kids here in the states. We could see ourselves living abroad when we’re older though–we’ve talked about it as the possible post-homestead plan for our 50s/60s. I like remaining open to the possibility!
    P.S. Glad Mexico is treating you so well!

    • Kids and family are a big consideration for us, too. But once we get to our 50’s and don’t have kids in the house any longer, we might be able to escape overseas for a while. 🙂

  • “the kids realize that their money goes further here in Mexico as measured by ice cream”

    I love this one, it should be an official international measure system

    • Definitely. They are advanced ice cream consumers now.

      At the expensive museum food court today, one daughter reconnoitered the ice cream stand and quickly determined that 55 pesos was too much for a cone when they have 7 peso cones and 10 peso sundaes at the McDonald’s dessert kiosk in the subway next to our apartment. Most kids would be crying at the museum when mommy and daddy wouldn’t buy them the 55 peso ice cream cone ($4 USD).

  • Frugal Fit Money

    Looks like you all are having a blast. My wife and I hope to get there soon. In the mean time, we are saving and investing as much as we can. By the way, nice blog! I like it!

  • I wouldn’t mind living in a Spanish speaking country, though maybe not Mexico. There some other lovely, very low-cost areas in South America. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how well my husband could deal with it. His brain isn’t made for learning new languages. Arguably, immersion would help. Or he’d just be that grumpy gringo who makes everyone speak English.

    I’d miss my mom, but I’m sure she’d find ways to visit. But I don’t think we could take my in-laws. So we’d have to rent out the main house and let them stay where they are in the guest house. Which would be a hassle.

    Also, we have some pretty noteworthy health problems. So there’s always a worry about standard of care we’d receive. It’d probably be fine, but just try convincing my husband of that!

    • Language and health care issues are pretty common concerns. So far we’re doing pretty well with the language here and I’m getting better every day. Our health care needs are near zero right now, so I’m not really thinking about medical care too much. However there are lots of hospitals and I bet plenty of quality docs and medical facilities should the need arise (I’m referring to Mexico City here; places in the middle of nowhere might not have great facilities, just like places in the middle of nowhere USA).

      And as for family, I’ve already had members of mine offer to come visit if we move down here. 🙂

  • I think I love my home country too much to ever think of retiring abroad and living there for ever. But about spending holidays abroad, I love that.

  • What are your impressions of the security situation there in Mexico City? Do you feel safe? Could you live only in certain neighborhoods? Thanks!

    • I didn’t really think about being in danger at all while in Mexico City. Until the last day, that is. We were sitting in a really nice city park and I was joking about how worried we were supposed to be and how dangerous the city is. While sitting next to the children’s playground.

      Some parts are good, some are bad. No compelling reason to go to the bad parts of town though. Where we were staying, our airbnb host told us it was safe at night, and not to worry about walking to the grocery store at midnight. And it wasn’t a really expensive part of town or anything. I felt safer walking late at night to that grocery store than the grocery store in my own neighborhood back in Raleigh (not nearly as many guns on the street down here).

      I also wrote a bit about security in Mexico in case you didn’t see it.

  • My wife and I moved to the U.S. when were about 12-13. We’re both planning to move abroad once we’re ready for early retirement. At that point we might have a child and want them to be exposed to the richness of other cultures. Just like you, we’re concerned about schooling and might opt for home schooling since private schools are very expensive. Great post!

    • Awesome. Hope the plan works out. I’m liking Mexico more and more the longer we stay, but there are always pros and cons to wherever you live. I saw on your blog that you want to live where fresh fruits and vegetables are available year round and have to agree that’s one of the huge pros about living down here. This morning for breakfast we shared a fresh coconut and drank its juice (at a cost of $0.60 USD for a relatively filling breakfast for a family of 5!). We also picked up perfect mangoes from the market and got some rambutan/lichees today. Nom nom nom.

      Schooling is the one tricky part if you end up having kids. We’ll have to give this a lot more thought if we ever make the leap to living overseas longer term. An easy compromise for us is to “summer” overseas somewhere and return home for most or all of the regular academic school year. It’s hard to turn down the awesome academic programs we have in Raleigh for free.

  • I’ve just arrived in Spain for a year of adventure with my husband, his mom,and our 4 year old. It’s much more affordable than I imagined. We’re renting a big 4 br furnished apartment in the middle of Albarracin for 350 euros/month ($385). We’re here for a year for sure, but longer if we want and can make it work- no real plans to retire early, just to limit work to 3-6 months/year. My daughter will attend free public preschool in the fall. Groceries are way cheaper than California(where we lived before here) and a bit cheaper than Boone, NC ( where I grew up and visit regularly). A glass of wine in the plaza is $1.10 and includes “free” Spanish lessons! I love traveling and experiencing other cultures and even feeling like an idiot most days, so for me the idea of making my dollars stretch further while also having amazing cross-cultural adventures is a no brainer.

    • That sounds wonderful! Free public preschool is way better than the options we have here (unless our income drops enough to qualify our kid for free preschool). From my research on southern Spain, I’ve heard similar reports of cost of living very similar to North Carolina. Other than gas, everything else is about the same, with some stuff being cheaper (wine) and other stuff being more expensive. We may end up in Spain for a month or two on our next big trip.

      • So far, it seems cheaper than NC. Rent and utilities are way cheaper. Produce, meats, and seafood are ridiculously cheap, but packaged food is more comparable with NC. Gas is expensive though. 1.17 euros/liter which is just over $5/gallon. BUT, most cars are diesels and get way better gas mileage- our rental was a small suv-think Honda CRV- and got around 50mpg as best we could calculate. And everything is closer in Europe, right? We’re going through the process of buying a car so we’ll soon know more about those costs.
        It’s a great time to travel to Europe with the value of the dollar remaining strong against the euro compared to last year. It makes it extra complicated to budget when you have to somehow account for exchange rates.

        • Whole ingredients like produce and meats are mostly what we buy, so Spain might be awesome for us. In my research I checked out a few grocery sales papers and the prices were certainly amazing on a lot of stuff. Down here in Mexico, the produce is amazingly cheap but the meat prices are roughly the same as in Raleigh or sometimes even more (especially since we tend to get the cheaper cuts of meat).

          Have fun in Spain! I subbed to your blog and I’m looking forward to seeing how your year in Espana goes. 🙂

  • Traveling through Mexico is such a great adventure and I would agree with you that costs, culture, quality of food and weather are great advantages in Mexico.

    My wife is Mexican and we always joke that if we can’t do early retirement in the US, we’ll just move to Mexico, preferably close to the beach. There would have to be adjustments to our lifestyle, for sure, but the benefits (culture, experience, a little more luxurious life) would be well worth it.

    Glad you’re enjoying the country!

    Nick

    • I used to say the same thing about getting to the point where we had enough to move to Mexico and retire comfortably. Then we kept saving and saving so we can live in the US as long as we want to. Always nice to have options and nice to have the option to live more luxuriously in Mexico than at home on the same amount of money each year.

  • Love all your comments. Please give balanced appraisals of the Pros and Cons of where you are or have lived. Especially bugs, insects and creepy crawlies. I feel this aspect is often overlooked.

    One person’s Pro may be another person’s Con which is why a list of both is required to make a balanced informed decision.

    My research area is becoming more and more focused on Mexico due to the proximity to the US. Some parts are even drive-able from US to Mexico for instance San Carlos is 6 hours from Tucson or the border I forget which.

    Here is my website for writers but there is one section on Mexico and my research which I will add to as new information floods in to my view. Thanks for posting and reading:

    https://sites.google.com/site/dalanbinder/blog/0998-retirementinmexico

    • I’ve mostly lived in Raleigh all my life so that’s my baseline for comparing everything else to. We have plenty of bugs in Raleigh and mostly the same type of annoying bugs most places we’ve visited in Mexico. Our house and yard in Raleigh is relatively free of mosquitoes, but neighbors aren’t as lucky. In Mexico, we’ve had to swat a few that managed to find their way inside because our windows are always open, and outside often has more mosquitoes than we prefer.

      I really like Mexico as a retirement destination or as a place to escape for a month or three to get away from crappy weather and for a taste of different food and culture. It’s bakingly hot and humid in Raleigh right now (highs in upper 90’s with serious humidity and heat index over 100 routinely). I think the hottest we’ve experienced has been one day in Oaxaca where it was 89 and dry, so the inside temps (without air conditioning!) ended up being just mildly uncomfortable for a couple of hours. Otherwise the weather has been amazing. It’s never too hot to go outside for extended periods of time. At home in Raleigh it’s a sweatfest after about 3 minutes of being outside. We’re headed to the Yucatan in a couple days, and I expect heat and humidity there, maybe even as hot as at home!

  • Living in Mexico City is a delight, although crowded and polluted but lots of fun nearby, first, the weather, you don’t need A/C or heating 50’s 70’s year round, the food is not only tasty but cheap, ( who wants to buy Prego sauce when tomatoes are real cheap!?) property taxes are less than half than in the states, public transportation is cheap. Being central in DF it’s a matter of less than 3 hours to be out in still better weather than in MXCDF, in Cuernavaca, Querétaro, Ixtapan de la Sal, Puebla. San Miguel de Allende, etc. Im am already retired in Queretaro and still working on my own Business just to stay busy, get yourself a good private health insurance and enjoy the pacific and the caribbean year round, off season is still cheaper. Live out before the party is over.

    • We love Mexico City / DF. That’s probably the place we’ll return to if or when we come back for another long stay. I loved the weather there but Mrs. RoG thought it was chilly at times. And you’re right about so many other beautiful places within 2-3 hours of DF – it makes a great base for exploring other places, too.

      Glad to hear Queretaro is working out for you! We’ve been through the city a few times while riding the bus to elsewhere but never stopped to enjoy the city itself. Maybe next time we’re down it’ll be on our itinerary.

  • This is something hubby and I have often discussed. Our main concern is being close to the children as they grow up and eventually set up their own families. I guess in theory it sounds great to live in some exotic location, but in practice it is might not be as wonderful because you are far away from those you love. It’s a tough one 😉

    • That’s obviously a big concern for us too. With three kids we’ll be lucky if any two of them live in the same city as us in the future, so traveling somewhere to visit kids might be a necessity in any event.

  • I am an expat living in México City for three years. In my opinion, if you are working and acumulating, it is an option to consider. Especialy with kids, because all caring costs are less expensive here then in the US.
    But if you alread achieved FI and you can afford to take care of your own children, any mid size town in the US will be more affordable. You can have public education and you have plenty of time to complement your children education at home.
    If you consider an one year experience, for cultural inmertion, it is a great opportinity for children to learn a foreign lenguage, to interact with kids in a different cultural perspective.
    A good way to reduce costs is to avoyd expat’s neighborhoods or international privaty schools. Try to look for good local meddle class neighborhoods. They are safe and much cheaper. And you can have a truly local experience.
    You can offer an educational exchange with some local young people, teaching english and learning spanish for free.
    When we speak spanish, all people know we are not Mexican, but I have nothing negative to talk about beeing trapped. I think because we can comunicate in Spanish, people apretiate our effort.
    I am not from the US, but my husband is hired by an US based company. We have a lot of American friends and we frequently travel to the US.
    I am in doubt about costs if you are a senior retiree. Maybe healthy insurance all related healthy costs are more affordable here in Mexico.

    • “But if you alread achieved FI and you can afford to take care of your own children, any mid size town in the US will be more affordable. You can have public education and you have plenty of time to complement your children education at home.”

      That’s the conclusion we reached. The value of the free public schools here in Raleigh offset any reduced cost of living in Mexico (or just about anywhere) for us.

  • This has been on my mind a bit lately, and I’m still undecided. I wouldn’t live abroad just to save money unless our financial picture and work prospects got really bad at home, but I would definitely be interested in it for the new life experiences and learning opportunities (like improving my Spanish). Perhaps not forever — but even a few years living outside the states could be fun.

    Like some of the other commenters have mentioned, proximity to family is important to us, too. For that reason, I might be more inclined to spend part of the year at home and part of the year abroad. Maybe we could also get into a routine of having family come visit us in the foreign destination. Thailand, where we are now, is one of the more popular spots for expats (and insanely cheap), but the distance and travel time is kind of a killer for going back and forth more than a couple times a year. That’s one nice thing about Mexico — similar time zone, a relatively short trip, and direct flights to our home airport.

    Neither of us is sold on the idea yet, but we’ll definitely keep thinking about it!

    • That’s where we might end up. I don’t think the cost savings alone are worth it given our financial ability to stay put in the US and live a perfectly fine, sometimes luxurious life. Health insurance might tip that equation, especially as we get older and it might get pricier (if the ACA goes away).

      For us with 3 kids, the cost of even a modest private school in Mexico (our likely first choice of expat locale) would offset all the cost savings from living in MX.

  • i consider moving to portugal or germany to keep health insurance costs stable. schooling is cheap there too. the biggest problem is being an ocean away from family and friends. complicated.
    portugal even offers a visa for retirees and it’s considered one of the best countries for retirement. their economy is smaller and slower than the more developed european countries but hey, you dont need to work. 🙂

    • Yes, I think it would make a great retirement destination. Weather is moderate most of the year, expenses very low and language is easy enough to learn. We didn’t visit the beaches but I imagine that could keep you busy for a while too!

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