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How One Couple Lives on $600 a Month in the Perfect Retirement Spot

How One Couple Lives on $600 a Month in the Perfect Retirement Spot

Just like clock above the town park with hands permanently stopped at 1:07, time stands still here.

Dear International Living Reader,

Lee and Peg Carper aren’t your typical retired couple. Not by a long shot. For one thing, they’re younger than most retirees–he’s 56 and she’s 53. They don’t golf or bridge; they don’t take art lessons or baby-sit grandkids. They don’t read the newspapers, watch television, or surf the Internet.

And even though they live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, neither of them is worried about stretching their retirement dollars.

That’s because their totalmonthly expenses are less than $600. This includes food, utilities, medical expenses, dog food, and even the rent on their new 1,200-square-foot apartment. An additional $100 covers miscellaneous expenses including cigarettes and a couple of cases of beer.

How can this be? I know people who spend $600 taking another couple to dinner…in one night!

Lee and Peg live in Cotacachi, a small village in the Ecuadorian Andes two hours north of Quito. Like the clock above the town park with hands permanently stopped at 1:07, time stands still here. It’s the Mayberry of the Andes. But instead of black and white, it’s streaming live in glorious color. And it’s in Spanish, of course.

In Cotacachi, like the small town in North Carolina where Lee and Peg are from, everybody knows your name…or they give you one that suits. Lee and Peg are known as the “dog people” because they feed the strays from a small bag of dog food they carry with them as they walk about town. Because of this, they always seem to be followed by a tail-wagging mutt or two.

Cotacachi is a small town with a real sense of community. It is largely dependent on agriculture. It’s the sort of town many of us remember from our childhoods. There are a couple of barbers, a small health clinic, and a pavilion for the town band. At night, the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. That’s all you need, really. After a day of sunshine in the 8,000-foot-elevation mountain climate, nighttime is for sleeping. The cool, crisp air smells faintly of wood smoke, roasting corn, and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees grow abundantly wild, as do palm trees.

“I haven’t felt this good in so long I can’t remember,” Lee says. “I used to take pain medication, but here I rarely take an aspirin. I don’t pick up a phone or get on the computer. I used to be glued to all that at home.”

They rent a three-bedroom apartment for $150 a month with a yard where their dogs can play. They have a maid that cleans one day a week for $10 and they eat out every day–for less than $10. To get around to Cotacachi, Otavalo, and other nearby towns, they just hop on the local bus.

Before moving to Cotacachi, Peg was a pharmacy technician and Lee was on disability from a work injury. Friends had joined a tour of the Ecuador highlands offered by International Living contributors Gary and Merri Scott, and had returned to North Carolina raving about the small town and its affordability. Seventeen days later, Lee was on a plane to check it out for himself. A month after that, Peg had sold their home and joined him there, along with their two dogs.

“It just felt right,” they both say. The town was small enough to walk everywhere, yet has “everything you need.” The landscape reminds them of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Canton, where they’re from.

They rented a home in the countryside where they loved the solitude, but soon decided they wanted to live in town. They paid a local guy $20 to load up a truck with the furniture and appliances they’d bought and move them to town.

“We love it here,” Peg says. “People are friendly and, believe it or not, we keep busy.”

They’re working to start a local animal rescue program and veterinary clinic. Lee is painting the walls of the museum next door to the Hotel El Meson, which has become the de facto expat hangout. There’s a growing foreign community in Cotacachi and “we have lots of get-togethers and parties.”

Lee nods absently in agreement. Finally, he says: “In the last 50 years, we’ve gone from a society where Dad worked and everyone was happy to one where both Mom and Dad have to work just to make ends meet, and no one is happy. I’m enjoying life here, but I didn’t when I lived in the States. I don’t think we’ll ever go back there. And why would we?”

Suzan Haskins

Your Latin America Insider, International Living

Editor’s Note: Suzan spoke about Lee and Peg at a recent IL event about their great life in Ecuador. This presentation inspired many attendees to start planning their new lives overseas and everyone was impressed about just how possible it is to live on very little money. Don’t worry if you missed the event, we have recorded the presentation for you. Click here to listen.

Further Resources:

Every year we put out Global Retirement Index together to figure out the best places in the world to retire taking factors such as real estate, cost of living, special benefits, culture, health, infrastructure, safety/stability and climate. Find out what our leading countries are, here. (FOR INTERNATIONAL LIVING MAGAZINE SUBSCRIBERS ONLY)

International Living‘s Ultimate Events have already helped more than 1,000 IL readers like you protect themselves from the falling dollar and find new lands of fortune overseas…and our next one will be held in Quito, Ecuador next March. Find out more here (URL UE).

Find out what our Latin America Insider, Suzan Haskins, found when she visited this little mountain town of Cotacachi, here.

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