Why Are One Million Americans Moving to Mexico?
In many ways, Mexico today is like the U.S. was 50 years ago…before big government, big business, and special interests whittled away the lifestyle our parents took for granted. It is full of overlooked retirement havens where you can retire in luxury without spending a fortune.
Mexico’s lower cost of living—and of just about everything else—means a comfortable, fulfilling life here will likely cost you a fraction of what you pay “back home.” From real estate to groceries, and from entertainment to healthcare, life in Mexico simply costs less. Here you can still find comfortable homes for under $150,000 and pay pennies on the dollar for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. As for healthcare…across the board, healthcare in Mexico costs a quarter to a half of what you’d pay in the U.S.—for treatment by well-trained medical professionals in first-class hospitals and clinics. (In fact, there are few places in Mexico where you’re more than a few hours from a good private hospital.)
Today’s Mexico is largely First-World, with excellent highways, sleek airports, and high-speed telecommunications, as well as first-run films (in English, with Spanish subtitles) and television shows. You’ll find shopping malls and supermarkets, all carrying many familiar products from home.
But you’ll also enjoy a slower, more relaxed pace of life here, where children still play in the streets and neighbors know each other. You’ll find a rich, strong local culture, too, with traditional markets; colorful, indigenous dress; ancient ruins of great civilizations; and regional music, dance, and customs. You’ll find plenty to do and see in Mexico—and the Mexican people, some of the friendliest folks around, will be happy to share it with you.
And thanks to Mexico’s large size and varied geography, you can find whatever climate and lifestyle you want. Like the beach? Mexico has nearly 6,000 miles of coastline, much of it white-sand beach. Choose a totally First-World beach resort like Puerto Vallarta, Cancún, or Los Cabos, where you can enjoy all amenities; small, local beach towns in places like the Yucatán Coast or parts of the Pacific coast; or get totally off the grid along the Costa Maya’s beautiful Caribbean waters.
Prefer mountain vistas and temperate weather? Mexico’s Colonial Highlands could be for you. Charming Spanish-colonial cities like San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro, and a host of others offer sophisticated living amidst centuries-old architecture. Or head south to colonial gems like Oaxaca, with its superb traditional cooking, and to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a temperate-weather city high above the jungles of Chiapas.
So whatever lifestyle you seek, you’ll likely find it in Mexico. No wonder more U.S. expats live in Mexico than in any other country in the world…
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- Population: 116,220,947
- Capital City: Mexico City
- Climate: Varies from arid to tropical
- Time Zone: GMT-8 to -6
- Language: Language
- Country Code: 52
- Location: Mexico borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and the North Pacific Ocean
My husband, Jeff, and I get up early to cycle—in our flip-flops—to the local juice bar about 25 minutes away…along a bike trail next to the turquoise shores of the Caribbean. We stop to snorkel around the pier for an hour before getting back to connect with our patients online in the early afternoon and evening.
Strictly speaking, it’s low season on this strip of coast right now. Peak winter season has passed, along with Easter. But it’s still full. At 2.15pm yesterday, I drove by the Hartwood restaurant. A line was already winding its way along the road outside its doors. East Coast hipsters stood waiting in retro hats and intentionally mismatched bikinis. They only had another 3 hours and 45 minutes to wait before the restaurant opened.
One member of our little group has the opportunity to lock down a luxurious Cabo condo for $274,364. Steps away, the local retail market pays up to $450,000. In December 2014, I first brought you details of one of the strongest luxury deals to ever cross my desk—a chance to own a condo at the Turquoise community in Cabo.
In 1862, a small Mexican militia soundly defeated a much larger French army at the Battle of Puebla. The victory would not end French attempts to control the country, but Puebla’s citizens still remember it with great pride.
In real estate, you make your money buying. By buying well and being smart, you lock in gains from the get-go. But buying at the right price is not the only thing you need to get right. You also need a strong and clear exit strategy. That means knowing how you’re going to exit the investment…understanding who your eventual buyer or renter will be…and if they can pay the price you need to get a good return. Your personal, financial, and investment circumstances will shape your exit strategy. You and I could make exactly the same investments, yet our exit strategies might be completely different.
Peace of mind. Less hassle. That’s what it’s all about. A lock-and-leave condo is perfect if you want to leave behind harsh North American winters and escape to a snowbird getaway. Or perhaps you’ve found your dream spot and got a great deal on a property, but you’ll be renting it out until you can move down in a few years. No matter what your situation, the lock-and-leave condo is ideal.
If you’ve watched in disbelief as the American Dream you grew up believing in has seemingly evaporated into thin air, do not despair. Your dream of a comfortable, prosperous retirement is alive and well. It may just be waiting somewhere you never thought to look. That was the case for my wife Diane and me. And it turned out better than we ever could have hoped. We’re just two of the millions of North American retirees who have made their dreams of a comfortable, active, and engaging retirement come true, in one of the many locations around the globe that offer a better lifestyle at a much lower cost of living. And there’s no reason why you can’t do it, too.
We got as far as the town square in the small village of San Vicente on Ecuador’s northern coast when our car ran out of gas. I pulled to the side of the rutted, muddy road among a huge crush of writhing, smiling people as sultry Latin rhythms shook the windows of the car.
Expats have been coming to Mexico’s Lake Chapala region for years—to enjoy the temperate climate, bohemian atmosphere, and easy pace of life. So, International Living sent IL Correspondent Don Murray to check out two of its best towns, Ajijic and Chapala, on your behalf. In this Editor’s Debrief, he tells you more about what he found…and why these towns should be on your radar for a fun and low-cost retirement.
I am a bad traveler. That may seem like a strange admission to make for an expat. Travel is, after all, part of the deal…you can’t really live abroad without traveling—at least to the country in which you plan to settle. And to be sure, I love to see and experience other towns, cities, beaches, mountains…the lure of foreign lands and exotic adventures has not diminished for me during my years abroad.
Even if your coffers are bare, you can take a six-month trip if you save $10 a day for two years, or save $13 a day for three years to globetrot for a full year. You may have a healthy savings account already, but there are always ways to cut your expenses and make some extra cash. And it doesn’t have to be difficult, either.
“You know Mr. Murray, you are in the gayest hotel in the gayest city in Mexico.” That was the greeting I got from the hotel clerk in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
It’s at times like these I realize how being part of International Living can take you to the most interesting and unusual places! And that’s how I ended up in Puerto Vallarta…I was here on an exploratory trip to find out what this well-known vacation destination, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, offered as a retirement location.
Sometime in the next two months, a small group will gather to celebrate the retail launch of a new building in Cabo, Mexico. They’ll launch floors three and four of that building to the local and expat market. Pricing will be in the $220,000 range. But in the coming days, members of my Real Estate Trend Alert group will have the opportunity to snap up an ocean-view condo on the first or second floor of that same building…for only $149,000.
Way before I ever make a recommendation for a foreign real estate buy, I know exactly what the market is doing—and how certain real estate trends are likely to play out. Identifying and understanding market trends is key to smart real estate investment overseas. It’s the difference between buying a nice and low-priced property that will stay at the same price point for years to come…and buying a property that’s set to rise quickly in value over the coming years.
My husband and I had no intention of retiring to Mexico when we came to Lake Chapala for a visit nearly three years ago. Our original plan was to spend six months traveling the U.S. in our travel trailer and six months outside the country, in an exotic location. But that changed when we came to Chapala.
Lake Chapala is paradise for retirees like us, who want to be active and be involved in the community. The area has a large expat population, so we were able to find many options for Spanish language classes, local tour groups, and social organizations. We felt “plugged in” right away. By the time we had been here for three months, we had joined a church, enrolled in Spanish classes, and found volunteer opportunities.
In another life, I worked as a charge nurse on a hospital unit. It was a nice hospital, and I was reasonably fond of my co-workers and patients. But 12-hour shifts are long and somewhere around 3 a.m. I would find myself wondering about other options.
My fascination with Mexico’s various cultures, wonderful people, and its simplicity began on a two-week vacation. It evolved into so much more.
And because I wanted to fully experience everything Mexico has to offer, I ended up selling almost everything I own and finding a way to turn my career skills into a portable income.
Wealth creation…asset protection…and income for your retirement: These are all things that foreign real estate ownership can do for you.
Marty and Michelle Kramer know that the road to paradise is not always direct. They’re okay with that. As they will tell you, what counts is being happy where you end up. They found the right fit for their retirement dreams in the bright and breezy beach town of Playa del Carmen, on Mexico’s famed Riviera Maya.
In 1999, the 50-year-old Valorie Gallagher fell in love while vacationing along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. She’d been looking for her perfect match for years, and once they met, she instantly knew that her life would never be the same. This wasn’t the typical affair of the heart, however. Valorie had fallen head-over-heels in love with one of the lesser-known jewels of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the fishing village of Puerto Morelos. And 17 years later, she’s still in love with it.
“What would we do in Wisconsin in retirement?” says Lance Koehler, reflecting on his new life in beachside Tulúm. “Go to the mall, shovel snow. Here I love the warm weather, the sun, and going to the beach.” Lance and his wife Jeanette have found more than their place in the sun. They’ve also found their place in the local expat community.
The man was a powerful politician. He might not like to be identified…so I’ll call him John.
He came to visit me in San Miguel de Allende, the beautiful Mexican town where I have lived for 25 years, teaching Spanish to people of all ages.
John was working on his Spanish through my online program and had learned the basics. Now, he wanted to improve his command of the language, in the field…so to speak. But, in spite of his many successes over the years, this high achiever confided in me that he was nervous about taking what he had learned into the real world.
Cozumel is a perfect blend of laidback island life with tons of activities to enjoy. Here you can have as relaxed or active a retirement as you want. You can park yourself on a perfect stretch of white-sand beach for the day, listening to the waves as you read the latest best-seller, or don a snorkel to explore the world’s second-largest reef system, just offshore. Clear waters make it easy to see (and photograph) sea turtles, rays, and colorful clown fish. You can even make arrangements to swim with giant whale sharks.
Mexico’s Caribbean coast ticks all the boxes when it comes to real estate opportunity. It’s on an upward trajectory. Prices have risen strongly in recent years. But for now, there’s still opportunity to buy well and watch the value of your real estate rise.
Reading guide books and looking at photos don’t do the beauty of Puerto Morelos justice. This is a charming, friendly, and beautifully scenic beach town lying midway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
“You may have heard this before but it’s really true in my case,” says Nicky Simonyi. “I came down here on vacation and never left. That was 35 years ago.”
The 55-year-old Canadian is sipping a cool drink, just a few steps from the warm, Caribbean surf. You could easily toss a seashell into the turquoise water from where she sits.
In downtown Mexico City, one of the largest in the world, you find a vast open space – the famous Zócalo. Covering 14 acres, it is one of the largest town squares or plazas in the world. It’s the heart of the city’s colonial district, surrounded by historic buildings and pedestrian avenues full of restaurants and shops, as well as government buildings and a cathedral.
If you happen to be hiking through the Himalayan country of Nepal this month, leave your Sunday best behind you. (Attempting Everest in a suit and tie probably wouldn’t end well, anyway.) In Nepal, the full moon on March 23 marks the end of winter and the start of the monsoon season. But local people don’t wait for the rain to get wet.
The clear, turquoise waters of Mexico’s cenotes (sinkhole ponds) are well known to visitors, and attract thousands of people seeking to explore the underground delights they have on show. But some of these enchanting sinkholes have a more sinister side. None more so than the so-called Pet Cemetery near the popular expat hub of Tulúm.
In the U.S. today, a “real” retirement is slipping out of the hands of millions of Americans. But look overseas…and your options expand. Despite all the talk of recovery—and yes, the economy is in better shape than it was seven years ago—it’s fair to say that the news you get on TV and in the papers remains pretty grim.
Mexico has been a firm favourite with expats looking for a retirement haven where they can make the most of their retirement. Mexico’s close proximity to the U.S. as well as its cost of living make it an ideal expat haven. From real estate to groceries, entertainment to healthcare, life in Mexico simply costs less.
Frank and Dale Reams took their first vacation to the quaint fishing village of Puerto Morelos on Mexico’s Caribbean coast in 1998 and knew, instantly, that they belonged there. “We fell in love with this area and after several more vacations, we decided that Puerto Morelos would become our retirement home when the time came,” says Frank.
For many retirees thinking of moving abroad, climate is a crucial factor. The climate rankings in International Living’s annual Global Retirement Index is one of the first comparisons many potential expats and international retirees will make between possible destinations. Here are the top countries ranked for climate on the 2016 International Living Global Retirement Index.
Valentine’s Day may be the most romantic day of the year, but it’s undeniable that some locations have a certain “je ne sais quoi”, which adds that something special to the occasion. International Living ranks the top five most romantic locations on their beat—great places to visit with a loved one or to strike out and find love anew.
It’s that time of year again—the birds are singing, love is in the air, and hopeless husbands are trawling gas stations for that last bunch of flowers. It must be Valentine’s Day—that special day when you spoil the one you love, devote your attention to one another, and escape momentarily from the humdrum of everyday routine. It can be a wonderful time, no matter where you are, but it’s undeniable that some locations have a certain je ne sais quoi that adds that something special to the occasion.
A forgiving climate works wonders for your health and complexion. But what’s too hot or cold for one person can be just right for another. In looking for the countries with the best climate for our 2016 Global Retirement Index, we assessed not only the hard data, temperatures, rainfall and humidity, but we also assessed the comfort level of each destination’s climate by talking to as many expats as we could find.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I do a lot of traveling. So we often find ourselves on the way to places. We find ourselves in airports. In taxis and shuttles. In planes and buses. In snow-bound cities and towns for holidays and family functions.
After nearly 10 years of marriage, my husband and I decided it was time for a change. We’d lived in a Minneapolis high-rise apartment with spectacular views of the Mississippi River and downtown for seven years, and while we loved our apartment, we didn’t love the weather (for six months of the year anyway). And I didn’t love my high-stress job or the fact that our cost of living seemed to be getting higher.
I’ve never had a taxi driver refuse a fare before. But there we were, just arrived from Mexico City on the first-class bus (WiFi, reclining seats, air conditioning, etc. for $22) in the charming colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands. And after telling the driver the address of the apartment my wife and I had rented, he shrugged his shoulders and said the roads were closed.
Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, and Belize earn top rankings as the countries with the best retiree benefits and discounts in the newly published 2016 Global Retirement Index from InternationalLiving.com.
The 2016 Global Retirement Index lists the top countries where retirees can live better for less around the world. But as well as offering a lower cost of living, some countries stand out in the category of significant retiree benefits and discounts, including savings on transportation, entertainment, social services, visa costs, and healthcare.