Living the Early Retirement Dream in an Overseas Paradise

It was always Sandra Cameron’s dream to retire early to an oceanfront home. That’s why she bought a second house on the Noosa North Shore in Queensland in 1996.

Sandra, 48, wanted her retirement years filled with long walks on the beach, sunset drinks with friends and time spent reading all the books on her list. However, after years of careful planning, she realised the cost of living in Australia was just too great to retire early and live in the manner she envisioned.

So she set about researching her retirement options and discovered she could retire in Central America without waiting for her 50th birthday. “I got really excited when it finally dawned on me I could quit work in a couple of years and still afford to live in a beach town,” says Sandra. “Plus, I knew I would find the perfect place if I took the time to look.” So, she put the Noosa house on the market, closed down her bookkeeping business and started her property hunt.

Today she lives in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom rented home with a beautiful roof deck overlooking both a historic city centre and a busy harbour. “I can tell you there is nothing like this in Australia for $400 a month,” says Sandra. She is four blocks from the beach and eight blocks from a supermarket where she buys avocados for 10 cents and fresh prawns for $12 a kilo.

Everything she wants she has in the Pacific coast town of Mazatlán, Mexico; in fact the only thing she misses from Australia is a good pavlova. Mazatlán is a city of 450,000 just below the Tropic of Cancer on the Pacific coast of Mexico. And Sandra’s not the only one to have caught on to the benefits of life here, the city is home to about 3,000 English-speaking, full-time expats as well as around 7,000 part-timers.

The $3,000 per month rent Sandra receives from her home in Melbourne is more than adequate to cover her living expenses. “I couldn’t believe it when my first water bill arrived and it was only $4 for the month and it included rubbish pick-up three times a week. My life here is more affordable than I could have ever imagined,” she says.

Sandra spends about $1,400 per month for rent, utilities, health insurance, food, wine and a weekly housekeeper. She spends an additional $300 to $500 each month eating out with friends, on taxi fares and going to the theatre and movies. “I’m saving up to do some travelling next summer because I want to see more of this amazing country,” says Sandra.

Sandra has broken free from the spiralling cost of her former life in Australia, which ran to about $9,000 per month. “I was very frugal with my life in Melbourne, but it was so hard to get ahead and trying to save money was very hard too,” she says.

For a lazy afternoon, Sandra loves to join a few friends and go to one of the many beachfront restaurants for a cost of $12 to $14. “I just kick back with a cold beer, some great sea food and simply bask in my good fortune,” says Sandra. “I never realised this type of lifestyle could be so wonderfully affordable.”

And her advice to other Aussies seeking reasonably priced retirement? “Come on up mate, life in Mazatlán is bloody good.”

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