How Much Money Do You Need to Retire in Mexico in 2024?

Retire in Mexico
East Cape, Baja California, Mexico|Ronan McMahon

By Wendy Justice

If you’re considering retiring to Mexico, either part-time or full-time, you’re not alone. More than 2 million U.S. and Canadian citizens have moved to Mexico for a better life; it’s the most popular country in the world for Americans who choose to live abroad. You’ll find expat communities throughout the country, and discover that the locals are friendly, relaxed, and welcoming. The cost of living is low, the infrastructure is good, the healthcare is excellent (and affordable), and the food is terrific.

Mexico is a great place for retirement, whether you like summer weather year-round or prefer four seasons, whether you like vibrant cities or prefer small towns, or whether you want to live next to the beach or in the mountains, or whether you prefer a casita far off the beaten track. It’s a country that offers something for everyone. It’s close to the United States and Canada, so most of the products and name-brand stores that you’re familiar with are already there.

Mexico is also a good choice if you’re thinking of semi-retirement. Thousands of expats from the U.S. and Canada manage their companies or work remotely from Mexico. Bring your laptop, find a place you like, and enjoy all the benefits that Mexico has to offer.

Loreto, Baja, California, Mexico
Loreto, Baja, California, Mexico|Ronan McMahon

Preparation

If you’ve never visited Mexico before, or even if you have, plan a focused scouting trip. Make a list of all the places in Mexico that meet your criteria, considering population, climate, infrastructure, healthcare, real estate or rental opportunities, and existing expat communities. Then take several days to thoroughly explore each locality before you decide where to make your new home.

Tourist visas are valid for up to 180 days, but that length of stay isn’t automatic. If you want to guarantee that you can remain in the country for the full 180-day duration, apply for your visa at a Mexican consulate in the U.S.

If you want to stay for longer, Mexico has made it relatively easy to get visas that are valid for more than six months. The two primary visas that enable this are the Residente Temporal (temporary resident) and Residente Permanente (permanent resident). Temporary resident visas are valid for a maximum of four years, and once granted, visas for permanent residency never expire.

The application process for temporary or permanent residency begins at a Mexican consulate in your home country. The consulate will provide their criteria and instruct you on which forms you must complete; all forms are in Spanish. You’ll need to show that you can support yourself while living in Mexico; the requirements will vary from one consulate to the next.

If you’ve never lived in Mexico before, consider renting a hotel room or serviced apartment when you first arrive. Take the opportunity to explore your new town and its various neighborhoods before making any long-term commitment. Unless you’re already familiar with the area, doing some on-the-ground research before signing a lease or purchasing property is best move.

Facebook’s expat groups are a great source for finding both short and long-term accommodation. You’ll discover which expat-friendly realtors can show you properties of interest, and they will help negotiate your lease, too. If you feel confident enough to find a place on your own, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other online sources can also be useful.

When renting long-term, many property owners will ask foreigners for either a fiador (a co-signer who lives and owns property in Mexico) or a Póliza Jurídica (a legal protection policy that provides coverage for expenses in the event of a dispute). These documents protect the rights of both the lessor and the lessee. Realtors, property managers, and attorneys can help with either process. Be prepared to provide proof of income or economic solvency, personal references, and pay a one-month deposit in addition to the full first month’s rent. The Póliza Jurídica usually costs about 35% of the first month’s rent. Some property owners may also insist that you have renter’s insurance.

Remember to register your new address with the Instituto Nacional de Migración (Immigration office) if you have either temporary or permanent residency in Mexico.

Talk with realtors or long-term expats to get a sense of the healthcare services available in your location and which facilities and clinics are recommended.

Living Costs

Mexico is a place where you can live like a millionaire at the cost of a middle-class lifestyle. The quality of your life dramatically improves as goods and services cost less, so you can afford the kinds of luxuries only the wealthy enjoy up north.

The cost of housing, whether you’re renting or buying, will vary greatly depending on where you live. Homes near the beach and in resort areas will typically be more expensive than those in the central highlands or in localities with fewer tourists or expats. However, you should be able to buy a comfortable house in a good neighborhood for $150,000 or less nearly anywhere in the country. Of course, you could easily spend much more—it all depends upon your lifestyle.

Nearly everything at the grocery store costs less in Mexico than in the U.S. Local products are often incredibly inexpensive, and anything made or grown in Mexico is likely to cost a fraction of what you would pay in your home country.

For example, a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of Mexican avocados costs about $3.25. A kilo of mangos costs $2.17—less than the average price of a single small mango in the U.S. A kilo of fresh tomatoes runs just over a dollar in Mexico, compared to nearly five dollars per kilogram in the States.

Many imported items will cost as much, if not more, than local versions of those same products. Fortunately, Mexico produces many items that are of as high a quality as what you’re used to back home. Tide laundry detergent and Charmin toilet tissue, for example, have Mexican equivalents that are perfectly fine—you probably won’t even notice the difference, aside from the much lower price of the products made in Mexico.

Street food and cafes offer some of Mexico’s best bargains. A hearty lunch at a comida corrida (literally, a “food on the run” restaurant) costs $4 to $8 per person, while dinners at most nice restaurants are $20 or less. Cervecerías, or beer halls, also serve inexpensive food—burgers, wings, or tacos often cost about $2. Your total bill depends on how much beer you drink, but it’s still a bargain at about $2 a glass.

A couple can easily maintain a comfortable lifestyle in Mexico, including a housekeeper, a car, housing and utilities, and food for less than $2,500 per month. You would have to pay more than twice that amount to have a similar lifestyle in the U.S.

If you like the idea of living a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget, consider Mexico. You’ll be surprised at how much farther your money will stretch.

Check out our Full Guide to the Cost of Living in Mexico here.

Healthcare

Even if you haven’t traveled to Mexico for medical or dental care, you likely know someone who has. It’s the world’s most popular medical tourism destination; over 40% of medical and dental tourism trips taken worldwide are to Mexico. In 2019 alone, U.S. residents made 1.2 million visits to Mexico for medical or dental care, taking advantage of substantially lower costs, and often, a better patient experience than they could get back home.

Nearly every large town and city in Mexico has at least one first-rate hospital, with well-qualified doctors and all the equipment and technology you would need or expect. Many doctors and dentists in Mexico received at least part of their training in the U.S., and many doctors licensed in the U.S. have received all or part of their training in Mexico.

Mexico has eight hospitals that have received JCI accreditation in addition to many excellent hospitals that have not yet gone through the accreditation process. The JCI hospitals are Galenia Hospital and Hospital Amerimed, both in Cancun, Centro Medico de Cozumel in Cozumel, Hospital BC and the Obesity Control Center, both in Tijuana. Hospital Médica Sur is in Tlalpan, a southern suburb of Mexico City, and the American British Cowdray Medical Center IAP has two accredited hospitals in Mexico City.

Other highly-regarded private hospitals with branches throughout the country include Star Médica, Hospital H+, and Hospital Angeles.

Healthcare costs, are generally, at least 50% lower in Mexico compared to the U.S. A dental implant, for example, costs an average of $1,650 in Mexico, compared to $3,400 in the U.S. A coronary artery bypass that would cost $73,000 in the U.S. costs only $27,300 in Mexico. Not only is Mexico’s healthcare less expensive, but it’s also an easier system to navigate. Long waits to see a doctor or dentist are rare, results from tests are often given directly to the patient the same day, and most medications are sold over the counter, with made-in-Mexico drugs costing less than half the price of their U.S. equivalents.

Mexico’s national healthcare system consists of two primary paths. The IMSS system (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) is part of the national Social Security program and was designed for employees across the country. However, expats who are either temporary or permanent legal residents can also apply for IMSS. You may begin your application online or by visiting a local IMSS office in your community; you can bring an interpreter with you.

Participation costs depend on age. For those aged 50 to 59, IMSS currently costs about $61 per month per person. For people 60 to 69, it is $85 per month, 70 to 79-year-olds pay $88 per month, and individuals 80 and over pay $91 per month. Nearly all treatments, including medications, are provided free of charge once you’ve paid your premium.

IMSS excludes many pre-existing conditions that might prevent program participation or require waiting periods before treatment would be covered. Fortunately, another option is the Instituto del Salud para el Bienestar, or the INSABI program. INSABI, which is free, was established for people with pre-existing conditions and those who cannot participate in IMSS for financial reasons, thereby ensuring medical coverage for all legal residents. INSABI accepts anyone who is not enrolled in IMSS, and includes care for the unemployed and chronically ill. As is the case with IMSS, expats who hold either permanent or temporary residency may seek treatment.

There’s no need to sign up in advance under the INSABI plan; show up at any INSABI hospital and present your residence card, your CURP (a unique number that the Mexican government gives to all citizens and legal residents), and a compromante (a utility bill or other proof of your address in Mexico). Whether you choose IMSS or INSABI, it helps to know Spanish or to bring someone with you who does.

Having private insurance is also an option. You can go to the hospital of your choice—and Mexico has some excellent private hospitals. Keep in mind, though, if your private insurance is based out of the U.S. or some other country, benefits may be limited. The same is true for Medicare and Medicare Advantage policies.

Safety

Most expats in Mexico live in areas that are popular with other expats. They’re drawn by the exciting food and culture, the excellent infrastructure, modern and affordable healthcare, safety, and the low cost of living.

If you’re at all familiar with Mexico, you’ve probably heard about cartel violence. This occurs mainly in the northern border states, where there’s little to attract travelers and expats. The U.S. State Department regularly updates their website with areas they deem unsafe, though they tend to be overly cautious. Violent crime is rarely directed at foreigners.

Expat havens throughout the country, including Puerto Vallarta, La Paz, Lake Chapala and Ajijic, Puerto Escondido, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Santiago de Querétaro, Mérida, and the Riviera Maya, tend to be among the safest places in Mexico and have lower crime rates than many cities in the U.S.

The most common safety risks to foreigners come from drinking too much alcohol, unsafe swimming, and motor vehicle accidents.

Most Mexicans are friendly, fun-loving, helpful, and welcoming. Be respectful, learn a few words of Spanish, and follow these general tips.

  • Don’t walk alone at night, especially if you’ve had too much to drink
  • Don’t leave your belongings unattended
  • Don’t count your money in public
  • Don’t drink the tap water
  • Don’t accept rides from strangers
  • Do keep your wallet secure, especially in markets, in crowded areas, and when using public transportation
  • Do use ride-hailing apps and licensed taxis
  • Do get full collision and liability insurance if you’re renting a car
  • Do take the toll roads (cuotas)
  • Do dress conservatively, especially in non-touristed areas
  • Do ask a local if in doubt
  • Do take out a travel insurance policy before you come
  • Do be mindful of your surroundings
  • Do swim in safe areas and be mindful of riptides and other hazards

Is it Safe to Travel in Mexico? - Expat Safety Guide

One of the hardest decisions about retiring in Mexico will likely be deciding which of the many expat havens is right for you. If you want to live by a beach, there are dozens of options. This is where you’ll find warm weather year-round, the best seafood, an abundance of nightlife, fishing, swimming, and water-based activities. In Baja, some of the most popular destinations include San Felipe, Rosarito, Ensenada, Loreto, La Paz, and Todos Santos.

On the mainland, you’ll find the coastal cities of Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Escondido, and Huatulco on the Pacific side, while Mérida, Progreso, Campeche—all along the Gulf of Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula—and the Riviera Maya and Cozumel, in Quintana Roo, are on the Caribbean.

Those who prefer cooler climates head for the highlands, and Mexico has plenty of great options, including Lake Chapala and Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico City, Oaxaca de Juarez, and San Cristobal de las Casas.

Wherever you choose, you’re sure to find welcoming locals, an expat community, and a friendly, relaxed lifestyle that’s easy on the budget.

Many expat communities have English-language libraries, community centers, and other organized resources. There’s even an American Legion in Lake Chapala. All expat communities have Facebook pages that include social and cultural events that foreigners may want to attend.

Relocation specialists can be a great help to anyone making a move to Mexico. Most large towns and cities have at least one person who can assist with translation, finding housing, and with immigration issues such as residency and changes of address. Many also offer neighborhood tours.

A few reputable relocation specialists are:

MexLaw is an excellent resource with lots of information on their website about starting a business, buying property, taxes, and anything having to do with immigration.

3 Best Places to Retire in Mexico

Our IL Roving Latin America editor Jason Holland talks about the three top expat havens in Mexico and just why they are such great retirement options.

Common FAQs About Retiring in Mexico

How Much Does it Cost to retire in Mexico?

You can retire with a very comfortable lifestyle in Mexico—including the maid, a car for travel, and private health insurance—can come in at about $2,500 a month for a couple. You probably would have to pay twice this amount to have this lifestyle in the U.S.

Where's the Best Place to Retire in Mexico?

There are numerous places that offer a fantastic retirement in Mexico. Our top choices would include San Miguel De Allende, Playa Del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Tulum, and Mazatlán.

Can I Receive Social Security Payments if I Retire in Mexico?

Yes, as long as you are eligible for U.S.Social Security payments, you will be eligible to receive payments while living in Mexico.

Where Do U.S. Citizens Retire in Mexico?

It's varied. Generally, Americans will avoid border towns when thinking of their retirement in Mexico. World-class cities such as Mexico City and Guadalajara offer all the culture one could want. While historic colonial cities such as Mérida, Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, Santiago de Querétaro, and Guanajuato display their rich heritage through spectacular architecture and their proud indigenous roots.

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