Financial Peace of Mind on $1,000 a Month in Ecuador

Ecuador has long appealed to expats and we have a solid group of international residents scattered throughout the nation. The family that lives next door to me hails from Australia. I buy my hearty European-style bread from a German fellow. And my family and I rented our first apartment from a woman from Spain.

But citizens of the U.S. make up the largest percentage of expats and it’s no wonder. Much of Ecuador has a perfect climate that hovers comfortably under those brutal sticky days of summer and well above the icy grip of winter. The country offers big cities, adorable little towns, glistening beaches, mountain living, and everything in between. Ecuadorians are, by and large, a friendly, welcoming lot. And we U.S. citizens can be back in our home country within four hours by airplane. There’s not much to dislike here.

Recently though I’ve found a lot of folks talking about an added benefit of living in Ecuador—financial peace of mind.

Let’s face it. For many people in the U.S., the economic situation has been far from secure for a good long time. Most of my friends who still live there are surviving paycheck to paycheck with little wiggle room for unexpected expenses. Unemployment, even for a short period of time, can mean losing your car, your house, or even declaring bankruptcy.

Between the continued aftershocks of the Wall Street financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the great political division and uncertainty of today, the U.S. can feel a little shaky. Especially if you have a limited income or fixed budget. On the other hand, most people find they worry far less about finances in Ecuador than back home. But it’s not because the country is immune to economic turbulence—no country is—rather it’s the country’s relationship with money that makes the difference.

While no one is going to turn down a million dollars, getting rich is not the normal focus here. An Ecuadorian’s main concern is their family. So if a man can earn enough money to comfortably support his wife and children, he’s happy. You won’t find many people who will forsake family time in favor of working to earn an extra buck or two. This lack of a money focus means that products and services are often cheaper than in North America, which makes life more affordable for everyone.

It’s so affordable in fact, that some people, including my friend Marlene, can live here on just $1,000 per month. Now this amount doesn’t allow for a luxurious penthouse apartment or frequently dining at fancy restaurants. But it does allow 74-year-old Marlene to live on her own and be self-sufficient, which is not a luxury she could afford back in the States.

Ecuador is also a cash society with loans and credit cards being rarities. Because people aren’t buried in debt you don’t see financial bubbles like those that often appear Stateside. Personally, I appreciate knowing that, while the housing market may rise and dip, the value of my house won’t crash due to an artificially inflated market.

Almost every expat I speak with reports less stress in Ecuador. Some of that comes from the slower pace of life and some of it comes from living in a place where family values trump the rat race mentality. But much of it is due to being free from the constant worry over money. And that’s exactly the kind of freedom that allows us to truly relax and just enjoy living.

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