Living Comfortably on $1,317 a Month in Cuenca, Ecuador

When we told our closest friends that we were retiring to Cuenca, Ecuador their first words were, “Wow, that’s really thinking outside of the box!” When it came right down to it, we were trying to figure out how to survive on my husband’s pension from UPS and pay for our medical insurance premiums without both of us having to work full-time until we were in our mid-seventies.

Mark’s retirement added up to $1,317 a month and our catastrophic medical insurance was $1,600 a month. The math just didn’t add up. At age 55, we weren’t too thrilled with the idea of spending our golden years trying to pinch pennies and decide whether to buy groceries or pay for our high blood pressure medication.

While researching options, we came across several articles that described Cuenca, Ecuador as the “number one place in the world to retire.”

So, in February of 2010, I sent Mark on an exploratory trip to Cuenca with a laundry list of things to check out: housing, climate, living conditions, medical, public transportation, and language schools. When Mark called the evening after his arrival, he gushed with excitement, “You’re absolutely going to love this place—it reminds me of Italy!” I found it hard to believe that such a small country in South America could resemble Europe. But after downloading some of the pictures, I had to agree.

When Mark returned from his scouting trip to Ecuador, we were convinced that Cuenca was our new retirement destination. When we added up all our expenses, we found that we were able to live comfortably on $1,317 a month and enjoy all the amenities of retirement without sacrificing our health and some of the other pleasures we expected to enjoy in our tercera edad (Third Age).

We did our homework and the other international destinations didn’t quite measure up to our expectations and budget. When Cuenca was put to the test, it received five stars across the board compared to three to four stars with the other locations, including our dream retirement destination—Italy!

Three and a half years later, we’re still convinced that we made the right decision and just recently purchased a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo along the Yununcay River.

Cuenca is now home to us where we enjoy leisurely walks along the river, take a 25-cent bus ride to El Centro (the historic part of the city) for a $2.50 almuerzo (set lunch), and experience the excitement of free concerts and art exhibits throughout the week. And best of all, we no longer have to worry about how to pay for medical insurance; we have full coverage for $85 a month.

“The Land of Eternal Spring” has an added bonus of no heating or air-conditioning bills. The money we save in that department, we put toward vacations in the States to see our family. We actually see our kids now more often than if we had stayed in the States working full-time jobs.

I will be the first to admit that an international move isn’t for everyone, but—for us—it works.

Next month our best friends are moving to Cuenca to begin their dream retirement—one they never thought possible. It just takes a little thinking outside the box.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about Ecuador and other countries in IL’s daily postcard e-letter. Sign up here for these free daily postcards and we’ll send you a FREE REPORT – Ecuador: Live Like Royalty on Your Social Security.

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