You’ll never run out of things to do and see in colorful San Miguel. ©Jason Holland
More Than One Perfect Climate
“In Seattle, I had constant back pain,” says Denis Asahara of his life before moving to Mexico’s Pacific coast. “The cold, humid weather made it worse. Here, in much warmer weather, 90% of my pain is gone. Also, the almost constant sunshine means I’m almost unlimited in my choices of things to do.”
Mexico is big, with mountains, jungles, deserts, and thousands of miles of coastline. So picking your perfect climate is part of the fun. If you love the heat, for instance, there’s the Yucatán. In the city of Mérida, on the Yucatán Peninsula, summer temperatures can hit 110 F. But winter temperatures—when snowbirds flock here—are in the 70s F and 80s F.
“We love the constant warm weather here on the Rivera Maya,” says Michelle Marino in Playa del Carmen. “It’s generally in the 80s F. Living on the Caribbean is wonderful, and it feels like we just must be outside all the time. It’s almost always sunny and I’m never cold here. I love it!”
If you need something more temperate, try the Colonial Highlands. In walkable towns like Querétaro, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende, you’ll find summer daytime highs that rarely top the upper 80s F and winter nighttime lows that seldom drop below the mid-40s F. You can expect temperatures of 75 F to 78 F nearly every day in the Lake Chapala area, a region frequently cited as having one of the best climates in the world.
Good weather means you automatically spend more time outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and getting in exercise without making an effort. “The weather is perfect. That’s why we’re always outside,” says Ren McClellan, 75, who’s lived with his wife Jan in Guanajuato for the last year.
It’s easy to put in the miles when you’re strolling Mexico’s pedestrian-friendly cities and towns. Stop at one of the many outdoor cafés and enjoy a refreshing agua fresca—a fruit-based drink. Thanks to the warm climate, fresh fruits—including exotic ones like mango, guanábana, and guava—are available all year.
And with good weather comes lower utility costs. “I never need more than a fan to cool my house in the Colonial Highlands,” says Glynna Prentice. “And for the few weeks of cold winter evenings, a space heater usually does the job.
Easy Residence, Great Benefits
“I love my senior discount card,” says Marty Kramer in Playa del Carmen. “All Mexican citizens, including resident expats, can get one when they turn 60. With it, I get discounts on almost everything: healthcare, public transportation, groceries, restaurants, hotels, and even some airlines. It’s up to the business how much of a discount they offer, but it’s usually around 10%.”
If, like Marty, you acquire official residence in Mexico, you can get an INAPAM Card—and all the discounts that come with it. These can range from 5% up to 50%. And recent changes in the law now provide an easier and faster path than ever to permanent Mexican residence.
“These days, with the favorable exchange rate, income qualifications—which are based on the peso—have dropped by about 60% from what they were only a few years ago,” says Don Murray.
Mexico offers a temporary residence visa that is valid for up to four years. But the really attractive option is the permanent residence visa. Unlike most countries, Mexico lets you apply for permanent residence from the start—you don’t need to get a temporary residence visa first. Even better, the permanent visa is a one-time application, it’s valid indefinitely, and you don’t have to spend a minimum amount of time in Mexico to keep it valid.
Most retirees qualify for residence by showing they have the funds to support themselves. And—also unusually—Mexico gives you two ways to qualify. You can show monthly income from Social Security or a pension. Alternatively, you can use assets, such as funds in a savings or investment account, to qualify. You don’t need to transfer these assets to Mexico; you only need to prove that you have them.
The income required is revised at the beginning of every year. As of late 2016, a temporary residence visa required about $1,100 in monthly income. The permanent residence visa required about $1,800 a month in income. Alternatively, you could show roughly $18,260 in assets for a temporary residence visa, or about $73,050 for a permanent visa.
You begin the process in the States with an appointment at a Mexican consulate. “We had our permanent residence visa in about three hours, after presenting our passports, some basic documentation, and proof of income, as well as participating in a short interview with an official,” says Don Murray.
And once you have residence, you can qualify for discounts. “The INAPAM card is easy to get. Just go to the local INAPAM office with your passport and resident card, proof of your local address (like a utility bill), and a couple of passport photos. You’ll walk out with your card,” says Don.
Renting, Buying, and Bargains
You’ll find outstanding value when renting in Mexico, and we always recommend that you “try before you buy.” Expat Mike Hord, 60, lives in a one-bedroom, ocean-view apartment in Puerto Vallarta. It costs him just under $500 a month. Great deals abound on the Caribbean side, too. In Playa del Carmen, expats Marty and Michele Kramer enjoy a two-bedroom condo one block from the beach for $1,000 a month.
“We rent a very nice multi-level condo right on the beach in Cancún. Our lease is locked in at 20,000 pesos monthly. A few years ago, that was about $1,300—a great deal. Now that same 20,000 pesos is worth $980. I’m putting an extra $320 in the bank every month,” says Don Murray. “If you have dollars to spend, seek property that is priced in pesos. That’s the secret, and most of those properties—at least in beach destinations—won’t be found on the internet, I promise!”
If you have money to buy, then Mexico is also a great place to look. Buying in Mexico is not only affordable, it’s easy. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying. Figure a stunning lake-view home with two bedrooms and 2,000 feet of living space in the Lake Chapala area for only $182,000. Or a fully furnished 1,195-square-foot condo in San Miguel de Allende, with two bedrooms, one bath, and just a 10-minute walk from centro, for $165,000.
“Mexico is a pretty mature, sophisticated market for real estate,” says Glynna Prentice. “In expat destinations you’ll generally find quite a few real estate agencies with sale properties that you can choose among. Some agencies also deal in long-term and vacation rentals—and if they don’t, they can sometimes refer you to a local company that does. Finding English-speaking real estate agents usually isn’t a problem, either—many agencies are actually expat-run, or with expat agents.”
Mexico is also one of the best places in the world to hunt for real estate profits in 2017.
“Mexico’s Riviera Maya is on a tear,” says Ronan McMahon of Pathfinder, International Living’s preferred real estate advertiser. “Each year, more and more visitors are coming to experience Mexico’s Caribbean coastline. Hotel occupancy rates here are sky-rocketing. In high season, there isn’t enough inventory to keep up with demand. It’s pulling in vacationers and mobile entrepreneurs from all over the world. If you buy right, you could see serious gains in capital appreciation and rental income.” (See Ronan’s full take on opportunities in 2017 here.)
World-Class Healthcare for a Fraction of the U.S. Cost
“Medical and dental care here are actually better than what I’ve experienced in the States,” says Diane Murray. “The doctors and dentists actually take their time with you, rather than making you feel like you’re being rushed. Oh, and I love the fact that I don’t need a prescription for medication. I just go to the pharmacy and get it.”
“My doctors in Mexico have been every bit as good as those I had in the U.S….at much cheaper prices,” says IL Mexico Editor Glynna Prentice. “I’ve never paid more than $40 for a specialist appointment…and that was before the peso’s value sank. Today, those specialist appointments would cost $35. I’ve had x-rays that cost me $25—and I was able to get them within minutes of the doctor’s ordering them.”
Private healthcare in Mexico costs 25% to 50% of U.S. prices pretty much across the board—for doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medical devices, lab tests, and more. Excellent private hospital chains, such as the Los Angeles and the Star Médica groups, in addition to individual hospitals, mean that you are seldom more than two to three hours from a top-rate facility.
Mexico also has six Joint Commission International-accredited private hospitals—the world standard for hospital accreditation.
“I had heart surgery here six years ago,” says Denis Asahara in Mazatlán. “Since then, I’ve used the Mexican health system for such things as MRIs, scans, cardiologists, and other specialists, and I’ve always been impressed. There is rarely any waiting, and excellent care is about a third of the cost of care in the U.S.”
“I love the healthcare,” says Pat Huber, who lives in Ajijic, on the shores of Lake Chapala. “For $14, I get a house call from my personal physician. When my cough lingered, I called her and she came right to our home. Dental exams are free and teeth cleaning with ultrasonic is $7.50. All facilities are sparkling clean and sanitary.”
“Most doctors speak at least some English, with many quite fluent,” says Don Murray. “Costs are significantly lower in all specialty areas and are often one-half to one-third the cost of similar services north of the border.”
“Most of the doctors have been trained in the U.S. As a patient, when the doctor comes in, you are the priority. They pay attention and they don’t look at their watch or think about the other patients waiting,” says Cathy Rice, who lives in Puerto Vallarta.
At one point, Cathy and her partner Jerry were ill. The cost of the doctor exam and medications was less than $60 each, and within a week both felt well. They’ve also taken advantage of low-cost health clinics regularly, paying 350 pesos (about $17) for a complete exam with a specialist.
“There are excellent hospitals. We are blessed, because at our age healthcare does become a concern. But I would tell people that here you don’t have to worry. At this point, I would say it’s much better healthcare than I ever received in the U.S.,” says Cathy.
In addition to private healthcare, Mexico has two national health programs available to residents: IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) and Seguro Popular. IMMS is designed for Mexican employers and employees, but expats can opt to join it. IMSS has a tiered pay rate, with a top rate of just $325 a year for those 80 and older, but it does not cover pre-existing conditions.
Seguro Popular is a recently established system available to all residents and expats. Cost varies depending on income, though some groups, including retirees over age 60, receive care free of charge. “Most permanent or temporary residents over 60 can obtain this coverage for free. Pre-existing conditions don’t disqualify you from participating,” says Don Murray.
Editor’s note: Whether it’s Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, or some other far off destination, there is a perfect overseas retirement haven out there for you.
Join us for our Fast-Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, this May, where we’ll be gathering all our live-overseas experts from around the world in one place to help you find the retirement spot that’s perfect for you.
Editor’s Note: This article was taken from a past issue of International Living’s monthly magazine. Delivered straight to your door each month, we delve into the details you need to take action. We share our contacts. We lay out the pluses and minuses. And we keep you up-to-date on the latest developments with the best havens abroad, including…7 Great Retirement Towns You’ve Never Heard of…
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