Save Money and Upgrade Your Life in Ecuador

My encore career ended in classic high drama. I was ordered to pack my belongings and be escorted from the building. After three years of grant writing, I was without a job.

My plan had been to work three more years and retire to a sunny place abroad where I could live on a small nest egg, along with my Social Security. Divorce, lack of financial planning, and loss of real estate in 2009, meant my choices would be to continue working forever or find a way to live on less. I began a round of job-hunting and interviews, but all the while my savings were shrinking. It looked like Walmart was my only option.

That’s when I remembered my two years in the Peace Corps. I had always wanted another chance to live abroad. This bit of bad luck was just the impetus I needed to actually go and do it.

Research led me to discover an expat community in the small Andean city of Cuenca, Ecuador. So I attended an International Living conference on Ecuador to find out if it was right for me. Once I made the decision to move, I turned my attention to downsizing.

I’ve always said, “When life gives you lemons, make mojitos!” For the next three months, I sorted through clothes, books, art supplies, kitchen paraphernalia, photos, and memorabilia. Anything I didn’t need, I sold. To lessen the nostalgic pain of letting my jewelry go, I photographed everything.

All that cash supported my moving expenses to Cuenca. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, Cuenca has year-round spring-like weather, kind people who rush to help if you stumble in the street, teens who give up their seat on the bus for seniors, pristine tap water, U.S. dollar currency, and 110 voltage outlets. It other words, it’s an easy place to live.

My modern three-bedroom apartment—$400 a month—has a fabulous view of the Cajas mountains. A neighborhood park, a market for fresh fruits and vegetables, a bank, an English-speaking doctor, and a tree-lined avenue with multiple restaurant choices are all within walking distance. Plus, my healthcare costs here are minimal. My emergency gall bladder surgery was completely covered by government insurance, for which I pay $69 a month.

While I’ve made some Ecuadorian friends, I’m also part of a strong community of expats. Many have become repeat students for my creative writing and watercolor painting classes, which I teach in my apartment/studio.

Three years ago, I began what has become a thriving online business: Success Coach for Memoir Writers. It all got started after indie-publishing my memoirComing to Las Vegas, A True Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Sin City in the 70s in 2014. Then, some writers in the writers groups I belong to read it and asked for help with theirs. Next thing I knew—with a little help from the internet—I had memoir-writing clients all over the world.

I’m now also creating an online memoir-writing course that I can automate. This will mean that I’ll have a passive income from the same material I use for my coaching.

In Ecuador, my Social Security alone makes it possible to live well enough to afford a maid, taxis, laundry service, manicures, gourmet food delivery, and also support a 13-year-old Ecuadorean girl in private school where she learns English and computer skills.

La vida es buena (“life is good”)…and I’m living it years earlier than I originally planned. The hurt and anger I felt after being fired and forced to move is a distant memory. Since arriving in Cuenca, I’ve published four novels, several books on writing, three adult coloring books, and am working on my second memoir. My days are filled with coaching, writing, painting, learning Spanish, and meeting friends for two-for-one mojitos.

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