The ABCs of Retiring to Ecuador

When my wife Cynthia and I were looking for places to relocate abroad the choices seemed overwhelming at first. It’s a big world out there, after all, so we decided to make a list of what was most important to us.

The field quickly narrowed when we realized the importance of being reasonably close to, and staying in touch with, our family. Asia sounded intriguing, but was just too far away. The thought of living in Europe was stimulating, but with the five-hour time difference we knew communication would be problematic.

Latin America offered the most possibilities to satisfy our wish list, and through research with International Living we discovered Ecuador, a small South American country that at the time we couldn’t have pinpointed on a map. More specifically we read about Cuenca, the country’s third largest city, which not only had we never heard of, but whose name we didn’t even know how to pronounce.

Yet something about Cuenca seemed to speak to us, so much so that we booked an investigative trip in July 2009. We were thrilled with what we found and moved to Cuenca in May 2010, happily living here ever since.

Let me share with you what I call the ABCs of what we love about our retirement in Ecuador:

A = Amazing Weather

As I’m writing this it’s July and I just finished speaking with our daughter on Skype. She was talking about her parched lawn, high utility bills, and sweating bullets. Six months from now we’ll be chatting about shoveling snow, high utility bills (again), and bundling up.

Here in Cuenca the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the temperature is in the mid-70s F. When we have another conversation next January I’ll be experiencing the same thing.

It’s “winter” for us now, so the evenings can be cool on occasion. It’s also our “dry” season, but that only means it rains less often. Year-round the foliage remains lush and green. Since we don’t have (or need) central heating and air, our monthly utility bills remain constantly low.

Cynthia and I are “Goldilocks” people when it comes to weather—we want it not too hot and not too cold. For us Ecuador is “just right.”

B = Better Lifestyle

Work—chores—errands. I’m describing our previous lives in the States, but I’m guessing you can relate. We lived with so much stress, from daily rush hour commutes to constant deadlines and schedules, to financial worries.

Funny thing is, we didn’t realize this until we moved to Cuenca and escaped all that pressure. Now we find ourselves immersed in a culture where family is more important than career. Where if something doesn’t happen today maybe it will tomorrow. This can admittedly be annoying at times when you believe something really needs to happen today, but you learn to go with the flow and are often pleasantly surprised that maybe your important something wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Our relaxed way of life doesn’t mean we’re idle. On the contrary, our overall fitness level is better than it’s ever been as we walk almost everywhere in town and generally focus more on our exercise and diet. It helps that our markets overflow with non-GMO fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the biggest surprise of moving to Cuenca has been our often overly active social life. Expats here find that they now have the time to form and nurture deep and meaningful relationships. From our experience, such friendships add immeasurably to one’s quality of life.

C = Cost of Living

We love the U.S. and visit our family often; but we simply couldn’t afford to enjoy our retirement years there the way we had envisioned. In Cuenca our life, while not lavish, is filled with wonderful amenities—a weekly housekeeper, eating out whenever we like, memberships at the gym and yoga studio, and fresh flowers throughout our beautiful two story, penthouse apartment.

All of this is easily paid for with our Social Security checks. In fact we have money left over to travel throughout Ecuador and beyond. We would have never believed it possible, but we find ourselves living an overall better lifestyle here for a third of our monthly budget back in the States.

You’ll have your own reasons for wanting to move or retire outside the U.S.—and there are an ever-growing number of places around the globe that may make better sense for you other than Ecuador. But for Cynthia and me, Cuenca has been a beautiful and affordable place to call home.

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