When we arrived for the event, we were excited about Belize, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, but had wide-open minds and were willing to consider anything, anywhere. Wendy was reluctant to take vacation time to sit in a conference rather than playing in Orlando, but it was a great decision for us. It was at this conference that we got our first taste of Colombia. Before I continue with our Colombia story, I want to take a minute to say something about the conference itself. And I want you to know that Live and Invest Overseas has not persuaded me to say this. I asked for the chance to say this because I want anyone else out there thinking about making a move like the one we're making to understand this. The Live and Invest Overseas conferences are simply amazing. At the event in Orlando, while our heads were spinning with questions, facts, ideas, dreams, and investments, we were also getting a chance to talk to people who already lived and worked in all of the countries we had ever considered. We were focused on Latin America, maybe eight countries, but at the conference we could learn about places all over the globe. Some of the speakers were natives to their countries, others were expats who had been just like us a few years earlier. We asked frank and blunt questions, and we got frank and blunt answers. Every answer led to more questions, of course, but after the conference we knew we had to do some visiting to these countries. Time to get the passports out and get boots on the ground. We ended up attending conferences and taking extended stays in Belize, Colombia, and Ecuador. We loved all the countries, but Colombia, especially Medellin, just felt like home. We made another two-week trip to visit Medellin so we could see it at a different time of year, and we made sure to stay like we lived there instead of vacationing. We shopped and cooked and located common everyday items so we could feel like we lived there. We didn't have time to stay longer, but we knew this was the place for us. We have always lived in small towns and loved them, but 3.5 million people in Medellin was no problem at all. Frankly we were overwhelmed by how friendly the people were. Whether they were expats or Colombians, we met many people who were willing to help us out, answer questions, give advice, and just generally be wonderful. We even had six people give us phone numbers or email addresses to contact them when we finally moved to the city so they could help us out any way that they could. So it was an easy decision for us to choose Medellin. We got back home to Illinois, suffered through some more brutal winters and stifling, humid summers, and finally got our house sold. We started selling all of this stuff we had accumulated that we had to have at one time but that now was just in the way of our new life. Medellin inspired us to start our new life right now, not at retirement age. Why wait when there are so many ways to make your dreams come true? Now we are learning Spanish and buying new computers and a camera. We are still reducing our possessions every day and saving money. We have a place to stay for three months while we look for our more long-term place, and our friends in Illinois are throwing "deportation" parties for us while they make plans to come visit. We can't wait to start living our dream in Medellin. If any Live and Invest Overseas reader reading this would like to get in touch with us directly, we'd welcome that. Live and Invest Overseas—Kathleen, Lief, Lauren, and all of the amazing guest speakers and associates they bring to their conferences—has impacted our lives, and we are grateful. Now we want to help others make their dreams come true, too. Darren Howarter
"As we made our plan for where to go," Lee remembers, "the reality of what we were doing began to settle in. I was only 49 years old, for crying out loud. What if we ran out of money? I began to worry about being back in the States at age 75 looking for work." Lee spent a lot of time running the numbers and, finally, he and Julie found the courage to make the leap. "We satisfied ourselves," Lee explains, "that, in Cuenca, Ecuador, the city we'd focused on, my pension would allow us to live very comfortably." Lee and Julie were pioneers. Two of the original Cuenca retirees, in 2001 they received Visa 1 and Visa 2 from the New York consulate when they applied for legal Ecuadorean residency. "We lived in Cuenca for nine months before meeting another English-speaking couple," Lee says. "We didn't mind. We were having so much fun taking advantage of all we discovered that Cuenca had to offer. This is a very cultural city, with free symphony events, museums, and annual art shows. "The best news, though, during those early months," Lee continues, "was the realization I had that the cost of living was even lower than I'd estimated. Cuenca enjoys great mountain weather year-round. This means no heat and no air conditioning. I had underestimated the effect of the climate on our overall budget." The cost of living in Cuenca has increased steadily in the dozen years since Lee and Julie first took up residence. Still, this remains one of the most affordable options in the Americas. You can rent an apartment for as little as US$300 per month. More typical is US$500 monthly. Figure a total budget of US$1,200. And you may, indeed, decide to invest in a place of your own. The cost of real estate in this city is one of the greatest bargains in all of Latin America, cheaper than in Montevideo, Uruguay; Medellin, Colombia; Fortaleza, Brazil; Panama City; or most any other Central or South American destination you might consider. You could buy a small city condo for less than US$50,000. Gas, too, is cheap, and Ecuador is a great place for exploring by car. Lee says that he invested in a car soon after making the move, because he and Julie so enjoyed motoring around the country. He advises figuring an additional US$150 per month if you own a car. One thing to remember about Ecuador is that this country uses the U.S. dollar. For an American retiree, this means it's easier to understand what things really cost; it's easier to keep track of what you're really spending, month to month; and, very important, you don't have any currency-exchange risk. You may still have local inflation to contend with, but you won't have to worry about that being compounded when the exchange rate goes against you. Given his extended personal experience living and investing in this country, we're delighted that Lee has agreed to act as host for our upcoming Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Quito next month. The Early Bird Discount for this event remains in effect today and tomorrow only. You have until midnight Friday to save up to US$250 when you register. Details on the program we've put together with Lee's help are here. Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Cuenca, Ecuador, home to a big and fast-growing expat community, qualifies as one of the world's top retirement havens and perhaps the best place in the Americas to live well and comfortably on even a very small budget. In this colonial city recently, I filmed a brief video to give you an idea what Cuenca has to offer. Take a look.
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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