"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.
Since moving to Cuenca in 2011, Daniel and Sally Ellis have worked part-time, via the Internet, for their old law firm back in New Jersey, advising their former partners in product liability cases. In addition, Sally has continued her sideline art career and has had several exhibitions of her work in local galleries. Daniel says he finally has time to catch up on his reading. Jan and Tom Jeffers divide their time between Cuenca and Fort Lauderdale. Jan says it's important to spend time with the grandchildren, but she also enjoys the expat lifestyle. "It's great that Florida is only four hours away," Jan says, "but we also enjoy our friends in Cuenca and all the cultural activities here." Ralph Winston, who provides computer and Internet services to Cuenca expats, says he is finally able to pursue a lifelong interest in creative writing. Ralph has joined an expat writing group and says he's halfway through his first book. "Who would have thought that, at 60, I would be writing my first novel?" David Morrill Editor's Note: Meet David Morrill and many other of our Ecuador expat friends at this year's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Quito Sept. 17–19. The Early Bird Discount for this event expires this Friday at midnight. That is, you have two more days to save up to US$250 when you register. Do that here now. Or reach our conference team with your questions, toll-free from the United States, at 1-888-627-8834...or, internationally, at +1-443-599-1221.
June 12, 2014
"Kathleen, I'm 56 years old and one of your new '52 Days' students and a very tired vet. "That is, I'm a retired disabled veteran, and I am longing to move to Belize. I've bothered family and friends with this notion for a couple of years now. They mostly approve. Mostly they love me to pieces and want me to be happy and safe. I so want to prove to them and myself that this can be done. "Therefore I am taking my 52 steps quite seriously. Because I'm a disabled veteran, I am assigned a Social Security Finance-Payee person. She's fantastic and is 100% encouraging me to do this. "It seems this may be really possible? Could this be really possible?" --Anita K., United States Yes, it's really possible. Follow along with the 52 Days program and let us know if we can do anything more to help.
June 9, 2014
"Ms. Peddicord, I would first like to thank you for all of the information regarding overseas retirement options. You have opened my mind to the possibilities outside of the USA. I am a 63-year-old single woman and only have a retirement income of US$1,500/month. I would like to find a place where I could exist comfortably on that. I have a very adventurous spirit but also wish to be cautious as I would be venturing out alone. "Are there any places that stand out as best options for someone such as me? Any advice would be truly appreciated." --Debbie B., United States Indeed. On that monthly income you have several good choices, depending what kind of lifestyle you're in the market for, including:
This is the kind of thinking we'll do during this year's Retire Overseas Conference taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, August 29–31. Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Thailand, Vietnam, and Philippines are all on the featured haven list for this special event...along with 15 other countries. Details are here.
The first opportunity that jumped out at me was in real estate. I spent several days looking at properties available for sale in the city, reading newspaper ads, photographing signs in windows, and combing the streets. Never did I find a single English-speaking real estate agent in downtown Loja. And the Spanish-speaking agents I worked with were nothing to write home about. They couldn't keep appointments. In one case, I persisted for three days but ended up seeing only one house...despite having made my initial appointment more than a month in advance. Another real estate agent had more than 20 listings...but only 3 homes that had not already been sold. The first North American who opens a real estate business here will have a wide-open market. Team up with an energetic and well-connected local entrepreneur, and you could grab a good share of the local market just by running a tight ship and providing good service. Granted, there are not a lot of North American clients in Loja right now. But remember Cuenca. The first professional English-speaking real estate agency in this city pre-dated its discovery as a top expat retiree destination. In fact, to some extent, CuencaRealEstate.com helped to enable the expat migration that followed. The second opportunity I noticed was for a good Spanish-language school. Loja is known throughout the country for its Spanish. The version spoken in Loja is crisp, clear, well-enunciated, and true to form. Lojanos take pride in the quality of their Spanish. I've seen bumper stickers calling out their linguistic purity. Yet I couldn't find a Spanish-language school. I went to the department of tourism to ask about this, and the best their agent could come up with was a tutor I could hire privately. (She was the young lady's mother.) I asked at a couple of English schools (there are plenty of these in Loja). They all said they could fix me up with private lessons with a freelance tutor, but none offered actual Spanish courses. So, again, the first person to open a quality Spanish school in this city will have the market to himself. As with the real estate idea, there is not a huge pent-up demand for language study in Loja right now, but one big reason is that there's nowhere to study. With a good quality school in place, I think Loja's linguistic reputation (and maybe some smart international exchange student agreements) would bring plenty of students. My final observation was in the area of short-term rentals. On my most recent visit, I looked at a good bit of real estate, again, both for sale and for rent. But I found only one quality furnished rental. It wasn't bad, but it wouldn't be among the finalists for a Good Housekeeping Award either. I'd say there is a market for a handful of modern, short-term, furnished apartment rentals, built and equipped to higher-end U.S. standards, apartments of the type that are so popular in nearby Cuenca. A skeptic might say that, if there were a good market for these kinds of units, there would already be a supply of them. In a more developed market, that would be the case, but, in Loja, we're at a pre-market stage. The demand for these kinds of short-term rentals is coming. As Loja becomes more popular as an expat destination, this demand will grow. At the same time, the existence of these kinds of rentals will create their own demand. I'll use Medellin, Colombia, as an example. In Medellin, the existence of these high-quality units has actually changed people's habits and enticed many travelers away from hotels. In my case, I'd never used short-term rentals for business travel. But when I found out that I could get a luxury apartment, all to myself, for less than the price of a hotel, I switched to short-term rentals right away. And I'm not alone. Lots of expats like Loja. I hear from more and more people each year who find Loja's cultured, low-key lifestyle to be just what they're looking for. But, in the end, almost no one actually moves to Loja. And I think I know some of the reasons why. I'll use Cuenca's success as an expat destination as a benchmark. Of course Cuenca is a great city to start with. But when a potential expat comes to check it out, they can stay at their leisure in a quality, furnished, short-term rental, equipped with cable TV and high-speed internet. They can shop for real estate on an English-language site with a good inventory, and they can view properties with an English-speaking agent. Meantime, then they can master Spanish at one of Cuenca's excellent language schools. In other words, they can pretty much just show up and rely on this infrastructure to get them going. In Loja, none of these things exist yet. But once they are available, the scene will change. And it will be a handful of expat entrepreneurs who are paying attention right now who will help to make that happen. Lee Harrison Editor's Note: We'll explore business and entrepreneurial opportunities available in Loja and elsewhere in Ecuador at our Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference in Quito Sept. 17–19.
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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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