Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador

Retire Well On US$726 Per Month

“Retire in style overseas and live better than you do now on less than US$1,000 a month.”

We make this promise often, and it’s a big one. So big that it can seem hard to believe. So bear with me for a minute.

If you could retire and live comfortably…in a safe, friendly community…with dramatic and expansive mountain views from your bedroom window…or the gentle lapping of the sea upon the sand just beyond your back door…

With help around the house or maybe someone to tend your garden for you every day…

If you could, in effect, step outside what’s going on in much of the world right now…and restart your life in a place where the day’s closing figure for the DOW and the dollar-euro exchange rate aren’t the primary topics of conversation…where you don’t have to worry what the government’s next “bailout” brainstorm might mean for you…

Because you’ve got your own plan. Your own plan for reinventing your life someplace new and beautiful and exciting and fun…where family still matters and evenings are spent with friends and neighbors indulging in that forgotten art called conversation…

If you could do that, would you take the chance?

Sounds too good to be true, right? Somebody’s crazy fantasy.

As we maintain in these dispatches every day, this isn’t marketing hype. These promises are based in reality. We know, because we know people already living the kind of life we’re describing. Lots of them.

Time for brass tacks. Where do you go to find this fantasy life? Here’s one possibility:

Cuenca, Ecuador.

As our man in Latin America Lee Harrison puts it:

“I believe Cuenca to be the best place for an expat to retire. It’s not the cheapest, but I think it’s the best quality of life for the money.

“At just over 400,000 people, Cuenca is the perfect size. It’s small enough so that you always see someone you know when walking around town and you know how to get around, how to get things done. What’s more, people know and remember you, which makes you feel at home and part of the community.

“But Cuenca is not so small that it doesn’t have all the services you need. It’s the provincial capital of Azuay, so you have the state and municipal offices at your convenience. There are good restaurants, plus theater, orchestra, and plenty of festivals.

“The colonial architecture, Andean markets, and heritage of the city make you feel that you’re really experiencing another country and a rich culture…”

OK, OK…enough color. Let’s get to the practical realities. How much to retire to Cuenca?

Our man Harrison says, “Allow US$1,505 per month if you’re planning to rent.”

“I believe you could live in Cuenca very comfortably on about US$1,505 per month,” Lee continues, “if you are renting a home. This is for two people.”

Here’s how Lee’s budget breaks down:

  • Rent (for a new and modern apartment of 2,600 square feet): US$450
  • Building fee (typically required with a rental): US$150
  • Food: US$300
  • Transportation (public transportation is great, both within the city and between cities; city buses are plentiful and inexpensive; taxis are about US$1.50, and a four-hour ride to Guayaquil is about US$8; owning a car is an unnecessary expense, and, in fact, typically a burden): US$50
  • Electricity: US$30
  • Telephone: US$20
  • Internet: US$35
  • Cable TV: US$30
  • Entertainment: US$240
  • Full-time, live-in maid: US$200


Again, this budget is for two people…and it’s for a very comfortable life in a big, comfortable apartment.

In other words, you could live (still well) for less. You could rent a “local”-style apartment for about US$100 per month…and, renting a local place, you’d have no HOA fees. This would get you about 600 or 700 square feet in an older building with no doorman or garage…and it would cut your budget by US$500 per month.

Meaning you and your significant other would be living your new life in the charming colonial city of Cuenca for US$1,005 per month.

Still more than you think you can afford? How about US$926 a month? If you’ve got a bit of capital (in this country, it doesn’t have to be a lot), you could buy a little place of your own and eliminate your monthly rent altogether. Granted, in place of the rent, you’d assume a property tax obligation. Of about US$21 (based on a big house in the city).

Don’t think you need the full-time, live-in household help? That’d cut your budget by another US$200…meaning that you and your husband, wife, partner, or pal could be living together…in a beautiful, comfortable, safe, friendly place…on a budget of as little as US$726 a month.

No kidding.

Kathleen Peddicord

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