I came to Ecuador for the first time 20 years ago.
This was pre-dollarization. The place was crazy cheap… but the sucre was collapsing. It lost 67% of its foreign exchange value in 1999 and nose-dived 17% in one week at the start of 2000.
January 2000 President Jamil Mahuad announced that the country would begin using the U.S. dollar as its currency… and it has since.
Soon thereafter Kathleen and I opened an office here in Quito and so had reason to return to this country regularly.
People would ask me, “What’s Ecuador like?”
“Well,” I’d tell them… “you have first-world countries… you have second-world countries (the former communist block)… you have third-world countries… and you have Ecuador…”
The country is a different place today, thanks largely to the significant and forward-thinking investments of former President Rafael Correa.
Correa made infrastructure a priority. He started plans for a new airport outside Quito. Arriving at the old airport was like being released from prison. You stepped out directly onto a city street… into an area enclosed by chain-link fencing and barbed wire.
Arriving at the new airport this week I was struck by just how far this country has come over the past two decades.
The international airport is new and modern. Roads have been improved countrywide, as has the electric power system, thanks to Correa’s 18 new power plants (Ecuador now sells surplus power to Colombia and Peru), and you can get 100 Mbps internet in Quito and elsewhere in the country (if you’re willing to pay for it).
Yet… and here’s the real point to be made… the cost of living in Ecuador remains super low. Maybe not crazy low, as it was when I first spent time here 20 years ago… but low enough that even the most budget-conscious retiree can live comfortably and free of financial worry.
Given the current reality on the ground here, I’d say that Ecuador today is a better and more appealing retirement choice than it’s ever been. It’s still a bargain… but it’s no longer anything like as difficult, challenging, or limited as it was when we first recommended it.
Safety, Economy And Residency
Ecuador is also a safe place, with low crime rates. This has been true historically, but it’s truer now than ever thanks, again, to the efforts of former President Correa who put more police on the streets and invested in a more sophisticated system of investigation with the help of forensics experts he brought in from Europe, for example.
Ecuador’s economy is growing (very slightly) after years of decline following the drop in oil prices. The country depends greatly on oil revenues. When the oil price fell from US$110 to US$28 per barrel, Ecuadorians felt the effects.
Inflation is low because of the U.S. dollar peg. Correa called the peg a “financial straightjacket.” It is… but maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Great weather (certainly more comfortable compared with other top retirement options in the Americas)… safety and stability… and a remarkably low cost of living are the main reasons to put Ecuador on your list of places to consider for your new life or retirement overseas.
Cheap residency is another. You can qualify for the country’s retiree residency program by showing as little as US$800 per month in guaranteed income. And, indeed, that is enough to live on here.
Once a resident, you can work in the country and even vote in elections.
And, once you become a resident and over 65, you qualify for not insignificant discounts, including 50% off airfares, electricity, water, entertainment, and transportation.
Property taxes are so low as to be not worth mentioning (as little as .025%)… and you can buy a comfortable condo in key locations across the country for US$70,000 or less.
More on current real estate options and opportunities tomorrow.