Want to Retire in Mexico but Not Sure How Much Money You’ll Need? This Might Help

One of the ways to know if you’ll have enough money to live in a particular country is to look at the average salaries in that country.

It’s a simple economic truth that if the salaries are lower across the board, the cost of living will be lower too. It also stands to reason that if your monthly retirement benefit is similar or even higher than the average salary for many professions, you’ll be just fine.

I created a list showing the median monthly income for 15 randomly selected occupations in Mexico. The data was obtained from misalario.org, a nonprofit organization that provides information to both workers and employers in Mexico concerning salaries, labor law and careers.

Median Salaries

Mexico is a large country, so just like in the United States, salaries can vary quite a bit from area to area.

The chart below reflects the nationwide median salaries for someone with 10 years of experience in the listed position.

Data collected from misalario.org on 01/22/18. Exchange rate used 18.6

Whenever I include salary data from Mexico in one of my articles, the salary that surprises people — especially Americans — is the one for doctors. In this case, I chose a gynecologist, but the salary range is similar for most doctors, regardless of their specialty.

Just to be clear, these are only the median salaries for the positions. In the case of the gynecologist, the top end of the pay scale is $42,559 pesos a month, or about $2,288 USD.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Although this salary study is useful to demonstrate that the cost of living is much lower in Mexico, how much money you will actually need in retirement depends on three factors: 1) where you want to live, 2) the lifestyle that you want, and 3) how much debt you have.

In our case, we sold everything to eliminate all of our debt and used the money that was left over to buy a condo outright in the Riviera Maya. We live debt free for the first time in our lives and our quality of life is superior to what it was back in the States when we were both working.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

35 Comments on "Want to Retire in Mexico but Not Sure How Much Money You’ll Need? This Might Help"

  1. thanks for the info; it shows the relative cost/income for the country; good job!

  2. Claude Gage | January 22, 2018 at 9:52 am |

    Good morning ! glad to see the currency exchange on the top right ! is this new or did I not notice it before ?

  3. Stephanie L Sales | January 22, 2018 at 9:54 am |

    As always – great info in an easy to digest format. I appreciate that you site your source of info.
    Signed- faithful reader, Stephanie

  4. Patricia Armstrong | January 22, 2018 at 9:56 am |

    Enjoyed the article Paul, just trying to work out the details meds SS and keeping a Illinois address for SS letters etc, a bit overwhelming

  5. As always Paul great info. My 80 factor is 3 years and counting. We will be renting only but looking at 4-6 months stays. Many thanks for my LEO pension. PS. Loving Hotel Xcaret México as we speak.

  6. mounddweller | January 22, 2018 at 10:17 am |

    Paul,

    The problem with this type of comparison is that there are very few folks from the U.S. and Canada who would be happy living like a local. Most want to live in their gated communities, eat the same food they always have, and shop at the same types of stores they always have. You can’t live that type of lifestyle on a typical Mexican wage. To live on that amount of money requires some sacrifices, like shopping at the local tianguis instead of Costco, living in a Mexican neighborhood instead of a gated, resort like community. Yes, the cost of living is much lower in Mexico, no doubt. However, to spend as little as a local you also have to live like one.

    Regards,
    Troy

    • I agree, it really comes down to what type of lifestyle they’re looking for.

      We have received quite a few emails from expats who live in local neighborhoods and towns all over Mexico. Some are actually critical of us choosing to live inside a gated community. I guess tastes vary.

      Paul

      • mounddweller | January 23, 2018 at 7:29 pm |

        Paul,

        I hope you didn’t take my comments as being critical of you living in a gated community! Actually, we live in one as well in San Antonio Tlayacapan (right next to Ajijic). At first our plan was to live in a local Mexican neighborhood. However, the rental market in this area is very tight and thus when we found a decent place at a price we could afford in a gated community we took it! In hindsight it was a very good decision. Doing so has allowed us to make new friends much quicker than we could have living independently. We have many opportunities to socialize with our neighbors via volleyball in the community pool, playing bridge in the club house, Friday evening “happy hours”, etc.

        However, all that being said, we try very hard to also be a part of the local community. We buy almost all of our groceries from the local fish, meat, and fruit and vegetable vendors. We also volunteer at and support a local orphanage.

        Regards,
        Troy

  7. Thanks Paul
    That is great information!

  8. Karen Dunn Sentelle | January 22, 2018 at 10:38 am |

    If you don’t mind sharing your personal details, how much money did you have saved to live on in retirement is the question? Are you or your wife working at all to supplement? Thank you

  9. Charles L Twist Jr | January 22, 2018 at 10:53 am |

    I do not comment much, but I save all of your emails and have a special folder for them for later reference. Thank you for the very intelligently written and researched articles you provide on living in Mejico.

  10. Paul,

    What this overview leaves out is regional differences. Your area, while a bit removed from Cancun and PDC, still has a lot of expat demand, and I suspect that pushes up the cost of living. The interior of Mexico, or even another, less touristy beach community like Progresso, might be considerably less than your area.

    Scott

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Scott. The cost of living is definitely more expensive where we live than in many other parts of the country, including the other side of the Yucatan Peninsula. I usually equate it to living in Florida. A property up in the Panhandle of the state on the Gulf of Mexico is often much cheaper than a comparable property in the Florida Keys.

  11. I know many Mexicans have other sources of income in addition to their salaries. It’s good to know the average salaries in Mexico for different occupations. Do you file tax returns in Mexico and pay any taxes since you live in Mexico full time?

    • No, since we don’t work here and our only income comes from a pension in the U.S., we were told that we weren’t required to file anything.

  12. Louise F Montgomery | January 22, 2018 at 12:36 pm |

    Thanks, Paul, and all commenters. As is also true on newspaper sites, I learn a lot from comments. I am relatively new in Mexico, having arrived Jan 12, 2017, in Xalapa and moving 3 months later to Coatepec, then fleeing mold to move to Cuernavaca. These places are as different in many ways as Fayetteville, Arkansas, and San Diego, CA. In Xalapa and Coatepec, a bus ride was 6 pesos with the old-folks’ discount card and goes everywhere and frequently. In Cuernavaca, fewer buses, less frequent, delayed often by traffic, and cost 8 pesos. Ex-pats in Veracruz state lived among ordinary people and shopped at markets. In Cuernavaca, Walmart is king; Chedraui, a Mexican-owned chain that mimics Walmart by importing heavily from China, has only 2-3 stores. The expat community seems to think more about English china and other luxuries than fresh market food. I would far prefer being in Xalapa/Coatepec (an artsy, hippie-like town 8 km from Xalapa) but high humidity year-round causes mold on everything and interfered with my breathing. Climate is perfect in Cuernavaca, but in general, prices are two times prices in Xalapa/Coatepec. That goes for taxis (many native-born drivers who are unable to find streets, something I never experienced in Xalapa), rent and clothing. What seems to be true contrasting these two communities is that non-government salaries must vary greatly from place to place. In Coatepec the sidewalks are full of entrepreneurs trying to sell everything from furniture to jewelry and fresh vegetables and fruits. In Cuernavaca, folks try to clean windshields and sell food items at traffic lights, but streets are largely
    free of sales folks. I believe the only way to get deeper into pricing and things like mold in various areas is to go there for a while to check out the situation.

  13. alice hesselrode | January 22, 2018 at 12:47 pm |

    great info. Thanks for your openness and desire to help.

  14. John Schothuis | January 22, 2018 at 12:47 pm |

    Great post Paul! Spending March in SanMiguel de Allende

    • Thanks, John. We really enjoyed San Miguel de Allende and we plan on going back again later this year.

  15. Thanks so much for your blog! My concern is more about the financial requirements that one must meet to gain residency. It seems Mexico isn’t quite as interested as some other countries in making residency available for low income folks. Not to say, broke, but just trying to live on U.S. Social Security, etc.

    • We have an article planned to discuss the financial requirements. The purpose of the requirements is to ensure that the foreigner can support themselves without draining any government services.

  16. For planning purposes and cost analysis in advance of any relocating decisions, keep in mind any ongoing expenses that you’ll still have from your home land – for example Life Insurance, US or Canadian (plated) Auto insurance and registration, any storage facility and insurance costs if you leave things behind, any management fees, ins., contingency fund, etc if you are renting your home “back home”, and associated property taxes, and the list continues. Add it all together so you have a realistic picture of what you’ll need. Having said all that – living here is amazingly affordable with an equally amazing quality of life!

    • Great tip, Judith! That’s why we chose to get rid of everything. We don’t even have a storage unit back in the States.

  17. Jim Fandrich | January 22, 2018 at 4:24 pm |

    I always appreciate the information I get daily. And I appreciate the article above on income translating into Pesos and US dollars. However, do you have more information of the same type for those of us who are receiving Social Security disability for instance,?? If you have it in a previous blog, just let me know where to look and I’ll take it from there. I’m a new subscriber, and an old guy, so I’m just getting the hang of this.
    I appreciate all your info.
    Sincerely, Jim.

  18. Timothy Parker | January 22, 2018 at 6:43 pm |

    Hi Paul! We just got back from HR Riviera Maya 10 days ago. Love the area. My wife and I are 54 and just so tired of the chase. Have have owned a Quick Service Restaurant for 25 years. Tired of working weekends and holidays. We still owe quite a bit of money, but might be willing to sell and get out. What is a general cost to buy a condo similar to what you two live in in your area? You can be a vague as you need to be. Not trying to pry.

    • The condos in the gated communities chock full of amenities run from about $180,000-$280,000 USD on average.

  19. I believe there are two ways of looking at the cost of living difference. If you move to Mexico and expect to live like you did in the USA then costs can be comparable or a slight bargain to the USA. That’s OK for the International Living set since they have their fat pensions, and proceeds from selling off their huge houses in the states. For those folks, there are plenty of condos and housing developments in popular locations in Mexico. San Miguel de Allende is just one example. Prices for houses there are very high and you will likely be living no where near the general Mexican population. Here in Mexico City, the same thing applies. Foreigners usually congregate to the same colonias such as Polanco, Condesa, and Roma, which drives up the rental and property prices and are roughly the same prices you will find in the states. The other way of looking at this is you can actually live really good here on a modest budget if you choose to live outside the expat enclaves. You can find very good rental rates and home prices if live in the community. THis doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live in the worst neighborhoods and be worried about your safety. I live in a colonia in Mexico city that is in a business district, close to all transportation, plenty of dining and entertainment options, yet I pay half in rent for the same space I would in foreigner favorite colonia Condesa.

    • Very insightful, David. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Angela Carberry | January 24, 2018 at 2:19 am |

      Hi David I had to chuckle when I read your comment about the international living set since we are headed to Mexico City in February to an international living conference. We are primarily going there not because we have a lot of money to live that lifestyle but to get the ins and outs of what it takes to live in Mexico although having said that I’ve been following all these blogs and I think I already know all the ins and outs before we even go. Never having gone to Mexico city though that will be an experience in itself I’m sure so we are getting something out of going to the conference before we head to the beach.

  20. Love your info regarding Mexico! Please tell me what kind of visa or residency you and your wife have. Did you give up your citizenship?

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