How I Describe What It’s Like Being Retired in Mexico

Source: Linda Kurtzweil

People often ask me what it’s like being retired in Mexico. I get the question from friends, family members, former coworkers, and most often from readers of the blog who either contact me via email or approach me in public.

I have learned from experience that people are rarely satisfied when I respond with a simple “it’s awesome” or “we love it.”

Clearly, they are looking for an essay-style response on the fly and any attempt to skirt around that will only prompt them to ask follow-up questions – lots of them.

As a result, my initial answer has become a lot more detailed and I even break it down into two categories: 1) financially speaking, and 2) socially speaking.

In case you’ve ever pondered asking me the same question, here’s the answer:

Standard Response #241 (Question: What’s It Like Being Retired in Mexico?)

Financially speaking, moving to Mexico was our key to retiring young and being able to live a high quality of life on a fraction of the income that we used to have when we were both working in the States.

When we first moved, we were concerned that we would be a bit strapped for cash but we were willing to risk it for the chance of living a stress-free Caribbean lifestyle. By tracking our expenses and making the most of our money (e.g. taking advantage of discounts and good exchange rates), we have enough disposable income to go out to eat six times a week, travel and even have some money leftover to put in savings.

Even health care and insurance are affordable here. The best part is that the health care that we have received has been exceptional with an emphasis on delivering personalized patient care. The doctors even give out their personal cell number, just in case you need something later.

Socially speaking, we have more close friends in Mexico than we’ve had at any other point in our lives.

The community where we live is very social and there is always an invitation to do something or go somewhere. In fact, I have attended more parties in the last three years than I have in the four decades prior to moving to Mexico. I often joke that I feel like I went away to college, joined a fraternity and just never went to class.

Our community is made up primarily of Americans and Canadians who came in search of the same thing we did — an awesome lifestyle on a budget. Due to the low cost of living, people are able to retire earlier and the average age of our new arrivals is mid-fifties; however, a few have even managed to retire here in their 40’s.

To sum it up, moving to Mexico was one of the best decisions that either of us have ever made and we have zero regrets.

(At this point in the conversation, I go back to sipping my beer and staring out at the turquoise water of the Caribbean.) 

Let’s Wrap This Up

If you ask our neighbors and friends the same question, you’re likely to hear a very similar answer to ours; however, that is not always the case for everyone who moves to Mexico.

So, before making the life-changing decision to start a new life south of the border, I recommend that you do as much research as possible, and actually spend some significant time there before jumping in with both feet.

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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.

36 Comments on "How I Describe What It’s Like Being Retired in Mexico"

  1. Shireen Day | June 21, 2018 at 8:54 am |

    I always love your clarity. Just to add a layer of complexity- I wonder if people are really asking two questions:
    What’s it like to retire (aka how do find meaning in your life without working?)
    What’s it like to do that in Mexico?

    I think regular readers of your blog get an answer through out your posts, it would be tough to answer on the street!

    We spent 2 months last winter on the Pacific Coast- Mazatlan and La Penita de Jaltemba. Both communities that we stayed with (mostly Canadian) were actively engaged in raising funds for a local health issue or to send kids to college. For me- as a retired social worker, it was really inspiring to see how a little bit of money can go acrreslly long way when it come to lending a helping hand. And the fundraising was woven into the fabric of beach time and parties etc. it didn’t run our lives in the way something similar would in the US.

    I’m Guessing that writing the blog is the answer to the question of what gives your life meaning in retirement… But it could be interesting to talk with other retirees about how their lives take shape in retirement in Mexico in a way that they wouldn’t in the US and share that sometime.

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:09 am |

      Thanks for sharing that, Shireen.

      Many new and potential retirees who contact us are concerned about being bored in retirement or finding some purpose without working. Our standard response to them includes finding alternative activities like volunteering and helping others. As you said, a little bit of money can go a long way when it comes to lending a helping hand.

  2. Marijana Capo | June 21, 2018 at 9:06 am |

    Thank you so much for writing your blog. I have been following your blog for a while now and find it very informative and inspiring. As my husband and I still have a few years before we are able to retire it sure is nice to have your experiences and advice to read.
    Thank you again

  3. Paul,

    We’ve chatted a bit about options for dining out, and you’ve pointed out in other articles that this is highly subjective and varies with personal tastes. For example, we recently had dinner at a restaurant on the beach, having four cocktails (two on happy hour), and two entrees (one high-end), and cashed out for a little over $900 pesos including tip – about $45 USD at current rates. We couldn’t afford to do that six days a week!

    On the other hand, we were at a local restaurant in the small town nearby, split an entree (that would have been too much for one person anyway) and had two beers, cashing out for under $300 pesos, or about $15 USD. I’m still not certain that we’d do this six days a week, but I wanted to offer the example to point out there is quite a range of prices and options. We’re also still working on our Spanish, and still in the process of establishing residency, so we aren’t getting any “locals” or senior discounts yet.

    Your scenarios are certainly attainable with some time and a some work, but folks might be a little disappointed if they expect to get the same results as you do, the moment they step off the plane!

    Thanks again for all the great articles!

    Scott

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:13 am |

      It does take some time to find the perfect formula to saving money at every turn. After you’ve established yourself, you can take advantage of locals-only discounts at restaurants and that will help you stay on budget. Even that high end bill will be more palatable with a 20% discount.

  4. Glenn Sekse | June 21, 2018 at 9:22 am |

    My wife passed last November so I decided to have two homes. One studio apartment in my home state of North Carolina (mainly for an address to get business mail), and the other studio apartment is in Cozumel. (since I have been there many times and like to go scuba diving) I just returned from my first visit to my Mexican apartment and had a great time. I’m back in the states now only to take care of some business and visit family while it is warm here. Come September or October, I will be back in Cozumel for the entire winter. Cost to carry the apartment year round in Cozumel: $350 a month. Cost to carry my US apartment, $575 a month. I live two places for the price most people pay for one.

    Paul was a significant factor in my confidence to do this.

    • Glenn – I’d love to hear more about how you searched for your place on Cozumel. Perhaps Paul could connect us if you don’t want to post contact information publicly?

      • Glenn Sekse | June 22, 2018 at 8:02 am |

        I joined “Cozumel Rental Property” facebook page, it has listings in English (and some in Spanish). I had the advantage of having someone at Cozumel to go look at the place and send me pictures and video. When I ran across my gem of an apartment, I had my friend jump on it. He put a deposit on it for me and I established a conversation with the landlord through Whatsapp. (a required app for communication in Mexico) I send my monthly rent to her through Xoom. This locked down the unit for me and two – three months later I came down to use it. I also joined “Cozumel 4 You” Facebook page for more information and some discussion of rentals among many other things.

        If you have never been to Mexico before, it would be good for you to rent a small simple place so that you can get the feel for the differences between American apartments and Mexican. The quality range in Mexico is quite broad. My apartment is much simpler than the penthouse condo that I rent once a year with several other divers on the oceanfront.

        I hope this gives you what you want.

      • Glenn Sekse | June 22, 2018 at 8:09 am |

        Oh, and I prefer to discuss it here because other people might have same question. Also, I would note that while I pay 6500 pesos for my apartment. Since then I have meet “born in Cozumel” Mexicans that think my rent is very expensive and that I could do better.

  5. Shireen brings up a key point. Figuring out what can give our lives meaning after retirement is one of the biggest challenges of getting older, and one that takes on extra layers when a person is also retiring in a foreign country. As someone who works with these issues regularly, I can’t resist suggesting that people consider getting retirement counseling or coaching (even before they retire). It can be very helpful for getting ideas and clarity regarding the next stage of life and how best to make it fulfilling and rewarding.

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:15 am |

      Great suggestion, Laura. We have an informal support group for expats where we live and we call our meetings “happy hours”. 😉

  6. Mischelle Holland | June 21, 2018 at 10:19 am |

    Sounds wonderful! I am in Puerto Adventuras for a month and loving it! I come to this area often. I have a friend that owns a dive shop in Paamul, Tex-Mex Dive. Your neighborhood sounds awesome. That is something that would bother me is to leave all my wonderful friends and neighbors in the US. May I ask what neighborhood you live in?

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:16 am |

      We don’t like to put the information on the public site but you can write us via the contact form and we’ll share the info with you.

  7. Where exactly are you in MX. We are interested in an expat community like you describe.

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:18 am |

      We don’t like to put the information on the public site but you can write us via the contact form and we’ll share the info with you.

  8. Mark in Merida | June 21, 2018 at 11:19 am |

    There is no question that if you think living as an Immigrant in another country is strange — then there is really no way to answer the question, why live in Mexico? We make the decision to move here because we wanted a new life adventure, to get each morning and wonder that this new world has to bring — and I am never disappointed. I can say that there have been a lot of new adventure and meeting exciting new people. We though about the financial consideration and while it was a factor and we can live better here, it wasn’t the primary reason to move to a new country. We have a much more interesting life style and home, and each day being something new and different to experience and explore. And, an added bonus is the amazing and responsive medical care which I have found to be superior to the US, and 1/8 the cost is a added bonus. But the most important aspect of living here for us is the people of Mexico; they so engaging and warm, their commitment to family, sense of humor and attitude about life (at least that is the way it is in Yucatan) is totally amazing. For us it we’re still feeling our way around the Immigrant community but have found fun new friends and love our life. As always Paul, you find the right topics at the right time. Thanks!

  9. Is it true that foreigners never own property that they buy in Mexico?

  10. There are so many things to add to the wonders of living in the Yucatán! And today’s positive comments are absolutely correct! Who would want to live anywhere else!
    Wish I could have done it much sooner!

  11. Shireen makes a great point. We’ve had our condo in Cancun (Nizuc area near the airport) for about 8 years, and visit 4 times a year until we retire and spend winters in Cancun and summers in Cleveland (where it is actually very beautiful on Lake Erie and not sweltering as it is in Cancun in summer). My husband has concerns about what he’ll do in Cancun for long periods of time. I know I will be involved in some causes that I’ve already gotten in to, but I’m not sure what he will do. I keep encouraging him that something will come his way.

  12. Karen F. Knapp | June 21, 2018 at 5:01 pm |

    We have been retired for 12 years in a small town just north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific side of Mexico. Our experience is the same as yours, Paul – we have many good friends whom we embrace as family. We have a very active social life, much more than we experienced in the US. Part of the reason for that is that we are no longer working, obviously. Our friends are American, Canadian, British, and Mexican. As for what gives our lives “meaning”, I am sure that everyone is different in this regard. There is no shortage of charitable or volunteer activities in which to participate, including a children’s library, a children’s shelter, recycling, beach cleanup, animal rescue, etc. And this, of course, is another way to meet new friends. There is an active non-profit expat organization. I have taken up painting again (no time when I was working) and sell my paintings through a local gallery. My husband is constantly involved in home improvement projects. I agree, however, that Shireen is asking an important question, i.e., what is it like to retire? This is something people need to consider carefully no matter where they choose to live. We have known a few people who simply do not know what to do with themselves all day long and grow quite depressed without the purpose that their working life gave them. There are endless possibilities here, and a large support group of people willing to help.

  13. “What is it like being retired in Mexico?” is the primary question I’ve had when reading all of your posts. Thanks for addressing that question.

    Another point I think about at times was raised by Shireen and others – finding meaning in life without working. I’ve heard it said that contribution is the greatest need that we have. I’ve been enjoying reading your posts for a long time, and seeing the number of views of your site hit over 2 million. You provide information that is in demand, and more important, you respond personally to replies posted on your blog. Operating this blog must enable you to provide yourself a score of 8 or 9 out of 10 in the area of “contribution,” and rightly so. But the question that comes to mind is whether someone that retires to Mexico will reach the same score in the area of contribution without operating a popular blog like this? It is tough to answer, and somewhat rhetorical, but I’m sure it depends on how much effort you put in to find something you like that meets that need.

    You certainly have put in a lot of work to provide the info in this blog, and I appreciate that. Keep it up.

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:32 am |

      Prior to moving to Mexico, I was very engaged in my career to the point that no one ever thought I would retire — and if I did, I would surely return within a year (as many people do).

      In my case, I found the blog to keep me occupied and it gives me an outlet to help other people. It’s the perfect hobby because it allows me the freedom to make my own schedule. I can choose to write or choose not to for days, or even weeks at a time. But, even if I hadn’t found the blog, I would have found something else (e.g. volunteer work, start a business etc). Opportunities are everywhere here.

  14. Paul, amazing article. I look forward to retirement and living in Mexico with my Mexican born wife. The emphasis on family is amazing in Mexico.
    Now back to the Spanish lessons !
    Have a great day,
    Todd

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 5:33 am |

      I commend you for focusing on learning Spanish prior to moving down. That will make your transition to life here easier and more enjoyable.

  15. Hola Paul, I so much enjoy your blog,I am a female senior and thinking of spending 5-6 months in Puerto Vallarta where my heart is, I am just in love with it,my time there will be spend in learning spanish,love the people the easy going and fun times I have there and ofcause the weather, the bus system is awsome too, I love to walk but can’t in Canadian long winters ,its like half your life is taken away from you,I love everything in PV,thanks for your info,the only thing I am worried about is healthinsurance for that long of a time,I am Canadian and not sure how to approch this what is the best of doing that,thanks again,keep up the good work!

  16. I would like to know what happens when you actually reach retirement age. Paul, you are younger than I am! What happens when I’m 66 and collecting social security? Am I required by the US to go on and pay for medicare, or would health insurance in Mexico (much cheaper) be sufficient?

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 23, 2018 at 4:59 am |

      It can be difficult to obtain private health insurance after the age of 64 and even if you do, they often riders that exclude coverage for certain conditions or body parts based on your medical history. That leaves a couple of options: 1) enter one of the public health care systems in Mexico (Seguro Popular or IMSS), or 2) keep Medicare and return to the U.S. for any major procedures (it’s a good idea to get air ambulance insurance too).

      Even without insurance, the medical care in Mexico is still affordable for he majority of expats.

  17. Hey Paul. Huge thanks for your very informative and also realistic no BS writings of life in Mexico.
    My wife and I have vacationed numerous times over the past 20 yrs to various Mexico locations…PV Cancun and Cabo etc. Now retired we ventured this past Jan-Mar to Chelem/Progreso. Liked it so much both for the area and the people, we bought a lot and will be building our new house by Sept. Just sold the house in BC Canada and will move to Mexico full time.
    The reaction from relatives and friends of course run the range from you will be murdered to wow incredible and of course many thinking it is like the US and we cant live in Mexico year round. Dont you lose your pensions? What if you get sick?….on and on. We confidently say we have done our homework and this is not a spur of the moment random decision or early old age lost our minds at 62!
    While the economics is very key it is the total life style package that has brought us to this exciting decision.
    So thanks again for sharing your expat Mexico knowledge with the many who so enjoy your timely articles.
    Cheers….

  18. Paul, though you speak of the enlargement of your circle of friends in México, there are also benefits to living over here for the introverted—it’s easy to be anonymous and reboot into a quiet life if one wishes. My wife and I live in a modern home in the campo near a Pueblo Magico with our dog on 3.7 acres. We go to the edge of town 4 or 5 times a week, and into centro as little as possible. Our small circle of friends is primarily mixed couples (one American/Canadian, one Latin American). Books, the Internet, and the Church are all the connections we need.

  19. Jeff Wakefield | June 24, 2018 at 9:33 am |

    Paul, I am a 48 year old Canadian, so your lifestyle is a bit out of reach for me yet, but I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your posts. We vacation in Mexico now and love the idea of retiring there . Keep up the great postings cheers

  20. Donna tafuri | June 25, 2018 at 7:17 am |

    Paul, we are so exciting to visit in august. Since we have been reading your blog and other information, I believe my hubby is finally believing that Mexico can be our retirement home and that we are ready. I am 62 and he is 57. My worry is that many social activities revolve around drinks and he has been sober for 2 years. Do you know if there are AA meetings in your area or do you know of others who do not drink?

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