How Retiring in Mexico Allowed Us to Retire Younger and With Less Money

One of the most important aspects of retirement is financial planning. You want to make sure that you’ll have enough income to maintain your current standard of living, as well as have some disposable income so you can do fun things, like travel.

The general rule of thumb for middle and high-income earners is to have a retirement income of at least 70% of their former household income. Keep that number in mind as you read on.

I suppose that my wife and I would be considered mid-level earners. We had been in our respective careers for many years and had worked our way up to management positions. I was a lieutenant with a sheriff’s office in Florida and Linda was a director for a children’s advocacy center that assisted with child abuse investigations.

After 25 years on the job, I was eligible to retire and I looked forward to having more free time to spend with Linda. The problem was that Linda wasn’t eligible to receive a retirement for many years to come and we determined that if she did stop working, we would only have about 33% of our former income.

That’s a long way from the 70% recommended target income. In fact, the amount barely left us enough to eat regularly after we paid our all monthly expenses — which included a sizable mortgage and car payment.

We were both still in our 40’s, so there was certainly no reason why we couldn’t keep working until we reached that target income percentage. I calculated that it should only take about another dozen years or so.

Another dozen years or so?!!! Oh, I don’t think so.

If You Can’t Win the Game You’re Playing, Find a New Game

For over 15 years, Mexico was our favorite vacation destination and we would go there as often as we could. We loved everything about the Riviera Maya and we would often talk about moving there someday.

We started thinking that maybe someday was now.

I started researching everything I could about living south of the border — especially the cost of living. On paper, it looked like we could make it work, but only if we could eliminate all of our debt in the U.S. and reduce our spending.

We decided to give it a try and we then sold, donated or discarded 99% of our belongings in the U.S. We didn’t even want the expense of having to rent a storage shed. That liquidation helped us get rid of our mortgage, car payments and credit card debt. We even had money left over.

We applied for and were granted resident visas at the Mexican Consulate, packed our belongings into four large suitcases, and flew to Cancun with the intention of trying it for a year.

So, How’s It Going?

Well, we’ve been in Mexico for almost five years now and we absolutely love it.

We ended up using the money we had left over from the sale of everything we previously owned to buy a condo in a gated resort community and a car. We now live 100% debt free for the first time in our adult lives.

The lack of debt combined with the low cost of living in Mexico, has made it easy for us to live very well here. We enjoy a higher quality of life than we did in the U.S. and we have plenty of disposable income to enjoy our retirement to the fullest.

If you would like to see a breakdown of our living expenses, check out Retired in Mexico: A Detailed Look at Our Expenses.

Those are the expenses from last year, but most of them haven’t changed much. I’ll be releasing some updated figures in another article sometime in the near future. As a carefree retiree, I really don’t want to commit myself to a specific date.

Let’s Wrap This Up

This article may make it sound like we moved to Mexico on a whim and we were just lucky it worked out, but that’s not the case at all.

We conducted countless hours of research and carefully developed a plan to increase our chances of success. We knew that success meant happiness and failure meant going back to the States to work another dozen years or so. How’s that for motivation?

If you’re planning on making a similar move, hopefully you’ll find some useful information on our site. Many of the articles were written specifically with you in mind.

Well, that’s enough blogging for today. Hasta luego.

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About the Author

Qroo 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. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

39 Comments on "How Retiring in Mexico Allowed Us to Retire Younger and With Less Money"

  1. I did something similar. I had a huge house, several vehicles and an RV. I had everything I wanted. But, didn’t have the freedom. So, a year before I retired I purchased another RV for full-time traveling and living. Sold everything that wouldn’t fit in the RV and traveled the US for 10 years with some international travel sprinkled in. And that’s when I realized, living in the US just wasn’t for me. There were a few countries I was considering moving to including the UAE, been there several times, but after visiting Mexico City, I said to myself, this is it and three months later applied for residency and been here since 2018. I plan to apply for permanent residency in a few years. I’m not a beach or water type of person, other than traveling on cruise ships. I love cities where every category of anything is at your fingertips. I’ve been all around Mexico City and eventually settled down in Coyoacan Centro. Basically across the street from Frida Kahlo’s house. Really love it here. And my finances allow me to travel when I desire. But, it’s on hold until maybe October.

    • That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing that with us. The only part of Mexico City that we’ve ever seen is the airport but we plan to explore it more one of these days.

  2. You two are living the dream! Congratulations! Personally, if it were up to me, I would move to Zihuatanejo in the State of Guerrero between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco … in a heartbeat! I am semi-retired because I absolutely love my job and still want to continue working part-time. However, I can do it all online and be anywhere in the world with my laptop (and accouterments) and good Internet access. The only impediment is my wife of 32 years. She does not want to move from San Diego, California. So I ain’t a’ movin’ to Zihuatanejo. I have a cute story from the first time I visited Zihua (as the local call it) in 2016. I was bird-dogging every ex-pat I could find and asking them about what it was like to live there. I met two retired guys a bit older than me. We talked about life there and I quizzed them mercilessly. They asked me if I wanted to live there. I said I would do so without a question but that my wife did not want to move. Without missing a beat, one of the guys flatly said, “Dump her.” Not in a mean way, mind you. In his mind, it was just a simple decision, kinda’ like dumping an old car. “Ah, well, that is not going to happen. We are a team,” I replied. However, since 2016, I have visited Zihua 6 times. (My wife and I have gone to Puerto Vallarta many times, and La Paz, Morelia, Merida, and Tulum once. We regularly visit Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, and the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California Norte, just over the border from San Diego. We love Mexico! Yo puedo hablar espanol muy bien … como un pato! But the Mexicans say that they can understand my Spanish so that is all that matters.)

    Many thanks for your blog! Best of luck and success and the warmth of Mexico to you!

    • We haven’t been to Zihuatanejo yet. You make it sound absolutely wonderful. We’ll definitely have to add that to our list of possible vacation destinations.

      And who knows? Your wife might just change her mind some day and decide that Mexico is the place she wants to be.

  3. I love this story! Everyone in their 40’s should read it. You decided what you wanted and then figured out how to make it happen – not many people will take that step. Good for you, and you are definitely living the dream!

    • Thanks, Susan. We’ve met quite a few expats who have done the same thing over the years.

  4. Maria Cavendish | May 23, 2020 at 6:06 pm |

    Addicted to your blog. It’s so helpful in creating a vision and executing action steps. Thank you!

  5. Colleen Juri | May 23, 2020 at 6:19 pm |

    I love your posts so thank you for those and welcome home. Is the WEA website wea direct.com? Thanx in advance for any reply.

    • Yes, it is. We do have a contact for expat health insurance. She has clients all over Mexico and can give you quotes for different companies based on your specific circumstances: Launa Brockman Brockmanlauna@yahoo.com

  6. Lorne McDougall | May 23, 2020 at 7:24 pm |

    Always great factual information. Thanks Paul and Linda.

  7. Deborah S. | May 23, 2020 at 8:15 pm |

    I appreciate your emphasis on research & planning: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.”

  8. My intent is to retire in Zihuatanejo as well. I’ve been studying your blog and the only thing stopping me is my niece. she’s headed to college and living with me. So I have more years to plan and find my own little home there.

  9. Frank Paiano, I too, a, looking at Zihua. We have been spending time there for over 20 years, but My husband is like your wife, lol! I’m still working on him! His main concern is that Zihua is too far from any major hub and hard to get supplies.
    PAUL, since you are too young for SS, did you have a pension to cover your monthly expenses or are you living on the money you had saved and belongings sold? Thanks!

  10. Tamara Cardenas | May 24, 2020 at 8:46 am |

    I came to Huatulco in 1991 with a friend. It wasn’t even on the map yet. I was 39 and hooked. I spent the next 13 yrs working in US, buying land in Mexico and in 2004 moved (I thought permanently) to Mexico. Two years later, back to the US to work another 7 yrs. Then I moved to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas and it is lovely but I missed the beaches of Huatulco. So back to the US to work another 3 yrs and finally back to Huatulco in 2017 to build my house. It’s been 3 yrs (house still not completed but almost there) and I plan on spending the rest of my life in Mexico. I am getting my citizenship (my husband is Mexican) and even though there are many things I do miss about the US, like my family and friends but I knew way back in 1991 that I wouldn’t be able to live on my social security money and my investments in US – wouldn’t even cover rent, utilities or food. So here I am – completely debt free and enjoy the company, fellowship and love of my Mexican, Canadian and friends from all over the world. I realize it’s not for everyone but I am where I’m supposed to be. Good luck, health, peace and happiness to all!

  11. I love reading your blog and the info you provide is very, very useful. I am seriously thinking of trying Mexico for a year. I guess the part that I struggle with is leaving my kids behind…and not seeing them on a regular basis. I think that living away for a year would give us the best idea of “if I could handle it”!!! The struggle is real haha! But the COL is so cheap in Mexico that it is so tempting!

    • Tamara Cardenas | May 30, 2020 at 3:51 pm |

      Celeste
      I think that if you are curious, start by (the internet) checking out what all areas have to offer.

      I personally felt connected to Huatulco the instant I stepped off the plane onto a roll-up staircase, and took a deep breath….. I was hooked. Huatulco has a delicious aroma because of many things and learning why, when and how those smells perfumed the air of this place, As you can tell, I
      love Huatulco. Hope you are well, stay safe and peace.

  12. Jan Gronhagen | May 24, 2020 at 11:09 am |

    Hey Paul,
    Your story sounds so similar to ours. Been visiting the area for 15 years with a timeshare in Playa. The last five visits included Realtor trips to perspective properties. We pulled the trigger on a purchase last August, I believe in your very community. We have property for sale, and finishing the house for marketing in a year or two. Though not as early as desired, we anxiously await selling everything with the intention of full time Mexican life asap. Thanks for all the info we have gotten from you from your Blog.
    All the best,
    Jan and Elise

  13. Since my father was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in the 1990s at the age of 49 and died at 58 years old after five years in a nursing home, I decided I would retire early because life is too short. I always kept my expenses low and saved my money – something my father taught me at the age of 13 when I started working using old fashioned debit and credit accounting paper. I learned early that the effort you put into working vs. what the things you want cost can cause you to rethink purchases. My friends were confused because I didn’t have “nice things” and didn’t live in “a nice neighborhood” when I could easily afford it. In 2003, when I was 34, I began looking around the northern parts of Baja California. I wanted to be near the border in case I needed to help my mother, which has turned out to be the case a few times. I chose San Felipe and bought a place from a friend of mine in 2010 when she decided she wanted to move back to the USA to spend more time with her grandchildren. In 2013, my mom and I did Spanish immersion in Ensenada for five weeks living with a wonderful Mexican family and spent 6 hours a day one on one with two teachers from Baja Teachers (find them on Facebook – Edith and Yolanda). My Spanish was already pretty good, but I was afraid to speak it. My mom at 69 years old was a beginner. It was extremely difficult and stressful, but completely worth it. I retired in 2015 at the age of 47 (two years later than I planned to, but I was still setting up my exit strategy – I became a Nevada resident for two years after leaving California because Nevada has no state income taxes – a lesson I learned when I lived in Texas in the late 1990s). I live on the dividends from the money I saved and from rental income I get on my condo in Nevada (which is paid off), but for sure I am going to take my Social Security at 62. My mother spends a couple months a year with me and continues to work on her Spanish. She loves Duolingo. My boyfriend is still working in the states, but has mandatory retirement in 6 years. He is counting the days. We have been together for 20 years, so my retiring early and in San Felipe wasn’t a shock. He also visits because he can work remotely. I do want to explore other parts of Mexico to see if someday I want to move elsewhere. But, I do love our small town of San Felipe and all the wonderful people who take care of each other here. Such generous hearts!

  14. We really appreciate your blog, great info. I retired from law enforcement last year. I retired at the rank of Captain. My wife is an attorney and a Latina with dual citizenship. We visit Riveira Maya twice a year and are looking into moving there eventually. Did you work with a realtor when you purchased your condo? Thanks for the info.

    • We actually rented our condo at first and then bought it from the owner. We do know quite a few reputable realtors in the area if you need some assistance. You can write as at feedback@qroo.us.

  15. Thanks for the advice, I retired to Thailand 10 years ago due to the
    low cost of living but after
    10 years i have recently resettled to Tequis Mexico. So far I like it very much. I think i will like it more once the pandemic allows the town to reopen. Keep up the news letter

  16. Glenn Sekse | May 25, 2020 at 2:20 pm |

    I totally moved here on a whim. My wife passed away, I didn’t really have any plans in the US, so I closed up shop in the US and moved to Cozumel. Never really missed the US and so my “whim” paid off.

    But really, the worst that could happen is that I would have returned home in the US and continued on. People make change as something to be avoided at all cost. Change is the basis of life in general.

    • Tamara Cardenas | May 30, 2020 at 3:54 pm |

      Take a deep breath dude! Life goes on.

      I wish you peace, tons of love and a belief that YOU matter above all else.

  17. Thanks Paul. We are currently living in Bucerias, just north of Puerto Vallarta. We’re here for a year (heading back to Colorado in July), our daughter went to kindergarten here and the goal was for her to learn Spanish. She picked it up really quick, she even speaks with a Mexican accent;) We enjoy your blog and my wife does some of your Spanish lessons. I hope we move back to Mexico permanently after a few years back home. My daughter and I love it here, but it’s too humid for my wife. And we’re not retired yet, darn kids.

  18. Wife and I retired at 52/53 last month. We are getting $2200 a month profit from renting our CA home and have enough savings to increase our budget to $5000/mo which we hope is enough to live comfortably in Mexico. Was to fly down for 3 months in Akumal and Tulum April 26th. That didn’t work out so we are laying low in Gig Harbor,WA with family for a while. We have 3 months in Sayulita beginning Sept 15 and will try to rebook qroo again for next winter as we search for our forever Mexican town.

    • tom and pam | May 27, 2020 at 3:31 pm |

      In Mazatlan a huge town with the best sunsets restaurants and music you can easily live in 2500 USD as royalty… It is known as the Pearl of the Pacific.. It is real Mexico so everything is a lot less than the typical l tourist towns like Tulum ant roo

  19. Marylou Patari | May 26, 2020 at 7:31 am |

    We also discovered all the benefits of retiring to the Yucatan about 3 years ago, after doing our research of best retirement countries. After starting our search in the Riviera Maya, we began focusing on the Merida area for several Reasons. Top priorities were high level safety, top quality access to healthcare, close access to the beach, as well as to a the benefits of a well established city. Merida has so many cultural benefits we are still finding more to do here.We also found our US dollar goes much farther here than the Riviera Maya area. And as a bonus we have been graciously welcomed into the friendly and helpful large expat community here. I must add, when we want to spend time enjoying the sparkling blue waters of the Riviera, we hop in our car and drive there for a minivacation. Our monthly income of about $4000 allows us to live extremely comfortably, taking several trips a year. Can’t do this in the states!

  20. heather jacobsen | May 26, 2020 at 11:09 am |

    Hi Paul- We have a house already in Tulum and will be doing exactly what you two did in summer 2021. I will continue to work since my job allows that but I am very concerned about my ability to phone my office in the US. When I come down for vacation, I do facetime calls with my boss but I really need to be able to call like I do here. Does your phone plan allow for that? I basically need people whom I call to not even know that I am in a different country!

  21. Love your blog Paul, tons of great information on every topic. Not sure if it is allowable, but here is a link to a site where you can compare the cost of living in your city/zip code to others, including Mexico. I doubt it’s 100% accurate, but it can give a good idea to folks how much they can expect to spend.

    https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/comparison.jsp

  22. Me and my wife really appreciate all of your articles, so honest and useful.It’s so addictive…. Please accept our gratitude.

  23. Chantelle Menes | May 31, 2020 at 11:18 am |

    Your story is inspiring Paul. My husband and I are so sick of the rat race here in the states and we are currently looking to buy a condo at La Amada in Playa Mujeres. Mexico is our second home and we are looking forward to your future blogs to hear about any advice you give on making this transition.

  24. James Everly | June 18, 2020 at 7:07 pm |

    Congratulations on a great decision. I was born and raised in Mexico but lived most of my life in the US. I was living in south Florida for the past 20 years and had decided that I would never leave. My wife was very depressed because she wanted to retire to her birthplace Encenada BC. I kept saying that we were in the Mecca of the retirement community. In order to accomplish this I would have to continue working another 6 to 8 years. My good friends Mother passed away and I accompanied him. They had a slide show celebrating her life and I realized she was not much older than me and she had died very suddenly. This day really made a difference in my way of thinking. I talked to my wife and told her how much this had touched me and that I wanted to make plans to retire ASAP. I was willing to live with less and enjoy life more. I told her to put up our home for sale. We went to Ensenada and purchase some land to build our new home just 1 block from the beach. I could not believe that we got so lucky to find that property. Over the next year my wife moved to Ensenada to supervise the built while I liquidated everything we owed except for my truck and enough to furnish the new home where my 2 boys would stay and continue to live in South Florida. Almost a year to the date we moved into our new home. We were so excited we invited my mother to join us so she moved in. We built 2 bedrooms to help with income. We will be putting then on AirB&B once things get back to normal. I now own a lager home with a much nicer location. The expenses are a fraction of what they would be in the States. BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE. I have been in my new home for 2 years and every day is better than the previous one.

  25. What do you do all day long? For me I love my job and I am 51 no where near wanting to retire but I do love Mexico. Covid has showed me how much I appreciate my work and career . Just curious as retiring so young you have a life to live yet. What if you decide it’s not for you ? Are you planning on a business in Mexico or just simply hanging out enjoying life? Not judging seriously I’m curious how you manage your time over the last 5 years.

    • We normally stay busy traveling but that has been difficult to do lately. Our blog keeps us pretty busy, especially trying to keep up with all the correspondence from readers.

  26. Hi Paul ,
    I had a discussion with a friend regarding owning property in Mexico . He says expats can’t own property / land in Mexico .

    As I understand it from your blogs , You & Linda own your condo , correct ?
    And you are permanent residents….not citizens , Correct ?

    …..Mike

    – 15 months to retirement !

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