Retire In Mexico: Where Do I Start?

I don’t believe in wasting words but I have to admit that questions as abrupt as this one from “M.W.” have a tendency to grate on my nerves. The subject line of the email said “Retirement In Mexico” and the entire text of the message was simply, “Please e-mail me the details and costs.”

No offer of a free cup of coffee or even a suggestion that this person might have read our book, much less purchased it. I guess I’m just expected to produce “the details” of retiring in Mexico as info-on-demand.

Such bitter thoughts were skittering through my mind when Lorena pressed a cup of frighteningly strong Guatemalan arabica into my hand and applied a cool washcloth to my forehead. She urged me to answer his questions, but “be brief” she said, “get ahold of yourself and be very very brief”.

So, MW, here you go: if you are actually serious about living in Mexico it is well worth your time and money to educate yourself by reading the usual suspects books on this important subject. Beginning with….

The People’s Guide To Mexico

Head for Mexico: The Renegade Guide

Choose Mexico for Retirement

Living Abroad in Mexico

Each of these books presents a different view of living in Mexico — and without knowing more about your own interests, needs and circumstances, I’ll have to leave it to you to decide which book might be most appropriate. If you can afford it, however, I suggest reading them all — living in Mexico is a very big subject, one that is well worth investigating with care. Good luck!

4 Responses to “Retire In Mexico: Where Do I Start?”

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  1. annamaria says:

    I, too, am hoping to settle in Mexico, but totally agree with Carl that ultimately, you need to go there and spend some time. I have been several times–not nearly enough, but started out with the goal of visiting the Pueblo Magicos that dot the country. I wanted to find a place living pretty much in the past, with all the cobbled streets, architecture and color one can imagine. I have gone with family, with a friend or by myself. I do not camp–long story.

    Over a couple years now, I have been able to narrow down my search, based on my needs and preferences. For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve found–but please understand these are my opinions. Books are helpful, but they are nothing compared to the reality of what will be faced.

    * I don’t necessarily need to live in a Pueblo Magico, as these pretty much typify the classic Mexican towns and villages found everywhere (outside the resorts).
    * I do prefer the dryer and cooler climates, as I have become accustomed to living in Colorado. This rules out the Yucatan and the Baja. I figure once I’m settled, if I want to stay at a beach, I’ll look into some “Casita Swap” offerings.
    * I would like to live further away from a large city, but within the next 5-6 years, I don’t think my children will be “settled” yet, and I will need closer proximity to a large airport. (1 in college, 1 in military)
    * I hope to retire in 4-5 years, but will possibly need additional income. On my last trip (San Miguel de Allende) an assistant manager position to the property I was staying in was in the offing, and someone was looking for a house-sitter for several months, complete with maid. (The law in Mexico says you cannot lay-off your domestic help just because you feel it’s time to visit your other home somewhere else–one of the reasons I love Mexico!) Very flattering and tempting, but being a mom and not able to retire yet has it pulls. Also, though I think SMA is beautiful, it is remote, (4 hr bus from DF), with Leon being expensive to fly into because it is so small. And last but not least, the tremendouse influx of wealthy Nordamericanos has made SMA expensive, compared to other areas of Mexico. The lesson here is to network once you get there. Even if you can’t teach English, you never know what opportunities will present themselves.
    * I religously add to my Spanish vocabulary, before, during and after I go. Along with my beat-up Spanish/English dictionary, the little paperback, “Just Enough Spanish” is very helpful. Though it is written for Castillian Spanish, (think Spain, the country), much of it is very similar, if not exact for the purposes of travel to Mexico. (I finally bit the bullet and bought one, about $6, after my dog chewed the library’s, and I forgot to ask for the damaged one after I reimbursed the library for it!) Looking back at my first experience, I can appreciate and enjoy Mexico more now because I can communicate better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fluent, but menus don’t pose a problem, a “mas despacio, por favor,” (speak slower, please), thrown in here and there, and an ability to speak great hand, all help. Also, my high school latin comes to my assistance: when faced with an impatient clerk, teller, whatever, I ask them to please “escribir,” (to write) and I can usually figure out the cost, or what they’re saying. A taxi driver once shorted me on my change. I said, “Perdon, Senior, su cambio es no bien!” Maybe it wasn’t correct Spanish, but he got the message, and I got the correct change back.
    * Purchasing property in Mexico will not be an issue, at least for a long time. With monthly rents as low as they are, why bother? Plus, renting will make it easier for me to move if/when the time comes. Mexican real estate found on the web is geared to Mexico’s idea of wealthy Nordamericanos, and hardly reflects what can be found in person, or through word-of-mouth, which is very prevalent there. (I am not talking about gated, expensive luxury sub-divisions here.) I have had success, and saved money, by renting through http://www.vrbo.com.
    * I regularly come up against family and friends with their dire warnings–in fact, have stopped asking them to come with me altogether. I only go with immediate family, a friend who has asked to come along, or by myself. When informing them of my intended travel, I just say, “I’ll be in Mexico for such-and-such amount of time…” They have learned not to bother me with their fears, which is ignorance for the most part. As soon as possible, I pop into an internet cafe and send a message that all is well. (I do not travel with a computer.) This is not to say I’ve haven’t had my moments–my kids love to hear me tell the “cuarenta,” (40 pesos) story of how the price of some insect bite medicine miraculously went from 40 pesos to 80, and how I blew my cool– nostrils flaring and the whole 9 yards–to the girl behind the counter.
    * It is ALWAYS cheaper to deal in pesos. I exchange some US$ at the Mexican airport–enough to get by for the first few days, then hit the banks/cambios for further exchanges. Unlike US airports, the exchange counters in Mexican airports give a pretty good rate of exchange.
    * I can still get by on a daily food budget for usually less than $10US. The fondas at the local market are great.
    * One last recommendation for a book : “The Best How-To Book on Moving to Mexico,” by Schmidt, Hair and Brook, offers brief descriptions of much of the country, with interesting stories of ex-pats and how they got there/how they live, Etc. Good info on navigating red tape on visas, cars, medical insurance.

    Thank you, Carl and Lorena, and all your staff for your great contribution. Had heard of PG, but never looked into it. Picked up a copy at the used book kiosk in our little library for $.50! That was last week, and now it’s definately a fave. (30th Anniversary Edition?)

    Luck to all, and I hope this helps. Hopefully, I’m off this Fall, (2012), to the outskirts of Guadalajara (Tlaquepaque) with a friend wanting to experience the REAL Mexico, and can’t wait.

    Regards, Best Wishes and Cheers!

    • Carl Franz says:

      Hola Annamaria and many thanks for you excellent comments — I couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, you’ve neatly summed up the advice I tend to give in a much longer and “windier” tirade to newcomers to living in Mexico. Renting a place rather than buying impetuously is especially important. I can’t count the number of people who’ve told me that they suddenly bought a Mexican condo, house or empty lot after falling in love with a particular place — and then, after a bit more travel, found an even more perfect, more wonderful place a few hundred miles away. Lorena and I have a basic rule: live in a place for at least a month before you make any serious judgement about it.

      We hope you’ll add to these comments and share more of your experiences in Mexico with us!

  2. Churpa says:

    Excellent advice! I couldn’t agree more with your tactics. Thanks for the book recommendation–I just reviewed a stack of retirement books for the upcoming 14th edition of the PG, but somehow I missed that one. I think our readers would benefit from your experiences/tips, and I sudpect many people won’t see this, tucked away as it is, as a comment. Would you allow me to repost your comment as a new blog post?
    –Churpa
    editor

  3. -El Codo- says:

    I can scarcely believe that the fiftieth anniversary of my first visit to Mexico is fast approaching. And yet, even with all those years of plying mule trails to maxipistas, living, working, relaxing, and enjoying myself there is ni modo, no way on the face of the earth I would do it without a most-recent copy of The People’s Guide to Mexico, safely packed away in my luggage. I am duly noted as being a cheapskate -El Codo-, and the “People’s Guide” with the encyclopedic information, references, and hyperlinks contained within, have always, faithfully saved me at least ten times the price of the new revision. Ten-to-one is my kind of odds, and then when I happen to bump into someone down here (In Mexico) that could be a carbon copy of a character in one of Carl’s stories, it puts a warm feeling in my heart. This is one of the few times that I can say “The New Classic Is Far Better Than The Old”