Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to Live Well on $25,000 a Year

By  Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher via Bill Bonner

Veteran International Living editors Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher have written the definitive guide to retiring overseas on a budget: The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget: How to Live Well on $25,000 a Year

In today’s Weekend Edition – originally published in Dan and Suzan’s new book – they reveal what kind of lifestyle you can expect as an early "retiree" overseas... and why moving overseas now is easier than ever. 

How to Live Well on $25,000 a Year

When we left Omaha in 2001 to work for International Living magazine in Quito, Ecuador, the idea you could live better for less in an overseas locale that closely matched your idea of paradise was relatively novel.

We could count on one hand the "gringos" living in Ecuador at the time. Two or three in Cuenca... a handful in Vilcabamba... another handful in Otavalo. Most of the expats in Ecuador lived in Quito and were associated with the petroleum industry. Only a few were baby boomer "retirees."

But over the years, we’ve met more and more people who’ve done what we have.

They left the rat race of the workaday world behind and relocated to places like Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Malaysia and more. They now enjoy warmer weather, a better quality of life, less crime, more cultural activities, healthier and less expensive food, better and less expensive health care. And they’re enjoying every bit of it for about $2,000 a month or less, all in.

Many of them aren’t even of "official" retirement age. Ron and Terresa Moore, for example, have been retired in Ecuador since 2009 – long enough for Ron’s ponytail to grow all the way down his back.

That’s in stark contrast to 2008. Ron was 54 and Terresa was 50. And they were struggling. They’d lost one-third of their nest egg and were so close to losing their home that all they could do was walk away.

Today they own two homes in Ecuador outright: one in an always-perfect-weather mountain climate, the other on a gorgeous stretch of beach where, from their balcony, they watch pelicans bob, dolphins play in the surf and Ecuador’s amazing sunsets. (Their homes are just a fraction of a degree from the equator.)

To maintain both homes and pay all their utility bills, medical insurance, health care expenses, prescriptions, food, entertainment – everything – Ron and Terresa’s monthly expenses average just $1,000.

Blues and Gourmet Food in Mexico

Gary DeRose lives with his girlfriend, Kate, in a beautiful historic Mexican city where he plays in a blues band and acts in local theater productions. He takes in symphonies and goes to gallery openings. A gourmet cook, he loves the fresh produce available in the local markets.

Like Ron and Terresa, Gary owns his home outright. It has a swimming pool and a pretty walled courtyard with a fountain. He’s only about 45 minutes from the beach. And the weather allows him to swim there, or in his pool, year-round. By moving overseas, Gary, too, was able to retire at a younger-than-normal age – at just 53. Of course, it helps that, as he reports, Gary and Kate’s expenses average about $3,000 a month.

These stories are not unique. In case after case, would-be retirees are discovering a dizzying array of solutions to their financial and lifestyle challenges by expanding their focus to outside the US and Canada.

The international lifestyle is not for everybody; it’s not even for most people. It takes a huge appetite for novelty, adventure, problem solving and stepping out of your comfort zone. We’ve found these to be exactly the things that keep us engaged, active and feeling young each day. But not everyone feels the same way about the challenges of living abroad.

The truth is, back in 2001 when we made our first move there wasn’t a lot of guidance about retiring overseas – at least not readily available on the Internet. (And much of the information you’ll find on the Internet today is either outdated or just plain wrong.)

Our decision was based primarily on gut reaction and our drive never to have any regrets in life. We didn’t want to look back sometime in the future and wonder, "What if?"

After all, if we could retire to a place with better weather... where we could have a better quality of life but for a greatly reduced cost of living... why wouldn’t we?


  1. Hope the dollar stays strong.


  2. 25k a year requires about 500k invested. Not the easiest amount to obtain for the average American.

  3. how will they import anything? export IT services, minerals, food stuffs? Sounds capital intensive Boonner, and with much risk to income flows. Maybe for those ready to eat their egg.