There has been a post all over social media platforms recently: The new American Dream is to save enough money to be living in Mexico! We did just that – maybe you can too.
My first trip to Mexico (Puerto Vallarta) was in the mid-80s and I was absolutely smitten. I didn’t return until the mid-90s (this time with my husband and also to Puerto Vallarta), and he also loved it. We didn’t travel much for many years as we were raising our kids and were consumed with their activities. Most vacations involved camping and boating. In the back of our minds, we still thought about Mexico.
Flash forward to 2014 when our family seemed to have outgrown our lake trips, so we vacationed in Los Cabos. The dream was born and we began to think we would like a second home in Baja. We continued to make annual trips to the Los Cabos area and really love San Jose del Cabo.
Can We Move to Mexico?
Then…2020 happened. My husband and I were fortunate to retain our employment (Outside Sales for him, Education for me) during all the shutdowns. All the quiet time at home helped prompt us to reevaluate what our future may hold. We have tried to live a debt free life with the goal of helping our kids with college costs.
Having accomplished that goal and realizing that the housing market in our community was hot, we started to consider options. My husband had long been dissatisfied with his job and gave notice at the end of 2020. I came home from work one day in early 2021 (I’d had a few rough days) and asked “do you really think we can do this?”.
Researching the Communities
We realized that as much as we love San Jose del Cabo, we would not get as much “bang for our buck” in living there full time. My husband spent hours and hours researching all the larger communities throughout the Baja peninsula. I wanted to take a road trip, visiting all the communities, renting for a bit in each place and then deciding where to purchase a home.
He wanted a more direct, decisive path and landed on La Paz. We visited for the first time in March of 2021, spent two days looking at homes and exploring the community and left after three days having purchased a home.
When doing your own research, make a list of what is important to you. Here is what we were looking for:
Mexico’s Low Cost of Living
Neither one of us was quite retirement age (60/58) so we need to live on the proceeds from selling our home in the US. We have heard that the first year is the most expensive (the restaurants are so fabulous and inexpensive you want to go out all the time!) and have found that we have spent more than we expected to. That being said, we purchased a beautiful home, added a casita and pool, as well as solar. Property taxes, health care, utilities and groceries are significantly less than the United States. We are hoping to continue to live on our house proceeds until we begin to collect our retirement funds.
It may be more convenient to be in a touristy location where English is spoken everywhere (towns close to the US border, Los Cabos). Even though neither of us is fluent in Spanish, we were really looking to experience a different culture. Our Spanish skills are slow to develop (we are trying!) but haven’t found a situation yet where this has been a barrier. We do live in a community full of expats and socialize with friends more than we did in the states. We have found ways to become involved more in the culture (conversation groups, volunteering) and will continue to explore all it has to offer.
Health Care while living in Mexico
La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur and has many hospitals and health care options. I will share that health care was a major concern of mine. As Permanent Residents, we did purchase health insurance through the government (IMSS). It is a fraction of the cost of insurance in the United States, with options and flexibility increasing each year you subscribe.
We are considering discontinuing this, as out of pocket expenses are so much less here and provide us with the flexibility of receiving care where we choose. We will apply for Medicare in the US as soon as we are eligible. So far, we have been paying our medical expenses out of pocket and have been extremely satisfied with the providers (dental, dermatologist, general practitioner, radiology, and osteopath). Doctor visits have ranged from $35-$50 US.
We have heard summers (July-mid October) in this part of BCS described as 100 days of hell. We arrived in September 2021 and found it to be hot but tolerable. This summer we had our pool which is a huge asset. We walk early in the morning and tend to spend afternoons inside with the A/C on. In our neighborhood, it seems that about half of the residents return to the United States or Canada during the hottest months. Summer is also hurricane season, and significant damage can occur (neighbors have shared they were without power for two weeks after a hurricane in 2014).
It was important to us to be able to drive somewhat easily back to the US. We have three dogs and couldn’t really imagine flying with them (although we know many who do). We have made the drive a few times, and it is long but manageable. La Paz has a very nice small airport but very limited flights in and out of the United States or Canada. Most residents and visitors use the airport in San Jose del Cabo, about a 2.5 hour drive from La Paz.
While many may desire a home base in the US or Canada, it didn’t make sense for us. Our kids are on opposite ends of the US, without plans to return to our home town. We hope to maintain our friendships by people visiting us here. That being said, if we have grandkids someday, my feelings about a US home base may change.
It is understandable that many may not have the financial resources to do what we did. We were fortunate to have stayed debt free and made some good real estate investments. The decision to not wait until we are “too old” to enjoy this lifestyle is a risk that so far is really paying off for us. You just don’t know what tomorrow holds – so we’re having fun today!