All financial consultants, lifestyle coaches, and psychotherapists can’t really help future American and Canadian retirees in their 50s and 60s, unless they’ve been there, have. Whether you have your sights set on San Miguel de Allende or Oaxaca, Huatulco or Cancun, the best advice on Mexican retirement comes from those of us who have made the leap … and only after several years of careful and thoughtful introspection. .
Health care, general affordability, language, and “now what do I do?” Seem to top the list of questions that those considering becoming ex-patriots in Mexico seem to have. With 13 years as a frequent visitor to Oaxaca, and now 13 more years as a transplanted permanent resident of the good life as a Toronto trial attorney, I have been able to reflect on how and why at age 53 I did what I did. The answers are now easy. So here are my top ten tips that, when considered, will ensure a satisfying and enjoyable life wherever you choose in Mexico.
1. LEARN THE LANGUAGE: Sure, some of us have language challenges, and such affliction can certainly get in the way of our plans. But it is imperative that you at least try to learn Spanish and keep doing it until you are no longer ashamed to open your mouth. There are Spanish schools in almost every major center in the country. And it is easy to find a local who wants to learn or improve their English, so you can organize an “exchange” once or twice a week, free of charge, to complement the formal grammar classes. Often times the exchange also serves as a starting point for making new (local) friends. In fact, it’s hard not to gravitate to establishing friendships primarily with other expats, as that’s the path of least resistance. But surely one of the reasons you are choosing Mexico is because of the rich and diverse cultural traditions; the best way to establish them is to start with the language. When initiating relationships with Mexicans, whether they are white urbanites or natives of small villages whose first language is an indigenous language, or anything in between, any way you can be welcomed into their world will be an asset in your quest to be included in their rites. . on the way; celebrating weddings, birthdays, christenings and 15 years, and crying at funerals.
2. BUY GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE: In 2017, the annual cost of purchasing comprehensive federal government health insurance known as IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) was less than 15,000 pesos (much less than $ 1,000 USD) for a couple with at least one partner 60 years of age or older. It covers visits to the doctor when you are sick, medication, specialized care and consultation, tests and analyzes, surgeries and emergency care. Yes, there are delays, the level of sterility may not be what you are used to, and you cannot select your own doctor. But you can mix and match if you want, that is, using private doctors, labs and hospitals when it suits you, or using the IMSS. The quality of care is extremely good, not without having to ask on occasion, as you would at home. The point is that Mexico trains a lot of good doctors and, in fact, some have had American experience taking courses, improving, etc. In the US You don’t have to worry about maintaining your Canadian coverage by returning to your home province for X days a year, or worrying about the cost of returning to the US just because you have comprehensive insurance coverage there.
3. VISIT YOUR LAST FINAL DESTINATION AT LEAST THREE TIMES BEFORE YOU DECIDE: It may seem trivial, but don’t just read about a Mexican destination and make the decision to move without even visiting it. Some people do it that way, believe it or not. My wife and I visit Oaxaca two or three times a year for several years before buying our land and building. I suggest at least three visits before committing to buy or rent. Get the atmosphere of the city. Research places to live, and don’t just decide you want to live in a particular neighborhood without first having a short-term rental there. If you plan to sign a lease or buy, make sure you have an idea of the type of community and think about proximity to public transportation; parking lot; noise level: services such as cable, drinking water, drainage and garbage collection; type of neighbors; nearby restaurants and entertainment; etc., etc., etc. You may want to visit the center for a week or two, but you have to think about being there permanently, amidst the constant noise, exhaust fumes, street activity that starts before dawn, and everything in between. On the other hand, do you want to be so far from the center that you have to think twice before going to the city center for dinner, a drink or a cappuccino?
4. GET A CAR: If you want to live in the center or close to everything, and you are used to taxi and / or public transport, you may not need a car. But you probably want to visit neighboring communities on your own, at your own pace, and you don’t want to depend on others to be your drivers. Even if it is an old junk, it is important to be mobile. Of course, car rental agencies provide a good option, but often one thinks twice before spending on a car rental, whereas if the car is already in the driveway or in the garage, it is not. it’s a problem. Although insurance may be optional for vehicle owners, purchase it to ensure that if you are in an accident you will not end up in jail for an extended period.
5. DRESS PROPERLY: Dress like the locals around you. If you live in a city in the interior of Mexico like Puebla or Oaxaca, you will notice that men generally do not wear shorts, running shoes or T-shirts, except for some weekends, usually on Sundays. You will be treated more like a resident and less like a tourist, and presumably that is what you want, with a view to eventually expanding your social media to include people who were born and raised in and around your new hometown.
6. CONSIDER YOUR CURRENT AND ANTICIPATED ASSETS BOTHLY: When considering whether you can afford to retire in Mexico, financial advisers ask about your current assets and liabilities, income, and anticipated costs when living in a new city or beach area in the south. They will also ask if you have dependent children who may depend on you for their ongoing expenses, such as college costs. While some people may think it’s disgusting, it’s important to also talk about any anticipated inheritance on the horizon. A couple of decades ago, a newspaper reporter consulted three Canadian financial experts for a story, Mañana Split, about our plan to withdraw to Oaxaca. They all said we couldn’t afford to do it. Our own counselor asked about the probable inheritances, the ages of our parents who were then aging, etc., while the other three did not. Our advisor said that we could probably afford early retirement, and here we are (although we actually could have done it without inheritance; so experts who didn’t know us personally for a long period of time were, in fact, wrong).
7. GET INVOLVED IN CHARITABLE WORK: The fact that you are even considering retiring to Mexico suggests that you are willing to think outside the box and have interests in addition to family, friends, and work. Given your personality, then, you will find ways to keep busy in your new life, by immersing yourself in cultural activities and finding other innovative ways to keep busy; and maybe even earn some money. One of the most satisfying ways to fill your time is to get involved with one or more charities. Virtually all Mexican expat destinations have charities that desperately need your time. You have some kind of valuable experience, whether you realize it or not, that will be appreciated. Not only will you feel good about yourself, but you will help others in a much more direct way than simply donating money to the World Wildlife Fund or the United Way. Witnessing firsthand how your donation of time and / or money is positively impacting others is extraordinary.
8. BE LEGAL: Don’t just move to Mexico with your temporary tourist visa and stay longer than welcome. Get a resident visa from the beginning. Do not work without getting permission from the immigration department. Confirm with them that you can work at the job you want and ask what steps you need to take, such as asking the employer to write to immigration to inform them or ask for permission to hire you. Do not start a business without a tax identification number and without obtaining an immigration permit; Once you get started, if not sooner, get an accountant and learn the law on filing tax returns. Living in Mexico is a privilege and not a right. If you break the law, you can end up in jail and be expelled from the country permanently. There may be a certain antipathy towards you as a foreigner working in Mexico, where there are so many people much poorer than you without work or underpaid. Resentment doesn’t always go away, so the best thing to do is follow the law, have all your permits in place, and pay your fair share of taxes.
9. BE ON BOARD WITH YOUR PARTNER: Often times, a member is passionate about moving to Mexico and is very excited about the move and the new lifestyle; while the other is only willing to do it or at least try. That can be dangerous. If both partners do not have the same vision for the future, there may be an ongoing conflict between the two of you, with your partner but a simple reluctant participant in the new life. You should aim for an easy transition with no regrets, best accomplished with the two of you ad ditto from the start.
10. HAVE A CUSHION / CONTINGENCY PLAN: While this article is intended to minimize the risks involved in retiring in Mexico, you are still, at least to some extent, inevitably taking a leap of faith. If you can have a contingency or “what if” plan, so much the better. Can you come back if things don’t work out? It is something to seriously consider before making a decision. It’s the one thing we didn’t really consider before buying those one-way airline tickets, but luckily all the rest was thoroughly considered and planned, and there have been no regrets.