10 Years of Blog Archive

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can You Really Retire Abroad on $1000 a Month?

Can you retire abroad on $1000 dollars a month? The online travel magazines would certainly like for you to think you can retire on $1000 a month in Panama, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Argentina, and Costa Rica, wouldn’t they? However, Panama has been crowned once again as the $1000 dollar a month retirement king in the travel news lately.

The truth is only a very few types of people can actually retire in a foreign country on $1000 dollars a month. It takes a certain type of person with an adventurous spirit and happy-go-lucky attitude to make the $1000 a month lifestyle doable. In short, it takes the frugal attitude.

Third world countries are only cheap at first. But as we’ve previously covered, after just a few/couple short years, thanks to the information age/internet, and the very quick influx of gringos it develops, they become just as expensive as many developed regions in the world. So then, the question becomes: do you have The Frugal Attitude? 

Are you cut out to acquire the Frugal Attitude if you don’t already have it? We have met retirees that have absolutely no interest in The Frugal Attitude. As one retiree put it:  “I’ve worked all my life, I’m entitled to some enjoyment”. He was justifying paying 100% more for rent for housing, because he had no clue on how to get it for the local price. And apparently he didn’t want to make the effort either.

Will this kind of attitude get you the $1000 a month life style in Panama, Ecuador or any other foreign retirement Eden, as the popular retire abroad press calls them? You be the judge.

 6 Ways You-Maybe- Could Retire on $1000 a month in Panama

1. Live outside the city center; it’s cheaper in the country
2. Leave your US standards of living in the US.
3. Integrate into the local culture as much as possible
4. Speak Spanish and blend in
5. Take the public buses wherever you go
6. Eat at home more often than out

Here’s food for thought. Do you think the writers of these alluring online travel magazines live like that? We don’t think so. Remember, they are hyping up a new standard of living that they themselves do not do and would never dream of doing!

Please do not misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with going local, blending in, and adopting a simple, comfortable lifestyle, because everyone knows that is exactly how we live here in Cuenca, but most people can’t do it…so there goes your $1000 dollar retirement dream!

So then why are these articles or interviews broadcast on national news media? A parallel term in the retail industry would be – loss leader. The loss leader, gets you in the door, see?

The Starting All Over Dream – Is It Really that Neat?

Have you fallen head over heels for the living abroad retirement scheme, um, er, I mean dream? Well guess what, many people fall right back out of love with the dream once they begin living it. In fact for some people the dream becomes a nightmare for this and that reason.

Just the idea of being able to start all over in a foreign country sounds so good and seems like a dream come true, but when the romance ends many realize how much they miss from their old way of life and the way things were before they left. You know, all the things we take for granted.

Some older retirees are leaving because it is too difficult to learn Spanish, others leave because they miss the life they had, and still others leave because it is NOT WHAT THEY EXPECTED! Reality has a way of popping our dream bubble and at first you may feel angry and confused because you fell for the rosy vision of grandeur in a third world country.

Oh well.

Don’t hit yourself over the head too hard; just know next time that retirement in a developing country is not all what the travel writers make it out to be. Help others see the reality of retirement in a third world country so they won’t make the same mistake.

It’s human nature to want what you don’t have. It is pretty normal to read about all these exotic, far-away cities abroad that are being hyped as cheaper and better than where you are now…but caveat emptor: Make sure you take the rose-colored glasses off while reading or you will not be able to see the fine print.

The writers know just the right (key) words to use to lure you into their little world of make-believe. We believe what they say; that everything is going to be better, that we’ll “live like a king”, we’ll feel happier, lada, lada, lada.

Not that the above can’t come true, but if it seems impossible for it to come true where you are now, why do you think it will come true when you move to a totally, strange, and different culture? Is the grass really greener on the other side?.

Reality says you can improve your finances, health, and well-being just by the choices you make, and it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!! Isn’t that good news? Why move to a developing country to accept positive changes in your life? Ancient words say: “The Kingdom of God is within you”. You take it with you, and to do that, you have to already have it! See?

Some of these travel writers make it sound like it is only possible to be happy in one of these listed countries they have on their website. But it does not take uprooting yourself/family and moving to a totally different culture to have the dream of starting over.

Now understand, we’re not saying, don’t move to a third world country for your retirement years, but we are saying don’t fall for all the glamour and hype the travel magazines write about, that’s all…because if you do, you probably will be disappointed when you retire or move abroad.

STUDY: Know the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you can ask yourself if the bad and ugly will fit in okay with who you are because seriously folks, it is not better or more enjoyable living in a third world country. It is different, and you will have to make adjustments; there is no way getting around that.

You must know yourself infinitely and intimately well. A nice retired couple we befriended is leaving because she can’t get the usual apple pie filling she’s used to getting at Costco/Sams Club, and she doesn’t like all the clouds here.

Is living on $1000 dollars possible? Yes but not with US standards and not with the “entitlement” attitudes that many retirement gringos are bringing with them. If you are ready to live and let live, integrate, blend in, acquire The Frugal Attitude, and be a happy person no matter what is going on around you then you might be okay retiring in a developing country. And for that, check out the DIY Quito Landing Guide, you’ll be glad you did; it's coming soon!

We have now listed all 26 chapters for your perusal in our new 250 page, informational packed, money-saving DIY Quito Landing Guide!


  1. This made me want to move to Ecuador more, not less. Thank you so much for writing something that counterposes the creepy nature of so much of the stuff I've been reading about retiring in another country. I wouldn't want to do anything BUT live the frugal way you describe :)

    I agree, the entitlement trap could be a big one. Combine it with fear and you get the kind of fortress mentality that I imagine wouldn't endear you to the Ecuadorians round about.

    I'm not looking so much to retire (I'm 43) but to at the very least go somewhere where my partner and I can breathe a bit easier for a year or two at the outset, and then see how we feel from there. I have longstanding chronic illness problems and work here in Australia is difficult for us both at the moment (furniture manufacturing jobs drying up for my partner, transcription work drying up for me). Having a break from the relentless high cost of living here would be very nice. I admit that's my first reason for wanting to move there. Ecuador having the guts to give Julian Assange asylum is another. But that would only be the start - I would love to immerse myself in the country, the language, the people. I understand it's a bit of a patriarchal society in one way - that's probably the first bubble bursting for me. But like you say, nowhere is perfect. Not critically reading retirement websites is setting yourself up for disaster, I reckon.

  2. Thanks for as always candid and straightforward advice ! As a potential (soon!?) retiree and an investor in Ecuador beach property, I appreciate the tempering of expectations you bring to the expat life table. Ecuador is a wonderful country and possesses delightful people, BUT it's not for everyone!
    Try an extended stay in a city ( 1-3 months) or cities to test the waters...and be prepared to learn Spanish!
    My plan is Spanish School in Cuenca for 1-3 months before settling on residence, but I am a cautious soul with only 6 visits in the past 3 years. Everyone should proceed at their own pace and comfort level!

    p.s. I'm sorry to see the proliferation of "malls" in Cuenca,( I understand Cuencanos are generally pleased) but will continue to do my best to patronize local businesses whenever possible...a goal that should be more popular in Los Estados Unidos, as well!
    Love your website, keep up the good fight!

    Bob F
    West Palm Beach

    1. Yes, they are now finishing up another shopping mall even bigger than Mall Del Rio on the west side of town. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Very well said as usual. We are so ready to make our move to Cuenca. We have one foot out the door and ready to go as soon as the house sells. Your "DIY CUENCA LANDING" was our friend and guide when we did our recon visit April 2013. It was so nice to meet both of you at I believe ....... it was at El Grecios restaurant. There was a little excitement there for awhile if you recall, lol.

    Kay and Jim
    Palm Bay, FL

    1. Hello Kay and Jim. Oh yes, how can we forget! It was where I got my backpack stolen and then returned by the restaurant owner. I made a video about it. I'm glad that we can laugh about it now. Hope your house sells soon!
      Blessings to you both,
      Frank and Angie

  4. very nice ..thank you Frank and Angie..


HMFamilyLife and Discover Cuenca Ecuador Comment Policy
We welcome applicable and respectful comments. Off-topic comments may be removed.