Many people dream of spending their retirement in a sunny and warm locale, often heading to Arizona or Florida. But perhaps you’re interested in retiring abroad instead of stateside. In fact, heading south of the border to Mexico has become increasingly popular for American retirees. This is largely due to the warmer weather and lower cost of living. Before you hop on a plane, it’s important to know how to retire in Mexico.
Average Cost to Retire in Mexico
A retired couple can expect to retire comfortably in Mexico with an average of $1,900 a month, or $22,800 a year, according to Numbeo, a website that aggregates pricing data from around the world, and InternationalLiving.com. These figures include the cost of rent on a two-bedroom house, once-a-week maid service, utilities, groceries, entertainment, healthcare and more.
A few factors play into your cost of living for retirement in Mexico. The biggest is location: Mexico is a large country with big cities, small towns, resort areas and everything in between, and your exact costs will largely depend on where you live. It also depends on the lifestyle you plan to lead. Whether you want to retire early, late or on time will also affect your expenses timeline. You will also want to keep an eye on the exchange rates from USD into pesos. Not everything in Mexico is marked as pesos, with many merchants accepting USD, especially in tourist areas. Plus, shopping and living like a local, like buying from street vendors, can save you even more money.
Visas for Retiring in Mexico
Retiring in any foreign country is bound to take a couple extra steps than if you were to stay put in the U.S. For starters, you’ll need to obtain a visa to reside in Mexico. The duration of your stay in Mexico will determine the kind of visa you need to apply for. Do you plan to stay for a few months at a time, for a few years or for the rest of your life? The shortest option is applying for a tourist visa. These cover your stay for almost six months.
As a retiree, you can choose to apply for a temporary resident visa which lasts for up to four years. To get the process started, visit your nearest Mexican consulate. Your eligibility depends on your assets. For one, you can provide proof that you can support yourself as a retiree on funds you’ve made (or are making) outside of Mexico. The minimum monthly requirement is about $1,400 in net income for an individual. Dependents add about $520 each to this amount. You may also choose to provide bank statements for the last 12 months that show an average balance of at least $23,500. Lastly, you can qualify if you own a property in Mexico with a value of around $207,000 or more.
If you choose to stay longer than four years, you can apply for a permanent resident visa. If you made it to four years with a temporary resident visa, you can fairly easily alter it to permanent status. Permanent resident visa status allows you to work in Mexico. To qualify, you must show investment statements with an average monthly balance over the last 12 months of $93,000 or a monthly net income (or pension) over the last six months of at least $2,300.
Housing in Mexico
Luckily for Americans who want to retire in Mexico, the U.S. dollar’s strength against the peso allows for some great real estate deals. If you want to rent in retirement, you can expect to find apartments starting at $400. A two-bedroom would only set you back $900 a month. If you’re looking for something more permanent, you can easily find a home for $200,000 or less. You’ll still have to pay utilities and property taxes, which typically totals around $300.
When you buy a home in Mexico, you can do so with a “direct deed,” in a local corporation or via a fideicomiso (bank trust). These options provide safe and trustworthy ways to buy a home and have access to homeownership rights. Plus, many Mexican real estate markets employ English-speaking agents to help you throughout the process without worrying about a language barrier.
Safety in Mexico
While most popular areas of Mexico are safe, violent crime is a widespread issue in many Mexican states. In November, 2018, the U.S. State Department issued a level 2 travel advisory to travelers looking to go to Mexico. This means that the government is recommending increased caution, as it may be difficult for government employees or other emergency services to reach you in several parts of the country.
The level of warning is higher in some states of the country, however. For states Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, the State Department warns against travel due to high crime levels. If you’re looking for safer states, consider Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Hidalgo, Quintana Roo, Tobasco and Yucutan.
Healthcare in Mexico
Healthcare may not be the first thing on your mind when you’re planning to move to a new country. However, healthcare and the associated costs are an important factor to consider as you grow older. Once you move countries, your healthcare plan won’t follow you. Luckily, residents of Mexico will have access to both medical insurance plans and solid medical facilities.
In 2018, a research paper in The Lancet found that healthcare quality and access grew significantly in Mexico from 1990 to 2016. Mexico’s Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) index rating rose from 45.5 to 66.3 over that period. The median HAQ value for all countries in 2016 was 63, and the rating for the U.S. was 88.7. Mexico has also seen a steep drop in infant mortality, heart disease and stroke in recent years, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
It is important to know ahead of time that most Mexican medical facilities are private institutions. You can find health insurance plans from both local and international providers. You can even find some banks that offer medical plans. Keep in mind that it becomes more difficult to obtain health insurance after you turn 65, just like in the U.S.
Do You Have Enough Saved to Retire in Mexico?
In the U.S., the average retirement account balance was around $201,300 in 2013, according to the Federal Reserve. Plus, retired workers averaged a monthly Social Security benefit of around $1,300 as of October 2016. With an average cost to retire in Mexico of $26,100 a year, many Americans can retire comfortably by meeting the average retirement savings numbers.
This is why knowing the kind of lifestyle you want to live in retirement is the first step toward saving for retirement. It helps you determine how much and how aggressively you need to save. You’ll need to save even more if you want to retire early.
Retirees in Mexico who are 60 or older and have a resident visa can also take advantage of Mexico’s retirement benefits program, Personas Adultas Mayores. This offers savings for healthcare, transportation, hotels and even museums. Don’t forget that you can also save easily by shopping at local markets and buying fresh.
It will also help to be aware of the costs of international money transfers and currency exchange. If you find yourself constantly transferring money to and from the U.S. and exchanging USD to pesos (or vice versa), that can take a dent out of your precious retirement savings. In these cases, you’ll want to open a Mexican bank account and find ways to transfer money internationally for free.
If you want to retire in a place with a low cost of living and warm weather, Mexico is an excellent option. Just remember that your exact costs will depend on how you want to live in retirement. If you’re willing to live like a local and cut some of your luxuries, you won’t need to have an exorbitant amount of money saved. But if you just can’t live without constant air conditioning or a five-bedroom house, you should be prepared to pay a little more than the amounts you see here.
Making Your Retirement Dreams a Reality
- A great way to start your retirement savings is by taking advantage of your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. At the very least, max out any matching your employer offers, and consider going up to the maximum contribution limit. This also lessens your taxable income, offering a nice tax break each year you contribute.
- A financial advisor can help ensure that you’ve got enough saved to make your dream retirement a reality. You can find an advisor today using SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. Just answer some questions about your financial situation and goals, and the program will match you with up to three local advisors who meet your needs.
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