When my wife and I decided to try living in Mexico for a while, we didn’t really know what to expect.
With only very, very rudimentary Spanish, the totality of our experience in Mexico consisted of a visit to the border area 50 miles from San Diego for a few days; a week in Cabo San Lucas on vacation; a week at a Club Med Ixtapa; and a three-hour cruise port stop.
In short, we were quite unprepared.
Yet, it was this very lack of experience which we hoped would add to our open-mindedness, intensify our overall experience, lead us to some fresh perspectives and perhaps even help us to recognize some new opportunities.
We were not disappointed.
The Mexico (and Mexicans) we met were very, very, different than what most Americans expect, an article I will leave for the future. For this article, I’ll discuss just four ways in which living in Mexico for the last two years (about one third of it spent traveling around Mexico on a road trip of adventure and discovery) increased the quality of our lives.
The Lower Cost for a Better Lifestyle
While it is a terrible idea to move to a place just for lower costs, if everything else works out, having a lower cost of living sure is nice. By my calculations in our circumstances, for about the same lifestyle, the cost to live in Mexico is easily 60% less than in the US. The reality of this doesn’t really hit you until you live it. And when it does, if you’re living in Mexico, it’s hard not to break out laughing or even go into a spontaneous happy dance. (I’ll admit, I did and do both regularly.) It’s like being transported to an alternate universe where you don’t have to worry about money.
Here’s our example. We live in a 3,000+ square foot home in the Ajijic / Lake Chapala area in the Mexican Highlands with near perfect weather on about a quarter acre in a gate-guarded community with about 15 tennis courts and a huge swimming pool, both of which we use for free. We have an awesome view of the lake, the volcano behind it and mountains directly behind us. Our rent includes a housekeeper and gardener (no more chores!), trash pickup and water. When we buy a home like this here, our property tax will be about $150 per year (that is not a typo—per year). All this, including food, going out to eat, health insurance, maintaining two cars, etc., could be had for about $2,000 to $2,500 per month, slightly more if you’re extravagant.
How does this compare with your lifestyle and cost of living? For me, it was a definite cost / quality improvement.
The Superior Healthcare
While I was increasingly unhappy with the deterioration of the quality of healthcare combined with its seemingly infinitely increasing cost in the US, I was shocked by how much better it is here in Mexico for expats like my wife and me. My $10,000 deductible health insurance premium in the US was scheduled to rise to over $1,200 per month, but here, I pay only $225 per month, for much better coverage.
The cost for an out of pocket visit to a physician here is about $30, so I don’t bother to file claims. On several occasions, the physicians here have spent an hour with me for this fee. Compare this with your 5-minute consultation in the US, with you trying desperately to get a word in edgewise while the physician is entering or leaving your exam room.
And it’s not like the quality suffers here. The larger cities in Mexico such as Guadalajara (for us, less than an hour away) provide a quality of healthcare meeting or exceeding what you would find in the US, with the exception of if you have some extremely rare condition that only a specialty hospital could cover well. For the remaining estimated 95%+ of cases, in the major hospitals here, in the healthcare system you’ll most likely use if you’re an expat, you’ll find great care. Dental care costs about 75% less for absolutely equal or better results. I just got a root canal on a back molar in state-of-the-art facility for about $300 out-of-pocket; no insurance. The aftermath: zero physical pain and, compared with the $1,000+ I would have paid in the US, greatly reduced financial discomfort.
This happy set of surprises enabled us to visit several doctors to get treated or just examined for issues we had put off in the US, because in the US we didn’t want to pay a small fortune for that five-minute visit. Here, we don’t think twice about visiting the doctor or dentist— we just go.
Starting a Business
Two of the most common reasons startup businesses fail are 1) lack of money; and 2) lack of time to execute the plan, with 2) being a condition of 1). Both these reasons are lessoned here in Mexico, first, because your personal cost of living is so much lower that you can afford to invest more time and money in your business, and secondly, because the cost of labor is so much lower here.
With more time to execute, fewer demands to get to profitability quicker and lower costs for everything from legal and accounting to hiring employees, your chances for success increase substantially. Also, there tends to be less competition here, because compared with the US, there are fewer people with an entrepreneurial mindset and experiences in Mexico. On a personal level, presently, I’m taking advantage of this to start a company to transport household goods for those moving to Mexico from the US and Canada called Best Mexico Movers. I’m just starting out, and I’ll let you know in coming articles how it goes.
Overall Peace of Mind
In Spanish, the word for “worried” is “preocupado,” which us English-speakers can see bears a strong resemblance to “preoccupied.” This makes sense to me, because the more we are preoccupied about problems, the less happy we are and the less we can live in and enjoy the present; i.e., our lives.
With a substantially lower cost of living for a better lifestyle and massively reduced concerns about cost for quality healthcare, by living here in Mexico, my wife and I have removed two very large items that would otherwise preoccupy us. We live in near perfect weather almost all year round and are very optimistic about the future. As such, things are working out pretty well.