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Moving to Mexico

I always write all of my own stuff, but when I see something that might be valuable I pass it on.

The folks at offered us a deal. No—no money for us, unfortunately, but just permission to pass on some of their stuff so long as I mentioned them. Well, I just did, so here goes with a great article on moving to Mexico. It’s got some pretty good information—even Jim says so.

Here goes…




Gary DeRose was fed up with rising costs and rising stress levels.

So four years ago, he walked away from it all.

At the age of 53 he retired to Mexico.

“Now,” he says, “I’m living better than ever.  I have new friends, a great social life, and I can afford to eat out and travel as much as I like…I would never have had this kind of life if I’d stayed in California.”

Forget what you think you know about Mexico, says Gary DeRose.  Forget what the U.S.  news media tells you.  Because Mexico really is a land of opportunity…and especially if you want to live well on a small budget.

“The city I live in…and it’s a big city…is as safe as, if not safer than San Francisco, where I lived for 28 years.  And it’s far less expensive.  I live on a fairly strict budget…I try to keep my expenses to no more than $1,500 per month.  And I’m pretty successful at that.”

Gary’s story isn’t that different than many expats living in Mexico.  They’ve found a way to escape the stress of the U.S.  and Canada…not to mention the cold winter weather…and they’re living la vida buena in Mexico.

Gary, for instance, worked very hard all his life, most recently in a sales managerial position.  He accumulated some savings, which were wisely invested.  But he wanted more out of life than working 10 hours a day five or six days a week.

He was caught up in the rat race of working too much and playing too little-scrambling and budgeting to pay sky-high health care and tax bills.  He loved San Francisco, but he didn’t love the frustration of working too hard for too little, as he puts it.  And he wasn’t happy about the high cost of living in San Francisco.  He wanted to enjoy life now…and not wait until the traditional retirement age of 65.

He also wanted to live in a place where he could have a swimming pool that he could use year-round, and a beach where he could take long walks with his dog any time he wanted.  And he especially was seeking a slower-paced lifestyle…and in a place where family and friends could easily and affordably visit.

But he didn’t want to give up all the comforts he was used to: cable TV, high-speed Internet, modern home appliances, top-notch health care, and more.

He wanted it all, but he didn’t want to pay more for it.

So four years ago, he sold his California home, took the money he made, and bought another home outright in Merida, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state.

“I could have rented a really nice house here for $600 to $800 a month,” he says, “but I like my stuff and I like having a place of my own.” He also likes the fact that he no longer has a mortgage.  “I’m not indebted to anyone.”



Gary sold many of his belongings and shipped the rest to Mexico.  Then he packed the car, loaded up the dog, and headed south.
From the border at Eagle Pass, it was an uneventful and leisurely three-day drive to Merida.

He settled into life quite nicely there.  His new home is one that anyone would be proud of…with gorgeous tile floors, rich wood doors and shuttered widows, an in-ground swimming pool, and a gourmet kitchen.  As I mentioned, Gary has no mortgage and his other expenses are minimal.  He lives quite well on the interest he earns on his savings and investments.

“In a few years, I’ll be able to live off my social security payments,” he says.  “but I didn’t want to wait for that.  Retiring early was the best decision I ever made.  And I was able to do that by moving to Mexico.”

It’s ironic, really.  Gary gave up the rat race and he lives on less money than ever.  But he lives better than ever.  He knows for a fact he couldn’t have done that if he’d stayed in the U.S.

So why did Gary choose Mexico?  (He also considered Italy, Costa Rica…even Turkey.) But Mexico had everything he was looking for…

Mexico is the closest retirement haven to the U.S.  This may not seem like a big deal, but the convenience of a short plane ride makes all the difference in the world when you want to get back home to family and friends or attend to business matters.  Flights to and from Mexico are plentiful and inexpensive and most take less time than a coast-to-coast U.S.  flight.  From Merida or Cancun, for instance, you can be in Miami or Houston in about two hours.  If you want to, you can easily and safely drive to Mexico, as Gary did.

It’s easier to get a resident visa in Mexico than in any other country.  You might think Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica have easy resident requirements.  Well, forget everything you might think you know about obtaining a visa anywhere else.  The Mexican government has made it very easy for foreigners to live here.  In fact, the visa process, hands down, is easier in Mexico.  The requirements are less restrictive than any other country in Latin America or Europe.

Mexico has a first-class retiree benefits program.  You may know about Panama’s excellent pensionado program, but to be eligible for it, you have to get a visa.  And in Panama, getting a visa can be tough.  But see the point above: not only is it easy to get a visa in Mexico, but foreigners who are age 60 or older, with a valid Mexico resident visa, are eligible for Mexico’s Personas Adultas Mayores benefits program.

The program offers discounts on a wide range of services, including health-related ones (hospitals, doctors’ visits, lab tests, medical devices, pharmacies, and dental work); cultural activities like theater tickets and entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites; transportation and accommodation, including airline tickets, buses, car rentals and purchase; and at hotels and many stores.

Discounts can range from 5% to 50% off the full price of the good or service.

The cost of living in Mexico is low, low, low.  With rapidly rising fuel, health care, food, taxes, and travel costs, it’s nice to know there are still places where you can live well without burning through your savings.  Mexico is one of those special places.  Here, you can enjoy a lifestyle that’s all but unaffordable for most Americans and Canadians.  The cost of real estate is far, far lower than it is in the U.S.  and Canada.  Could you find a beachfront condo in the U.S.  for less than $100,000?  A home smack on the beach for less than $150,000?  You can in Mexico.  And you can live very well here on just $1,500 per month or less, as Gary DeRose is doing.

Here’s Gary DeRose’s monthly budget-just a sample to show you how you, too, can live better for less in Mexico…

  • Utilities (electricity, gas, water) $125
  • Household help (housekeeper twice a week)  $150
  • Groceries $300
  • Maintenance and fuel for one car $150
  • Entertainment (dining out and other activities) $250
  • Wine (Gary has his priorities…) $200
  • Incidentals (clothes, household items, etc.) $100
  • Communication: phone, internet, cable TV $150
  • Misc. $75

Monthly total: $1,500

NOTE: Gary owns his home outright, so he has no mortgage or rental expense.  (Depending on your tastes and needs you can rent a home or apartment in Mexico for anywhere from $300 and up.  And you can still buy a very nice home here…including on the beach…for less than $100,000.)

Gary has a car, but you many choose not to have one-public transportation in Mexico is safe, reliable and very affordable.  (City bus rides are typically about 30 cents, and a luxury bus from Merida to Cancun, for example, costs about $20.  A cross-town taxi in a city like Merida is $3 or so.)

Gary pays out of pocket for his health and dental care-he’s found the medical care in Mexico to be top quality and very affordable.
For major or catastrophic care he has opted to join Mexico’s IMSS public health insurance program.  Cost: $250 per year.

Think of how much money you can save by simply moving a few hours south!

You can get full-coverage health insurance in Mexico for less than $1 per day.  Hospitals and health care providers in Mexico are of excellent quality.  Many doctors were trained in the U.S.  or Europe and they speak English.  Private health insurance, (through a major global provider) costs one-fourth to one-half what you might be paying in the U.S.  Doctors’ visits and common medical procedures in Mexico, too, cost about one-fourth of what they do in the U.S., so many expats just pay out of pocket.  But get this: if you have a resident visa, you can get health coverage through IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social).  There’s no age limit for signing up.

This full-coverage health insurance runs from about $100 a year for children and adolescents, up to almost $300 for those over
60-and it includes prescription medications.

Taxes are ridiculously low-need I say more?  Taxes are a fact of life; we all know that.  And like all countries, Mexico levies a value-added tax on goods and services.  But other taxes are practically non-existent.

The annual property tax on our own 5,400-square-foot home in Merida is a laughably low $135!  The annual tax bill on those beachfront lots we own…$10.  Unless you’re working here, you probably won’t pay income taxes.  But if you are working…and you’re self employed or working for a Mexican or other foreign corporation…you and your spouse can each legally exempt up to $91,500 in income on your U.S.  taxes for 2010!

YES!  You CAN legally own property in Mexico!

We often receive e-mails from readers asking how we can recommend that people invest in Mexican real estate.

“Don’t you know,” they write, “that foreigners can’t own land in Mexico?

Well…  if you’ve ever thought the same thing, I’ve got some great news.

Foreigners can legally own property in Mexico, and the Mexican legal system protects the rights of foreign property owners.

That means you can enjoy owning the kinds of property in Mexico that might be priced out of your budget in the US -including beachfront property.  (Mexico’s Foreign Investment Act, allowing foreigners to own beachfront property, was passed in 1994 with the North America Free Trade Agreement.)

“When Mexico recently firmed up laws for foreigners to own land through bank trusts, the floodgates opened…  A beachfront lot 30 miles up the coast in southern California would cost you several million dollars.  South of the border, a spot on the beach can cost you less than $100,000,”
CBS Evening News


8 comments to Moving to Mexico

  • Michael:
    It depends on how much you have to move, and what kind of a vehicle you have. We were not from California, so we first had a moving company move most of our stuff to a storage facility in El Centro. We should have moved our stuff to Calexico, but we didn’t know much about the area, then. We did it this way, because we had read that we would need a complete and detailed inventory, etc. for Mexican customs. Since we have a truck, we brought our items in with numerous trips. Our only problem was with the washer and dryer, for which we had to pay a small fee. We see people coming into Mexicali with piles of furniture on a small truck, so maybe this is the easiest way. Mexicali is in the “Free Zone” and is not really part of the rest of Mexico for customs’ duties. Take a look at the FAQs in our blog, and you will see what we know about the Free Zone. One advantage is that you can drive a car with US plates here. In other non-Free Zone parts of Mexico, a car is a hassle. So Mexicali is in the no-hassle zone. If you want to go back and forth a lot over the border, you might consider getting a Sentri Pass from the US border patrol. Yesterday, being as how folks were getting back to the states, after the weekend, I think they had a 3 or 4 hour wait. In the Sentri lane it takes about ten minutes. It costs around $200 for five years.
    Hope this helps.
    God Bless,

  • Michael:
    There is not much of an American community here, but we love to hang out at Sinapsis Cafe where all the staff (one is American) speak perfect English.
    God Bless,

  • Michael


  • Michael

    Hi, MaryAnn. Thanks for your posts. I wanted to know the best way to move living items (furniture) from California to Mexicali? My mother grew up in Mexicali and will be moving back. We are trying to figure out the best way to go about this. Thanks!

  • Carlos:
    The treatment you are getting are quite normal – plus you are a young a single man (a bit of racial profiling). HERE IS THE SOLUTION. Get yourself a Sentri pass, and you can go down the Sentri lane and be in Calexico in minutes instead of hours. is where you start.

    It’s a hassle but worth it and it will cost you under $200 for 5 years.

    Walking across can take up to two hours.

    God Bless,

  • Carlos

    Hi MaryAnne,
    I am a 22 yr old who just recently moved to the area. I’m curious about the border crossings into Calexico. Have you ever crossed on foot? What is that like, as far as the wait times? Do you know if they allow you to cross over on a bicycle? I crossed in my car once and they hounded me to death, made me never want to do it again. Is that normal? I moved from NorCal, maybe because I haven’t updated my License address?? The border patrol asked me what I was doing so far away from home, and why alone. I moved down to be closer to mom, I stay with an uncle also in Calexico. That obviously proved to be unbelievable to the man in green. I was pretty nervous under that intense pressure. I think Mexicali and Calexico are great places, but the thought of having to cross over to the U.S almost daily, if not, few times a week is pure HORROR. Maybe, I’m just over acting. That’s why I’m asking you for you’re opinion, I guess. Thank you so much.

  • Fred: We agree – it is a bit of a rosy picture. Naturally, we think Mexicali is a much better choice. It may not have the cobblestones, and charm, but you don’t have to sit on a bus, or in a car for three hours to get back to the US. At that ride is over a very dangerous road. We just go two miles down a safe city street and we are in Calexico, CA. We did it just yesterday,
    God Bless,

  • Fred

    International Living paints a too rosy picture. While there is some truth in the overall generalities, they gloss over the details or things that some may cond
    sider important. |Like Merida is really uncomfortable hot for many. the IMSS discounts are really hyped. I have the discount card. I have found no airlines that offer a discount, an the half off on buses are limited to 2 seats per bus and reserved in advance. The other discounts are in the 6 percent range and are voluntary for merchants, and most don’t participate. I also would be uncomfortable driving throuth the US frontera area, it is not a walk in the park like the article portrays. Having said that, Mexicali appears to be one of the better choices, althout it gets hot and cold there.

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