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An Expat Retiree
Old 05-12-2018, 08:14 AM   #1
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An Expat Retiree

We retired at ages 50/51 in 2003.

Lived in series of 5 Year Plans (highly recommend to early retirees).

Living full-time in Central Mexico (Lake Chapala). Still own a home in US which we use apprx. 8 weeks a year.
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Old 05-12-2018, 08:41 AM   #2
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Hi Mexexpat. Welcome! Tell us more about your decision to move to Mexico, and your life there. Many of us would be interested in your story. How did you decide to move down there? Do you speak Spanish? Hang out mainly with expats or locals too? How's the healthcare down there? Do you have to go to Guadalajara or can you get reasonably good healthcare locally? How is the lake doing these days? I know it had pretty serious contamination/pollution issues at one point, but maybe doing better these days? Have you managed to avoid the crime that has impacted other places in Mexico? It is always interesting to hear from someone who is doing "something different" with their ER.
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Old 05-12-2018, 08:52 AM   #3
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Welcome. I just joined a couple of days ago and found them a nice friendly bunch.
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Old 05-12-2018, 09:30 AM   #4
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Are you also in Mexico? I have a friend who's building his '2nd' home down there ..... he's ready to go / she's on the fence
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Old 05-12-2018, 09:54 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mexexpat View Post
We retired at ages 50/51 in 2003.

Lived in series of 5 Year Plans (highly recommend to early retirees).

Living full-time in Central Mexico (Lake Chapala). Still own a home in US which we use apprx. 8 weeks a year.
Welcome Mexexpat to this wonderful forum.
We settled in Florida after much discussion about Florida vs. Lake Chapala.
Will visit Chapala in the next 2 years.
Looking forward to your posts.
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Old 05-12-2018, 10:31 AM   #6
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We retired at ages 50/51 in 2003.

Lived in series of 5 Year Plans (highly recommend to early retirees).

Living full-time in Central Mexico (Lake Chapala). Still own a home in US which we use apprx. 8 weeks a year.
If you keep your U.S. house, I guess moving to Mexico is not for the reason of finance.
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Old 05-12-2018, 11:34 AM   #7
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I've read and tube'd a lot about the area. It's on our BL of extended travels stays in the years to come..

Thanks for joining. I too (like medved) would welcome your insights on Lake Chapala and the areas nearby.

As a veteran, I found it interesting that they have a large and active American Legion post
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:14 PM   #8
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Background:
In 2003 we cashed out of DC-Metro for the desert Southwest where we had visited over the years. Bought a restored miner's cabin in Bisbee AZ (I still love that town). Pent up demand for travel after busy careers, we traveled a lot around the western US, Hawaii and Europe.

Almost 5 years into that Five Year Plan, my husband had some back problems and in 2007 as I was debating our next destination in EUR he said, can we go somewhere closer and skip the 15+ hour flights? "How about Mexico?" he asked.

I am ashamed by my initial response. Why would I want to go to a country when so many of the people there wanted to leave? Two nights later at a party I asked others if they'd been anywhere interesting in MX. One woman whose opinions on travel I valued, said: Go to San Miguel de Allende (SMA), you'll love it.

Booked a B&B in SMA and off we went. It was noisy with loud music, barking dogs...the sidewalks were trashy and/or non-existent once you got out of the historic Centro. But lots of great eateries and lots of walking which we like.

My husband is a born and bred upper middle-class suburbanite; I am from a poor blue-collar family in a rust-belt city that peaked before I was born. The blend of poor MXNs and well-to-do expats didn't much phase me, but I figured it wasn't his thing. Surprisingly the night before we flew home he turned to me and said, "I could see us living here."

Flew home as scheduled and flew back the next month and started house-hunting. As 2007 came to a close we still wanted to live in MX, but SMA was looking too pricey in the sense that in our opinion, IF you are going to buy a house in ANY foreign country, you need to be financially able to walk away from it if things go bad.

Checked out Mazatlan as it was cheap and we knew a couple moving there. We hated it. Humid and hot and too busy, too big.

We went to Ajijic in late 2007 and that was it. The lake, the weather, the compactness, lack of traffic in the village, but mostly we found the locals friendlier than in SMA. And the 25 minute drive to a major airport was a major plus, too (SMA was almost 2 hours from Leon's airport).

Bought a small home in the Ajijic in 2008; in the village not in a gated or expat community From 2008-2012 we traveled around MX by car and air. Unfortunately in 2012 my FIL needed us in the US...late 80s, dementia getting worse, we tried to manage his care from MX but it wasn't working as he wished to stay in his own home. In late 2012 we sold both our Bisbee AZ and Ajijic homes and returned to the US. He died in late 2015; took my DH over a year to settle the estate.

In 2017 we thought (for a nanno-second) about moving to Spain (we traveled there every year, 2012-2017), but decided to return to Ajijic and bought another home that needed work (much larger than our first home). Again, in the village, not gated.

I will answer specific q's from posts as I can.
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:29 PM   #9
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Hi Mexexpat. Do you speak Spanish? Hang out mainly with expats or locals too? How's the healthcare down there? Do you have to go to Guadalajara or can you get reasonably good healthcare locally? How is the lake doing these days? I know it had pretty serious contamination/pollution issues at one point, but maybe doing better these days? Have you managed to avoid the crime that has impacted other places in Mexico?
Spanish....I'd grade our vocabulary as a B+. Our grammar is a D-. Because we are rehabbing an older home, we are spending a lot of time with local contractors who have become our friends. We do go to parties and do entertain expats, mostly we know snowbirds so much of the year we are on our own...we aren't joiners of clubs here or in US.

Health care locally has improved dramatically since our initial move here in 2008. First, Ajijic was not 'discovered' by US or Canadian expats (latter is majority in winter btw). Lake Chapala has been the summer and weekend home to wealthy Tapatios since there was a road built from Guadalajara in the 1920s. Many of them are doctors and in the past 15 or so years, some have semi-retired here, or, opened part-time offices at the lake so they can spend more time here than in Guad. Two consortiums of doctors are building a new private clinic and a hospital.

The state of the Lake: water levels are much better since governments have signed agreements around the lake which requires agricultural communities to release waters from the Lerma river and not just use it all themselves. Quality of water per a local expert is better (google Dr. Todd Strong).

Crime: there has always been petty theft...similar to what we also had in Bisbee, which everyone called 'sticky fingers syndrome." Crimes of opportunity, mosty. There was a terrible cartel incident in 2012 (google Mothers Day Massacre, Chapala). All locals (we knew the parents of one victim)....no gringos (other than one who was initially detained and once they realized he was a quasi-gringo, let him go...he had lived here all his life but his family was from Belgium). And there was a crime spree in 2009 I think where a group of 3 from Guad killed a gringo who tried to fight back).
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:31 PM   #10
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Welcome Mexexpat to this wonderful forum.
We settled in Florida after much discussion about Florida vs. Lake Chapala.
Will visit Chapala in the next 2 years.
Looking forward to your posts.
Our other home is in FL...funky little beach town called Gulfport, near DTSP (downtown St. Pete)....know of it
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:34 PM   #11
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I've read and tube'd a lot about the area. It's on our BL of extended travels stays in the years to come..

Thanks for joining. I too (like medved) would welcome your insights on Lake Chapala and the areas nearby.

As a veteran, I found it interesting that they have a large and active American Legion post
I believe it is the 2nd largest Legion Post south of the border. It is in the city of Chapala and they have a very good reasonable restaurant open to the public.
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:40 PM   #12
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If you keep your U.S. house, I guess moving to Mexico is not for the reason of finance.
Not for us, but many expats come here for reasons of cost. We do enjoy a better lifestyle than we do in the US as travel is less expensive and so are our many restaurants. We can well afford to eat out 7 to 10 times a week here which we do not do in the US. I always say MX is 40 or 50 years behind the times than US. Remember when in the 1970s in the US, people started going out to eat more, the beginning of the foodie movement, experiencing ethnic eateries for the first time? It's like that here for the Tapatios now...the most successful restaurants here have to please snowbirds and the Tapatios, to survive. Here's Tripadvisor US page for local places (we can wak to 15+ of them within 15 minutes, most under 10 minutes):
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaura...05-Ajijic.html
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Old 05-12-2018, 02:56 PM   #13
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I believe it is the 2nd largest Legion Post south of the border. It is in the city of Chapala and they have a very good reasonable restaurant open to the public.
I had the pleasure of working projects in Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, Monterrey, and (Oh My Gosh!), Ensenada. The Monterrey project was during some really bad cartel on cartel wars, but if one took solid precautions, it was still okay. Overall, I loved working and travelling in Mexico.

BTW, welcome and thanks for sharing about your journey(s).
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Old 05-12-2018, 03:57 PM   #14
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I had the pleasure of working projects in Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, Monterrey, and (Oh My Gosh!), Ensenada. The Monterrey project was during some really bad cartel on cartel wars, but if one took solid precautions, it was still okay. Overall, I loved working and travelling in Mexico.

BTW, welcome and thanks for sharing about your journey(s).
I'm considering traveling with my family to that area latter this year. Could you please elaborate on what are the solid precautions you recommend?
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Old 05-12-2018, 04:49 PM   #15
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We have a friends that retired in 1997 and sold off everything and moved to Ajijic to live on his pension. He spent five happy years renting there. Then he decided to try other places in Mexico. He was from Vancouver so he missed the ocean. He tried Manzanillo, PV and Mazatlan and he chose Maz. Rented on the water and eventually bought the place he was renting.

In 2003, we spent a lot of time comparing costs and decided to buy in PV in 2007. Since then, he has saved so much by living in Mexico, that he has bought a small apartment in Vancouver to spend summers near his grandchildren.

For us, we dropped our budget in half and improved our quality of life by moving to Mexico for 6 months. We find the mix of people, mostly Americans, to be fascinating. It seems that those who select Mexico have a healthy outlook on life.

Public safety has never been an issue for us. We do not wonder around drunk after midnight, drink cheap booze from all-inclusives, nor flaunt our wealth. We do not drive at night on rural highways. But that is not a sacrifice, merely an observation about who gets in trouble. Also we avoid inviting strangers into our home to avoid anyone casing the joint.

We do the same in Vancouver when selling stuff on craigslist Just common sense.
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Old 05-12-2018, 04:52 PM   #16
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Old 05-12-2018, 06:04 PM   #17
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Our other home is in FL...funky little beach town called Gulfport, near DTSP (downtown St. Pete)....know of it
Not familiar in person, but heard great things about this area.
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Old 05-13-2018, 06:30 AM   #18
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I am very interested in this as I plan on traveling to different places before I retire to check out where Id like to settle.
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Old 05-13-2018, 07:00 AM   #19
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I'm considering traveling with my family to that area latter this year. Could you please elaborate on what are the solid precautions you recommend?
Hi. Pretty much what kcowen said. Not much different than say, Chicago. Miracle Mile, the Pier, waterfront all very safe; as well as the burbs. But wander into public housing areas and known high crime areas - not so wise.

Mexico is no different. Stay where you fit in. Keep an eye on what's happening around you. Stay reasonably sober and drink bottled water.
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Old 05-13-2018, 07:12 AM   #20
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What is the best way to find a week or 2's rental in Lake Chapala? Is there a preferred website to use or agent to contact in the area. We would like to be by the lake.
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