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I live in Loveland, Colorado, just turned 60 and would love to be retired within the next year. I’m looking for a more affordable place to retire and am thinking about Mexico — somewhere I can live for between $800 and $1,200 a month.
Ideally, I would like a pretty big expat community, but a place that still retains the feel of Mexican culture (Cabo feels like SoCal to me, so nothing like that); somewhere with a decent number of cultural things to do like music and plays; and good food. I’d also like a moderate climate and to be somewhat near the ocean. And I would like the ratio of single men to women to be 10:1 — I’m kidding!
Sadly, there does not appear to be a fitting spot with that coveted 10:1 male to female ratio (but if I find it, I’ll let you know, and we’ll set up our own dating service!), but I do think I’ve found some excellent, affordable places for you to retire in Mexico.
While it’s harder to retire on that little money in America, Mexico does have more options. But, these spots come with downsides — some may have higher crime (the U.S. Department of State gives Mexico a level 2 safety warning noting that you should “exercise increased caution” when visiting and highlights areas to avoid traveling to), and others are extremely hot in the summers. That said, here are some locations that might fit the bill.
Beach and waterfront promenade in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico at twilight.
Mazatlan: Though there are touristy areas in this Pacific Coast resort town (John Wayne and Gary Cooper used to go marlin fishing here), there’s also plenty to fall in love with, like cobblestone streets, neoclassical and French Baroque architecture and cultural amenities like theater and art galleries. And as The Washington Post recently reported of Mazatlan’s gorgeous historic Centro neighborhood: “Time and again people described the Centro to us as ‘Mexican with some tourists,’ rather than a tourist town (ahem, Puerto Vallarta) with some Mexicans.”
Janet Blaser, a 63-year-old former journalist who left Santa Cruz for Mazatlan, told MarketWatch that she loves the nature here too, specifically the “beautiful glittering Pacific Ocean, warm and swimmable.” And it’s inexpensive to live here: Blaser says she lives on about $1,000 a month, and you can learn more about the cost of living there. She adds that though it’s helpful to have a car, many expats get by without one.
It’s important to note that crime is an issue in the area (the Sinola state, in which Mazatlan is located, is on the United States’ “do not travel” list due to crime, but the U.S. does permit its employees to go to parts of Mazatlan, and Blaser feels safe where she lives). Added perk: Mazatlan’s weather. Though it gets hot in the summer, it’s milder than in Merida (one of my other suggestions below).
The beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Zihuatanejo: International Living’s Executive Editor Jennifer Stevens recommends this Pacific Coast beach town for expats — and it’s easy to see why. For one, it’s gorgeous, as Condé Nast Traveler wrote: “This swath of the state is slammed up against the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains, with cliffs and ravines blanketed by mangrove, oak, and black olive, and tangled with subtropical shrubs, agaves, and snaking vines…Zihua (pronounced “zee-wha”), as it’s thankfully shortened to, is especially hemmed in by nature—by the scooped-out bay to the west, with its sliver of silt-fine beach and palm trees, and by hills in every other direction.”
And the city itself isn’t too shabby either, with cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, bars and tiny shops, as well as a central market where you can pick up the night’s dinner and artisan goodies in the same trip. All these perks could have made Zihua super touristy but as Lonely Planet writes: “for the most part, Zihua has retained its historic charm.” (Those are just some of the reasons that “The Shawshank Redemption’s” fictional character Andy Dufresne might have dreamed of this spot while he sat in prison for decades.)
Plus, the climate is appealing for most of the year, with temperatures tending to range between the high 60s to the high 80s and low 90s. What’s more, even on a meager salary, you can likely afford Zihua: International Living estimates that a couple can live on about $1,300 a month, and singletons on even less; it also notes that you can get around on public transportation.
However, one big downside is that crime is a major issue in this state, as the U.S. State Department has noted.
Mérida in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
Merida: You won’t get bored in Merida — which boasts an abundance of colonial history, “excellent cuisine,” “thriving markets” and “events happening just about every night,” Lonely Planet notes of the area, adding: “Since the Spanish conquest, Mérida has been the cultural capital of the entire Yucatán Peninsula.”
Though it’s not right on the beach, you’re only about 40 minutes from the sugar-sand beaches of the Yucatan’s Gulf Coast, and International Living, which estimates its expat population at about 4,000, named it one of the five best spots in Mexico for U.S. expats. And though tourists do come to Merida, Lonely Planet is quick to point out that it’s “a tourist town too big to feel like a tourist trap.”
However, one big downside for you might be the hot and humid summer weather (temperatures can top 100 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, though winter temperatures are often in the mid-60s and 70s). But the low cost of living may help smooth over those downsides: International Living notes that a couple can live on about $1,400 a month here, and singletons on even less thanks to lower rent, food and other costs. You also may be able to get by without a car, but it’s easier with one. So in summer, head back to Colorado for a visit with old friends!