A Peaceful Life and a Home for $201,000 by the Shores of Lake Chapala

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By Carol Kaufman | International Living

Next month, for her 65th birthday, Karen Vrilakas is taking a trip to Morocco, Monaco, and India. “The great thing is, that when I return, I get to come back to my beautiful home in Ajijic,” she says.

The year-round warm weather was a huge draw for Karen when she decided to leave her home of Portland, Oregon for a new adventure in this Mexican lakeside town. “I felt done with all the rain and was fortunate to have discovered Ajijic. Finally, I found a place that could support my aging process. My mother had severe arthritis and I moved her here as well.”

Karen had been visiting Ajijic for 15 years before she made her final move, in the fall of 2016. “I was staying at my friend’s house there for two weeks when I realized that I wanted my own place.” Through a recommendation, Karen found Travis, a friendly, experienced real estate agent.

While taking a walk down a nearby cobblestone street, Karen came upon a sign advertising an open house in a small, gated condo complex. Upon viewing the three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit, she fell in love with the owner’s colorful style and vibe—as well as the small community and the location. She felt ready to make an offer.

Karen flew back to Portland to finish up some business and pack up her belongings while Travis made an offer on her behalf. The owner’s asking price was $249,000. They settled on the final price of $201,000, which was within Karen’s budget. Although the unit was move-in ready, she had it painted inside and out before settling in.

Karen is now the owner of a 1,950-square-foot, two-level condo, paying a yearly maintenance fee of $450, plus a small amount for property taxes. She moved in on Cinco de Mayo, 2016 and she couldn’t be happier.

Karen says, “I found the buying process to be easy. First, I obtained my Mexican permanent visa in Oregon and completed it in Mexico. I then worked with a notario (lawyer), who worked hand-in-hand with my lawyer. Happily for me, all the forms were in both Spanish and English.”

Having a will is a requirement for buying property in Mexico. Karen adds, “You also need to have cash, since mortgages don’t exist in Mexico. For me, the process of transferring money from my U.S. bank to the notario was a breeze.”

As a single woman, Karen observes, “There are plenty of single women living in Ajijic, and I feel completely comfortable being here without a partner. Plus, there are numerous opportunities to meet single people.”

“Since moving to Ajijic, I have immersed myself in the yoga and Buddhist communities and have many good friends. I have carved out a peaceful life for myself, including adopting Scubi, a dog from a local animal rescue,” she says.

Karen’s condo is one of 10 units. Five of them are owner lived in and five are rentals. Karen says, “This is a very friendly group and living here feels safe, since everyone knows each other. Some of the other tenants have keys to my house. We have a common area where folks gather to socialize. I’m in walking distance to everything and half of a block to my bank. What could be better than that?”



3 Reasons I’m Happy I Retired in Mexico

By Beverley Wood | Sixty & Me

“Why do you live in Mexico?”

I get asked that question a lot. And the answer is – for many reasons. I’ll start with the more obvious: great weather, delicious food and incredible culture. I could go on and on but I’ll try to focus. It’s just that every time I turn my head, I see another reason to love this country.

You are My Sunshine – Climate in Cuernavaca

I live in Cuernavaca, Mexico – about 50 miles south of Mexico City in a tropical savanna climate. The tropical part is mitigated by elevation (6,000 feet above sea level) and we never get too hot or too cold. It is known as The Land of Eternal Spring. The temperature rarely dips below 60F (15C) or above 85F (30C) and the sun shines about 250 hours every month.

There are many climates in Mexico. It’s a larger country than most realize. Geographically, it measures 750,000 square miles (about three times the size of Texas) and has a population of 120 million. Both the Pacific coast and the Gulf coast of Mexico can be hot and humid in the summer – which is why we don’t live at the beach.

The rainy season in Mexico is May to October. The Gulf coast is wetter than the Pacific coast. The farther south you go, the warmer it gets in the winter. The north of Mexico gets snow in winter at higher elevations and sometimes, they seriously have to close the main highways because of it.

There are many things to consider when choosing where to live in Mexico and it all depends on what is important to you. For us, it was the appeal of a consistent Mediterranean climate that brought us to the central highlands.

We tried several locations inside Mexico before settling on this one, and the climate was a large part of our choice. As was the proximity. It is 50 miles to a world-class city with a population of 22 million. There’s not much we want that we can’t find.

Food of the Gods

I’m a foodie – and Mexican food is highly sophisticated. Like the weather, your culinary experience can vary greatly with regional styles. Mole (“mo-lay”) sauces traditionally hail from the state of Oaxaca – but the most revered and best known is the Mole Poblano from Puebla. This velvet sauce is made with chocolate, as well as the obligatory ingredients of fruit, chili pepper and nuts.

Chile Poblano, the national dish, is also from Puebla: stuffed poblano peppers covered in walnut cream sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. It displays the green, white and red of the Mexican flag.

Cuisine from the Yucatán Peninsula is full of African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern influences. In Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean ingredients rule and are evident in the state’s signature dish, Pescado a la Veracruzana, with tomato, capers and olives. Not exactly your Taco Bell menu.

Culturally Speaking

Mexico is a blend of native (Mesoamerican), Spanish and other immigrant cultures. When Columbus got to Florida, they’d been in business 9,500 years already. Known for its folk art, some of the country’s most colorfully embroidered garments, baskets and rugs come from Oaxaca while Tonala, in Jalisco state, is famous for its glass, paper mache and hammered tin work.

But it’s the visual art that followed the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), inspired by political and historical themes, that turned the world’s head. Artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros put Mexico on the art map. Today, Mexico City is a hotbed of trendy art galleries and world-class museums. In fact, it has 150 museums, more than any other city in the world.

And the country is very serious about its fiestas. Most celebrations are a fusion of pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs. And they are all big parties. From Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) to Day of the Crazies (Dia de los Locos), you can almost find a fiesta every day. The Mexicans love to celebrate. So much so that the Christmas season begins on December 11 (The Virgen of Guadalupe‘s birthday) and ends on February 2 (Dia de la Candelaria).

But it’s not all margaritas and mariachi bands. There is outstanding vibrant music, dance, architecture and cinema. You can just Google Alejandro González Iñárritu. Domestic flights are dirt cheap. Return airfare to the beach at Puerto Vallarta is about $150 USD, so a weekend away is affordable. There is plenty to keep my 62-year-old mind engaged and curious and learning.

How Can I Move to Mexico?

Your next question may be: How can I move to Mexico? Undoubtedly, the prospect can feel overwhelming when you first begin to consider it. But it’s not difficult and there are many useful online resources that make it much easier than it was in the past.

I did all my research online first. I had binders and print outs and Excel sheets. Yet we hesitated. But once we had a safety net, things moved very quickly. When we moved to Mexico in 2012 we came with our two dogs and just the belongings that fit in our Honda Accord minivan. And we knew we could always go back home if it didn’t work out.

That was the option that got me over that barrier of all those “what ifs”. We can always go back. Don’t look at this as if it has to be forever. It’s something you are trying out. If you have a safety net, your fear will dissolve. And your future will burst wide open.

Once we settled in, our only regret was that we hadn’t done this sooner. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

In the meantime, I’ve just noticed that I need to go pick some pomegranates, limes, lemons, mandarin oranges, avocadoes, kumquat and papaya. Hasta Luego!


Will Moving to Mexico Affect My Social Security Benefits?

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At least once or twice a week, a reader will write me asking if he or she will be able to collect Social Security benefits while living in Mexico. In the interest of reducing my daily email workload, I decided to write an article on the topic.

U.S. Citizens

Great news! If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can still receive your Social Security payments while living in Mexico. You can even have the payments deposited directly into a Mexican bank account.

Here’s an interesting statistic from the U.S. Social Security Administration: In the month of April alone, 58,710 payments were sent to beneficiaries in Mexico.

If you do have your payments sent to a Mexican bank account, you may be required to submit an annual report to the U.S. Government. You can learn more about that here: FBAR.

Non-U.S. Citizens

When it comes to non-U.S. citizens, the answer is not as simple. Whether or not the person will be eligible to receive payments while living in Mexico will depend on several factors.

Maintaining Your Benefits

It’s very important to keep an accurate mailing address on file with the Social Security Administration. Periodically, they will send you a questionnaire to determine that you are still eligible to receive benefits. If you don’t respond, the payments will stop.

Some recipients will be required to complete a questionnaire every year between May and June. The annual requirement applies to recipients who reside outside the country and:

  • Are age 90 or over;
  • Have a representative payee; or
  • Are not receiving benefits as a spouse, widow(er), parent, mother or father, or disabled widow(er)

I know the wording of that last line is a little confusing, but don’t blame me. These were taken directly from the written guidelines provided by the Social Security Administration.

Benefits Offices in Mexico

The U.S. government even has three federal benefits offices in Mexico to assist you:

  • Federal Benefits Unit
  • United States Consulate General
  • Paseo de la Victoria 3650
  • 32534 Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
  • Mexico
  • Phone: 01-800-772-6394 (within Mexico only)
  • Fax: 1-656-227-3501 Email:FBU.Ciudad.Juarez@ssa.gov

  • Federal Benefits Unit
  • United States Consulate General
  • Progreso 175
  • 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco
  • Mexico
  • Phone: 01-800-772-6394 (within Mexico only)
  • Fax: 52-33-3268-0803
  • Email: FBU.Guadalajara@ssa.gov

  • Federal Benefits Unit
  • United States Embassy
  • Paseo de la Reforma 305
  • 06500 Mexico D. F.
  • Mexico
  • Phone: 01-800-772-6394 (within Mexico only) or 052-55-1102-6300
  • Fax: 052-55-1102-6301 Email:FBU.Mexico.City@ssa.gov

Let’s Wrap This Up

Mexico is a great retirement destination for Americans looking for a way to make their money go further without sacrificing their quality of life. I know several expats who live very well in Mexico on just their monthly Social Security payments.


7 Strategies for a Long and Healthy Life

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By Tom Sightings | U.S. News

To some extent how long we live – and how healthy we are – is beyond our control. A lot depends on the birth lottery: How long your parents lived to a large degree determines how long you will live. Meanwhile, there are all kinds of studies and controversies surrounding the value of diet, exercise and a host of other behaviors.

Still, while there are no guarantees in life, these are seven strategies that most health experts agree can have a major impact not only on how long we’re likely to live, but on how we feel as well.

  1. Eat a good diet. You’ve probably seen lots of fad diets come and go. But the real answer is no secret. In general, people who live the longest, and feel the best, are those who avoid too much saturated fat in the form of meat or dairy products. They restrict the amount of sugar and salt in their diets. Instead, they drink lots of water, tea and coffee and perhaps a small amount of alcohol. They also consume lots of fruits and vegetables. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that any diet rich in fruits and vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

  1. Get plenty of sleep. Various studies have determined that a good night’s sleep leads to lower blood pressure and boosts your immune system, making your body better able to fight off infection. Other research suggests that too little sleep might be linked to an increased risk for stroke and a higher risk of cancer. Some studies have even suggested that sleep deprivation affects the brain, leading us to make poor decisions that are detrimental to our health.
  2. Get some exercise. Experts argue over how much is enough, but everyone agrees that some exercise is better than none at all. The CDC recommends sweating our way through aerobics for at least two and a half hours a week. We also should engage in at least some moderate strength training, such as lifting weights, doing sit-ups and push-ups, digging in the garden or practicing yoga. The important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy, that you will keep doing and that will help you sleep at night.
  3. Drive safely. We sometimes forget in this age of seat belts, airbags and crash zones that traffic accidents are still a major cause of death among Americans – some 40,000 deaths in 2016, according to the National Safety Council, the most in ten years. So wear your seat belt, obey speed limits and other traffic laws and watch out for aggressive drivers. Also, try to drive during daylight hours, plan your trips ahead of time and ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects of any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take.
  4. Maintain an active social life. People who enjoy a close family life or have plenty of friends often live longer than people who are lonely. The protective effect of having fulfilling relationships is comparable to that of quitting smoking or losing a significant amount of weight. Nobody knows exactly how the health mechanism works. Some experts have suggested that being engaged in a community gives people a sense of connection and security, may promote healthy behavior such as exercising and eating well and helps people avoiding self-destructive habits like taking drugs or drinking too much. You might find it easier to stick to a healthy diet, or keep to an exercise program, if you’re doing it with family or like-minded friends.
  5. Stay involved and engaged. Mortality tables show that death rates for older men who are still working are half of what they are for men of the same age who are fully retired. The mortality trends for women are similar, though less pronounced. Researchers have concluded that it’s not working that makes the difference, but staying engaged in life and involved in something bigger than your own personal problems. Self-sufficiency is not the key to a longer life. Staying connected to a community is the secret.
  6. Go to the doctor. Flu and pneumonia comprise the seventh leading cause of death among older Americans. We should all get the pneumonia vaccine at least once and the flu vaccine every year in the fall. We should also keep up with recommended screenings, such as colorectal tests like the fecal occult blood test and a colonoscopy that can find polyps in your colon before they turn into cancer and while they can be safely removed. The CDC points out that over 60 million Americans have high blood pressure, yet fewer than half of them have it under control. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and the leading cause of illness and death among older adults. So we all need to get our blood pressure checked, take our medications as prescribed and make the necessary lifestyle changes that will make us healthier and happier.


Lake Chapala Real Estate – Mexico Retirement At A Lower Price

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By Realestate eye

Why retire on Lake Chapala, Mexico? There are several compelling reasons; a relaxing lifestyle on one of the most beautiful lake locations on this continent, astounding views of that lake and the surrounding hills, the beautiful nature all around, perfect for relaxing drives, bike rides, or walks along the lakefront, and the quaint, traditional Mexican villages of Ajijic and Chapala are only a few of the reasons why Lake Chapala Real Estate is ideal for retirement. One of the best things about Lake Chapala is that it’s very affordable – both in terms of lifestyle and in terms of real state.

While soon-to-be retirees in the U.S. and in Canada choose to live in Mexico because of the low cost of life, Lake Chapala is the Mexico Retirement Community which offers the best balance of an established community of American and Canadian retirees, excellent services and conveniences, and a low cost of life.

The cost of day to day items, restaurants, attractions and activities is, in fact, so affordable that the area is advertised even for middle-class Mexicans as a cheap destination. On the other hand, many of Mexico’s beachfront destinations, while offering an excellent quality of life at a price that’s accessible to foreigners, are considered to be inaccessibly expensive by many Mexicans. (Another wonderful thing that many retirees comment about their life in Lake Chapala is the positive relationship between the American and Canadian community and the Mexican locals and visitors.)

Considering that Ajijic and Chapala are cheap even for Mexican visitors, this means that retirement savings will last that much longer here. The first time retirees will notice their savings, both compared to back home and to the rest of Mexico, is the property prices. Most cities that are established as favorites for Americans and Canadians have home prices starting around $250,000 US, and this would usually be a “fixer-upper” – something you have to put into shape before you use it.

In Chapala decent homes for a comfortable retirement can be found staring as low as $150,000. Of course, the Lake Chapala area offers homes considerably more expensive ($800,000 US and up) for those who prefer higher-end luxury, but this just means that the buyer will be getting that much more luxury for his money, compared to other locations. The cost of living, including day to day products, health care services and shopping is likewise very affordable in Ajijic, Chapala and the surrounding villages.

The fact that the Lake Chapala area is cheap, however, does not mean that it is any way second best. The area offers several miles of beautiful boardwalks and many miles of Lake Front, with tennis courts, volleyball courts, and many other facilities for enjoying day to day life. There are also great restaurants and many, many social clubs organized by the Americans and Canadians who are already here.

Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is only 60 km away. On the Chapala-side of the city, there is an international airport, which has a wide range of direct flights to all major North American destinations. Some of Mexico’s highest-reputation state-of-the-art health care is available in Guadalajara at prices considerably lower than prices north of the border. The city also provides more opportunities for shopping and site-seeing for anyone who needs a break from relaxing.

According to many visitors, Chapala is an ideal place to spend a couple of weeks, a weekend or just a few hours; imagine actually living in this beautiful, relaxing place for entire retirement!.


Happiest Place to Live – Mexico

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By Real Estate Trendy

Are you looking for the best place for a second home or for your retirement? Mexico’s pristine beaches, delicious cuisine, and the promise of adventure are waiting for you. One of the most desirable vacation and retirement destinations in the world, Mexico offers so many benefits that give travelers and expats so many reasons to keep coming back and even consider the country as a place to set up home or to retire. As one of the happiest places to live, the people of Mexico are sure to put a smile on your face and make your decision to live in Mexico one you will never regret.

Mexico Offers Many Reasons to Smile

Mexico News Daily recently published an announcement claiming that Mexico is now the second happiest country in the world after Costa Rica. The ranking was based on research conducted by reputable organizations such as Gallup, New Economics Foundation, the Happy Planet Index, and the World Happiness Report, publishing findings for 2017.

General Well Being in Mexico

When it comes to the well being of its residents, Mexico ranked higher than other neighboring countries, even with its relatively low income compared with that of the United States. This proves money cannot guarantee happiness and satisfaction.

Sense of Satisfaction is the Secret

Defined as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”, well being is a concept that can be used to describe the overall feeling of satisfaction with your life. According to the research, generally speaking, the people of Mexico have learned to enjoy their lives even despite the problems that may come their way. It would seem that our attitude towards happiness and satisfaction has a lot to do with our sense of well being.

Living longer lives

Mexican residents enjoy a 76.4 average life expectancy. Long and healthy lives are normal in this happy country. One important factor that leads to this statistic is the availability of affordable healthcare in most areas of the country. Also, with a healthier attitude towards life’s problems comes less stress. Less stress leads to fewer health problems resulting in longer life expectancy.

Happy attitudes

We cannot deny that having enough money is essential to our well being and sense of happiness, but many would agree that the goal of becoming rich is not the most important thing in life. According to the article, this is true among the people in Mexico. Even on modest incomes, you will find living in Mexico very comfortable and satisfying. The cost of living here is very affordable with all the utilities such as food, housing, and other essentials relatively less expensive compared to other countries.

Peace of mind

Mexico is most famous for its “mañana” laidback atmosphere, which is, perhaps one of the most appealing part of living in this happy country. Some people may find the slow-paced lifestyle frustrating, but this unhurried lifestyle makes for happier people. Healthier lives are results of having less chaos and less stress. Even with the majority of Mexicans working six days a week, they always find time to relax and to enjoy life to the full.


Everyday Pleasures are My Favorite Things in Puerto Vallarta


By Marcia Gage | International living

From the vibrant colors of nature and local artistic creations, to the sounds of wildlife, roaming musicians, and multilingual conversations, Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast is teeming with life.

If you are already content or perhaps even happy, your mood will intensify with a walk along Banderas Bay on the city’s famous malecón (esplanade). If you are facing a life challenge or just not feeling 100%, immersing yourself in the landscape and culture is sure to lift your spirits.

There are so many intriguing tours, activities, and places to go in Puerto Vallarta. But when considering my favorite things about my Mexican home, I find it is the everyday pleasures that make it an exceptional place to live.

I love the fact that you can see donkeys and roosters just steps away from cabarets and fine eateries. It is wonderful having the culinary variety of food similar to what you may find in New York City…from street vendors to impeccable white tablecloth service. Whether you opt for a hot dog, taco, homemade pasta, seafood, or a succulent steak, your meal will likely not cost even half of what you would pay in any U.S metro area.

At Sapori di Sicilia, I can have homemade pasta with a savory Bolognese sauce, all the fresh baked bread one could possibly want, an excellent glass of merlot and house made limoncello for dessert, all for about $18 or $19. The same meal at one of my favorite Italian restaurants back home would be at least $40.

At Diablos Fusion Gourmet, just down the street from us, my husband, Judd, loves the steak they have there for about $13. He loves it even more on Wednesday when it’s half price. You would be lucky to get a steak of similar quality anywhere in Minneapolis for under $30.

The street musicians and other performers can be very entertaining—I especially love the families with the little kids singing their hearts out.

I appreciate the way the Mexican people not only tolerate my efforts to speak Spanish but even encourage it. Yet if you are looking to have a conversation in your native tongue, you will not have to look far, especially if you speak English or French. There are all kinds of expat organizations and clubs, but even if you spend some time in a coffee shop, bar, or just at the beach, you may soon find yourself in an interesting conversation before you know it.

But my very favorite thing about living in Puerto Vallarta is the Pacific Ocean…or more specifically, the beautiful Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay). We live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for $1,150 a month. An apartment in Minneapolis in a comparable area would easily cost $2,000 a month. We are in a very residential, art-oriented community. When you walk down the adjacent street, it is just a couple of minutes to the bay, so I try to get my daily fix.

In the summer, a walk along the malecon right after rainfall in the early morning is incredibly peaceful, and the gray and brown hues of the water and the Sierra Madres mountain range is sometimes a welcome change from the usual brilliant colors.

From seagulls to frigates, it is also a joy to watch the birds. My favorite birds are the large brown pelicans. They seem to synchronize their dramatic dives in search of their next meal. I have even seen the occasional whale in the distance or once an entire pod, traveling with a purpose along the bay.

Perhaps moving to a new place teaches us that the most meaningful parts of life are those available to us on a daily basis.