Guatemala Retirement

Open for all topics related to travel in Guatemala however we focus on Xela!.

Guatemala Retirement

Postby vantexan » Sun Oct 24, 2010 9:35 am

Hi everyone, been awhile since I've posted here. I've spent a few years researching retiring overseas from the States. I was considering Xela but was a bit discouraged by reports of violent crime. So I really delved into several other countries, especially Argentina. What I've learned is that things are very fluid in much of Latin America. Conditions change rapidly. Argentina for example became the world's best bargain in 2002 when it's economy collapsed. Now it's booming, inflation is very high. A highly respected American travel writer living in Buenos Aires, Paul Terhorst, said recently that costs in American Dollars were doubling about every 3 years, despite the exchange remaining close to 4 Pesos to the Dollar. Combine that with the cost of traveling to and from the States and it's just not worth it.

Looked closely at Colombia and Ecuador. Colombia has alot to offer, but has become more expensive with stability. I like Cuenca, Ecuador, but as it has become popular due to International Living Magazine it too has become a bit expensive. And getting there is expensive too.

What got me looking at Guatemala again is the ability to fly cheaply to Florida, where I have family, on Spirit Airlines. Combine that with being able to drive to Texas, being able to quickly get to Mexico for visa renewal, and the very reasonable cost of living makes Guatemala very attractive. That there's an established expat population there puts it over the top.

What it comes down to for me is do I want Antigua's better weather or Xela's better facilities? When all is said and done is the lifestyle in Antigua worth the extra cost? And a big question for me is how much would you consider is necessary to live a basic, not luxurious, lifestyle in Xela for a single adult, and how much more would a similar lifestyle cost in Antigua? I know that can vary, but would appreciate opinions of what you consider the minimum you are comfortable with to get by.

As far as violent crime goes, if some of you have been there for years, and many others come and go without problems, then most likely I'll be fine if I'm not carrying expensive items or out walking late at night.

Thanks for your advice,
Wade
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby admin » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:34 pm

Hi Wade,

Welcome back!

How much money is enough?

I know several single expats living on $600 to $1200/month. Some choose to live in communal [guest house] settings costing approx: $100 - $150/month with shared bath and kitchen as way to save money. Others have found small apts by keeping an eye open for available places around town and by word of mouth. They all seem to have comfortable lifestyles, they eat out but not all the time a few of them drink heavily which has to cost something!!

There are also a few expats living on $1500 to $3000 a month. They might have cars, rent houses or multi room apts and enjoy the finer things like international PO box with online ordering for that must have e-bay or Amazon item. They seem to eat out most of the time at their favorite hang outs and few have girlfriends which they help with money. They also take more frequent trips to the USA or other travel..etc.

Things are definitely getting more expensive here gas has been moving up and food prices jump sporadically. Here is a sample list. Prices vary greatly between the outdoor markets and the grocery stores so it depends a lot on where you buy.

Exchange rate of Q8.00/$1.00

Gallon of gas cost: Q28.00/$3.50
Gallon of milk: Q38.00/$4.75
Loaf of bread: Q17.00/$2.12
5lb Sugar: Q16.00/$2.00
bananas: Q0.25each/$0.02
Washington State Apple: 3 for Q10.00/$1.25
5 Gallons water delivered: Q15.00/$1.87
35lb propane tank: Q185.00/$23.12
3 litre bottle Pepsi: Q15.00/$1.87
1 litre Gallo Beer: Q25/$3.12
16 ounce can of Gallo: Q8.00/$1.00
1lb of beef: Q22 and up/$2.75
1 lb of chicken: Q11/$1.37
12 carrots: Q7.00/$0.87

Ok, see you in Xela!

Tom
http://www.xelapages.com - Study Spanish in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala!
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby Felipe » Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:14 pm

Wade, I am also happy that you are considering coming back to Xela. I have spent some time in Antigua, and a lot of time in Xela. For the most part, I prefer Xela, though it does get a bit cold here sometimes. Today it is beautiful, so, for the moment, I am not considering leaving.

Regarding other Latin American countries, a long-term member of Xela's gringo community recently spent a few weeks in Montevideo, Uruguay. He liked the more European feel of the city, especially the lower crime rate and higher literacy rate, but he was really shocked by the cost. Overall, he said it was a nice place to visit, but he couldn't afford to live there.

Tom did a good job of summarizing the costs of various staples, so I don't need to repeat that. What I will tell you based on my own experience is that almost anything that is imported costs more in Xela than it would cost you in Florida. A junk car worth $1,000 in Florida may cost you closer to $2,000 here. This is because of high import taxes which are one of the principal revenue streams for the Guatemalan government. The bad news is you can't get around paying the import tax for a car since you will eventually need to register it here. The good news is that a retired person has little need for a car in Xela, much less in Antigua. Of course this is a lifestyle decision.

Almost anything besides a car, you can import in your personal luggage without paying import taxes. These include cameras, computers, phones, ipods, small kitchen gadgets, small pieces of furniture, clothes, etc. If you will be visiting family frequently in Florida, get used to your gringo friends handing you shopping lists before you leave. This usually happens to me when I drive my pickup to Texas.

Here are my thoughts on crime. I have been living in Guatemala off and on since 2002. I have never been a victim of violence or even threat of violence. (Knock on wood.) I have had things stolen, usually through my own carelessness. First incident: I was a discoteca in Xela and got up to dance with a Guatemalan woman. When I returned to my table, my favorite hooded sweatshirt, from the University of Washington, was gone. Second incident: I left my car unlocked with a backpack in the front seat. When I came back to the car, the backpack was gone along with the books I had inside of it. Third incident: I left the same car parked at night the near the Parque Central in Xela while I went on a dinner date. When I came back, the car battery was gone. Fourth incident (a bit more complicated): I bought a portion of a property. The seller still lives next door to me. There is a two-story wall between the two properties now, but for several months we shared a patio. Having no reason to distrust my neighbors, I sometimes left windows open that adjoined the patio. One day, my digital camera disappeared. Someone had obviously climbed in the window, but it would have been difficult to figure out who in my neighbor's family did it and it just didn't seem worth it at that time to pursue it with the police. I lock my doors and windows now, even those opening on to the patio. Other than the last incident, they all could have been easily predicted. When I go out at night, I don't carry anything more than my house key and maybe Q100-200, whatever I might spend that night. Unless you expect to use them, there is not a lot of reason to carry a phone, credit card, passport, etc.

Good luck with your decision and please feel free to visit Cafe El Calvario if you come to Xela again. Most of our customers are locals, but we also have some expat regulars, just like Tom and Marilu at Xelapages do.
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby vantexan » Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:01 pm

Hi Tom and Felipe, Great advice for anyone contemplating moving to Xela. I wish I could tell you I'm on the way there, but it's 6 years until I can take my pension early. I'll have to decide at that point whether I want to retire then or wait and save more. But I can honestly say that I've looked at literally every place out there and Guatemala looks to be my best choice. I had considered buying a RV and keeping to the northern area of Mexico to be able to pick up Dish satellite tv. But northern Mexico has gotten crazy and doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon. You probably heard of the couple jetskiing on Falcon Lake on the border where the husband got shot and killed. Came out that cartel guys thought he was from a rival cartel spying on them. There have been blockades on highways south of the border where cartel gunmen dressed as police or army were looking for men from rival cartels infiltrating their area. I'm part Cherokee, occasionally get mistaken for Hispanic by Hispanics who speak to me in Spanish. Me driving around by myself in parts of Mexico might prove fatal. Speaking of cars, I'd like to bring one down but sounds like I'd be better off walking, just another good reason to be in Xela.

Hope to buy y'all a beer some day!
Wade
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby Gimmi » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:54 am

Tom, Felix, Wade:

Thanks! I have read nothing here that encourages me to reconsider yet my long-term plan of retiring to Guatemala, and for that matter Xela. I like Xela weather, and don't think it's cold. I live in Connecticut so perhaps that is influential.

I'm one of those Americans planning/hoping that Social Security still exists when I need it. If not, I'm screwed since I can't afford to both retire and live in my own home. But it's 11 years away before I'm eligible; my pension will be less than $300/month additional so not much to count on there. And I'm quite aware of how the past 11 years have flown by! So I'm hoping to stay healthy and alive.

I would certainly be in Tom's observed $600-$1200 budget range, with a slight cushion to fly home yearly to visit family. And for sure I see myself eating lots of $.02 bananas and $.07 carrots. The beer seems to be no bargain, guess I'll have to make it. Of course in 11 years things will have changed pricewise and many otherwises.

Felipe, crime has crawled into sleepy New England towns like mine -- Salisbury, CT -- and what happened to you could and does happen here. I've felt safe during my stays in Xela, but you never know. I don't treat it like Salisbury -- more like I treat NYC.

See you next summer.
Jim
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby xelawho? » Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:53 pm

there's a question that you have to ask yourself that only you can answer - what are the things you can't stand to live without?

because some things are expensive here, and some are non-existent (and ridiculously expensive to get shipped) and other things that you may take for granted in the States (a well-formed sidewalk, a functioning public library, a liberal scattering of green areas throughout the city) we will sadly just never have.

the weather's never going to improve much (unless we catch a break on global climate change) and there are definitely other parts of Guatemala with milder climates.

but I would bring a car. not for city driving - but for day trips, visa runs and supermarket shopping, it is a blessing.
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featuring the most awesome map of Xela ever made
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby vantexan » Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:27 pm

Hi Jim, Have you considered using a reverse mortgage on your home? A good way to create your own pension.

Wade

Gimmi wrote:Tom, Felix, Wade:

Thanks! I have read nothing here that encourages me to reconsider yet my long-term plan of retiring to Guatemala, and for that matter Xela. I like Xela weather, and don't think it's cold. I live in Connecticut so perhaps that is influential.

I'm one of those Americans planning/hoping that Social Security still exists when I need it. If not, I'm screwed since I can't afford to both retire and live in my own home. But it's 11 years away before I'm eligible; my pension will be less than $300/month additional so not much to count on there. And I'm quite aware of how the past 11 years have flown by! So I'm hoping to stay healthy and alive.

I would certainly be in Tom's observed $600-$1200 budget range, with a slight cushion to fly home yearly to visit family. And for sure I see myself eating lots of $.02 bananas and $.07 carrots. The beer seems to be no bargain, guess I'll have to make it. Of course in 11 years things will have changed pricewise and many otherwises.

Felipe, crime has crawled into sleepy New England towns like mine -- Salisbury, CT -- and what happened to you could and does happen here. I've felt safe during my stays in Xela, but you never know. I don't treat it like Salisbury -- more like I treat NYC.

See you next summer.
Jim
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby Gimmi » Mon Oct 25, 2010 5:21 pm

Wade,

Alas, my house seems to be appraised for less than I owe -- using the online appraisals sites, such as my own bank's. I can easily make the payments if the rates stay low (it's a variable rate), but I can't refinance. So we'll see where I am in 11 years. Perhaps it will be nearly paid off, and I'll get some of that money back. Or maybe I can rent both houses (2 on one property) and have some more income to work with in retirement.

Meanwhile, I'm otherwise debt free. Can't have everything.

jb
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Re: Guatemala Retirement

Postby vantexan » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:35 am

Gimmi wrote:Wade,

Alas, my house seems to be appraised for less than I owe -- using the online appraisals sites, such as my own bank's. I can easily make the payments if the rates stay low (it's a variable rate), but I can't refinance. So we'll see where I am in 11 years. Perhaps it will be nearly paid off, and I'll get some of that money back. Or maybe I can rent both houses (2 on one property) and have some more income to work with in retirement.

Meanwhile, I'm otherwise debt free. Can't have everything.

jb



You are right though, the years will fly by. Seems like I've been planning this forever but now I can see it coming together. I spent a year in Stamford in '88-'89, know what you mean about cold weather!

Wade
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