Why Ecuador is a Popular Place to Retire

Over the past decade, retiring in Ecuador has shown Americans many pros and cons. Embarking to this South American nation is a popular way for retirees to stretch their dollars further than at home, and the pluses widely outweigh the minuses. On one hand, Ecuador offers ex-patriot retirees plenty of benefits, ranging from a gorgeous environment to a low cost of living. Yet, there are some definite challenges that might make folks looking for an easy escape think twice about relocating there.

The Pros of Retiring in Ecuador

For just under $1000 per month, the average American retiree can move to many parts of Ecuador and enjoy a pretty decent standard of living. Right now, cost control is critical for those who hope to retire, particularly baby boomers who have seen their pensions, 401ks, and IRAs suffer mightily during the global financial crisis. For just a few hundred dollars beyond your monthly Social Security pay out, it's possible to comfortably pay the rent and take in world class entertainment.

Another major plus in Ecuador's column as a retirement destination is its climate. The Latin American nation is a warm one, being situated right on the equator. Yet, it offers plenty of diverse climates for those who don't want to end up stuck in sweltering humidity all the time. Check out cities like Cuenca in the cool Andes mountains, or Vilcabamba, which rests in a rainforest valley famous for its health promoting qualities.

As an American, you won't be alone in Ecuador either. Thanks to a surging economy, relatively peaceful political stability (at least compared to other neighbors across the continent), and affordable living standards, the country is drawing in a greater number of retirees every year. Lively ex-patriot communities from the United States and Europe have sprung up around the three major urban centers: Quito, Cuenca, and Vilcabamba.

Americans routinely band together to enjoy a sense of camaraderie, and many end up getting along far better with their neighbors than they would at home in a US retirement community. Additionally, you'll meet plenty of interesting characters who are part of the community, but not necessarily retirees. Middle aged entrepreneurs and travelers who want to experience off the grid living routinely make Ecuador their primary or secondary home.

That's not to belittle the locals though. The average Ecuadorian citizen is friendly and welcoming to Americans. The people appreciate the American dollars flowing into their economy, and they have long enjoyed a cordial relationship with the government and people of the United States.

Understanding the Cons

Despite the many pros of retiring in Ecuador, there are a few serious cons worth mentioning. The first is the whole truth about affordability. Living costs are exceedingly low on a monthly basis, but it's best to pick up real estate immediately, and own it outright.

The good news is that modern homes are cheap in many parts of Ecuador, and options range from humble bungalows all the way up to luxurious estates. If you want to dig into low monthly costs, then try to tap your nest egg or sell your home in the United States before moving, and use those funds to acquire housing. Renting is a possibility after you get a foothold in Ecuador, but due to fluctuating prices and long term spikes in cost, you should strive to own your real estate as soon as possible.

The language barrier is another powerful challenge that confronts many Americans. If you intend to go out comfortably in everyday life, it's critical that you understand what people, documents, and signs are saying. While more affluent Ecuadorians are usually able to understand English, don't expect most natives to have a fluent understanding of your home language.

Fortunately, learning Spanish isn't difficult, but it does add some prep time before you can move there. Begin picking up on the language as soon as possible, once you've decided to move to Ecuador. Take classes from a local community college, or pick up special software like Rosetta Stone's Spanish course to learn the finer points. Make sure to immerse yourself with native speakers and Spanish media, or everyday speech in Ecuador will blur past you faster than you can comprehend.

The same common sense regarding your environment in the United States applies to Ecuador as well. Although most parts of the country are safe, there is a slight chance of petty theft or gang activity in poorer urban areas. Just stay away from these locales and you'll be fine. As long as your home is in an ex-pat area and you avoid entering questionable zones for entertainment at odd hours, Ecuador is no more dangerous than the average American state.

Overall, retiring in Ecuador holds far more pros than cons. As more Americans pick up on the truth about this country, it's rapidly becoming one of the most popular retirement destinations in the world. If you want to retire sooner and stretch your nest egg further than you can in the States, consider relocating to Ecuador to live out your golden years.

Retiring in Ecuador - The City of Cuenca
Credit: Photo by Marc Figueras