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All the nothing

There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
--Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

I'm retiring and moving to Mexico.

When I've shared this news with friends and family, the response has been unanimously congratulatory. People are really happy for you when you retire. A few people told me I am lucky. I responded, "Not lucky, just old."

A lot of people have had questions. So here's the Q&A.

Why Mexico?
I made my first visit to Mexico in 2017 at Christmastime. I found it beautiful and boisterous, a feast for all the senses. But at the time I wasn't really thinking of it as a place to live.

I started to think about retiring to Mexico last year. First, the political situation in the USA is increasingly disturbing to me. I'm seriously afraid that the current occupant will win a second term. And even if he doesn't, he has fomented so much intolerance, hate speech, racism, xenophobia, and associated acts of violence that won't go away even when he does. As a Jew and a member of the LGBTQ community, I no longer feel confident that my future in the United States is secure.

Second, I came to realize that I can retire much sooner if I move to Mexico, where the cost of living is significantly lower than in the United States, especially in Seattle and other urban centers.

Third, it's not that hard to move to Mexico. The visa process is fairly simple. The barriers are much lower (border walls notwithstanding) than they would be if I tried to move to somewhere in Europe or elsewhere. And many of the countries that appeal to me as places to live are dealing with the same socio-political environment as in the US.

And finally, it's close. I can come back to visit family and friends, and they can come to visit me, without long overseas flights.

Do you speak Spanish?

But I'm working on it. And will work on it even harder once I'm down there.

Where in Mexico
Ajijic. It's in Jalisco state, about an hour south of Guadalajara, about 5-6 hours drive east from Puerto Vallarta.

How did you pick Ajijic?

After I made the decision to look to retire in Mexico, I started researching places with strong expat communities. It's not that I wouldn't want to live among Mexicans, but since I don't speak Spanish (yet), I thought it would be wise to go somewhere English is widely spoken. And Ajijic came up at or near the top of every list I found of best places to retire in Mexico.

In January of this year I made what I thought would be the first of a number of scouting expeditions. I spent a week in Ajijic to see if I would like it.

Well, I did. A lot. And I found a house in the village that I fell in love with, and I made an offer, and it was accepted.

Here are pictures of my new house.

What's it like there?
Ajijic is more-or-less in the center of a string of communities along the northwest shore of Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico. From Jocotepec, at the west end of the lake, to Chapala, the easternmost major town, it's about 30 kilometers (20 miles). For many centuries there were tiny fishing villages here, but today it's a bustling area with a large expat community.

Ajijic has about 10,000 people. I've heard it estimated that about half the population is expats, and my impression from my visit this past January is there are more Canadians than Americans. The expat community is very strong, with the Lake Chapala Society providing services, activities, and support.

The climate in Ajijic is livable year-round. Because it's at altitude (1,538 meters or 5,046 feet above sea level), it is not humid, and typical daytime highs range from 24°C (75°F) in winter to 24°C (75°F) to 30°C (85°F) in summer.

Ajijic is a colorful town with lots of shops and restaurants, a fabulous Wednesday tianguis (open-air market), a delightful malecon along the lakefront, and lots of street art, including tons of vibrant murals.

Here are pictures of Ajijic from my visit in January.

Do you know anyone there?
Just the people I met when I visited in January.

What are the rules for moving to Mexico and buying a house there?
There are three kinds of visas for entry to Mexico:
  • A tourist visa or visitor permit is the kind you get if you visit Mexico as a tourist. The cost is built into your airfare. You fill out the form on the airplane, and they give you the stub when you go through immigration. You have to carry the stub with your passport, and when you exit, they collect the stub. As a tourist, you can stay up to 180 days. You can leave and come back as often as you want, and the clock resets each time.
  • A temporary resident visa must be obtained ahead of time at a Mexican consulate. You fill out an application and make an appointment. You have to bring documentation of your finances. The temporary resident visa is good for up to four years.
  • A permanent resident visa is just that: permanent. The process is the same as for a temporary resident visa, but the requirements are more stringent.
You can actually buy a house and live in Mexico with just a visitor permit, but you would have to leave and come back every six months. Many snowbirds don't bother with a resident visa.

If you buy a house in Mexico, having a resident visa is especially valuable when you sell. The tax you will pay when you sell your house is lower with a temporary resident visa, and even lower than that with a permanent resident visa.

You cannot drive your US-plated car to Mexico with a permanent resident visa.

I have an appointment at the Mexican Consulate in Seattle toward the end of May.

UPDATE (May 28): I had my visa appointment this morning. The clerk collected my documentation and was impressed at how organized it all was. They took my $36 application fee and took my picture and fingerprints and told me to come back next week to pick up my passport with the visa. She said she didn't think there's be any problem getting approved for a permanent resident visa.

What are you going to do about healthcare?
It's pretty well-known that healthcare in Mexico is very inexpensive compared with the US. For just routine care, you wouldn't need insurance. The cost of most routine health services can easily be paid for out-of-pocket.

But for critical care, if something major arises, it would be best to have insurance. There is a public program, but I would either need to speak Spanish or use an interpreter. I can also buy private insurance.

When I turn 65, I can go on Medicare and then come back to the US for any major medical procedures and treatments. But in the meantime, I'll need to make a decision, which I will do once I get down there.

How old are you?

Can I come visit?
Hell yeah!

I'll be posting a calendar so you can check dates and find a time that works for both of us. I have plenty of room, and I'm looking forward to entertaining friends and family in Ajijic. There's also a lot to see in Guadalajara.

Can we get together before you go?
I posted a schedule of my upcoming activities between now and my moving date. Check it out, find a date when I'm free, and get in touch with me to make some plans.

What are you going to do once you're retired?
All the nothing I want.

I also plan to travel, play bridge, write, read, hike, and maybe discover new hobbies.

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