Retirees living in Mexico enjoy a low cost of living, warm climate, natural beauty, modern infrastructure, and one of the world's most intriguing cultures. A well-established expat community and the low cost and high quality of Mexico’s healthcare system also attract many retiring Americans.
And, of course, it's just over the border from the U.S. Many airports throughout Mexico offer short, direct flights to the United States, making it easy to return home or to have visitors.
- Mexico’s proximity to the U.S., low cost of living, warm climate, and rich culture make it an appealing choice for American retirees.
- A variety of real estate developments designed for American retirees have been built and cost a fraction of what similar properties would in the U.S.
- Mexico has thriving expat communities, many of which cater to American retirees; many businesses have English-speaking staff; and most cities have familiar big box stores found in the U.S.
- Healthcare in Mexico is high quality and costs significantly less than in the U.S., while infrastructure is good and only getting better.
With more than one million Americans living in Mexico, it is clearly not a fad. In fact, in 2020, Mexico ranked fourth out of the top 10 countries for retirees in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index.
Here's a look at the top four reasons Americans retire in Mexico.
1. Retiree Real Estate Developments
Many real estate developments have been built throughout Mexico specifically meant for American retirees. Oceanfront developments in Baja, 30 minutes from the California border, offer luxurious amenities at a fraction of the cost of the same type of housing in the U.S.
As of 2019, a three-bedroom oceanfront condo in the San Diego area costs around $3.3 million with $24,000 in annual property taxes. A comparable property just south of the border in a specially-designed luxury retirement community could be had for as little as $330,000 with only $1,000 in annual property taxes.
2. Thriving Expat Communities
Many traditional tourist destinations in Mexico not only welcome travelers but cater to American retirees. Puerto Vallarta, Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, Baja, and the Mayan Riviera are among the most popular with Americans. These areas provide a wide range of real estate options, from modest housing in good neighborhoods to high-end gated communities with 24-hour security.
$1,500 to $3,000
The amount each month a retired couple can live on in Mexico, including housing and healthcare, according to International Living.
The economies in these areas are driven by North American tourists and retirees. Most businesses have English-speaking employees, and restaurants usually have menus printed in English. Most Mexican cities have stores found in the U.S., such as Walmart and Costco.
3. Affordable Quality Healthcare
Certainly, one of the largest factors for retirees to consider when moving abroad is the availability of quality healthcare. Many are surprised to find the healthcare system in Mexico is world-class and affordable. Costs for common surgeries and procedures can be a third of what is paid in the U.S.
Expats who are granted residency in Mexico can sign up for one of two national healthcare plans—the Seguro Popular program is most popular with expats and costs just a few hundred dollars a year.
Doctors and dentists in Mexico are commonly educated and trained in the U.S. and Europe, and their facilities are usually supplied with the latest equipment and technologies.
Many foreigners travel to Mexico from all over the world for medical treatments or procedures. Medical tourism has boomed in Mexico because many procedures and treatments, which have proven to be successful there, are either extremely expensive or not yet approved in other countries.
The cost of routine healthcare in Mexico is about half or less of what you would pay in the U.S., according to International Living. As of 2019, on average, the cost of a visit to a private doctor, including specialists, ranges from $12 to $50.
Prescription drugs manufactured in Mexico cost about 30% to 60% less than what you would pay for the same drugs in the U.S.
A visit to a dentist for teeth cleaning costs $30 to $35.
The cost of an MRI in the U.S., meanwhile, will set you back $2,600 on average, compared to $300 to $500 in Mexico.
4. Infrastructure and Communications
While not as advanced as in the U.S., Mexican infrastructure and communications systems are good and improving. Most populated areas of the country have good cellular coverage and widely available high-speed internet. These factors help make Mexico a popular choice for those looking to semi-retire by managing their business while sitting on a beach with a laptop.
In 2019, Mexico announced a wide-ranging plan to upgrade its infrastructure through 2024, with projects totaling more than $400 billion. Improvements to highways, rail lines, airports, and shipping ports will only improve the nation’s economy and quality of life.
The Bottom Line
Quality of life is a major draw for Americans looking to retire in Mexico. The country offers a low cost of living, inexpensive and high-quality healthcare, as well as modern infrastructure that's about to get a major upgrade. Add to that close proximity to the U.S., a warm climate, rich culture, natural beauty, and a well-established expat community, and it's no wonder Mexico is a popular retirement destination for Americans.
It's possible for a couple to retire comfortably on as little as $1,500 a month, depending on the location they choose. If you are considering retiring in Mexico, it may be a good idea to vacation in areas on your shortlist first and consult with an attorney to navigate visa and residency requirements.
One cautionary note: Be aware, as of April 2019, the U.S. State Dept. rated Mexico "Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution," warning regarding specific states within the country, among other things. Review this information carefully and choose your ultimate retirement location with care, if you make the move.