US expats heading to Ecuador for retirement

Published:  8 Sep at 6 PM
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As it becomes increasingly difficult to fund an enjoyable retirement in the USA on the average pension or social security payment, older would-be expats are looking to exotic yet affordable locations such as Ecuador.

Many are finding they can enjoy luxuries as well as plan a comfortable budget for necessities, and there’s lots to see and do in this rapidly developing country. Ecuador is a small country set on South America’s northwest coast, with its citizens enjoying a relaxed pace of life unknown to almost anyone living in today’s USA.

Geographically, it’s a treasure house of Pacific beaches, the soaring Andes mountain range, mysterious Amazonian rainforests and the Galapagos Islands archipelago. It’s set right on the Equator, giving it an unchanging 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness. All retirees over 65 years, including expats, enjoy discounted prices on airfare, public transport, all utilities and cultural and sporting events.

In addition, a proportion of the 12 per cent sales tax is refunded and tax is not levied on Social Security payments. Property taxes are refreshingly low, with extra discounts often available, and the US dollar is the official currency. Average living costs vary between $12,000 and $24,000 per year – far less than in the USA or Europe.

As in the rest of the world, residency visas are a bureaucratic pain, with pensioner visas the best way to go. Financial requirements are moderate, with a single person needing to show no less than $800 per month. A home country police report, a copy of your marriage certificate if relevant and other requirements all need to be authenticated by the US Secretary of State.

Public health insurance at $66 a month can be had and includes free emergency care, free doctors’ visits and free or discounted prescription charges. Ecuador’s larger cities boast many hospitals staffed with USA-trained specialists and doctors, and private health insurance is available at around 10 to 25 per cent of the cost in the USA. Many of Ecuador’s major cities now have expat communities, with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cuenca the most popular with around 12,000 long-term expat residents.
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