Can You Afford to Retire In Mexico On Your Social Security?

Here's the Average Social Security Benefit in 2021 | The Motley Fool

You might be making plans to start pulling from your social security benefits soon. And if you’re considering retiring in Mexico, you might be wondering how you can afford to retire with social security alone.

To help you determine if this is possible for you, I’ll highlight how you can join the thousands of retired ex-pats living in Mexico on social security alone. I will cover what type of lifestyle you can expect, how to qualify for residency, planning for healthcare, and some watch-outs that can eat into your fixed income.

Because there are many different social security benefit amounts, I think it’s important to establish an average. According to US News, AARP, and many other publications, the average social security check is USD 1,543 in 2021. You might never be able to retire on that in the U.S. However, considering Mexico’s lower cost of living, retiring in Mexico is absolutely doable!

Let me explain…

Lifestyle

Yes, you can absolutely live in Mexico for $1500/month. Many people already do it. The trick is having and sticking to a budget.

You’ll have to set a realistic budget for a rental, health insurance, groceries, eating out, transportation, and entertainment. You’ll probably have to shop at mercados or farmer’s markets to buy fresh produce instead of big-box grocery stores.

You should also expect to take public transportation instead of buying or owning a vehicle. In Mexico, the cost of gasoline is $4-$5 dollars a gallon or $83-$95 pesos a gallon. However, most people do just fine getting around on public transportation or foot, especially in smaller cities like Ajijic or San Miguel de Allende.

I’d also like to point out that some cities like Ajijic and San Miguel de Allende tend to be more expensive than other very similar cities. But if you look at rentals from word of mouth or by exploring the city and finding “se renta” signs, you are more likely to find better deals. Another advantage of living in SMA or Ajijic is the weather and the savings on your electric bill. Hardly anyone in these cities has air conditioning or heating. That alone can save you 100 dollars or more monthly on heating or cooling costs than coastal towns.

What’s even better is that not only will you be able to afford to retire, but in most cases, you can even hire some services that seem almost like a luxury back home. In Mexico, we hire a maid that comes 2x/week for less than $15/a day, and a gardener that comes once a month for less than $20 dollars. Our maid helps us out with cleaning, washing clothes, folding and putting away clothes, and also cooks on occasion. She is lovely, and very reliable. But more importantly, I don’t have to do it. And when you retire here, you won’t have to either if it fits in your budget.

Cost of Living

To give you an idea of just how you can stay within a $1500/month budget here is a quick breakdown for someone living in Ajijic/Chapala Jalisco:

  • 2 Bed 2 Bath Condo. $600/Month. It is fully furnished, it has a community pool, bbq area, and plenty of green space to enjoy sunbathing.
3 bed 2 bath house renting for $600/month in Ajijic
  • Utilities (electric, water, and gas) $30/Month
  • Groceries for 1 Person: $200/Month
  • Mexico Only Health Insurance $150/Month
  • Taxis/Ubers/Didi $50/Month
  • Public Transportation: $20/Month
  • High-speed Internet (50Mbps+) : $25/Month
  • Restaurants (eating out 2x/week) $200/Month
  • Entertainment: (movies, theater, or similar) $100/Month
  • Savings (setting money aside for big emergencies) $125
  • TOTAL :$1500/MONTH

You can see that not only is it possible to live on $1,500/month in Mexico, but you can actually live very comfortably! I also noted that it’s important to set some money aside each month for emergencies. For example, you should always try to set some money aside each month for those unexpected things like getting dental work done. Or perhaps you might need to plan for a big trip back home to visit family. Either way, having some savings is necessary and smart.

If you’d like a few more examples of other people’s expenses while living in Mexico, check out this interview with Sue and Paul in Huatulco. Or check out how April and her family of 4 live on less than $2,000 dollars a month.

Residency Income Requirements

And now that you’ve worked out your budget you might be getting excited knowing that you can afford to retire on your social security income! But there’s one caveat. $1,500/Month isn’t enough for the Mexican Immigration Government to grant you a resident visa. So I’ll cover how you can qualify further on.

(Find out what the income requirements are for residency in Mexico)

The chart below will give you a baseline of income requ8irements by residency type. And I mention baseline because, in order to apply for residency in Mexico, you have to start the process at a Mexican consulate in your home country. And every Mexican consulate has different income requirements to apply. I don’t understand it either, but that’s how things are.

Mexico Residency Visa Income Requirements 2021

Some Mexican Consulates will grant you a temporary resident visa with as little as $1,500/month in income or $25,000 in savings (Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado). And some Mexican consulates (for example, Austin, Texas) require you to have more than $2,500/month in income or more than $40,000 in savings. So it’s a big range. So to try and help you decide if you’re in the ballpark, the chart above gives you a good range.

To add a bit of complexity to the process, some consulates require you to be over 60 to apply for permanent residency. I guess they assume that only people over 60 can afford to retire?

So what happens if your social security benefit doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for you to obtain residency in Mexico? Well, most people end up relying on their savings to prove financial independence. That means that if you’re one of the people whose social security benefit is less than the minimum requirement at the consulate nearest you; then you’ll have to start beefing up your savings account.

Here is a list of all Mexican Consulates and Embassies around the world. Each one should have their income requirements for residency.

A Few Money Saving Tips

One thing you don’t want to do is move to Mexico, and end up eating into all your savings because you didn’t plan for some expenses. So here are a few watch-outs that can surprise you and your wallet.

  • Rent! Don’t buy. Buying real estate in Mexico can be very enticing, but I highly suggest renting for at least 6 months. If you don’t like your area, you can easily pack up and go to a different area when you rent. If you own your home, this is less possible.
  • Sell your car before moving. Owning a car in Mexico has become increasingly more expensive with time. Gasoline costs keep going up, and public transportation is cheap and readily available. Most cities have a mixture of residential and commercial. Therefore most neighborhoods are walkable and easy to navigate.
  • Only bring what you need! Hiring a moving company to bring your things to Mexico can be very expensive, and in most cases, rentals come furnished. So, it’s always better to downsize, and start fresh. You’ll be able to find everything you need in Mexico, don’t worry.
  • Buy local health insurance. Most retirees coming to Mexico are surprised when they get sick with a costly illness, and don’t have insurance. At the very least, I highly recommend buying local health insurance that will cover you in Mexico. Yes, healthcare in Mexico is very affordable in most cases. But if you end up needing chemotherapy, dialysis, or major surgery the costs can quickly add up if you are paying out of pocket.
  • Always save some money. It can be very liberating to have a fixed income for the rest of your life that you can live on without a worry! But it’s still a good idea to set some of that income aside for an emergency. That way you’re not forced to take out a loan or use a credit card with a high-interest rate.

So Why Wait?

I know many people who worked their whole lives, and saved as much as they could afford only to find out they’ll never be able to retire. When they start budgeting their lives without their normal income, and counting on social security alone they quicklt realize they can’t afford not to work. Most of these people are in their 60s and the thought of working another 10 years seems depressing.

887,797 Happy Life Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime

But luckily, there’s a way! And if your social security alone doesn’t give you enough income for you to be able to retire in Mexico comfortably, you can always count on a few side hustles like teaching English online, remote customer service jobs, or other part-time opportunities that can help you fund your freedom overseas. One of the silver linings that Covid brought to our modern world, is the need for remote workers. Many companies are realizing that remote employees are just as efficient as in-person workers. And the same companies are realizing they can save a lot of money on overhead without the need for a big expensive office. Luckily for you, that means more and more opportunities to continue a job from anywhere in the world!

The point is, you only have one life. It isn’t a dress rehearsal, and you’ll never regret having worked more on your death bed. If you’re interested in learning more about living, traveling, and the cost of living in Mexico, check out my other blog posts. Visit www.MexicoRelocationGuide.com and don’t forget to subscribe.

Mariana Lange

Mariana Lima-Lange was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She spent every summer visiting family throughout Mexico and is very knowledgeable about Mexican culture, lifestyle, and traditions. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Herena Machado8 says

    Can you let me know the requirements for the Miami Mexican Consulate if you know it?

  2. Greg says

    My wife and I get $3400.00 in combined ssa benefits monthly. Mine is 2400.00. Can we get approved for temp visa in Detroit consulate.

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Greg!
      If you don’t have the income requirements for Detroit you can always get residency at the New Orleans consulate. They only require $2100 USD a month

  3. Crystal White says

    what is the best most beautiful non touristy beach location to retire to for a single woman in Mexico?

  4. Malaika says

    I live in Atlanta, GA and am having a very difficult time contacting the Mexican Consult here for an appointment for temporary residency. I email and do get replies and am directed to a website to book the appointment online but when I go to the website it doesn’t allow it. I have tried calling also and have had no success. Any tips? Thanks!

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Malaika
      I would recommend hiring one of our recommended immigration facilitators who can help you through the process. They are the experts and know the ins and outs of ensuring you can get an appointment as soon as possible. To get our directory of contacts in Mexico, you have to purchase our complete Mexico Relocation Guide https://mexicorelocationguide.com/guide/

  5. Sue MacMillan says

    Hi Mariana,

    Love your articles about Mexico they are very informative, helpful and easy to understand, straight to the point with no fluff!!

    My partner and I are planning on coming to Mexico end of 2022 or early 2023 as soon as we can sell our mobile home.

    I was wandering with our limited pension, old age plans and minimal savings would it be best for us to fly down and use tourist option of 180 days to check it out to see if it works, we have 2 cats coming with us as well, rather than getting temporary visa before we leave?

    Appreciate your sound advise and assistance.

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Sue!
      Thanks for your kind words. You know, it all depends on a few things.
      If you fly down there is no guarantee you’ll automatically get 180 days on your tourist FMM. But let’s say you did, I would def consider this as your first option before moving forward with residency. That way if you hate Mexico you haven’t started the process.
      On the flip side of that- The other thing you should consider is your current income. If you have just enough right now to qualify you for residency, I would say don’t delay the process too much. Because every year the income requirements increase and next year you may no longer meet the income needs to get residency in Mexico. Remember you don’t have to live in Mexico full time to remain a resident.

  6. david gonzales says

    hello my name is dave from san francisco bay area,my wive is from mazatlan we plan to retire to mazatlan in 4 years,with her being a mexican citizen will it help me get permenent residency any easier.income wise we are well in the clear on that..

    • Mariana Lange says

      Yes! If your wife is Mexican national you can get temp residency for 2 years easily. And then apply for permanent

  7. Kirk Hjelmstad sr says

    Hi my name is Kirk , I have a small dog. What are pet requirements when entering Mexico from the u.s. for perm residency or maybe I can get temp residency for 6 Mos at a time ! What would be best all around ? Oh , and I’m single incase marital atatus makes any difference. Thank you for your help !

    • Mariana Lange says

      You can bring in up to 2 pets per person when flying and up to 3 when driving.
      You will need all vaccines up to date and a letter from your vet stating your pet is in good condition.
      If you are flying, your airline will have additional requirements.

      If you are driving- you need to stop at the zoosanitary inspection site and they will do a physical exam on your pets.
      If you’d like more information about bringing pets and contact info for my recommended pet transporters, they are included in the online guide. You get instant access when you purchase the guide
      mexicorelocationguide.com/guide/

  8. Elizabeth says

    Hello Mariana,
    I am facing the possibility of retiring in Mexico due to my limited income. I am a widow and the prospect to moving somewhere alone can be daunting.I’m sure I can’t be the only woman who feels this way. Do you know of any service that can match up individuals of similar backgrounds who can make the move together and share the experience together until they are comfortable enough to manage on their own if they wish?

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Elizabeth
      You’re certainly not alone. There are far more foreign women in Mexico than foreign men. So you’re def not alone.

      I don’t know of such service but sounds like a great idea. You should start something 😊

      Many women move to México alone every year. I have sooo many customers that are single women and they do it with our help. We connect them with people and they have an easier transition

      Consider a relocation tour
      Mexicorelocationguide.com/tour/

  9. Forrest Rambo says

    Hi Marianna,
    I’m looking forward to receiving your free information, especially anything related to healthcare for seniors. We love Pacific Mexico and are planning on spending five months plus of every year there and returning within the 180 day limit for “visiting” on our US passports. My question is: What happens if one of us gets hospitalized and goes beyond the 180 day limit? Is the other required to leave? If, so, for how long before returning? Thank you for providing such useful information.

  10. Mario says

    Would you know what is needed as income for Canadian retirees to have permenant residency?

  11. Juan Aguilar says

    Hi, I’m a US citizen (naturalized) and so is my wife but she was born in Guatemala
    Do I apply for residency or how is my status with the Mexican authorities?

    Thank you for ur assistance

    Juan Aguilar

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi! You and your family would have to apply for residency if you plan on living in Mexico longterm (more than 6 months)

  12. Bob says

    I live in Houston Texas. My ssi is 2400.00 per month. What’s the requirement at the Houston consulate for income. I’ve been looking at puerto Vallarta initially because I have friends that have condos there but don’t have residency. My spouse has been deceased a couple years now and I have no family left so an adventure of living abroad is appealing to me.

  13. Cheri Monger says

    Do you know the requirements for Orlando consulate?

    • Mariana Lange says

      They are usually on the Mexican consulate website for Orlando. If not, I would recommend reaching out to them directly to find out [email protected]

  14. Saúl Mendoza says

    Hello Mariana.

    My question is very different from all the ones here. My grandma, born in Mexico, is on the process of getting her SSI through her late husband, and before that we need to open a bank account for her direct deposits.

    What bank would you recommend for us to open an account and have the money available in Mexico? I was told Bank Of America, but turns out they charge 3% per every ATM Withdrawal with their Mexican partner Scotiabank. In my research, seems like a feasible option would be Capital One, as they don’t charge an international ATM fee. Our options are also kind of limited as we currently live in Spokane WA, and we don’t have all the banking options like HSBC and Santander, which could be a more feasible option.

    • Mariana Lange says

      A lot of expats living in Mexico like having a Charles Schwab account because they don’t charge international fees or ATM fees anywhere in the world.

  15. Sharon Solieri says

    Hi Maria…i keep reading about $1600 required for retiring. Is this true?
    Thank you very much

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Sharon
      The income requirement for residency in Mexico through financial solvency is of at least $2500 USD a month for the last 6 months. This is usually proved with bank statements
      However, you can easily afford to live in Mexico on much less than $2500 USD a month and live very comfortably.

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