“Inverse” Migration: Why Are So Many US Citizens Moving to Mexico?

As life gets prohibitively expensive for many people living in the US (and other rich countries), relatively cheaper countries like Mexico are becoming increasingly attractive. But for local people the costs are growing.

Between January and September of 2022, Mexico issued 8,412 Temporary Resident Cards (TRT) to US residents, 85% more than in the first three quarters of 2019, according to a Mexican government migration report. Many are choosing to live in Mexico City. Such rapid growth rates have not been seen since comparable data became available in 2010. The number of Americans receiving permanent residency during that period has also risen sharply (48%), to 5,418.

But this may be just a fraction of the real number of American expats choosing to settle in Mexico. As the Mexican government has said for years, the number of Americans moving to its shores is likely far greater than the official figures suggest. According to data from the Ministry of Tourism (Sectur), over 10 million US citizens arrived as visitors through September this year, 24% more than in the same period of 2019. However, the Mexican authorities do not know exactly how many of those chose to stay.

A Growing Trend

In 2020, the US State Department estimated that 1.5 million USians were living in Mexico, more than double the number a decade earlier. That was before Usians began moving to Mexico at an even faster pace.

But why are so many choosing to move across the Southern border in the first place?

One reason is that it is remarkably easy. Mexico is at most a four- or five-hour flight away from most US cities. It has also been one of the most welcoming countries since the COVID-19 pandemic began, having implemented fewer COVID-19 travel restrictions than just about any other country on the American continent. Nor has it introduced vaccine passports. This has made it particularly attractive to digital nomads looking for affordable destinations with few COVID-19 restrictions.

Mexico is also remarkably cheap, as long as you are earning dollars, euros or some other hardish currency.

“Obviously, if you can earn in dollars and spend in pesos, you can triple your income,” Marko Ayling, a content creator and writer living in Mexico City told El País. “And that is very attractive to a lot of people who have the luxury of being able to work remotely.”

Unlike Mexicans in the United States, Americans can work in Mexico for up to six consecutive months on their tourist visas as long as they are paid from overseas. And, although technically not allowed, many choose to return to the US for a short period, then return to Mexico and renew their six-month period in the country, and that way continue working.

But it is not just Americans that are opting to live in Mexico. In fact, Mexico is apparently now the preferred destination for those moving abroad, beating off the likes of Indonesia, Vietnam, and even the popular expat hub Thailand. That’s according to this year’s edition of Expat Insider, an annual report published by InterNations, an expat community founded in 2007 that has been gathering data on expat/rich migrant flows and experiences for more than a decade.

Among the biggest draws highlighted by the survey are ‘the ease of settling in’ and ‘finances’. Of vital import to many people choosing to move abroad are how acccessible visas are to live and work in the countries, safety, and how expensive daily life is. Mexico may have not topped the ranking in all aspects, but it still came out on top with a higher average score.

The country also placed third on International Living‘s list of the best places to retire, just behind Panama (#1) and Costa Rica (#2). The accompanying report highlighted one of the key attractions for many retiring Americans: affordable heathcare:

A big part of the lower cost of living in Mexico is the healthcare. There are two government-run programs, including one (INSABI) that is basically free to Mexican citizens and foreigners with residence (there can sometimes be some small out-of-pocket expenses). This system is designed for those without the means to pay for any other healthcare and has facilities all around the country. Another government option is called IMSS, which costs about $500 per year per person. However, with IMSS pre-existing conditions are not covered.

There is also private healthcare, with clinics and hospitals with all the modern equipment and technology, and doctors of every specialty trained in the latest techniques and procedures. In fact, Mexico is a major medical and dental tourism destination for that reason. You can pay cash at a private facility (costs are a fraction of the U.S.—try $50 to $70 for a specialist visit, $300 for an MRI) or use local or international insurance.

Of course, Mexico has been a popular retirement destination for USians for decades, with places like San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca, Cabo San Lucas and Chapala/Ajijic particularly in demand. But as life grows more expensive and more precarious for working- and middle-class USians, this trend is likely to intensify.

As a Brit living in Barcelona and married to a Mexican woman, I can understand the lure that draws people to Mexico. It is a beautiful, vibrant, exotic country with a bewitching color scheme, a rich culture and a diverse geography. The food is delectable and the people by and large warm, welcoming and supportive (in Spanish we would use the word “solidario,” meaning they have solidarity with others). The weather in the Valley of Mexico is temperate all year round. The biggest concern I personally would have about living in Mexico, which is something my wife and I are seriously considering, is its escalating water crisis.

The decision to switch one’s country of residence is usually a deeply personal one and is often triggered by both pull and push factors. Not only are you moving to somewhere new but you are also moving away from somewhere established and familiar, where many of your friends and family live. Speaking as someone who has spent the best part of his adult life living abroad, it is a huge step. I would be very interested to know from US readers who, like Yves, are thinking of leaving the US what their main motives are for doing so.

Security Concerns

Ironically, this gathering exodus to Mexico is happening at the same time that the US Federal Government is issuing blanket travel warnings for many Mexican states. In August the State Department issued alerts for 30 of Mexico’s 32 states, six of which (Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas) it warned US travelers against visiting altogether, due to the high risk of being kidnapped or attacked.

There is no doubt that security remains the primordial issue in Mexico, as it does in many other Latin American countries. Although the number of people dying in the war on and for drugs has ebbed slightly in the past two years, the country still boasts some of the highest homicide rates on the planet, with Zamora de Hidalgo at 196 per 100,000 people, Zacatecas at 107, and Tijuana at 103. Also, regions that were traditionally relatively safe, such as Puebla or Quintana Roo, have recently been caught up in the spiral of violence.

But for the most part, the danger zones are in small pockets of states close to the US border, where most of the drugs are trafficked, or parts of the Sierra Madre Occidental, where many of the drugs are grown. They are not, as the US travel alerts suggest, uniformly sweeping across states.

Another common misconception is that Mexico City, being one of the largest conurbations in the world, must also be one of the most dangerous places in Mexico. Yet in reality, Mexico City has largely escaped the worst of the cartel violence, for a slew of reasons outlined in a recent article by British expat journalist Ion Grillo. They include the fact that while the drug gangs have a presence in the capital, they do not control it:

[W]hile the mobsters are certainly here, they do not operate as they do in their strongholds. Mexico City is not a strategic turf to produce drugs (like in the Sierra Madre), or to traffic drugs to the United States (like on the border).

In Culiacán, gangsters exert an immense control of their territory, with lookouts on every corner and gunmen lurking in safehouses. In the capital, however, Sinaloa operators can disappear into the urban sprawl. It’s more a place to make deals, meet with contacts in the federal government, and launder money.

There’s also talk of a pax-mafiosi in the capital, an agreement between the big narcos not to fight here. I haven’t heard this straight from the mouth of crime figures, but this is possible, even perhaps as an informal understanding that they do business and not go to war like back in Tijuana.

Another factor is that Mexico is a heavily centralized country and all the federal agencies are here, along with the bulk of the governing class of politicians and heads of big business. These powers-that-be don’t want a mess on their own doorstep. The federal forces won’t allow a convoy of a hundred hitmen to blaze up Insurgentes avenue like they get away with doing in Zacatecas.

The extensive use of cameras and the mobilization of one of the largest unified city police forces in Latin America have also helped to keep a check on the violence. As Grillo documents, not only is Mexico City one of the less dangerous cities in Mexico; it is getting safer and is already less dangerous than some US cities:

The Mexico City [murder rates] don’t refer to the whole urban sprawl of 22 million but to the official capital district, now called CDMX, which has about 9.2 million people. The Mexican government keeps a database of the murder numbers from police and prosecutor records, and there is another database from morgues and death certificates.

The police count recorded a peak of 1597 murder victims here in 2018, dropping to 1006 last year. That gives Mexico City a murder per capita rate of about 10.9 per 100,000 in 2021. This year the number has dropped further still.

Comparing the 2021 figures, Mexico City still has a higher murder rate than New York (which had about 5.7 homicides per 100,000), but it is lower than Portland (12.9), Dallas (14.6) or Minneapolis (22.1).

The most murderous U.S. cities include Baltimore (57.5) and St Louis (65.3), which have extremely high levels considering the wealth and power of the United States.

Both Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (aka AMLO) and Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who is hotly tipped to succeed AMLO in 2024, have seized on this success to try to attract yet more visitors and expats to the city.

“How much we have advanced on the issue of security,” said AMLO in a recent daily press conference. “Because of this, thousands of foreigners have arrived to live in Mexico City…They are welcome.”

The Downsides

But not everybody is so thrilled. As many national and international newspapers have reported in recent months, the continuous arrival of digital nomads from the US, the EU and other rich economies is making life more expensive in Mexico City neighborhoods such as La Condesa and La Roma, as well as in Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca.

In the verdant and unusually walkable barrio of La Condesa, a popular spot among well-heeled foreigners, apartment rents surged by 32% between January and June alone, according to a report from real estate marketplace Propiedades.com.

As many locals complain, living in Mexico may seem incredibly cheap to the new arrivals but only because they’re getting paid in dollars, euros or some other relatively hard currency. For those paying in pesos life is getting more and more expensive as the digital nomads drive local rents and prices vertiginously higher. For local landlords and real estate investors, the pickings are rich.

“What is happening is the people who can no longer to afford to live in the cities of their own countries end up moving to where they can afford to live,” Sandra Valenzuela, a Mexico City-based activist and artist, told El País. “In the end, it is a problem that is moving as the people move.”

For the moment, Mexico’s government is keeping the welcome mat out. In late October, Mexico City’s government unveiled an alliance with Airbnb Inc. and the country’s UNESCO office to promote the capital as a choice destination for remote workers. Mayor Sheinbaum said the city council wants to promote it even more and that the economic benefits of the influx would reach communities beyond the traditional tourist hubs.

It is a story that has already unfolded in many other places, including my home city of Barcelona. As happened here, tenants rights groups are up in arms, denouncing the alliance with Airbnb as part of an “aggressive touristification” of Mexico City and calling for tough regulation of the home rental company.

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41 comments

  1. Ignacio

    Do these digital nomads pay income taxes in Mexico, their country of origin, or possibly nowhere? I don’t know how high or low are municipal taxes in Mexico city but if this is their only fiscal contribution you can say that is unfair.

    Reply
    1. Nick Corbishley Post author

      If they are on the six-month tourist visas, which is the case for most, they do not. An opinion piece in El Economista arguing for opening the doors as wide as possible to digital nomads makes the case that they are at least paying VAT on the products and services they buy:

      Much has been said that digital nomads do not pay taxes in Mexico. Although they do not pay income tax – like more than half of Mexicans who work in the informal economy – they do pay all consumption taxes; i.e. VAT and IEPS. Not only that, in absolute value, they pay well above the average… Unlike those who are part of the Mexican formal economy, the nomads cannot deduce it. The key is, once again, to regulate and promote their arrival in the country.

      Reply
    2. Joe Well

      In the US, all citizens and permanent residents are required to pay income tax if they spend more than 30 days in a 12 month period in the country, otherwise exempt. Any income above a certain amount (I believe $120k USD approximately) is still subject to taxation even if you never have lived a day of your life in the US, the only country in the world with that rule AFAIK. Also, as with most neighboring countries, there are treaties to avoid double taxation.

      And tourists not only pay VAT, but hotel taxes including on short Airbnb stays, and like all renters they indirectly pay property taxes and other fees.

      Also important to note that tourists are legally entitled to very little in the way of government services, and even temporary residents are excluded from healthcare at the IMSS without paying extra.

      And at least a little funny to be talking about taxes in a country where tax evasion is normalized to a surprising extent, to the point that I have had detailed conversations with small business owners as to how to putting cash in a bank.

      Reply
      1. jake

        The “foreign earned income exclusion”, which requires 330 days a year spent outside the country, would only apply to foreign-earned income, for services performed in that foreign country — not, as best I understand it, to U.S. work performed by a “digital nomad” or to any unearned income. Here’s guessing employment opportunities for Americans in Mexico are not great.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          One year I was able to take advantage of that deduction despite my income being from my own US company. The accountant was dedicated to expat taxes.

          Reply
  2. OIFVet

    “I would be very interested to know from US readers who, live Yves, are thinking of leaving the US, what their main motives for leaving are.”

    My reasons for moving to Bulgaria are as follows: disillusionment with the US, which picked up pace after 2016; fatigue with living to work rather than working to live, I simply needed and wanted more free time for recreation; looking for something meaningful to do; and belief that the US is on a very dangerous path and associated unwillingness to be surrounded by hundreds of millions of firearms owners if and when the sh!t hit the fan domestically.

    It was relatively easy for me to move to BG: I am born here so I already had BG citizenship and spoke the language. Having grown up in the US and spent my entire professional life there, the challenges are mostly cultural. At times, the challenge involves people making assumptions about me based on being an “American.” Many assume that, because of my background, I am very liberal and must invariably be a cheerleader for all US policies, and a Democratto boot. Those who like America are then shocked to discover how critical I am of many of US policies. Most of those who don’t like America so much are a bit shy at first to express their dislike for fear of offending me in some way, but we can then enter into some interesting discussions once we clear up those apprehensions.

    Remarkably, most of my students were rather relieved once they were convinced that I am not some missionary on a mission to sell them the virtues of America and its exceptionalism. There is love of country here and pride in its history. The servility of BG elites is seen as demeaning and the role of US-funded NGOs as furthering a pro-US agenda that mostly comes ar Bulgaria’s expense. There is a lot of dislike for the US amongst regular people here, they view its meddling in Bulgarian, European and world affairs as highly destructive and hypocritical.

    Anyway, my experience is hardly representative of the typical expat but I highly recommend those unhappy with the US to explore their options abroad. Many US expats I know in Bulgaria cannot even imagine ever going back to the US (digital nomads excluded). Their reasons are not purely financial, there are those who like the local culture and way of life, as well as the realization that they are freer here than in the US. I guess “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free” applies particularly well for many sons and daughters of the “land of the free and home of the brave.”

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Thanks. After spending half my life in other places I too returned to my place of origin since I grew up two blocks away. When I was a kid all I wanted to do was live in big city but now I go out of my way to avoid them. Perhaps we are like salmon who venture out into the world until eventually it’s all about the imprinting.

      But to be sure to live here you need financial security. As mentioned above health care costs–ridiculous here–are a big reason for leaving. And some parts of the US are a lot cheaper to live in than others. We have our own expats from places like the Midwest and NY.

      I had an uncle who used to go to Mexico all the time and eventually he took me and my brother for a visit. One thing I recall about Mexico City was the incredible air pollution but that was decades ago. It’s a beautiful place in many ways and a lot more European but for me staying put is the plan. For all the problems it’s really my comfort zone.

      Reply
      1. OIFVet

        There is some truth to the homing instinct, at least for some of us. However, it’s weird how I am considered American here and a foreigner in the US. I do feel part of both, certainly, and frankly my distaste for the US is entirely aimed at the state and not the country.

        Anyway, if you ever decide to take a Euro trip, make sure to consider visiting here :)

        Reply
  3. CanCyn

    Thanks for this Nick.
    I knew someone in the 80s who was married to a woman who was a mid-level exec in a cosmetics firm. She was transferred to their Mexico City office. They were thrilled to move there not only because of the weather but because they would be able to afford a maid and a driver on her salary! A long time ago here on NC, Clive made the comment: “Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way.” Sorry, I didn’t keep the link, just saved the comment. He was talking about work but I think travel and much of our entertainment pursuits are exploitative too. I know that tourism pays the bills for many in Mexico, I get it. That just leaves me confused about what is right and what is wrong in this situation. Being a Canadian, I have often imagined living somewhere warm for a few months in winter but I don’t want to put locals in precarious positions anywhere. I have never investigated leaving Canada entirely so I don’t know about the tax implications but I know American citizens with residency here is Canada who are still very much beholden to your IRS, so you really need to know why you’re leaving. Feel free to correct me but I think that’s true even if you become a full fledged citizen of the country you’ve emigrated to.

    Reply
    1. Nick Corbishley Post author

      Thanks, CanCyn, for your comment. And you’re right: you don’t need to be filthy rich in Mexico to afford a live-in maid and a chauffeur, though they are becoming more expensive as their work becomes increasingly formalized. It’s one of the good things the AMLO government is doing. It also seems that the unions representing domestic workers are growing in strength.

      Reply
      1. digi_owl

        Unionizing service workers are an ongoing process the world over, and something that is far more complicated than unionizing industrial work. Because service work is usually done individually or in small groups spread over a larger region. People may only see their fellow employees at the start and end of shift.

        Reply
    2. digi_owl

      I get the impression that the tourist industry are exploitative in multiple layers.

      As rarely as the employees locals with a voice and a wage to fit local conditions.

      Instead they are seasonal migrants, and the resorts etc skim the dual differences in exchange rates. First when getting paid at a price the tourists are comfortable with, and second when paying their seasonal staff below local wages.

      Reply
    3. Joe Well

      CanCyn, of course you need to do your own research, but US tax requirements for expats are uniquely onerous. Canada is totally different in this regard.

      What people forget is that if you don’t speak Spanish and don’t have Mexican family, you are very unlikely to be in the Mexico of Mexican society, but in a kind of bubble. There are many places in Mexico where the US retirees and tourists are kind of like cash cows, bringing money in while consuming little of government services. As for housing, they tend to live in estates like in Playa del Carmen, Cancún, San Miguel de Allende, etc. that were built especially for this market and would not exist otherwise. The problem is when people want a more “authentic” experience and destroy, for instance, the historical center of San Miguel de Allende by turning it into a US retirement community, or when they are uninsured and indigent and have a medical emergency and take up space in the IMSS or another public hospital.

      Reply
      1. hk

        One interesting addendum is that, within US, some states have particularly onerous tax laws where they tax you for income earned in other states if you worked some of the time in that (first) state. CA definitely does this, and I think, also NY.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          Massachusetts is quite aggressive because next door is income-tax-free New Hampshire. One year I got the foreign earned income exclusion from the IRS but not the Mass DoR.

          Reply
    4. CanCyn

      Thanks Nick et al. It does seem a mixed bag in so many respects. I appreciate everyone’s comments. I am glad to hear of unionizing efforts and better wages for those in the service industry. And I agree with Carolinian that even in your own country you can be an expat. We’ve retired rurally, we were really tired of city life but we do feel ‘different’ even though just a few hours drive from where we lived in the city. We are no doubt part of the wave of people turning to rural life and driving up housing costs but we do pay taxes here and shop locally. My best friend moved from Ontario to Prince Edward Island, still working but planning to retire. They know other ‘come from aways’ (as our maritimers call people from the rest of the country & elsewhere ) who’ve been there for decades and still aren’t considered Islanders. They recently stumbled on a social group called Islanders by Choice – expats from many places who’ve chosen to live in PEI for work and/or retirement. I moved around a bit as a youngster and don’t have a specific community that I think of as home but I do wonder how uncomfortable I would be living in another country. The locals in PEI and here in eastern Ontario are friendly, neighbourly and helpful when you reach out but true friendship doesn’t seem on offer. I imagine it is the same everywhere. The more nomadic we are, the more difficult it is to go home or perhaps even to feel at home.

      Reply
    5. Don

      We are in the process of resettling in Mexico (from Canada) in a high-altitude Central Mexican farming community (wine country, dairy, tree fruits, nuts, market gardens). The weather is great (chilly at night in the winter), the town is prosperous, clean and green, safe, walkable, 400+ years old, and beautiful. Population (±25,000) is mixed indigenous and mestizo. Tap water is potable (doesn’t taste great, but won’t kill you) and many properties, including ours, also have wells. All of the foregoing are good reasons to live here, but not why we are moving.

      Partly, it’s political — it is becoming increasingly intolerable for us — in truth, particularly for me — here, but really it is about warm, welcoming, traditional Mexican culture. I suppose I may be making a too-fine distinction, but in any case, there are no Ukrainian flags here, and no McDonald’s or Starbucks, which says as much about culture as politics.

      Everyone you cross paths with wishes you buenos dias/buenas tardes/noches; if you happen to be eating, all who pass say buen provecho. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday (frequently also on a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday) it seems the entire town gathers in the spectacularly beautiful zocalo — to listen to jazz or blues or mariachi or Spanish covers of classic rock, to watch belly dancing or flamenco or halloween/day of the dead costume competitions, or celebrate mothers day, or just to dance. Families, seemingly happy to be in each other’s, and the entire community’s, presence, and screen-free, abound.

      There is a small, well integrated, multi-national expat community, many of them intermarried, but we have yet to meet all but a few of them, all European. Digital nomads not in evidence. Service workers make less in absolute terms than they would make in Canada, of course, but more, relative to the cost of living. Lots of weekend tourists, all Mexican big city folk, so lots of hotels, restaurants, bars, music venues and so on. Speaking Spanish is essential.

      We love this place.

      Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    For those Americans moving to other countries, of course it will be a challenge to adapt to a new culture and a new language. It’s all par for the course. However there is another factor that may come into play. So a month or so ago, I stumbled across a video called ‘How America messed Me Up.’ What it is is a compilation of videos of Americans living overseas – expats – relating their experiences living there and finding out that how they were raised in America kinda messed them up. Something that you may not be expecting if you decide to make the move-

    Part 1 at-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU0iDAYHQek (18:15 mins) – some language

    Part 2 at-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y71Q_4H8Pls (22:35 mins)

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      So when are you guys going to get with program and start driving on the right side of the road? When I was bicycling in Europe I almost got run over as i disembarked the ferry from France and started pedaling into Ireland on the right.

      Churchill had a bad accident in NYC when he stepped off the curb and looked in the wrong direction. I mean c’mon. Do our “norms” mean nothing?

      Reply
  5. Jon S

    From the article:

    “In fact, Mexico is a major medical and dental tourism destination for that reason. You can pay cash at a private facility (costs are a fraction of the U.S.—try $50 to $70 for a specialist visit, $300 for an MRI)”

    My wife and I just turned 60. I decided to go part time (20 hours) at work. I can afford to do that because I’ve saved some money and have a high hourly rate. My one concern in this effort was the cost of healthcare. At work, my employer’s cost to provide healthcare ran about $16k per employee, and that’s with employees putting in anywhere from another $4k – $8k.

    I live in East Central Florida, well outside of Orlando. The first thing I did was see if I was eligible for Obamacare based upon my part-time salary. I am! And the government provides one heck of a subsidy for me to the tune of $1500 per month (thanks Democrats)! That means I can get into bronze plans anywhere from free up to about $300/month. Very cool.

    Now here is how this is relevant. I will have a high deductible, and I will have to pay out of pocket for non-preventive care. This is mostly my wife based on history. Her doctor is a specialist. So I called the office to find out what they charge for an office visit. Answer: anywhere from $75 to $120. I asked my PCP what his office visit out of pocket charges are. He said $50. I looked up the average out of pocket cost for an MRI in my area. Answer: $163.

    My doctor told me he personally carries a high deductible plan and pays out of pocket for all of his medical needs because it is dramatically cheaper than a standard insurance plan: if you are basically healthy (my wife and I are). Insurance is only for hospitals and insurance companies to steal from you.

    Reply
    1. Earthling

      Yes. My last year on Obamacare my deductible was $7900. “Coverage”. The next year I went bare and paid a costly penalty instead. Now I have Medicare plain, but the insurance companies are spending kabillions a year on ads pulling the whole population over to their ‘advantage’ plans.

      Our population is stupid enough to believe an insurance company is going to take a fixed fee from the govt to cover a person, skim off a big profit, pay for kabillions a year in ads to reel in more folks, ‘add money back to your check’, and somehow provide superior coverage than you would get from Medicare simply reimbursing your provider. WHERE do people think insurance company profits are coming from? I’ll tell you: from rationing care, weaseling out of care, denying care, discouraging care, screwing over their ‘clients’.

      Joe Namath, Jimmy whoever, William Shatner, William Devane, you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        Preach it, Earthling!

        I just turned 65 and spent part of my birthday at the Social Security Tucson office near the Arizona Slim Ranch. My mission: Sign up for traditional, classic rock Medicare.

        What a morning. During my 1.5 hours at the Social Security office, I started counting my blessings. Chief among them is being disgustingly healthy at the age of 65.

        Let’s just say that the fellow Americans I saw in that waiting room were not doing well at all. No one was in the mood to chat, and you know me. I love to chat people up.

        But that crowd seemed too infirm to make that kind of effort. So I held my tongue and people-watched.

        Welp, mission accomplished. My application went through after I spoke with the third Social Security employee I was sent to see.

        Outside the office, I unlocked my bike — the only one on the bike rack — and I was still counting my blessings. Number 10,191, number 10,192, you get the idea.

        During my ride home, I was on Mountain Avenue, and the gratitude was pouring off of me. If you’re familiar with this thoroughfare, you’ll know that gratitude is not often associated with it.

        Okay, that was my birthday.

        Yesterday morning, with Social Security Administration Medicare startup letter nearby, I called Blue Cross/Bull[family blog] to cancel my overpriced Obamacare policy. They told me to call the exchange directly, and I did.

        A very nice lady stepped me through the cancellation process, and now I am free of private health insurance. For good. Yay!

        As for Medicare, I don’t think it should just be our nation’s senior citizens. It should be for everyone, and it should be an order of magnitude less complicated.

        Reply
        1. earthling

          Congratulations! Glad you were able to get real help from real people. My last encounter with SSA was a half hour on hold, another half hour with a rep, resulting in nothing but a phone appointment set for 10 weeks later, during Christmas week.

          Reply
          1. Arizona Slim

            Actually, the in-person help was at the end of a trail that started with trying to do an online application. Bzzzzt! Fail.

            So, I called Social Security, waited on hold for almost an hour, and finally reached someone who said that I had to get a phone appointment with that office near the Arizona Slim Ranch.

            Appointment set. I got a confirmation letter and email.

            At the day and time of my appointment, my phone remained silent. As it did for the rest of the day.

            So, I got in touch with Congressman Grijalva’s office, and the aide told me to contact the Pima Council on Aging. So I did.

            PCOA gave me the toll-free number for that aforementioned Social Security office. I called it, said that I never got a phone appointment call.

            The person who took my call said that my phone appointment call didn’t go through. Don’t ask me why. But said person informed me that the office was open for business, and that I was welcome to come over and apply for Medicare A and B in person.

            So I did. Mission accomplished. Finally.

            Reply
    2. juno mas

      Well, a high-deductible medical insurance requires you to be CLAIRVOYANT (Lambert’s term). And many of these insurance plans don’t pay ALL of your medical expenses after you reach the deductible—surprise!

      I use standard Medicare with full coverage Medigap (low deductble, private insurance) plan. Because you need to be clairvoyant about the future when selecting medical insurance. If you “guess” wrong (get seriously sick) you will have both a medical AND financial recovery period.

      Spending a little more a month on a premium insurance plan ($1500/yr.) is cheap insurance against a medical catastrophe that costs you a quarter million dollars (BTDT). (ICU costs are $40K per day!)

      (I won’t go into the declining state of medical/hospital care.)

      Stay Healthy!

      Reply
      1. Jon S

        I get it. The max out of pocket for out of network coverage is $23k. That’s a lot of bling. But I am fortunate enough to be able to cover it easily.

        $1500 per month is $18,000 per year. That would hit my max out of pocket for a catastrophe every 15 months or so! And I’ve only ever been hospitalized once in my life, so it is a low-risk event, though at 60 getting higher every year.

        And don’t get me wrong, I was a big fan of Bernie moving the Medicare age down to 58. But it was not to be. Crossing my fingers for 5 years to get to Medicare.

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      2. JGK

        In 2019 I retired early, (late 50’s) from a county position. I opted to purchase a Bronze Plan on the exchange, as I had no underlying health conditions or medications. Fast forward: Spring 2020; the Co. Vid 19 era. Fall 2020: a catastrophic spinal cord injury. In the 5 month waiting period, to be approved for disability, the surgery cost was just shy of 125k…then over 100 follow up rehab type appointments. Traditional Medicare, Supplemental Plan G, Stand Alone Plan D for Drugs. I will stick with these plans for as long as I can. I planned to become a permanent resident in Mexico about 6 years ago. Timing, funds, etc. The injury set me back a year. Summer 2022: Mexico Permanent Residency in hand. I came back to the states in Fall 2022 after 3 months in the highland, Lake Chapala, as I needed a soft landing with more expat assistance to get me ready to live more full time in Mexico. I am back in the states, rural SW Oregon. I so miss Mexico. All of it, really…the rogue and ruff, the tumble and rumble. I have another spine surgery coming up. I plan to place my home on the market and purchase a tiny condo to come and go from. I see the future and it is bright. My health care will be covered by a travel plan in Mexico: my primary care visit was 25.00 out of pocket, with comprehensive lab panel at 50.00 when in Mexico. My dental exam with X-rays, cleaning, 50.00 bucks. Porcelain crows: 250.00. It has gentrified, yet it is doable as a single person; holding a property here in the States will be interesting. I do plan to be in the states 4/6 months of the year. Mexico has my heart. Given I am over 60, with pronounced right sided hemiparesis….very little Spanish. I do miss…the every day intelligence of people that participate on this site, as well as MOA. The Mexican lifestyle is much more relaxed, kind….family, non-woke. I am pragmatic, practical, more like the culture fits me…repair, reuse, recycle. Not getting any younger. I can do this until my 70’s is my thinking, who knows…I may stay in Mexico, just not sure yet.

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  6. Arizona Slim

    One of my friends fled a bad living situation here in the States. That was back in the spring of 2018, and her destination was Mexico.

    She lived in Mexico and returned to the States earlier this year. The reason: She became deathly ill in Mexico and had to be driven into California so she could be treated.

    My friend now lives in Tucson, near her son and daughter-in-law. And, lemme tell you, they really have their work cut out for them.

    Sorry to say, but I think my friend is suffering from PTSD. The illness that almost killed her really messed with her mind, and I believe that she needs professional help.

    However, I am not a trained psychotherapist and am not qualified to make a diagnosis.

    The daughter-in-law is a nurse, and I do hope that she can lead my friend to the help that she needs. Me? I have tried — and failed — to reason with my friend. So, for the time being, I’ve decided to lovingly detach.

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  7. LAS

    It occurs to me that many of us have lost the ability to leverage our relative freedoms to advocate for more acceptable services. Our only strategic knowledge revolves around leveraging differential exchange rates, such as moving to Mexico in order to afford the servant you cannot afford in the USA. That itself is just naked capitalism, exported. Why are we behaving so fatalistic and can’t do?

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  8. Adam

    Just spent a few days in San Miguel De Allende with my wife to see what it was like for retirement in the near future. We too have been good about saving money but want to be careful of our spending. A very pretty place (and many very good art galleries) but expensive based on our discussions with a few realtors. (The usual USA real estate companies are all there.) Housing prices very much like the USA. And the two nearest airports are 1 1/2 and 2 hours away which isn’t convenient.

    Reply
    1. calltoaccount

      “Housing prices very much like the USA. And the two nearest airports are 1 1/2 and 2 hours away which isn’t convenient.”

      My wife and I moved from LA and have lived in San Miguel for the past 7 years. Visited for a dozen years before that.
      While real estate and other costs/values have escalated over past few years, housing prices are nothing like what I was familiar with in major metros and suburbs of USA. You can still buy a commodious 3 bdrm 3 bth house here in a good neighborhood for 3-500K, a fraction of what it would cost in comparable settings in el norte. And climate here is nonpareil.

      Prices in general (food, restaurants, etc) are approx. 30-50% less than US. with healthcare (esp. dentistry) an even greater value. And nothing like being able to see a good doctor within 24 hrs. of making appointment. Doctors here actually practice medicine to benefit the patient, not the health care or pharma co.

      Airports, in Leon, and Queretaro, are each approx. 1:20 mins from our door, which is quite convenient.

      One of the reasons my wife and I moved here is that we came to realize most of the gringos here (about 10,000 in round numbers, transplanted from US, Canada, or Europe) are cut from a slightly more friendly, adventurous, and interesting cloth. Many artists, musicians, scholars and people more likely to be guided by the Golden Rule. Theaters, galleries and beautiful surroundings abound.

      Most expats, we believe, are enormously grateful for the opportunity to spend retirement years on “the fun side of the wall,” without being subject to the predatory authoritarian political and medical lies and insanity that have regrettably overtaken so many other places, esp. US, Canada, Australia, UK, NZ, etc. That’s likely also why SMA has more than 2000 charitable entities affording gringos and Mexicans who can– the oppty to aid health, education and welfare needs of the local community.

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      1. earthling

        You share good info. But I’m with Adam, housing starting at 300K is equal or higher than average in many parts of the US, and/or higher than many of us can swing in a retirement home. I guess anything looks like a bargain if you’ve been in a high-cost metro, but if you haven’t, well, not such a deal.

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  9. Expat2Uruguay

    Why did I decide to leave the US in 2015? Because I was disgusted with the “progress” that had occurred since my birth in 1963. I was very lucky to be born when I was, since it meant that I was able to attain quality education for a low price and able to get a reasonably well-paying job with a state institution that had health care and a pension. But when I looked around at the changes over my lifetime, and saw how young people were abused, old people were abused, poor people were abused, what I saw was a state of predation. This upset me greatly, and I spent a couple of years as an activist trying to improve conditions, but I never found success because nobody cared. And it was that; that things were getting worse and worse but nobody cared that made the US intolerable for me.

    So my decision to leave was a political one I suppose. I left because I was afraid that if I didn’t, then I would kill myself, or perhaps engage in political violence. So when I chose where I was going to go, that was also a political selection. And I very much did not want to go somewhere where I would live like a king among the peasants. I chose a country that was politically and economically stable, but expensive. I am extremely happy with my choice.

    But I also left my home country out of a sense of adventure, and to me, South America seemed like such a romantic idea of a place to live. I only wish that I wasn’t so far away from my children.

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  10. Gregorio

    We have lived for the last 30 years in what used to be a small farming village on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur. The expat demographic here used to be a small number of mostly retirees who came mostly to stretch often meager retirement benefits, but in the last few years that demographic has flipped to a younger wealthier class who are building multi-million dollar vacation homes and residences. Now several times a week, we have helicopters ferrying buyers and investors, whose time is apparently too precious to waste driving in cars, to look at real estate, annoyingly hovering over the neighborhood, which is rapidly being converted from farm land to residential subdivisions. The price of a 2000 m2 lot has increased from $15k US to $250-400K U.S. in the last 20 years, with prices doubling over the last 3 years, leading to gentrification and a severe housing shortage for the thousands of construction and hospitality workers who have been brought here from other parts of the country to build and staff the mega mansions, $750-2500 a night boutique hotels, and upscale restaurants. Now there is an airport being constructed near the village so the private jet crowd doesn’t have to suffer the inconvenience of an 1 1/2 hour drive from the airport in Los Cabos to get to their hilltop/ beachfront compounds, or boutique hotel. Meanwhile we still have basically the same infrastructure as we did 20 years ago and it is being completely overwhelmed.

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  11. Joe Well

    >>Unlike Mexicans in the United States, Americans can work in Mexico for up to six consecutive months on their tourist visas as long as they are paid from overseas.

    Not clear what Nick means here. Mexicans or any other tourist who comes as a tourist and works from their laptop for a non-US company with no nexus in the US will not owe taxes to the US, in fact, how would the government even know? The challenge might be with finding a Mexican company without US nexus that would allow this. But even with US nexus, there are treaties to deal with double taxation.

    >>And, although technically not allowed, many choose to return to the US for a short period, then return to Mexico and renew their six-month period in the country, and that way continue working.

    Officials are apparently clamping down on this by granting less than a 180 day stay on subsequent arrivals. And I would like to see the link to what law says this is technically not allowed in the letter of the law? The fact is, if it is not allowed, the border official won’t allow it.

    Also, apart from immigration law, not clear what the tax implications are, not to mention possible legal nexus for the employing company. A great big unclarified area of the law.

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  12. Peter

    A native southern Californian, and a former expat in Europe for many years, I had traveled often (driving) to Baja and loved it since I was a teenager (and Cabo was still a. Eventually I became a home builder and owner in Baja sur – perhaps near where Gregorio is talking about above. After 20 years off an on in that community, it became clear to me that it was a better fit for me (now 60) being on the mainland, currently in GTO state. More food choices, more affordable rent, and excellent healthcare. I pay out of pocket, and while the meds (heart condition) are not super cheap, the Dr’s visits are affordable and the Dr’s, in my experience, really great. I couldn’t afford to live in the States anywhere (or how) I would want to, and have anything like my lifestyle now. I did move here during covid, when the local rental market was a little confused, but am paying probably half of what I’d pay in Baja for a similar casa/location. Of course I miss friends and family in the US, and Asian food (in particular), but CDMX and GDL are not far for short trips and have good options for that and non stop flights from Leon to LAX can be as low as $300 USD return. I speak español reasonably well which is rewarding and am an artist, so this area is more viable for me to exist than the States, for now.

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  13. Savita

    Hi Carolinian. Australian here. Thanks for your comments about the driving. I can’t tell if you are being serious or flippant. In return, it would seem that Churchill made the mistake of visiting the United States! /sarc
    There used to be a television show called Top Gear featuring a professional stunt driver. He wrote a book all about how to drive well – really, really well. Thick with technical details that could hardly be found anywhere else. The book is not about doing stunts and taking risks, just how to be a master of the vehicle in all scenarios. Great book!

    ‘How To Drive’ by Ben Collins
    https://www.chroniclebooks.com/products/how-to-drive

    I recall in the introduction it explained why some parts of the world drive on the right and some on the left. One side of the road came about in those parts of the world owing to the influence of the Romans. Not necessarily via literal presence. And the other side of the road in the remaining parts of the world was largely due to Napoleons influence on history. It was a very long time ago I read the book so I apologise I can’t elaborate on the specifics.

    However it also said that driving on the left is slightly safer. Because most of us are right handed + the fact of the right eye looking straight ahead at oncoming traffic and the left eye looking across on an angle provides more reliable feedback. It was of course described in far better detail, in the book :-)

    ( just restraining myself from making some more jokes, in the Australian tradition, about the sadness of society driving on the right hand side road, hahaha. Feel free to make fun of my accent ;-) Have a lovely day :-)

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  14. ViaGrecia

    An interesting array of comments; a broad spectrum of viewpoints. I’m an American, early 60s, working remotely for a US firm, living in Puerto Vallarta for less than a year (temporary residency visa). I’ve been coming here for years and am also quite familiar with the places mentioned that are attracting Americans (and Canadians!). I’ve been waiting for the ‘reverse migration’ conversation to begin. Because it IS happening. Rental market here is TIGHT.

    Some of my thoughts on the emerging issue of ‘gentrification’ of (very specific areas) of certain Mexican cities and towns by migrating American retirees, early retirees, and so-called digital nomads:

    – Most of the noise is coming out of Mexico City, as far as I can tell. And I get it with the stats quoted. To me, this seems to be their young PMCs complaining that they can no longer afford the super charming, central, and desirable zones like Condesa and Roma, maybe a few others, because OUR young PMCs are ‘working from home’ in those areas and can pay more. Because Landlords. I’m sure there are indeed elderly pensioners getting priced out. The ayuntamiento should address that. BTW – My experience: many of these digital nomads are doing it on the DL, I.e. employers don’t know they’re off-shore. VPNs and all that.

    Walking these neighborhoods, the presence of affluent younger Americans is impossible to ignore. Same for young (insert G7 nationality here). Sounds just like trendy neighborhoods in Paris, London, Berlin, etc., etc., right?

    – The mountain and beach resort towns have always been ‘one-offs’. V costly by comparison. Especially Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel. Cost of living in PV is higher than CDMX, GDL, etc. For what I’m spending for a ‘cute’ place in a funky Mexican neighborhood – albeit close-ish to the beach, so ex-pats – I could certainly be living in a posh CDMX neighborhood. There are absolutely much cheaper, but equivalent, alternatives here in areas that look just like mine minus the Americans. Exactly the same for the capital.

    – An earlier comment regarding the underground economy here is spot on. My landlord wants rent in cash. It’s a cash economy. Dangerous? People walk from their cars to branch banks with literally two fistfuls of stacked cash. All day. Not making this up.

    – Taxes? No, I don’t pay income taxes here. I work for a US company. Again, spot on that we DO contribute to consumption taxes, don’t send our kids to school here, etc. I don’t have a car – or want one.

    My point? Globalization. We are ALL on our own race to the bottom. How, oh how, are we going to cut costs?

    I think at the end of the day, it’s a great thing for Mexico. They’re advancing and coming into their own. I love that AMLO is holding his ground against US bullying.

    People WANT to be here. I didn’t come here just because it’s cheaper. Beautiful country, wonderful people. They have something that US culture lost long ago.

    Reply

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