Bulletin
Investor Alert

London Markets Close in:

Upgrade

Oct. 13, 2019, 12:11 p.m. EDT

These Arizona retirees ‘couldn’t afford’ America — now they live their dream life on $2,000 a month in Ecuador

They haven’t been back to the U.S. in years, and say they don’t miss it much — except for Home Depot and some friends

new
Watchlist Relevance
LEARN MORE

Want to see how this story relates to your watchlist?

Just add items to create a watchlist now:

  • X
    Home Depot Inc. (HD)

or Cancel Already have a watchlist? Log In

By Catey Hill, MarketWatch


Jacqueline Mackenzie
The Mackenzies aboard ‘The Beast’ in Ecuador.

At 72, Jacqueline Mackenzie has lived in nearly every state in the U.S. (her father was in the military and moved the family often), spent six years in Mexico and traveled all over the world.

But it’s in Vilcabamba — an Andean foothills town in southern Ecuador — where the retired teacher plans to spend the rest of her life.

“The climate is just unbelievable — never below 58 [degrees Fahrenheit] or above 86,” says Mackenzie, who moved to Ecuador with her husband, Don, in 2013. Jacqueline, who loves to garden, adds: “You can grow 365 days a year. It is a gardener’s paradise.”

‘Our friends think we are crazy, but they also envy us. An alternative lifestyle can be going overseas, but you can also go overseas and be alternative. We do both.’

Jacqueline Mackenzie

Though Vilcabamba is small (the town and surrounding valleys are home to about 4,000 residents), plenty of expats, particularly Americans, Canadians and Europeans, live there: “There are a lot of aging hippies,” Jacqueline jokes. Vilcabamba is particularly appealing to people who love an outdoorsy lifestyle — hiking and bird watching are popular here — and it, along with most of Ecuador, has a strong ecological bent. In 2008, Ecuador was believed to have become the first country in the world to extend constitutional rights to nature, with one passage of the document spelling out that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution,” as the New York Times reported at the time.

This ecological leaning is one of the big reasons the Mackenzies moved to the country. They live in a so-called eco-village — residents here seek to have minimal impact on the natural environment and give back to the planet. “We do what we can in whatever way we can to live a life that’s less consumerist,” Jacqueline says.

Want to share your retirement story? Email Catey Hill

That means they grow much of their own food, live in a home made of sustainable wood and stone, have a composting toilet, get their electricity from wind and water, and don’t have a hot-water heater (the water is heated by the sun). Jacqueline explains: “We try to live a very simple life.”


Jacqueline Mackenzie
The Mackenzie home in the eco-village.

It’s a life they say they adore — since 2013, Jacqueline has only been back to the United States once, and Don hasn’t been back at all since then. Though this, of course, is not for everyone. The town is small, and some say it’s too good to be true . Still, as Don points out, “the air is so clean, and I can’t get over the intensity of the blue sky.” And Jacqueline jokes that because even their grandkids are now grown, “we are just working at living.”

What do you spend each month?

The Mackenzies live on about $2,000 a month, most of that coming from Don’s pension (he’s retired from the military), they say. “We couldn’t afford the States, but here we are rich,” Jacqueline says — adding that they now live in a home with a “million-dollar view.”

Their biggest expense when they first moved to Ecuador was rent: They paid $400 a month for a three-bedroom house on a quarter-acre of land before they moved to the eco-village last year; now they don’t pay rent, having built their home for about $38,000. They lease the land for free because they help out at the eco-village; when they die their home and most of its contents will go to the owner of the eco-village. They paid for the house through a combination of savings and loans.

Now they spend the biggest proportion of their money on food — roughly $375 a month — in part because, as Jacqueline says, they are committed to eating organic whenever they can. Other significant expenses include transportation — they don’t own a car but spend about $350 a month on taxis — and health insurance. That costs them about $100 a month, though they do have out-of-pocket health-care costs like doctor’s appointments and prescriptions, which can add up. Internet service costs them a little over $80 a month, and a mobile-phone plan costs $28 a month. They also spend money on things like gardening tools, gardeners, seeds, trees and soil.

Page 1 Page 2
This Story has 0 Comments
Be the first to comment
More News In
Retirement

Story Conversation

Commenting FAQs »

Partner Center

Link to MarketWatch's Slice.