Making Guatemala Work For You

A look at retirement conversations and alternative planning.

Yahoo had an odd post titled How to talk to your spouse about your retirement goals . It included a checklist of six things but what was odd was the first two didn't include spouses talking to each other. The idea was to come up with what you want and then try to weave it together with what your spouse wants.

As someone who married kind of young, 27 and my wife was 21, our ideas on retirement have grown and evolved together. As people we have evolved together as have the way we view things, much of which we view similarly. In our twenties our focus was not so much retirement, although I did put money into a 401k starting at an early age, but about not accumulating any credit card debt and living below our means. My only thoughts at that age were building a little bit of a cushion and not wanting to be stressed out by having a big nut.

We've both been working from home since the early 2000's which might make our situation less typical as I have disclosed before I have no real desire to retire but I realize I may come to view that differently in the future. I've shared before my wife and I have an ongoing bit where I say I think I will retire, she will ask me what I plan to do, I say turn on the computer, watch the stock market, do some writing and place a trade every now and then. "Oh," she says, "so you're just sick of getting paid to do all that now, are you?"

I plan to continue to engage in markets and she plans to continue working in dog rescue and we each have a couple of other things we do but again the idea is that our thoughts on many things, of which retirement is just one, have evolved together.

When older people meet and marry, they probably do have their own ideas about retirement and yes this would be one of many things they would logically communicate about and yes, if that doesn't happen naturally in the context of thinking about and talking about the future then the subject does need to be broached as a practical matter. I wouldn't think people would bring their brokerage statements on the third date but this sort of thing would hopefully be a common ground even if thoughts aren't identical. Again very practically, I am going to move Central America in three years may not be too compatible I want to stay in Manhattan and work until I am 80.

Speaking of Central America, I found this article from International Living about rents in and around La Antigua, Guatemala ranging from $220/month to $450 and those figures include at least some utilities. This sort of scenario can salvage a retirement plan that is behind where it needs to be.

Although not feasible for a lot of people the idea would be to as young retirees rent out your paid off house in the US and live for a few years in one of these inexpensive places off of the rent collected allowing the Social Security benefit to grow (the longer you wait the more you get) and not tapping the portfolio, letting it grow. Someone leaving for this adventure five years ago might have had 90% growth in the equity portion of their portfolio (that is how much the S&P 500 is up in that time). A 60/40 portfolio starting at $200,000 five years ago then might be worth $308.000 (the aggregate bond index was flat).

Healthcare in these places is very inexpensive and is sufficient for the basics. All in monthly expenses could easily be well south of $1000/month. What is fair market rent in your neighborhood? Collecting a rent of $1500 - $2000, less 10% for a management company would make for a fine lifestyle. The idea in keeping the house in the US is that it can be difficult to get back in once you sell out. Guatemala is close, three hours by air to Houston, to come back for any family considerations.

Coming back for good after five or six years would have created a far more robust retirement picture with increased Social Security and a larger even if not an ideal sized portfolio. There are so many alternative retirement ideas, it would be worthwhile to learn about some of them for anyone thinking they might come up short.

I found international living articles rosy. there is talk of Malaysia being an ideal location. medical standards apparently high. I lived there 2 years. In some countries you need to discover the political realities and governance and safety factors by reading the new from all sources, not just the censored ones. Recently articles in Australia pointed out that at the 'best clinic for 2015' plastic surgery went badly wrong. public health care is not available for expats unless you pay privately. The ethical standards of private providers is different from Australian health providers and there are few recourses to price gouging when you are a foreigner. The locals may get away with local charges. We relocated back to Australia even though the costs are higher marginally when we now live frugally here. It is better to live in genteel poverty than live in dangerous political environments where corruption and democracy are not what we expect. I admire what you have done on seeking alpha. sending you this post privately. not for publication as the long reach in some police states is a dangerous thing if we have family there.


A friend who live in Hong Kong is very upbeat on Malaysia for the reasons you cited.

Insightful stuff including some personal notes, thanks!