Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Shall We Then Live?

Lately, I have been receiving almost "frantic" e-mails that go something like this: "Do you think we can possibly live on $3,000 a month in Cuenca?" I'm sorry, I have to laugh out loud and then I respond very nicely (of course!).

The answer is not always easy; I think it depends on your level of comfort. We have $1,400 a month to live on, but we can still save $500 a month. We won't receive Social Security for another seven years (at age 62) which will then triple our income, but we're not counting on Social Security so we're saving each month. The way things are going in the States, you just never know.

We're fortunate in that we have a great condo for $210 a month plus condo fees --  right along the Tomebamba River. We couldn't ask for a more beautiful place. But we have noticed since we have been here that rents are going up and so is the price of food. I left for America at the end of July and when I returned, cappuccino at the Oro Verde Hotel went up from $1.00 to $1.50 -- in part because Americans frequent the Gourmet Deli at the hotel.

So how shall we then live? Very carefully. Life can change for all of us in an instant, so we have taken some preventative measures. Since my hubby's hospitalization last month, we have decided on medical insurance through Humana which will defray the costs of hospitalization; they pay for 80 percent of our prescriptions and help with the cost of office visits (which are only $25 per visit). We also have kept our life insurance policies which are a combined total of $100 a month. You never know when you're going to get run over by a bus (a very likely possibility in Cuenca!). We will keep both life insurance policies until we reach age 65 which is in another 10 years. Some may think life insurance is not a necessity, but we do. If we both die simultaneously, our boys will be millionaires. I'm sure they're praying for our deaths right at this moment!

That being said "yes" you can live comfortably on $1,400 a month and still save. I'm usually not one to divulge our budget, but in this case I think it's important because if you only have one pension it's vital that you see the realities. I did not include my writing income which varies from month to month (usually $300 to $600); I write for compilations, the Internet and "royalties" on my books(s). Trust me, authors do not get rich, unless they're New York Best Times Sellers (I am not!).

So here it is...the truth...the whole truth:
Rent                                     $210
Condo fees and water               90
Electricity                                15
Food                                      200 (we shop at the Coop)
Transportation                          40 (bus, taxi) We do not own a car.
Life Insurance                         100
Medical Ins.                              80 (for both of us: hospital, prescriptions, office visits)
Cable TV                                  30 (Direct TV)
Dining Out                                40  (once a month at a nice place or a lot of coffee/pastry/ice cream)    
Misc.                                        40 (you never know what you might find at the mercado!)
Cell Phones                               20 (pre-paid phone cards)
Medical                                     25
Savings                                     500

Total                                      1,390

As you can see, we are well within our means. We do not have a maid (I need my exercise!); we don't have a gym membership (we walk a lot -- especially around the Tomebamba River that's in our "backyard"); we don't have a car (our feet carry us where we need to go); we shop mostly at the Coop which is incredibly cheap. I use vinegar to clean almost everything (it does a superb job without harsh chemicals). And my writing income is a bonus; I write for the Internet on several sites which goes directly into savings (via PayPal). We use my writing income for special trips, vacations and for dining out on special occasions. I do not include it in our monthly budget because I may decide not to write some day (I'm retired...remember?).

We use the envelope system; the money goes in at the beginning of the month and when it's's gone! Oh, I forgot to mention; I cut my hair myself and my husband is bald (it works out well for both of us). We have a land line in our condo, which the Oro Verde will hook up soon and we receive free Internet through them because we are part of the condominium complex.

With our present condo, it came partially furnished: washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator, credenza, and lamp. We bought living room furniture and bedroom furniture (grand total:  $1,000). We have two bedrooms, two baths, and 1,400 square feet. It feels just right, especially when the kids come to visit. Our balcony is our favorite place and where we spend the majority of time. Our Internet is FREE (we are associated with the Oro Verde Condominiums).  If a medical emergency arises, we have enough savings to cover it and what our insurance doesn't pay, we can supplement with our savings. We have no debt (we sold everything and paid off all our outstanding bills before we left the States).

So how shall we then live? It all depends on you! I feel that we live better now than we ever did in the States and knowing that we have no debt certainly makes life more enjoyable. It's a win-win situation. There is no way we could have retired in the States. We would have been working two jobs (possibly 3), wondering how we were going to pay for doctor bills or pay the premium on our medical insurance which is $1,400 for the two of us. And then there's that little matter of heating/air-conditioning which we don't have to worry about in Cuenca (perpetual spring). Extra bonus: No need for snow shovels or snow blowers!

Some retirees prefer to wait until Social Security kicks in before calling it "quits," but we figured we would be kickin' the bucket about that time, so we prefer to live out the next ten years in a place where there is a river that runs through it and where the price is right! That's how we have chosen to live.

Until Next Time...Hasta Luego!

Consuelo y Marco

P.S. Mark just informed me that they gave him a "raise" of  $75 in his retirement (I didn't think you got raises when you retired; he explained it to me but I had no clue about what he was talking about!). It looks like the kids will be visiting sooner than I thought.


Jim said...


I've read your site before, but I didn't make the connection when you left a post on my site. I very much appreciated the info you shared on Humana. Medical insurance has been my biggest concern. Is this Humana associated with Ecuador, or the USA, or some international consortium? I read somewhere some time ago that Ecuadorian health insurance companies have a poor reputation for payouts. What's your take on that? I hope more bloggers share how they are handling their health insurance issues. It's a vital issue that is rarely discussed on the blogs. Thanks again for sharing.

Connie Pombo said...

Jim, our medical ins. is associated with Humana but it is called Nova Ecuador. They had four levels of plans; we picked the one in the middle. They also have a choice of hospitals, but ours will cover Monte Sinai, which is where we go anyway. Remember in the 70's when you filled out the form and the insurance paid 80 percent and you paid 20 percent. It's about the same thing. We have also heard that ins. companies are notorious for not paying, but some of the individual hospitals like Hospital del Rio has a plan that you pay up front (7,500). We couldn't see paying that much in one lump sum. With our medical history we can't be without something. I'll share more on that later. Most expats go without insurance as healthcare is so affordable, but we feel it is a necessity. Hope that helps.

Carolyn Byers Ruch said...

Okay, you can retire from writing books and articles some day if you feel like it, but you'd better keep blogging because I'm having too much fun living vicariously through you. Hugs!

Connie Pombo said...

Carolyn!!!! How great to hear from you. Yes, I will probably keep writing because I can't imagine NOT doing it. We have met the most wonderful people here; this is paradise! Besos y abrazos! Consuelo

Garland said...

Connie, I really ernjoy your articles. I'm a 75 yr old guy who lost the love of his life a year ago. What was so moving , when I first read your blog, was that you and your husband rediscovered your love and passion foreach other. That is the most important treasure in life. I plan on returning to Ecuador w/i a month so, this time toCuenca. The budget you posted is doable until social changes. Can't live a life in fear of what someone else might do because we only get one day at a time. Many thanks. Garland E, from Utah

Connie Pombo said...

Garland, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss; my deepest sympathies to you. But you have discovered the secret to life..."living in the present moment." I wish you much joy as you discover Cuenca. Let us know when you're in town and we'll be sure to reach out to you! All the Best -- Connie and Mark

Sherri Barcus said...

Dear Connie;

I have enjoyed your writing so much! My husband and I too are concerned about medical. Right now it is what has us on a holding pattern. We have been looking at Cuenca and Cota. My husband Bob asked how long you have been in Ecuador?
Like you I cut my own hair and Bob is also bald. :)
Cuenca has an international airport or do you come there by the way of Quito?
I plan on emailing you also - Bob & Sherri Barcus - From Colorado

Anonymous said...

Hi Connie,

Is that a photo of your living room? If so, it's lovely (and I can't believe you pay only $210 a month for such a place!)

Really enjoy your blog. It truly seems like you guys are living la dolce vita (or vida in your case).

I used to research living in Uruguay or Argentina, but in the end, it just seemed like a pipe dream. Just discovered Cuenta today via an MSN link. It looks quite lovely, with ideal weather, and incredibly cheap cost of living. In short, a little piece of heaven, perhaps.

I too have a question about health care. I have Medicare as my insurance, and wonder if they pay for services overseas. Would you happen to know if they do, and if they do, I wonder if I'd have to pay costs up front, and then seek reimbursement from Medicare after the fact. Any other retirees down there that are on Medicare.

Anyway, it's a genuine pleasure reading of your experiences down there. They're actually inspirational, and maybe I too can do that some day soon.

Best Regards,


Connie Pombo said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry I didn't get to respond sooner. No, Medicare doesn't cover services here in Ecuador, but many retirees do in fact keep their Medicare in the States because some do not live here full-time. Health care in Cuenca is very affordable about one-fifth the cost in the States. We do have medical insurance here, but it's a lot of paperwork and not much reimbursement. But for now we're keeping it, although many opt out of medical insurance altogether. We're just not there yet. Hope this helps! ~ Connie

Gerard said...

Hello, I came across your blog while searching for information on retiring to Cuenca. I am a 55 year old Irishman planning to retire to Cuenca I am at a crossroad in my life as my soul mate passed away 18 years ago and my two children 26 and 28 have emmigrated to Australia. I feel now is the time for me to move, it is getting impossible to live in bankrupt Ireland. I have a monthly budget of 1100 udollars and this must include rent. I am a non-materialistic man, I don't smoke and I drink very little. I am hoping to find a little place maybe 2 bedrooard place in Cuenca but if possible close to the river and shopping and restuarants. What is your opinion of me starting again in Cuenca on this budget and wishlist. If you like you can contact me on email at Thank you so much for all your help. Gerard

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