The current economic crash has led me to reprint my “FREEDOM” story for you with a few points added to help to show how you can still retire here in Ecuador even though your retirement nest egg may have become much smaller in the last few months. There are a few things that I will go over again do to the current economic situation. This information is even more important than when I wrote about it two years ago!

You say you don’t have enough money to retire? We have huge mortgages and payments with daily stress and more than one job to pay for them. The propaganda of the advisors saying that you need millions of dollars to retire. We think we are locked into living inside the USA until the day we die, because the news media says that it is too dangerous in other countries. IT´S A LIE! We (Americans and Europeans) have been brainwashed into thinking we have to have a brand new huge house, and the huge mortgage to go along with it, and when it is paid for, the real estate taxes are more than your original payment was! You never really own your home. Two new SUV’s and every toy known to man. Huge payments and the stress of making those payments until we are 80 years old….This is not freedom. The truth is that a person can retire much sooner than they are led to believe. I for one am living proof that it can be done. And I live wherever I like! One way is to sell all of the things that create stress in your life, and buy a sailboat as I did in the mid 90s and travel the pacific. Or you can keep all or most of your stuff and retire in a place where things cost much less than in the USA.

While I was cruising the Pacific from 98 to 02, I spent a year and a half in Mexico, a year in Central America, and a year and a half in South America and the French Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific. In that 4 year period I spent 5 months in the small country of Ecuador. Its climate, beaches, mountains, and mostly its people are what took hold of me, and hasn’t let go. I fell in love with the place and its people. I sold my boat after crossing the Pacific to Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, and returned to live in the place that I had fallen in love with.

I have been here for over 8 years now. I have a beautiful Ecuadorian wife with which I have been married for almost 7 years, a 2 ½ year old boy and another on the way. We live on a beautiful 10 mile long beach with a sea that is warm, people that are friendly, and fresh foods every day. Wow, what a difference all these things make in the stress level….

One of the things about the lifestyle that I have here, is that even a person on social security, can live like a king! For example. We have a very nice house, with a guest house, a caretakers house, garage, shop, pickelball court, and swimming pool, all on a half acre right on the beach. My yearly taxes are $32 per year! My electric bill for the entire property is around $20 per month! We cook with propane, and the exchangeable 10 gallon bottles are $1.60. Yes, that is $1.60 for the whole 10 gallon bottle exchange, not $1.60 per gallon! If you choose to own a car, regular gas is $1.47 per gallon and diesel is $1.03 per gallon. We eat out quite often, and a huge lunch of fresh fish, shrimp, chicken or beef, with fresh soups, rice, salad, menestra, and a fresh fruit juice, is $1 to $1.50! A quart of beer is .60 cents. Fillet mignon is $1.80 per lb. We make hamburger and stew with it! Fresh shrimp and fish from the fisherman on my beach is $1.00 per lb.!

When traveling, we go on the 1st class busses called ejecutivos (executive) that run $1 per hour of travel. A nice clean hotel runs between $5 and $15 per night per person. Basically my family and I with our house paid for, live here very well, including travel, eating out, hotels, paying the caretaker, the house keeper, electric, property taxes, etc. for less than $700 per month! Others live on much less. By the way, the caretaker does everything from painting the house to taking care of our extensive flower and plant gardens, and lawn, to maintenance for $45 per week. The rest of my income that I receive from the USA goes toward investments in Ecuador beachfront properties.


The cost of labor here is low. A maestro (journeyman type) is around $15 a day, and a laborer is around $7 per day. Building costs are also very low depending of course, on how lavish you want to build it. I have a small Polynesian style house that I built for my caretaker that is around 500 Square feet, and finished nicely for $2000. Yes that is two thousand dollars. Other types of house construction run from $35 per square foot on up.


By the way, the currency here in Ecuador is the United States dollar! It is very easy to access your money from the states from cash machines. I use bill pay on my bank account in the states, or pay pal to send money to whomever I want in the states. My credit card bill is automatically withdrawn from my bank account and air miles credited at the same time, which allows me to fly wherever I want for free. It is all so easy to do. We do have a home in the states. It has 6 tires and a motor so that we can live wherever we want when we want, and not have to bother our friends and relatives for a place to stay. We put insurance on it when we are there and cancel when we are not. We have no telephone bill, no house insurance, and no car insurance, except when we are there in the U.S.A. NO BILLS!


Here in Ecuador, we have pay as you go cell phones, wireless internet, DirecTV, a car that we use for local trips, and that is about it. We work on things when we want, we play in the waves, we walk almost every afternoon on the beach with little Archie, walk into town and have lunch and or dinner when we don’t feel like cooking, and we enjoy evening sunsets from the terrace or beach. There is a town close by called Bahia De Caraquez that has some cultural things, theater, an International marina, ( that Mercy and I built a few years ago) and high-rise condos.


Many of the cruisers that have traveled the world with sail boats, including myself, and have the option of living wherever we want, have found Ecuador and have decided to retire here. We have purchased condos with views of the ocean and river, for $30k to $70k, beachfront land from $10k, and farms for as little as $500 per acre. The same thing on the coastal U.S. could be millions, and we have a nice, warm ocean to swim in!

It is very easy to get a retirement or other type of visa, which costs around $800. It allows you to come and go as you please. You only need to show proof of income of $700 per month. There are also other types of visas which don’t require income verification, but do require an investment in Ecuador. Anyway, back to the main subject of retirement. The truth is that you DO NOT NEED to have millions of dollars to retire. You do need to have the desire to change your life and maybe live in paradise, do a little planning, and then make the decision. There are many foreigners here that live full time, and many that come to 2nd homes here for vacations. Some folks live here part time. Often, they work a few months back home and then live here comfortably for the rest of the year. I have a neighbor here who has a small hotel. He and his wife go to the States and drive long haul truck for 2 months and make 20k and then come back and live here for the other 10 months. The extra they put into upgrading their hotel. They watch their money and live comfortably. What do you need millions of dollars for anyway? To have your kids fight over it when you’re gone? To go to court and try and protect it from all the people who want a part of it….. The real truth is; it isn’t worth it. Do something that you love to do, go somewhere with your wife or husband and family, and enjoy time, not be stressed out about the bills you have to pay or the next appointment that you have to be to. Do it while you have your health, and your bones aren’t fragile…


International Living magazine has called Ecuador the least expensive place on earth to retire. Ecuador last year climbed to 2nd on the their list of countries to retire. They take into consideration everything from cost of living to quality of life, and Ecuador is 2nd again this year. I think in the near future that it may become #1 as the infrastructure is being improved throughout Ecuador.

With a little culture change, and a spirit of adventure, you too can have this quality of life that I have found here in this small but diverse country of Ecuador, and live with a lot on just a little.

I am reminding you to enjoy your life, whether you are retired or not. And that there are options available. Have a plan on how you can achieve your financial goals, and work toward those goals. Part of that is becoming debt free. I am here to tell you that it can be done. Wow, what a concept…. Debt free. Now that is freedom!

Gary Swenson

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