3 Ways to Live Mortgage Free in Retirement—Internationaliving.com

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The cost of housing is one of the biggest expenses Americans face, so smart retirees are finding creative ways to eliminate it. A new report from the editors at InternationalLiving.com reveals three creative ways U.S. retirees are living mortgage-free around the world.

La Chocolatera Salinas Ecuador

La Chocolatera Salinas Ecuador

If you can lower your housing expense, it frees up funds to spend in ways you prefer, to enhance your life.

“Retirees spend more on housing in retirement than on anything else,” says Jennifer Stevens International Living Executive Editor. “If you can lower your housing expense, it frees up funds to spend in ways you prefer, to enhance your life.

“Overseas, all sorts of creative alternatives exist, which can allow retirees to eliminate their mortgage (or rent) payments entirely, and, at the same time, lower the costs for everything else as well.

“That can provide for a high quality of life lived in a place where the cost of living is much lower than it is at home. Our new report outlines three interesting ways American retirees are enjoying a mortgage-free life abroad.”

#1 House-sitting

When Terry Coles and her husband Clyde decided to leave the U.S. and retire to Panama in 2011, they thought that would be their forever home. But after their first trip to Europe a few years later they were overcome with the desire to travel.

“We knew there had to be a way to travel for less—we just needed to figure out how,” Terry says. “A friend suggested we try house sitting, which we tried while maintaining our home in Panama.”

Homeowners the world over are looking for house sitters—reliable individuals and couples to take care of their properties, and very often their pets, when they’re out of town. In return, the house sitter gets to stay in the home, rent-free. In some cases, sitters even get the use of a vehicle. It’s not a free holiday, there are responsibilities of course, but they pale into insignificance when stacked up against the cost savings and local experiences.

“Once we discovered the trick to living rent free around the world, we started our travels close to home in Latin America, since we already spoke Spanish,” Terry says. “First stop was the Andes mountains of Ecuador, where we lived among the indigenous Andean. From our apartment in the town of Ambato we could see the smoldering plumes rise from the Cotopaxi volcano.”

Since, the Coles have embraced the warmth of the beaches of Costa Rica, and lived in a Mexican casita while they ate their way around the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. Their wanderlust even took them halfway around the world to the Land of Smiles, Thailand. But it was Europe that stole their heart.

In Tuscany, Italy they stayed in a medieval, stone farmhouse on a traditional Italian piazza. In romantic Chianti, their home was a 20-room restored farmhouse where they enjoyed fresh olive oil and wine from the owners’ private stock.

“Along the way we fell in love with the idea of living in Europe fulltime and that's when we discovered Portugal. Attracted by its Old-World charm, we’ve decided to stay here long term. And we couldn’t be happier with our decision. We are grateful for the savings house sitting allowed us to make on the way to discovering our new home.”

#2 Selling one property, buying two

At 57, IL Coastal Ecuador Correspondent, Jim Santos, decided to call it a day and retire. He and his wife, Rita, had sold their house in the U.S.—and were able to buy two other properties. Today, the couple live a mortgage-free retirement.

“In the U.S. we were living in a waterfront condo on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” he says. “We had a mortgage, but that was just the start of our expenses. Our condo maintenance fees—in a building with no amenities at all—were just over $900 per month. The property taxes on our 3,000 sq. ft. home were $9,000 per year the first year, but then dropped, a little, to $6,000.

“Our monthly expenses were averaging just over $6,000. To add insult to injury, Maryland charges not only a state income tax, but also an additional 50% to your bill for the county. Clearly, we were living just to work.

“We sold all of our U.S. properties, and were able to pay cash for both a smaller ‘safety house’ in West Virginia, and our new home in Ecuador.”

Ecuador is a very diverse country, from the Galapagos Islands to the Amazon basin and the Andes Mountains…from big, modern cities to small, quaint villages.

Salinas, a relatively small town, lies on the Pacific coast. Despite its 937 miles of coastline with striking mainland beaches, it is one on the world’s best-value beach resorts.

Here, the Santos’ found their ideal home.

“In Salinas, we were able to secure a 2,000 sq. ft. four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo. Bye-bye to the mortgage,” Jim says.

“Today, our monthly expenses average about $1,800 per month.”

#3 Living large on a boat

The dream of living on a boat, exploring the seas, savoring the clear blue waters and gentle rocking, listening to the lapping waves, remains a fantasy for some. But for Alaskan writer and biologist Bill Streever it’s a reality.

At 54, he and his wife decided to leave their day jobs. Since then, they have sailed to Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Curacao.

“We love boat life, and for us there is no reason to keep a house ashore,” he says. “We are glad to be rid of the expenses and worries that come with property. Sure, boat life has its own expenses, from marina fees to boat parts, but most of those are discretionary. For example, if marina prices are out of reach, it is almost always possible to anchor out, usually at no cost.”

Although they are on the move, they often stop for months at a time at choice locations. And they leave the boat once or twice a year to visit friends in other parts of the world.

Within the community of cruising sailors, their lifestyle is not at all unusual.

“As to the cost of cruising, we have friends who live well and sail well on less than $2,000 a month and friends who spend almost that much every week,” Bill says. “It really depends on the boat, the location, and, most of all, the personalities involved.

“Very few cruising sailors are on boats that they do not wholly own. Of course, it is possible to spend a million dollars or more on a sailboat, but it is also possible to find a boat that is more than adequate for under $50,000. And those aboard the million-dollar boat have the same experiences as those aboard the $50,000 boat. As often as not, they are anchored in the same harbors and tied to the same docks."

More information can be found here: 3 Ways to Live Mortgage Free in Retirement

Editor's Note: Members of the media have permission to republish the article linked above once credit is given to Internationalliving.com
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About International Living

Since 1979, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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