Retiring In Ecuador; Why Wait?

[color-box color=”gray”][dropcap]Join[/dropcap] Canadian Expat, Dodie Schadlich, in her weekly column for “Off the Beaten Path”.   Read on to hear about how thinking outside the box can pay dividends when it comes to retiring early. [/color-box]

I will turn 51 in June and my husband is turning 57 in 2 weeks.  Our 5 year anniversary in Ecuador is on May 21;  I will let you all do the math.

Considering that we are not independently wealthy, not old enough to collect our pensions, our surname is not Gates and we do not have great investor type minds, one might wonder how folks in their middle 40s, or early 50s in my husband’s case, can make a life in Ecuador.
The great majority of people we have come to know are retired, either medically or the old-fashioned way, known as the 65-year plan.  Collecting a pension each month that they worked long and hard to earn.  It may be simple Social Security or CPP, which is Canada’s equivalent; both of which are sufficient amounts to qualify for a Visa.   In any case, this group makes up the largest group of expats we know.
The retirees are not always in their 60s. There are certainly some younger people collecting pensions, either from injury or because they were able to collect supplementary retirement pensions.
We have also come to know some savvy young folks that made some great investments over their years, and others that have inherited money. Using their income to build a new life for themselves down in Ecuador, even having children and families, living a life very different from retirees.
There is also a small group of 20 and 30 somethings that followed family down to Ecuador and try to earn their way by working regular jobs for Ecuadorian wages.  It seems to be a struggle for sure, trying to maintain a North American life on Ecuadorian wage rates, but many seem to be making a go of it even if they struggle from time to time.  This way of life tends to work best for those with a decent grasp of Spanish, otherwise their opportunities are limited to gringo owned businesses that have mainly English speaking clients.
Various people from the above groups may choose to build businesses while they are here.  The reasons for this vary, from following their dreams to financial need, to boredom. Restaurants, photographic services, importing items, real estate companies, investment properties, BnBs, tour companies, driving services, translation and visa facilitation, the list of possibilities is too large to list here.  If you can dream it, you can list it here. Often if you do not speak Spanish, the customer base will be much smaller and limited to the expat groups unless you can hire locals or learn the language to offer services to a larger mix of foreigners and Ecuadorians.
There is another group, which Randy and I fall under, and that is those that bring their jobs with them.   I have worked for the same company for 14 years now; 5.5 years of that has been remotely.   Our lifestyle is very different from the above groups.   This often means we do not participate in many of the expat social events as my work hours often conflict during the weekdays.  It is a small price to pay to be able to experience life in paradise at our age.
Punching a time clock while staring at the ships bobbing gently on the horizon is hardly considered demanding work.  My husband and I feel very grateful that we were able to follow our dreams a little younger than some.  My job allows us the flexibility to work remotely, while my husband builds our beach side vacation rental business.
View from Malecon of break wall and fishing boats
Although I have to clock 40 hours each week, I receive very little sympathy from my coworkers while logging in from the terrace overlooking the ocean. The physical office is located on the west coast of Canada meaning my work hours are adjusted for the time zone difference.  This leaves the fabulous, cooler mornings to run errands, walk the beach, putter around the property or to take care of my growing to-do list with the charity work.
Don’t get me wrong, the role and responsibilities of my job are stressful and demanding and I have set hours to be logged in, focused and available.  What I no longer have is the commuting time…in the snow.  The dress code is completely gone and I find myself in a bathing suit with a little cover up, more often than not.
I have my choice of where to sit and work; either the desk in the home office, front porch with the ocean view, sitting in the deep shade at the bar, or hanging in the hammock.  My mood and my workload on any given day will dictate which location to choose.
Lunch break will find me on a yoga mat or in the pool for a cooling dip.  The coffee break allows me some time to stretch, walk the property, pick a mango or banana from the tree with a fresh coffee in hand.
Technology is bittersweet sometimes; I find it frustrating, complicating life in so many ways, but on the other side, as I lay in my hammock with laptop in hand, a dog on each side of me I realize how technology has allowed me the flexibility to pursue my dreams while we are still energetic enough to build our business.
The remote workplace has its pros and cons for sure.  It is not all positive and I could write another whole article about working remotely; the good, the bad and the ugly.
I cannot talk about working remotely without a most honourable mention to my employer.   Without their vision, their faith in me and not only their blessing to follow our dreams but their encouragement, this would not be possible.  I had worked in the office for over 8 years, Monday thru Friday, however, my client list is located across the country and rarely would I meet anyone in person so there was really no transition for them.  It was extremely important to me to make this remote workplace successful for everyone.  Not only for my own personal gain but for the potential future of others in our office that may want or need the flexibility.   I was the first to work remotely and now there are 6 of us that are consistently remote workers and the owners of the company will also periodically do so as well; with their goal to be full time remote one day.
To make this move to Ecuador, my husband had to give up his management position and take on the exciting but stressful, the fabulous but frustrating, immensely important task of building our business.  The process was certainly complicated as he tried to wrap his head around the cultural differences, construction nuances and language barrier.  Not an easy task for sure, but here we are nearly 5 years later,  he has found his groove and the heart he poured into it is apparent to all that walk through the gates.
We purchased a beautiful but run down piece of property, steps from the beach and he turned it into a beautiful, peaceful and tranquil oasis that we share with our vacation rental guests. Our vision and my husband’s hands have created something that literally takes my breath away some days as I stroll through.
Welcome to Casa Blanca Playa Cautivo
I have been asked, how we keep such a schedule.  I have to smile, as I really do not have an answer.   We made many life adjustments like giving up online games, giving up smoking (which took up an unusual amount of time) and just recently I gave up social media.   Giving up that one thing sure gives me a lot more time in a day!  It was to be a 30-day hiatus, but I think I may extend it. I have a few more important things to do without wasting my time mindlessly flipping through my newsfeed. Time has become far more precious to me these days.
If I can offer a bit of advice to those of you sitting home, working away, researching Ecuador and wondering when you will be able to make the move, it would be  to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Look at your daily role and responsibilities realistically, and ask yourself what can and cannot be done remotely.  Look at the whole picture with the goal being to make it work rather than simply creating a list of reasons why it won’t.
Once you determine what can and cannot be done, make a plan around it. Perhaps you may need to give up one task, but offer to take on another.
Present the plan to your employer and remember it needs to benefit them and not just you so really look at the whole picture from all angles. Test it out by working remotely from home for a few months.  This will ease you both into the routine and give you a chance to work out the kinks.  Fix those problem areas before making the big move and the next thing you know, you will be laying back in a hammock, taking care of business.
Whatever your dream is, do not be afraid to go after it.  Remember to find the reasons why and ignore the nagging voice in the back of your head, named fear, that quickly lists all the reasons why not.  Breathe deep, move forward.
Ciao Amigos- Hope to see you in Ecuador one day.
Photo Credit: Cafe Credit via Flickr

4 Responses

  1. Why retire ? Why are some people so fixated on retirement. As I approach 64 I am happily still working in what has and continues to be a great career. Lots of successful people, with money by the way, myself included, could retire tomorrow. Work has been rewarding and there has never been punching a clock. Just sayin.

  2. Hola! We have known Dodie and Randy since 2014. We met them through another expat couple who run a B&B in Punta Carnero. The dream is real. We do not plan to relocate to Ecuador, but rather just be snowbirds. I hate that term ‘just’, but it is fair. We have family at home in Canada that we would not relocate from. But Dodie and Randy are examples of the fantastic people that we have met on our way to be to ‘retiring’ at the ages of 58. Retiring is in quotes, because we can never afford to ‘retire’. I have chosen a pinnacle career, that I can do part-time from any balcony in the world with an internet connection. I can also tell you that I have been to Dodie and Randy’s oasis. I am NOT a paid political announcement. Visit their site and see where you could forget about the world around you for a while. They are truly remarkable people, with a truly remarkable property, and a truly remarkable dream. Also, I have learned that you do not have to become fluent is Spanish before your go. The people here appreciate that you try, and will bend over backwards to be accommodating. You can get by to start with being able to ask for directions … especially to the nearest banos (please forgive the non-Spanish keyboard)! Ordering a cerveza or almuerzo will win you points. A hotel reservations is the next step. Know your numbers so that you know how much bus fare is, and how to negotiate a cab fare or market purchase. And have fun! Our lives are a limited number of anniversaries, circling around the sun. Take the time to make your sunsets memorable! Buen dia!

  3. Great article Dodie
    Yes the fear card holds a lot of people back from all sorts of things , myself included.
    I am
    Working on a project now to start up online business where I can do anywhere in the world
    I do think one needs to keep active to keep mind and body going , just as you both did , good job .

  4. Great article, and is causing my husband and me to get excied on starting our next adventure. I’m retired and 64 and still have alot of life ahead of me. My interest in Ecuador was inspired by my 72 year old friend. You’d never know she is 72. She is so full of energy. She has been to Ecuador a few years back with her daughter. Her daughter could only stay for a week, but my friend stayed for another 3 weeks and had a blast. She was raised in Germany and immigrated to the US at 17 with her American military husband. So she did not know any English when she moved here. I’m so fortunate to have recently become friends and she’s already talking about going back to Ecuador. First I need to get mine and my husbands passport, then pick a time to go and then book our flight. We are definitely considering moving retiring there on our social security, my husbands is social security disability, but I’m pretty sure that’s still considered social security income. But first we’ll do our research and come to that decision down the road. I’ve worked in the medical field for the past 30 years as a medical secretary, patient Assistance Specialist in the fields of Orthopedics, Neurosurgical, and Oncology. There’s so much I could do down there to help others. Compassion is the key. Like you said Dodie, it starts as a dream and one must be flexible when it comes to thinking outside the box. We did that back in 1997 when we left Fresno, CA and drove to Portland, Oregon. We had no jobs or destination. We took off in our 16 ft RV motorhome, and our car, took our time driving up there, taking in the sights, and once we arrived we found a small campground where we stayed for one month for about $300, until we found jobs and moved to an area we liked. No problem for me finding a job in a physicians office, and a new life took off from there. I’m not saying it was smooth sailing, but we had each other and a sense of adventure within us. We were each other’s support. Now we just need to deal with getting rid of our “stuff” and start a new chapter in our life. Your vacation rental sounds great, and I would like to find out more about it. We would be booking through AAA of Oregon and Idaho since we’re members. Maybe they have you listed as a destination for travelers who want a coastal vacation. Anyway, thanks for your encouraging blog about you and your husbands dream. I can’t wait to see it.

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