Retirees get a bigger bang for their buck south of the border — down Ecuador way

Retired Americans are moving to Latin America for an upscale lifestyle that costs at least a third of what they’d pay in the U.S.

DSC_0245One of the most popular retirement havens is Cuenca, Ecuador, a city of 350,000, that is home to 10,000 foreign retirees, most of them from Texas and Florida.

DSC_0159Susan and Michael Herron, both in their 70, pay $400 a month for their two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath apartment. (Photos by Jim Wyss, Miami Herald)

The Herron’s total monthly expenses for a good lifestyle that includes quality health care, dining out, cheap public transportation, excellent museum, fresh fruit and produce markets and other enjoyments add up to $1,500, about a third of what it would cost them back in the states.Ecuador_(orthographic_projection).svg

The city of Cuenca — its full name is a mouthful: Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca — is regarded as the most European city in Ecuador. Its 16th and 17th century era Spanish colonial architecture resembles that in Spain.

Located in the highlands of Ecuador 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) above sea level the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site because its many historical buildings.

One of the reasons Americans are drawn there is that the unit of currency is the U.S. dollar. The county’s motto is Dios, patria y libertad, meaning God, homeland and freedom — which sounds like America.

The first question my friend, Guido Michelini, wanted to know was: “What kind of government do they have down there in Ecuador?”

His wife chipped in with a sardonic one-word response: “Goofy.”

“Well, I guess Ecuador’s out,” said Guido.

CENA_LENIN_MORENO_(16217113764)_(cropped).jpgGuido’s wife is justified in having her doubts about South American governments. Ecuador itself has a history of political volatility, economic crises, public unrest and impeachments.

But the political climate appears to be more favorable these days. In April of this year voters elected as their president Lenín Moreno, a 64-year-old disabled humanitarian who was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the recipient of many awards when he was the country’s vice president. He is the only head of state in a wheelchair.

Moreno has been disabled since 1998, when he was shot in the back after being robbed by two men in a grocery store parking lot. The bullet left him paralyzed and he was bedridden for several years with severe pain. In desperation he decided to try laughter therapy, which he had read about, and nearly four years after the shooting he was able to move move about in a wheelchair and continue his work as a public servant.

As a result of his personal experience Moreno created the foundation “Eventa” to promote humor and joy as a way of life. He is the author of numerous books on the subject. In 2013, he was appointed Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility to the United Nations.