How One Man Retired in Paradise

A California man reinvents his life in Ecuador.

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Six years ago, Mike Sager was a stockbroker in California with a dream about how retirement could be. He set out to find his own piece of paradise south of the border. “Little did I know at the time that I'd end up this far south,” he says.

Sager’s search led him up and down the Americas, and eventually to Ecuador. “With the economies of the developed world collapsing, an exodus has begun to the undeveloped world. Americans, Canadians, and Brits, especially, but others, too, are looking for options for where to put their money and where to spend their time,” says Sager. “I think of myself as among the front-runners of this emerging migration.”

For an American retiree looking for a place to realize the best of his retirement daydreams, Ecuador can make a lot of sense. Geographically, it follows the natural line of migration from the United States, to Mexico, through Central America, and then south. Plus, the weather can be as good as it gets in Central America. When you think of Equator, you probably think of hot and humid weather, but in the highlands of Ecuador the climate is mild and fresh, even cool. Plus, there are no severe weather patterns here, so you generally don’t need to worry about hurricanes.

However, perhaps the biggest appeal of Ecuador for most retirees is the cost of living. It’s very possible for a retired couple to live in this country on a budget of as little as $700 per month.

Sager has chosen to make his home on the coast near the town of Salinas, where he lives on an eight-mile stretch of Pacific coast. "I get up in the morning, make a big mug of coffee, and head out to my deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I call it my office,” Sager says. He answers a few e-mails and then plans his day. Frequent activities include boogie boarding, riding his motorcycle, calling a fellow musician to jam, or just sitting there awhile, taking in the view and sound of the waves and breathing in the fresh ocean air.

Soon after he moved here, Sager purchased a hammock and tied it up between two coconut trees on the beach in front of his house. “I sunk into the hammock and sipped the cold brew as I watched the sun disappear into the Pacific,” he says. "We all deserve that kind of experience, those moments that remind you what life is all about.” The important thing to understand is that those moments can be yours easier than you think. All you need is a sense of adventure.

Ecuador is an adventure land, offering a great diversity of landscapes and geography, from the Andes to the lowlands, and a long coast, in a country the size of Nevada. Each region has its appeal, and the best part is they are all very affordable.

“Back in my old life, working in the financial services industry in California, I was constantly stressed about all that had to be done,” says Sager. “Ecuador has taught me to relax and to understand that what needs to get done will get done. My stress is gone. I know it sounds like a fantasy. But I can tell you firsthand that Ecuador can teach you how to let go and enjoy.”

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.