Retire and Invest in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Canadian expat Mark is a stellar example of how moving to another country can be a successful venture, especially with enough planning, appreciation of another culture, and the determination to make it work. Here he shares his perspectives on living and working in Mexico, the businesses he and his business partner are running there, and what he and his wife think are the ups and downs of expat life in Mexico.
 
Tami & Mark
Mark Arbour

-Where were you born? 

North Bay, Ontario, Canada

-In which country and city are you living now?

6 months in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico & 6 months back in Canada

-Are you living alone or with your family?

With my wife

-How long have you been living in Mexico?

We purchased our first property back in 2001.

-What is your age?

46 years old

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Mexico?

My wife and I have been travelling to Mexico since 1999. We instantly felt connected upon our very first visit. It was the pace of life, the weather and most of all the people. We were successful in business which enabled us to travel abroad and consider a second home. I had always felt that there were many golden opportunities to start a business in Mexico as a developing country.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

No, not at all. We needed to prove to the Mexican governement that we had the financial means to support ourselves while living in Mexico. I was fortunate enough to form two companies with my Mexican attorney. He did all the paperwork for me and continues to renew my FM-3 visa each year.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

No, not at all. I have benefits from my company in Canada which cover me outside of Canada, and my partner in Mexico was able to also obtain affordable insurance coverage. I am only 46 years of age, so obtaining insurance is still very affordable.

-How do you make your living in Mexico? Do you have any type of income generated?

Well, I have known for a long time that I wanted to spend a minimum 6 months each year in Mexico. I was tired of the Canadian winters. I knew I was too young to retire full time and I quickly realized that lounging around the pool every day was boring so I had to research Mexico and apply my skills.

Through research I realized that first of all that Mexico has the 11th largest economy in the world and recently surpassed Canada. Mexico has one of the fastest growing middle classes in the world. My research also showed that it is estimated that 20 million baby boomers would retire to Mexico in the next 35 years. This presented a huge opportunity for me.

In Canada I had a business where I assisted individuals facing financial hardship facing bankruptcy. I was the master franchisee and our company had assisted over 8,000 Canadians. I had a strong financial background. I recently sold the company.

To make a long story short, I formed two corporations with my Mexican partner who is an attorney and closest friend. His specialty was contract law. Our primary business is an investment company that lends money to Mexicans at reduced interest rates. We currently have more demand than capital available. I realized that there were many Baby Boomers retiring to the Yucatan because of the lower cost of living but they were on fixed incomes. This is who our investors are.

We pay our investors an annual return of 12%. Much higher than they would get back in North America. They need to make every dollar count and if possible see their investment grow. Our investment model is safe and secure. We lend money to Mexicans at reduced rates versus the banks but all our loans are secured with little or no risk to our investors. We attract and lend to the best clients. If they do not meet our criteria we simply do not qualify them for the loan.

-Do you speak Spanish and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.

Well, I am certainly not fluent but I make every effort to continue my education and feel it is important to know Spanish. I do have to say that I find that many Yucatecos want to learn English also. I have also found with current software on the web and on my I-Phone that there are instant translators available, which assist a great deal.

I truly believe that you must respect local customs and values, should you choose to reside in a new country. If you are not prepared to adopt their customs and culture, my advice would be stay home. There are many challeges when you are not fluent in the language but over time you learn. I find learning about the Yucatecan culture very interesting. There are some things that I do not agree with but there are many that we could all benefit from in North America. I find I am a better person because of it. I have less stress and more patience. There is definitely more emphasis on family.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.

Well, we routinely travel back and forth between Canada and Mexico. We have two grown children both in University and we do miss them very much but the reality is they are away at school and we would not see them in any event. Once they finish school they will be starting their careers and most likely in other cities. 

The fact that we have a large home in Merida and all our family are all located in Canada, which has brutal cold winters, well, let me say we have no shortage of family wanting to come and visit. We have also been very fortunate to meet many great people in Merida who have adopted us as their family. I feel that I have family in both Canada and Mexico. 

-Do you have other plans for the future?

No, I have a lot on my plate now!

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?

I currently own and we have bought and sold several times in Mexico. Real estate has been a very good investment for us. I would recommend renting for 6 months to get comfortable with the city you plan to retire in. Get to know the city first.

-What is the cost of living in Mexico?

Well, as mentioned above, it's much lower. That is why they estimate 20 million baby boomers will retire to Mexico in the next 35 years. I find gasoline, food, taxes & housing lower than in Canada.

-What do you think about the Mexicans?

Great, that is why we picked Merida in the first place, because of the people, and low crime rate. Merida is very European feeling but located in Mexico. It is the best of both worlds. There is so much history there. 

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Mexico?

That is a tough question and I could go on forever. I will just highlight a few.

Positives:

Family values, culture, their love for life itself, low cost of living, weather

Negatives:

Garbage -- in particular no respect for littering, no respect for animals, poverty

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Mexico?

Embrace the culture and don't try to force your values and beliefs on them. Remember you are a visitor to their country. Most important please do not believe all the negative press in North America about how dangerous Mexico is. Yes, Mexico has a drug war happening. It is the narcos killing narcos. It is mostly around the US border where the drugs are destined to go to in the first place.

I was a RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) for 12 years. I can tell you that you have a 4 times greater chance being murdered in the US than in Mexico. Use common sense, there are bad places in Canada and the US, if you go to those kind of places you risk a violent crime happening. Mexico is no different.

Riyadh South Arabia

Teia's picture

Hello,
My name is Teia. My husband and I are considering a job offer in Riyadh and I wonder if that will be a problem to bring my daughter with us, because she is not his daughter. I also wonder if I can study there, since I heard that lady's are not allowed to do many things there.
Do they have American University or any foreign language courses.
I appreciate if any one can help me.

Thanks,
Teia