Why My Mother Moved to Nicaragua

by Andrés Valldejuli
(Managua, Nicaragua)

Lucia & Family Enjoying Nicaragua's Pristine Beaches

Lucia & Family Enjoying Nicaragua's Pristine Beaches

My mother Lucia lived the all American lifestyle until it was time to retire. For years she worked and flourished in San Francisco California. She excelled both personally and professionally in one of the most beautiful cities in America. She lived like most of us do in the United States, working hard to live well, and hoping to retire without any financial worries. In her mind retirement was a thing of the future, something people just did at a certain age, but it was never a true concern or reality.

As a personal shopper for Neiman Marcus she earned a good income which allowed her to live well and with a lot of style. It also allowed her to save through the company's 401K and other savings programs, so in her mind, the retirement savings account was covered, and thus, sufficient to provide for a nice and comfortable retirement in her city. She also had the social security check to look forward to, so things would be ok.

Even though she made pretty good money, she would complain from time to time about on how expensive things were getting. For instance, cable TV went up from $35 per month to $58 when the local company was bought out, then coffee, which is what San Franciscans wake up to and go to sleep with was always on the rise. A regular cappuccino can easily cost you $4.50. The toll at Golden Gate Bridge went up from just a couple of dollars to $5. Not to mention the exorbitant amount of money you spend in medical insurance, car insurance and regular day to day expenses. But hey, that's how it is right, you work and you spend, there's no other way.

So one day retirement came knocking on the door, it was time to retire. She was going to put in her papers like they say. One of her first steps, after speaking to Human Resources, was to meet with her life-long accountant to go over the books and her future expenses. "A life plan" she called it. I remember clearly how happy she stepped out the door to meet Mr. Schwartz, her accountant. "Today is the beginning of a new day, today I tell Schwartzie (that's what she called him) that I am done".

Later on that afternoon I received a cryptic message on my cell phone answering machine, it said, "let's meet for lunch at Kuletto's, we have to speak right away". I immediately called her back but there was no answer. So I waited, counting the minutes until it was time to meet her for lunch. When I arrived she was sitting at the bar with a drink in hand, which at the time struck me as odd because it was not her regular glass of red wine, today she was having scotch on the rocks. So, when I sat down I asked her, what's up mom, what's with the message and the martini lunch. She said, "Darling, you have no idea, I am in shock with Schwartz". No longer Schwartzie so I knew there was something wrong.

She told me that she was not retiring, and that she could not afford it. I was terrified. I thought she had lost all of her money or that she had been a victim of a crime. She explained that she simply could not afford retirement while at the same time meeting all of her expenses. That the sacrifice to cut costs in order to just get by would be too much to handle, and simply not worth it. She explained that in order to retire she would perhaps have to give up her city apartment, a large portion of her recreational expenses and her regular medical insurance, as it was simply too expensive. The words Mr. Schwartz used were, "drastically downsize in order to meet her current situation". "My current situations he says", as she cupped her face with both hands and broke down in tears. I calmed her down by putting my arms around her and ordering another round, this time for the two of us. I told her we would figure it out, and that's what we did.

Originally from Nicaragua, my mother always thought of her home country as a nice place to visit, never as a place to retire. After all, she was an American. Although she loved the climate, the welcoming people and the natural beauty of its geography, she left Nicaragua at such a young age to attend college in the U.S. that returning to Latin America never really crossed her mind. It never really crossed her mind until she realized that her life as she knew it would never be the same as a retiree. Mr. Schwartz apparently suggested a "senior citizen retirement community" in order to minimize costs. Knowing my mother, she couldn't have liked that at all. When she asked herself what would make her truly happy, now that she was considering Nicaragua, she took into account affordability, comfort, safety, accessibility to good health care and the ability to be active in the community.

So after researching Nicaragua and considering the possibilities of actually retiring outside of San Francisco, it quickly became evident that this was not an escape but a true viable plan to secure a decent and well deserved retirement. Through our research we discovered that the exchange rate was very favorable against the dollar so her money would obviously go further, and thus, makes things more affordable, that it was the safest country in Central America, that it was easy to access via different airlines and just a couple of hours away from Miami, and that good healthcare was available at a fraction of the cost. After further research, it also became evident that a comfortable home would cost a fraction of what it would cost in California.

Being a fast mover, my mom took action by taking a reconnaissance trip to Nicaragua just within a few weeks of her dreaded conversation with Mr. Schwartz. She packed a light bag with just the necessary clothes for one week and took the overnight flight to Nicaragua. She decided to visit friends and family in Granada, the Spanish Colonial town where she was born.

Several weeks passed without any calls from my mother, which I found odd because being an only child she keeps close tabs on me. Since another week went by without any contact I decided to call. When she picked up the phone there was an instant tone of excitement in her voice. I said, what's up mom, what's the story? She laughed and asked me to research international moving company's interested in shipping her things. I said, what, are you serious? She replied, I'm happy and I'd like you to come see me right away.

Upon my arrival I was picked up by her friend Juan. He was wearing an all white linen suit, spectator shoes, and a beige Panama hat. The guy was looking cool. I remember saying, "only my mom can find a character like this to come pick me up". Juan was a long time friend that spoke perfect British-style English. When we arrived in Granada I noticed the horse carriages, the manicured cobbled stone streets, the old churches, the beautiful scenery, and most of all, the smartly dressed woman wearing a white linen dress, and a straw hat while sipping a glass of wine and smiling at me upon my arrival. She looked just like my mom, but since I knew that she did not pack so elegantly for this trip, I wondered where she got the get-up.

I remember making a smart-aleck remark like, "I see you've been shopping". She simply smiled and said, "You know me darling". Then she explained that she had decided to move to Nicaragua without any hesitation in her voice. All I could do was nod my head and listen as she went on about the beautiful city, the beautiful people and the beautiful home she was thinking of buying. As you can imagine I was in shock, this was happening so fast, but I remember feeling very happy for her at the same time.

It was a beautiful Spanish Colonial home with 18 foot ceilings and an inner garden which was simply amazing. Again, I was shocked at the asking price, a mere fraction of what a two-bedroom apartment would cost in San Francisco, so it felt more than feasible. After crunching numbers, hiring the right attorneys and doing the due diligence, she decided to sell the apartment in San Francisco in order to purchase the home in Granada. To my surprise all of her goods were exempt of taxes, and she was even able to purchase a car free of tax. The government obviously had incentives for those retiring in Nicaragua, which was just a welcomed bonus.

How is my mom's life in Nicaragua today? Well, it is simply terrific as her quality of life has improved immensely. Since she retired in the year 2002, she's never looked back. As a retiree her regular day to day bills are easily managed. When you ask her what makes her truly happy, she responds with a smirk, "freedom darling, freedom". I guess that's a great way of describing her new life.

My mother presently lives in a beautiful Spanish Colonial home in Granada, is catered to by a personal cook that also cleans, does her laundry and all chores. Can you imagine, "no more chores, not ever". She also has a gardener that tends to her gorgeous garden, and even has a personal driver. And the best part is that she pays approximately $220 per month for all of this life-changing service only afforded by the very wealthy in the United States.

In case you were wondering, she gets to shop at modern shopping malls in Managua as well as attend the theater regularly. She is also very active socially with new friends from all over the world. She is an integral part of the community in Granada, and very involved in charity work assisting foreign doctors with translation services.

If you'd like to reach my mother to say hello, you can do so at luciabenard{at}hotmail.com Perhaps you'd like to visit her in Granada on your next trip. She'd love to meet you and introduce you to her friends.

As far as me goes, well, I now live in Nicaragua with my wife and our beautiful 4 year old son. If you'd like to reach me and chat about Nicaragua, please feel free to reach me at avalldejuli{at}granpacifica.com.

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Answer @Sherri
by: Margit

Hi Sherri,

Trying something new is always a bit scary at first. Why don't you come and visit Nicaragua for an extended stay? If you like it, you can make arrangements for moving here permanently. If you don't like it, well, then you could "test-drive" another country that interests you.

Perhaps start in Granada, where you will find the largest expat groups and more people who speak English.

When you have your travel plans in place, you are welcome to contact me via my website, and we can perhaps meet for a coffee and a chat.

All the best,
Margit

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I would like tommove there also
by: Sherri

I Would like to move there also
But have been in usa 47 yrs and dont know anyone there & not sure where to start
Any advice?

Sherri_Armas@yahoo.com

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Retiring in Nicaragua
by: Margit

Hi Chuck,

Thanks for stopping by! I've been living in Nicaragua for 3 years now and can only recommend it. I feel safe and welcome by locals and expats alike.

My best piece of advice for you would be to come here for 3 months and "test drive" the country... not as a tourist, but as if you'd be living here. Rent a place in one or two regions that appeal to you and mingle with the people.

If you don't speak Spanish yet, this is also a good opportunity to take a language course.

I've just answered several questions of another reader interested in retiring in Nicaragua. You might find my answers helpful...

http://www.retirepedia.com/retirement-in-nicaragua.html

All the best,
Margit


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Liked article
by: Chuck

I am thinking of retiring to Nicaragua and would love to get your take on living there. I currently reside in Mason, Ohio near Cincinnati. Chuck. My email address is CMitchell95@cinci.rr.com

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Liked article
by: Chuck

I am thinking of retiring to Nicaragua and would love to get your take on living there. I currently reside in Mason, Ohio near Cincinnati. Chuck

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