As Much Money and Life as You Could Want!

“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


IMG_5788What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? If you live abroad in a developing country like we do, would you move? Travel more? Buy a big house and a new car? Start a charity? Pay off college loans?

We initially moved to Nicaragua because we could retire early from our teaching positions with small pensions. Nicaragua is affordable and we could live easily and simply on a fixed income. I nicknamed us “Economic Refugees” because we could never afford to retire early on fixed incomes and stay in the U.S. Money mattered in our decision to retire in Nicaragua.

But, now that we collect social security, we have a lot more disposable income. We planned and saved carefully and responsibly for our retirement, paid off all debts, have a house in the U.S. mortgage free, and a house in Nicaragua.  I ask myself why we stay in Nicaragua now that money is no longer an issue for us. Nicaragua isn’t for sissies and sometimes life is challenging here. It’s wickedly hot and dry in March and April. The infrastructure is getting better, but it remains unstable and irregular. The best and fastest internet speed we can get is 5 mbps.

We could live anywhere. We could return to the states and have all the conveniences we lack in Nicaragua. So, why are we still here?

I think the answer lies in how we were raised and our relationship with money. Our parents’ generation was raised during the Great Depression. They instilled in us a strong work ethic, planning and saving for a rainy day, and buying things according to our needs, not our wants.

Our lives changed very little about money when we moved to Nicaragua. If we didn’t have the money, we made the things we needed…like a fish trap or a weed wacker. We lived comfortably on $500 a month when we first moved to Nicaragua permanently in 2010.

Now, that we have more disposable income, our lives still remain pretty much the same. We continue to make our lives more comfortable, mainly because we are getting older. We hire our local friends to do our yard work and clean for us three times a week. It gives them monetary support and in return, we are freed up to do other things that interest us…like working in my elementary school library, writing my blog, or Ron working in his thriving garden and fishing.

Nicaragua is home to us. We are immersed in our small community and have a great network of friends throughout Nicaragua. I can’t imagine moving back to the United States. Been there…done that.

With extra income, we can fulfill our passions of traveling. We take at least two international trips a year, return to the states often to visit family and friends, and travel around Nicaragua often. With the availability of great house sitters, we can leave our home and our pets in good hands. Who doesn’t want to house sit on a tropical island where the world comes to us ?

We have a home on the beach in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America. The cost of living is generally about 1/4 of the cost of living in the states. Sure, there are inconveniences, but for us the lifestyle, the location, and the opportunities to volunteer and travel, are perfect matches for us.

Why would we leave?

We have as much money and life as we could want. I guess we are lucky because we chose precisely those things that are the best for us.

What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?


24 thoughts on “As Much Money and Life as You Could Want!

  1. If money was no object? I think I would get a boat and sail around the world! Probably a BIG sailboat, preferably a square rigger. I’d love to be able to do for others now what I was able to do as a kid. I’d love to be able to sail around the world and take a bunch of kids and teach them all about sailing and the ocean. Maybe even get a few of them to stick with it like I did. Classes onboard of all the regular school subjects, but tied into the ship, the sea and the places we sailed (cultural studies, languages,oceanography, etc).
    If that doesn’t work out, I’d be happy to boat sit (or even house sit) in any number of places around the world. 🙂

  2. I would do the same exact things I’m doing right ,,now,,,,

    planning, praying and learning, at this perfect exact moment …in my life …..


    Light ,


  3. Muchas gracias for this post and Parts I and II about expat health insurance. I’m encouraged that I can somehow make my move — to Guatemala in my case. I’ve been worried about affording health insurance and the monthly cost you mention is equal to what I kick in now for my share of the work/school policy — and it represents 8% of the total cost of the policy! Isn’t that nuts! It’s a great policy that I’ve never had to use, of course. But all the same, its the anchor that has tied me down to a job I really need to leave.

    As for the money idea in this post: it’s interesting that you are both living on $500/month. I thought that Nicaragua and Guatemala costs of living were about the same, but now I wonder. Is that your minimum, month-to-month budget? Food, pocket money, etc., extra?

    I’m at the point in my life where I need to live for me. I’m two years from the lowest SS checks and 5 years from the “full retirement” age. I won’t be able to retire and live in my own home, but there’s a chance I could rent my little cabin in the woods here, and have about $500/month left over to live on in Guatemala.

    If money wasn’t an issue, it would mean that I have enough to NOT rent my little cabin and be able to come back now and then for a breather from Guatemala, sit in my recliner inside or Adirondack chair outside and stare off into the woods. Something that already is quite compelling.

    • Hi JIm,
      We were living only on our tiny teaching pensions in 2010 when we moved here permanently. We had saved enough money to build our house, but other than that, we lived very simply on $500 a month. At that time our electricity was only $5 a month because our meter was broken. ( It took a year for the electric company to replace our meter) We lived with very little.
      But, when our social security started rolling in, we upgraded and remodeled everything. Now, our monthly expenses run around $1,000 for everything, including our new international health insurance. That doesn’t include our travel expenses, only our living expenses and utilities here. We don’t pay any rent because we own our home. It looks like it is time for me to do another cost of living on Ometepe Island post.:-)
      I am glad my health insurance posts gave you some reassurance that it is affordable and easy. That has always been my biggest worry about living abroad.
      It can be done, Jim. You may start out living a very simple life with few extras, but it is time to live for YOU, right? Can you retire early with a teaching pension? When we discovered that we could retire at 55 with smaller teaching pensions, we decided to go for it. Except that it took us a few more years of working 2-3 jobs each to become debt free. I have no regrets in our decision to take early retirement and live a very simple life until more money came in. It was the best decision we ever made. Thanks Jim for you thoughts.

      • Alas, there is no pension in my future. I’m the computer technician, not a teacher, so I must wait for Social Security. The town puts a little each year into a 401(a), which I’d rather not take out since it’s not much.

        I have two small houses on a small lot in as pretty a New England town as you’d see on any postcard. They are on land that’s been in the family for three generations. The bigger one is rented and that covers mortgage/taxes/insurance, so the small “cabin” rental — where I live — would be my income for Guatemala.

        I can live in Xela for $40/week, room and board! With the family that I’ve studied with (home/school same building) and study 20 hours/week until I am closer to fluency = another $130/week (so $170×4= $680 or less if I study alternate weeks). Classes would not be a requirement for me; I could live there indefinitely I’m certain. But my preference for a more permanent home is in Santiago Atitlan — what the hell, might as well live in paradise! Then I would like to spend more time trying to raise $$ for my favorite projects. I could live there on $500/month easily.

        So, it’s doable. The main complication is my mother’s ongoing care. Right now, I’m involved and she’s 95. But honestly, she could go on for years! I suppose if I can make round trips 4 times a year I’d be visiting as often as one of my siblings, but leave the regular care to the other two.
        So much to arrange, but I suppose all expats go through it.

        • Jim, I hear ya! It is doable, but at our age we have elderly parents that need our support and care. Such a dilemma. My mother is in a memory care center in the states. She has Lewy Body Dementia ( the same as Robin Williams). She lived with my brother until she needed more care than they could provide, and now she is in a skilled nursing center for people with dementia. I feel so guilty living so far away, but I try to return every two months to visit. Thankfully, she still remembers who I am, and she doesn’t know that I have been gone. I try to be as supportive as I can and help my brother with her finances, etc. It’s hard being away, but my brother knows that if he needs me, I am only a 2 hour flight away and I can come back to help at a moment’s notice. It is such a tough decision to leave. Yet, I know my mother is well taken care of, she’s as happy as she can be, and lives very close to my brother’s house. Best wishes in your decision. I think I need to write a Let’s Get Real about Leaving Elderly Parents Behind post. 😦

  4. Hmm. Education is so costly, but so important, so I would love to start a scholarship program to pay for post-secondary education for less fortunate youth. I’d also buy a couple of places to call home – one perhaps in Ecuador and one in Bonaire, where I could scuba dive daily. A girl can dream…

    • Sharman, that’s the fun in this post…dreaming. We dreamed of living abroad on a tropical island for over 15 years, until we decided that enough was enough and we jumped. It was a scary thing at first. We were poor, but we weren’t going to let that stop us. And I am so glad we jumped.
      You mentioned starting a scholarship program. In Nicaragua everything is so much cheaper and easier to do to help others. I have helped to put 2 students through college at $26 a month. Amazing, right? So, it doesn’t take a huge amount of money to help students get a higher education.
      Thanks for sharing your ideas with us.

  5. I too would be interested in another home or two or three if money wasn’t an issue. I hate summer here in NC so Canada would beckon. We have taken vacations to NB and NS and loved both areas. I tossed around moving to Canada to escape some political issues here in the US (like sending our children to fight others’ conflicts and a lack of national health care) but the family was not behind it. July and August are the worse in Charlotte. And these days June and September aren’t much better temperature-wise. Other than that i think we are pretty darn content in general 🙂
    No more star rating system?

    • Oh this is so much fun learning about what everyone would do if money wasn’t an issue. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I know how hot and humid it is in Charlotte in those months, too. 🙂
      The star rating is still there. Not sure why you couldn’t see it.

  6. That is a loaded question. I’d probably have two homes, so it would always be summer for me. I hate winter. I’m not exactly sure where the two homes would be, but possibly HA or another such English-speaking island and then maybe CA because I love it there and wish I had never moved.

    But then most of my family lives in TX so I’d have to visit my sisters often and do the traveling to places I’ll never be able to visit because of lack of money. I’m a bit too old to see the world too, but there are a few places on my list.

    I wouldn’t have to have a new car (mine is 16 years old and I’m content with it.) I wouldn’t need the biggest and the best in houses either, as long as I had a space for the hobbies I like that was away from the hustle and bustle and noise.

    I’d probably also donate to causes I found worthy if money wasn’t an object. And maybe adopt more cats. Who knows?

  7. Hmmm. What would I do if money wasn’t an issue? What a delicious question! I would buy a home in Vancouver, B.C., so I could visit there each summer where I could spend time with friends and attend the Vancouver Folk Music Festival that was the highlight of my year for the many years I lived in Vancouver. I would have another home in Central America–to be honest, probably in Mexico or Panama because as I get older I think about needing excellent healthcare that is easily and quickly available. I want to become fluent in Spanish, so that would be something I’d focus on, along with writing a book and finding other things to write about. I’m still a beach girl, but with rising oceans I would need to be thoughtful about how close to the beach I should live. Having established my home bases, I would travel. It’s a bit late to start seeing the world, but dang, I’ve worked too hard and too long to have no fun finally, and there’s a lot of world to see! Hopefully, even absent the homes in two countries and unlimited funds, I will still be doing most of these things.

    • Haha. A delicious question…love that phrase. It is never too late to see the world…never. Knowing you, you will figure out a way to do it inexpensively. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. And get started on your book now that your dissertation is done. I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

      • Thanks, Deb. The book will have to wait till I get to Nicaragua. Working 10-hour days and sorting, selling and packing the stuff in my house makes a second full-time job for now. And somewhere in there, after I retire, I still want to see some more places, squeezed in between the writing–I’ve no idea how long it takes to write a non-fiction book!
        At least I know it will have one reader!

        • Haha! Someday I can say, “Oh I know her. She’s a famous author.” Good luck on sorting and packing. I couldn’t do it. I gave up and rented our house fully furnished and we store our “stuff” in an extra bedroom. Sigh. Someday.

        • Cedelune,

          It takes well over a year to write a book, usually much longer. I’ve written six fiction books and one non-fiction book so far. The non-fiction book took about ten years of collaboration to get all the facts straight. Be patient, write when you can and have fun with it. That’s my advice. I love to write so am usually doing that if I’m not working part time. I find it therapeutic.

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