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South of the

South of the


Want to save money and still enjoy a nice lifestyle in retirement? Join the hundreds of other gay retirees relocating to Mexico and other countries where the dollar still goes far.

What if you could retire today? Sure, your investments haven't reached their target value yet, but what if you could live large on a smaller nest egg than you originally thought--as much as 30% less? And what if you could still afford a regular gardener and housekeeper -- not to mention a weekly massage?

There has to be a catch, right? And there is: You'd need to move south -- south of the border, that is, to Latin America, where many retirees are going these days to stretch their dollars. And gay people are part of the trend too. Joe recently traveled to one such gay retirement destination --Ajijic, Mexico, near Guadalajara -- with his partner, Carlos, to see firsthand what moving there might be like.

Situated on Lake Chapala, a 60-mile-long lake that's attracted many American retirees in recent years, Ajijic (pronounced ah-HEE-heek) was once an artists' colony, and its narrow cobblestone streets and colorful facades offer plenty of charm.

Joe and Carlos flew into Guadalajara, rented a car, and made the short 45-minute drive to the town. Upon arriving, they met up with Damyn Young, 47, a gay Canadian who works as a local real estate agent targeting the gay market. Young landed in Mexico four years ago after traveling the world, and he met his American-born partner in Ajijic. He estimated that over 150 gay and lesbian couples are living in Ajijic now and that over 70% of his new clients are gay -- with both numbers growing yearly.

Although home prices run the gamut, bargains are plentiful. One recent sale was a brand-new lake-view home with two bedrooms and two baths in a gated community with an exposed brick ceiling, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances. The cost? A relatively cheap $188,000.

As for cost of living, Young said that a person could live a comfortable life on only $25,000 per year after taxes. According to him, a housekeeper or gardener costs $2.50 per hour. And Joe could not have been happier with his one-hour massage for a mere $20, given by two trained masseuses working simultaneously. Dining is incredibly inexpensive by American standards too. Dinner at an upscale Argentine steakhouse, for example, with appetizers, salads, filet mignon cooked to perfection, and four bottles of wine, cost just $24 a person, including gratuity.

One couple Joe and Carlos visited with, Jim Lloyd, 69, an American, and his Canadian-born partner of 35 years, Robin Lawrason, 66, have lived in Ajijic for nearly a decade. Perhaps because of the village's free-spirit tradition, they say, there is a go-along, get-along attitude in the town, with sexuality hardly a problem. "Our lives are so much more integrated with our straight friends' than they ever were in the United States," Lawrason said. "Even with the local Mexicans, there have never really been any issues."

Thanks to high-speed Internet access and flat-rate international long-distance calling plans, staying in touch with friends and family back home is easy too. And for certain conveniences -- or brand names -- you may not find in Ajijic, there's always Guadalajara, with its Apple and Nike stores and other amenities.

Of course, living in Latin America presents some challenges (see sidebar), but if you're tired of the rat race, are up for a bit of adventure, or just want to save some money, you might want to consider making a run for the border.

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