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South of the

South of the

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

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

Tags: World, World

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