Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Much Money Do I Need?

That's always the key question before moving to Mexico. "Will I have enough money?" What's the cost of living in Mexico? It was certainly a concern of mine, and I did a ton of research before deciding to make the leap into early retirement.

One consideration in the research was, "what does a middle-class Mexican worker live on?" I found a variety of sources. But today, there was a front-page article in El Imparcial, a local newspaper, about the salaries of employees at UABJO (the Autonomous University of Benito Juarez of Oaxaca....state-run). That caught my attention because I worked for years in higher education in the States. Here's a translation of the first few paragraphs from the article. I hope it helps put the money issue in context. I've used an exchange rate current today of 13 pesos to the dollar--

".....The University Chancellor, who earns the most, has a monthly salary of 60K pesos ($4,614 US/month, $55,368/year), while the general counsel (attorney), with a lesser salary, earns 30,511 pesos ($2,346 US/mo., $28,155/yr.)

"The bi-weekly salary of the mid-level and upper-level university administrators--including directors of colleges, schools, high schools, and institutes, as well as area heads, administrators, and coordinators, varies between 3,500 and 10,000 pesos every 2 weeks. [editorial note: that's 7-20K pesos per month or $538-$1,538 US/mo.)

"Wages also vary by current category of support personnel, such as gardeners, cleaning staff, night watchmen, service officials, typists, librarians, among others. Those salaries range from 3,300 -4,279 pesos bi-weekly. [6,600-8,558 pesos per month or $507-$658 US/mo.)"

So that, my friends, is how much some mid-level professional workers in Oaxaca are making. Note that salaries vary quite a bit from state to state here, just as--say--salaries would differ from New York to Idaho. Also understand that there is almost always more than one income in a Mexican household. The spouse works, maybe so do a few of the kids. There may be a little independent family business selling sandwiches or handicrafts. Note, as well, that these salaries above mark the middle and upper middle classes. There are hundreds of thousands who make far, far less. Most Oaxacan families, especially in the countryside, scrape by on pennies.

If you are thinking about moving to Mexico, the usual advice is good advice: don't move here just because it's cheaper than living in the U.S. You really need to LIKE Mexico. You need to make an attempt at understanding the people, the language, and customs. Every day is a learning experience for me. Some days more trying than others. But, yes, you CAN live here inexpensively (by American standards) and WELL.