Why I'm Moving To Ecuador To Pursue The American Dream

Gabrielle Karol, LearnVest

Here is a story very similar to hundreds of others that I have recently become aware of. Literally, dozens of North American families are moving to Ecuador each month now. Cuenca, in particular, is in a gringo immigration boom. That is where I live. These days, it is common to hear as much English being spoken on the street as Spanish. Looks like my little secret has been discovered...

What does the “American Dream” mean to you?

For most people, it means if you work hard, you can raise a beautiful family, own a comfortable home, send your children to college and eventually retire.

But with the economy still reeling from the recent recession, that dream has been shaken for many—especially those who saw their retirement investments plummet in the stock market.

Once the American Dream fails you, what’s the next step?

For one woman, the answer is a little unconventional: She’s moving to Ecuador. Why would a 58-year-old woman and her husband leave their five grown children behind in the U.S. for a small South American country? For starters … it’s a lot cheaper.

Check out our Q&A with Denise Toepel to found out why she’s packing her bags in October 2013:

You say you can’t afford the American Dream anymore. What do you mean?

Denise Toepel: Two years ago, I was laid off from my position in client services and quality control at an insurance company. My job was given to the person I trained, who was willing to work for half of what I was paid.

Losing this source of income has made my life with my husband in Denver, Colorado increasingly unaffordable. During the recession, we lost around 70% of our 401(k)s, or around half a million dollars. And now that we’re nearing retirement age (I’m 58 and my husband’s 55), my loss of income—I was making around $60,000 a year—has made retirement in the U.S. seem like an impossible dream.

I’ve been applying for jobs in my field since getting laid off, but nothing’s come of it. I’ve hired a career consultant, who’s helped send out résumés, but no bites. I guess it makes more sense to hire younger workers who can afford to earn less money at their age. Now I do odd jobs—I work for Warner Bros. doing audience testing for upcoming movies, and I sell clothing on Etsy—but these barely make any money at all.

What does your husband do?

Currently, my husband works for Veterans Affairs. He’s a retired Navy chief—throughout the course of his career, the two of us and our five kids lived all over the world. While he gets retirement benefits from the Navy and a good salary from the VA, the loss of my income really hurt us financially.

What do your financial obligations look like?

We rent our home for $1,275 a month and are currently paying off our car. Additionally, we have health care expenses and have to pay for our dental insurance (the military doesn’t cover dental).

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