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Lake Chapala Living Guide

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Retire to Mexico?

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli 

Chapala, Mexico continues to be a prime destination for North Americans to retire. Even with the current expansion changes which cause the town to become congested with traffic on weekends and during the 'snowbird season,' there seems to be no slowing down of either the building of communities or the enthusiasm of newcomers. Having one of the best climates in the world, an eternal spring, the natural beauty of the area is remarkable.

Join us in reading this interview with veteran Expats Lucille and Burt Kennedy, who have lived in the Chapala - Ajijic area for well over a decade.

Burt and Lucille, for the benefit of our readers, could you briefly tell us a little about yourselves? Where you are from, and what lines of work did you do?

We are Canadians who worked for Canada’s largest bank our entire working careers. Lucille worked in branches, but I worked in the systems field since 1966. We were originally from Winnipeg, but we lived in Montreal for 18 years, and Toronto for 11 prior to taking early retirement and moving to Chapala in 1995. I was 51 at the time and Lucille was 49. Our 2 boys and families (6 grandchildren) still live in Ontario.





Did you move immediately to Chapala, Mexico? And how did you learn of Chapala?

I traveled throughout the Caribbean and South America putting in systems, and at an early age decided I didn’t want to retire in Canada because of its high taxes, high cost of living, and long cold winters. My first choice would have been Buenos Aires, but it was just too far from our families in Canada.

We first read about Chapala from International Living Magazine, and visited the area twice in the early 1990s to check it out before we retired and moved here.

Veteran Expats, Burt and Lucille Kennedy

Veteran Expats, Burt and Lucille Kennedy

How did your family and children react to the idea of you retiring full time in Mexico? How do you work out visits with family and how do you keep in touch, especially with grandchildren?

We had been planning our retirement for years, so it wasn’t a surprise to either our friends or families. We fly one family down each winter, and Lucille usually goes back to Canada for a week or 2 each summer. Our kids and grandchildren far prefer visiting us in Mexico, especially in winter.

Keeping in touch is much easier now than it was when we first came. Now everyone has computers, including my 91 and 92 year old parents, and Lucille’s 86 year old mother, so we exchange e-mails all the time. We can also phone Canada with Skype for only .024 cents per minute, so we talk to them frequently as well.

What do you like most about living in Chapala or Mexico in general? Are there drawbacks?

The weather is great, and the cost of living is low, but things like getting driver's licenses, renewing license plates, and paying your phone and electric bills can be painful. Nothing can be done by mail.

How do you figure the dollar amount to spend each year? Do you feel you must watch your expenses closely or do you live luxuriously?

I have been a “Quicken addict” for many years, and as such have always tracked our expenses, but it is mostly for comparative purposes to monitor cost of living. We live very comfortably. Ever since the Canadian Dollar strengthened earlier this decade, every Canadian down here got a 40% reduction in our rent, and in our cost of living, so inflation has been negative for us. For Americans it goes up 4 – 5 percent a year.

The Gazebo in Chapala's popular Plaza

The Gazebo in Chapala's popular Plaza

Do you own a house or rent? Plusses and minuses?

We have always rented. It never made any sense to buy. Long term rentals are inexpensive, so why bother buying? A large percentage of the people we know who bought when they first arrived were selling within a couple of years.

What do you do about health care? Do you take advantage of local care or prefer to return to Canada? Do you have local health insurance? (IMSS)

My company provides medical and dental care to its pensioners. It doesn’t cost us anything. We find the local care exceptional. In Canada you can wait weeks or even months for some procedures. Here it’s never takes more than a few days.

How do you manage your finances from Mexico? Do you invest locally in the Mexican Bolsa or elsewhere?

We have some money in a Bolsa Index fund with Lloyds, but it is an insignificant percentage of our overall portfolio. I trade on-line in Canada and in the US.

Avid tennis players and volunteers at the Cristiania Park courts

Avid tennis players and volunteers at the Cristiania Park courts

What advice would you give to someone considering retiring in Mexico? Should they buy a house, transfer their money to Mexican Banks or leave it in their home country?

Never bring more than you need for emergencies into Mexico, and put it into an Investment Company like Lloyds or Multivalores. Mexican banks are nothing like Canadian and American ones. The service is terrible, the systems are very basic, and the fees are high. Most people don’t bother with them. There are ATMs everywhere, and we use them.

How complicated is it to obtain a retiree visa in Mexico? (FM3)

We have been “Inmigrados” (permanent residents) since 2001, so we don’t have to do anything anymore, but when we came down almost everyone used an Immigration Consultant. Now most people do it on their own. Lake Chapala Immigration Services brings people out to the lakeside every Wednesday. You don’t even need a translator, but it is a painfully slow process that involves waiting for hours on 3 consecutive Wednesdays. I would still recommend a consultant.

What do you do about transportation? Do you own a car or use public transportation? How about the price of gas?

We own a Mexican plated car. Gas is .74 cents per liter ($2.75 USD a gallon).





Share with us your best money-saving secret.

When we were working we always saved 10% of our salaries. Now we don’t have to save. We live off our pensions and never touch our investments.

Apparently this is what retired Bankers do. A favorite actor in the Little Theater

Apparently this is what retired Bankers do. A favorite actor in the Little Theater

Would you recommend Chapala as a retirement destination?

We are not as happy with the area as we used to be. We moved to a quiet little Mexican village that in the past 5 years has evolved into a madhouse in the winter months. A number of long time residents have left for quieter places. There are over 20 gated communities that have sprung up. The traffic jams are awful. Parking is very difficult. Up until 2000 there were no traffic lights west of Chapala. Now there are 8. They are currently building a 55 store shopping mall, and across the road from that, a Wal*Mart. Our quiet little village is not quiet any more. It used to be paradise. Now it's paradise lost.

In the States we read about gang shootings and kidnapping there in Mexico. How about personal safety where you are in Chapala?

There are occasional purse snatchings and burglaries, but compared to up north, it’s far safer down here. It’s hard to tell numbers, because the majority of foreigners don’t report the crimes. It’s just too difficult a process. Crime is not an issue.

Where do you get your news? Do you have to speak and read Spanish to live in Chapala?

Foreigners all have US satellite TV. Very few expatriates speak much Spanish at all.

What keeps you busy? What is a typical day for you?

We play tennis 3 – 4 days a week, go shopping, and relax in the evenings. Tuesday and Friday afternoons I play pool with a number of friends. We go out for dinner to nice restaurants every Saturday with a group of friends. A couple of days a month we go into Guadalajara to shop.

Do you have a maid and gardener? How much do you pay them per month and for how many hours?

We have a maid one morning a week. She also cleans up outside the house, so we don’t need a gardener. We pay her $15.00 USD for 4 hours work.

In your opinion what's the best restaurant in the Chapala - Ajijic area?  

There are 57 restaurants in Ajijic now, and many of them are very nice. It just depends on what we feel like eating. We eat out 75 – 80 times a year. Dinner for 2 with a bottle of wine usually runs around $40 - $45 USD including tip.

Lake Chapala still has a laid back feel

Lake Chapala still has a laid back feel





What do you do for fun or entertainment?

The Little Theatre has plays every month, and The Music Appreciation Society has regular functions. There are always fundraisers for one charity or another. A couple of bars have karaoke, and others have bands. You can go out every night of the week if you want.

Do you have problems with the Mexican mail system? Do you receive your mail from Canada problem free or do you utilize another service?

A letter to/from Canada takes about 2 weeks, but we get very little mail. I suppressed our bank and brokerage statements because they are all available on-line. Don't send anything of value to Mexico, because you will never get it. Most companies that sell on the internet will not send anything to Mexico. People who have to get things like medicine from outside the country use Mail Boxes Etc.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in Chapala in the 13 years you have lived there?

When we moved down in 1995 there were very few snowbirds. We all lived full time in our nice quiet little Mexican villages. Then in 2002 an article in an AARP publication caused a buying frenzy in Ajijic. Well the frenzy is over, there are hundreds of houses for sale, but very few are selling.

We'd like to sincerely thank Burt and Lucille Kennedy for taking their time to answer our questions, and hopefully give our readers the inside view of what it's like living in the Lake Chapala area. For more information about Chapala and the surrounding towns, click here.

Retirement is right around the corner and you're ready to go someplace where the weather suits your clothes. Spring-type temperatures year 'round, Chapala, Mexico is a dream come true and the place for you!

If you're looking to stay in chain hotels or for a lifestyle that is just like the States then you're ... Read more click here.

To read more interviews with Expats, Early Retirees and Interesting Characters, click here

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

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