Discovering Unique Financial Opportunities in Ecuador
Living the retired life in Ecuador: There's nothing you have to do! Start every day with a blank slate and then just do whatever sounds good! Drink your morning coffee, then stroll on the beach? Maybe play some golf? Whatever!
Does that sound good? It did to me…..for a while. In my former life, I “made things happen.” Building companies, a driving force in the boardroom, developing strategies to meet goals! I miss that feeling of making things happen, of being part of something. But I sure don't miss the stress and the pressure.
As a retired executive, and a self-diagnosed, “recovering” type-A opportunity-seeker, I still want to accomplish things…that is what I do…it is what I have always done! So, is there an opportunity for me to “accomplish” something here in Ecuador, while still enjoying a peaceful retired life? Here’s my story!
You may have read my article in the January publication of HiExpat on passive investment in CDs at Ecuadorian Financial Institutions. As that article indicated, I do have several CDs in that “fixed Investment” category. But what about investing in something that requires a little more active participation? Well, I am here to tell you that if you keep your eyes open as you integrate more and more into your new home, opportunities will appear.
During my normal retirement routine of playing golf 2-3 times a week, I began having increased pain in my 70- year-old left shoulder. Searching around friends and forums I found Dr. Juan Fernandez, an Ecuadorian Orthopedic Surgeon (Traumatologist) practicing in Manta and Portoviejo. After meeting with Juan, who also trained in the UK and speaks fluent English, and with the results of examinations and tests, we scheduled arthroscopic surgery. I will admit that the facility where he performed the surgery felt different than what this “Gringo” is used to, but we forged ahead and the surgery was done expertly, with excellent results. As a bonus, Dr. Juan is an expert at doing these surgerys under a “local” nerve block anesthesia, so I was awake and able to watch the entire procedure on the screen live…as it was happening...with Dr. Juan explaining what was being done and why. Now that, my friends, is full disclosure! Of course, if you are a bit squeamish and don't want to watch, you don't have to!
As sometimes happens, once Dr. Juan got “inside” my shoulder he was able to determine that the relatively minor repair we had hoped for wasn’t going to do the job. Some capsulation needed repair, so he ended up having to remove the small tendon, cut one of my biceps tendons, and reattach it to my upper shoulder with some anchors. We had discussed these various possibilities before the surgery and so he proceeded to fix me up and put me back together properly. Yes, this was a bigger and more complicated procedure than we had hoped. This gettin’ older thing does have its downside, although, within 10 weeks I was back on the golf course! So other than playing golf again with a stronger shoulder, where is that “opportunity to accomplish something” teased above? Read on.
I received many recommendations for Dr. Juan from other Ecuadorians and expats, and had complete confidence in his skills… but when I arrived at the hospital where he had scheduled my surgery in Portoviejo, a city about an hour drive from where I live, I had second thoughts. As I said above, it was not comparable to US standards. It was an old building that currently functions as a well-worn maternity hospital. We entered through a rolling garage door where some folks were sitting around in chairs waiting, and then Dr. Juan took us into a side room where we again discussed details of the procedure. Then, we went upstairs to a dark corridor where eventually a nurse came and had me change into a gown and inserted 2 IVs. It was all very dark and dingy with no signs of life other than us. I was escorted to the operating room where the chair/operating table was…again, NOT state of the art. Dr. Juan had explained that he used this facility because as a maternity facility it did not have any COVID-19 patients, so that made me feel better, but it was not what most “Norte Americanos,” would expect. I’d come this far, so again, placing my trust in Dr. Juan and his team, I went in and proceeded with the operation.
By now you know that the operation was a success, and I healed extremely well. But the experience led me to ongoing conversations with Dr. Juan about the facility, and he acknowledged that it was not ideal, but it was what was available. Most of the hospital facilities in the area had COVID-19 patients and frankly, many were also quite worn out. He recognized the need and had some preliminary designs for a surgery clinic in the City of Manta near where we live, a city of about 250,000. And thus I perceived the faint knocking of an opportunity!
Financing options in Ecuador are quite different than in North America. There are not any “cheap mortgage loans'' and most require at least a 50% down payment, especially for a commercial facility. And even if a loan is available, the interest rate is much higher here for both savings and borrowings. If you take all this information and roll it around for a while, you can see how we came up with the idea for a group of us expats/patients to finance and build a surgery clinic for Dr. Juan Fernnadez and his closest associates to use. When I put a pencil to paper, oops, I mean when I, “entered some data into a spreadsheet,” the end analysis showed that this could be a very profitable venture for us to invest in, and receive a nice return on our money. In addition to that, it provides a great opportunity to give back to the local community, provides local employment, and gives some excellent community assets by the names of Dr. Juan Fernandez Sr, Dr. Juan Fernandez Jr, and Dr. Jose Alvarez, and their patients, a clean, modern, much-needed facility to perform their work.
The plan was hatched, the money has been committed by eight of us, the property has been acquired, and the plans are in final design. And I am feeling like I am once again identifying opportunities and accomplishing something. And one more thing we feel good about - the doctors and the investor group have agreed to donate the use of the facility and the surgical skills of the physicians to do at least one free procedure every month for someone in the community, who otherwise might not have access. So we can add the “opportunity to give back,” to the list of accomplishments. Opportunity is all around. This “retirement” thing just keeps getting better.
John Williams has lived near Manta, Ecuador on Santa Marianita Beach, since 2017. Prior to retirement, he resided in Park City, Utah and Mesquite, Nevada where he ended a 40 year Chief Executive career that included CEO level experience at twelve companies in seven Industries. John's formal education was in Accounting and Business Management. He is a freelance contract writer for International Living Magazine, Nevada-Today, Ecuador Insider, Fund Your Life Overseas and other publications.