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They ditched America to retire by a lake in Chile on about $3,000 a month — and rarely come back

The shimmering waters of a Chilean lake call to the Dorchaks these days.

The American couple — who six years ago retired to Puerto Octay, a village on Lake Llanquihue, the second largest lake in Chile — say that their lives as real-estate appraisers and investors in South Carolina used to involve a lot of running around, but those days are long gone.

“The sun will come out, and I’ll say, ‘Let’s go get our kayaks and go to the lake,’ ” says Lori Dorchak, 55. “Maybe I’ll think, ‘Well, we’ve really got to finish some project.’ But to heck with that, nope, not anymore: We go to the lake. Life is short.” Or, as Jim, 56, puts it: “We don’t get up in the morning unless we want to get up. … It’s a what-I-want-to-do life now.”

Indeed, life in Puerto Octay — a village in southern Chile brimming with traditional German-style architecture — often revolves around the breathtaking nature at your doorstep. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the beaches abutting the deep blue lake, as well as a variety of water sports like kayaking, fishing, sailing and swimming.

The Dorchaks had never considered Chile as a retirement option — and, for that matter, weren’t considering retirement at age 50. But a series of tragedies hit their family, including the decimation of their real-estate business by the Great Recession: “We had this realization that life is short,” says Jim, 56. “Our dream had always been to have a little farm and raise our kids there.”

So when some friends who had a vacation home in Chile invited them to stay there, the Dorchaks jumped at the chance. And what they found, they fell in love with: a stable government, low crime, breathtaking scenery, the ability to live on little money, and “wonderful people who don’t care if your Spanish is miserable,” Jim says. “They will talk to you, anyway.” (They also looked at Uruguay, but found the crime rate too high there, though Jim notes that the food is “delicious.”)

They decided to retire to Chile in 2013 when three of their children were still school-aged (the children attended the free Catholic school in the area, and just the youngest lives with them now), and, to do that, they paid off all their U.S. debts, as well as bought a 6-acre property and a car in Chile and invested money to provide ongoing income, using their savings and an inheritance from Jim’s father.