Retirement used to be straightforward: retirees rarely moved very far, if at all, from where they lived all their lives. However, these days, with people living longer and with so many people taking early retirement, our golden years can last 25 years or longer. We are rethinking how we want to spend all those years. Why not strike out abroad and embark on a new adventure?
Retirees on a fixed income face another factor: that income might be more than sufficient during the early years of one’s retirement, but 20 years down the road inflation will eat away at it, reducing one’s purchasing power as the years go by. “Cheap retirement” is a phrase heard more and more frequently.
If one longs to go abroad, a retirement in the Scottish Highlands, in Tuscany or Provence, may not be affordable. For years, Americans in particular have gone south of the border seeking adventure and affordability at the same time, and Costa Rica has become a retirement mecca of sorts.
Costa Rica is almost the perfect Latin American destination. There is none of the anti-Americanism or increasing dangers of Mexico; none of the heavy-handed military presence of Guatemala; none of the violent crime and poverty of Brazil. The country is full of physical beauty, sophistication, sunshine, and a wonderful climate. Costa Rica is politically stable and peaceful; there is no standing army, and no apparent need for one. If you’re a single man or woman, it’s easy to hook up with a local partner, either for casual dating or a long-term relationship. The country is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” so there is the occasional earthquake; otherwise, there’s little to stand in the way between you and an ideal expat life!
Costa Rica welcomes foreign retirees; foreigners over 45 years of age can obtain a retirement visa, or a visa in another category that may allow you to engage in other activities. As always, there is paperwork; you should apply at a Costa Rican embassy or consulate in your home country. Check out that embassy’s website to see what your options are. And, unlike in some countries, foreigners are fully able to purchase property in their own name in Costa Rica, and are entitled to the same ownership rights as citizens. Housing prices are very affordable: US$50,000 will purchase a starter house, and larger houses are readily available for less than $100,000. Costs otherwise are very low, particularly if you live like the locals; you can get by on your U.S. Social Security, and can live quite well if you have additional, modest sources of income.
As for expat life, do some research online and contact various expat clubs and groups in the country. They can give you tips on places to look for property, what to do, and what to expect. If your tastes run to the traditional, there are plenty of golf courses in Costa Rica. Otherwise, there are beaches on two coasts (the Pacific and the Caribbean), mountains to explore, active volcanoes, local cuisine, and a welcoming population.
Plan to spend at least several months in Costa Rica before committing yourself; you may find that you don’t like it after all. And learn Spanish! Even if Costa Ricans in general speak more English than citizens of other Latin American countries, you’ll be amply rewarded if can communicate in the local language.