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Costa Rica is ideal for retirement and relocation because of its political and economic stability, lower cost of living, inexpensive quality health care, wonderful climate, stunning natural beauty, close proximity to the United States, and a welcoming culture. In fact, it is already home to the most North American expats per capita of any foreign country.

Costa Rica has three times the world average in tourist growth annually. Despite the slowing world economy, an impressive number of tourists-estimated 2 million are expected for 2011. Considered to be one of the best eco-tourism locations in the world. Tourism is the largest sector of the economy and sustainable travel is booming. Costa Rica has many wonderful destinations, an abundance of hotels and rental cars, and it is safe to travel through the entire country.

Political Stability
Costa Rica has become a very popular location for retirement, relocation, and investment because it has been a peaceful democracy, without a military, for over fifty years. Due to its political and economic stability, it has been dubbed the "Switzerland of the Americas." Low crime rates (0.18 assaults per 1,000 people) and high literacy (96%) round out a picture of overall stability that is essential for safe investing. With a dedacation to peace, there's a very low rate of violent crime, no animosity toward foreigners, a high literacy rate, and a general wellness that sees a longer life expectancy than the United States, Costa Rica remains the safest and most stable of the popular expat enclaves.

Economic Stability
The fundamentals of the Costa Rica economy point to a continuing relative prosperity. The local economy has grown solidly in the 5% range year after year since 1998. Costa Rica now boasts a lower unemployment rate than that of the United States and with the arrival of CAFTA, privatization and competition will be introduced, which will update or replace some inefficient national systems, thus creating more jobs across the board and strengthening overall growth opportunities. Additionally, the banks are much healthier than those in the United States have proved to be.

The World Bank says Costa Rica is "one of the most stable and robust democracies in Latin America . . . with a healthy economic growth rate . . . and some of the best social indicators on the continent." The International Monetary Fund reported that "Costa Rica's economic performance has been strong . . . with growth higher than expected and Costa Rica's vibrant economy is the result of sound economic policies, strong external demand, and favorable conditions in international capital markets."

Lower Cost of Living
Retiring or relocating in Costa Rica is wonderfully inexpensive compared to living in North America. As it becomes more difficult for people to afford retirement in the United States, Costa Rica becomes far more attractive as a retirement location. Taxes for a $200,000 home are just $500/year. Electric bills are only a fraction of the U.S. as no HVAC is necessary in the Central Valley because of the wonderful climate. Labor, such as domestic help, home nurses, or auto mechanics is incredibly affordable ($2-$5/hr). Fruits, vegetables and gourmet coffee are nearly FREE as they are grown all year round in Costa Rica (fresh pineapple for $1). In the book, Living Abroad in Costa Rica, Erin Van Rheenan claims an American can live comfortably for 50% less than the United States.

CIMA Hospital in Escazu
Quality Health Care
Costa Rica ranks first in private and public medical care in Latin America. This may be the most attractive benefit for Americans to relocate or retire to Costa Rica. The private Hospital CIMA (owned by Baylor University Hospital) is considered the best medical center in Central America. Because medical care costs a fraction of what it does in the U.S., medical tourism has become an enormous business in Costa Rica. Originally known as a popular destination for plastic surgery, and now advanced dentistry and everyday procedures like colonoscopies are drawing foreigners. Doctors are highly trained, many in United States universities. The private hospitals have "major medical" type insurance programs and are lobbying the U.S. to be able to accept Medicare. Costa Rica's Social Security system offers a medical insurance assistance program for foreigners needing emergency medical assistance. The coverage can be bought at travel agencies, language schools or through tour companies.

Terrific Climate
According to a recent poll, the spring-like climate is the number one reason why people consider retiring or relocating to Costa Rica. Finding an affordable retirement home in temperate areas is becoming more difficult. Florida and Arizona are crushing retirees with taxes and other high costs associated with retiring in the U.S., and Mexico is experiencing escalating violence making it less enticing for retiring abroad. There are 2 distinct seasons in Costa Rica, the dry season (November - May) and the green season (June - October), and many microclimates exist usually due to elevation. It is important when looking to relocate, retire, or invest in Costa Rica to find a good microclimate.

The Central Valley is considered to have one of the best climates in the world. Retirees can expect average temperatures of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60-70 degrees in the evenings all year round.

Natural Beauty
Retirees and expats who choose Costa Rica can expect to find unspoiled beaches, large nature reserves, incredible biodiversity, towering volcanoes, fluted green mountains with rows of coffee plants, clean water supplies, and abundance of healthy topsoil for food production. You can grow just about anything in Costa Rica. The government is dedicated to ensuring that the environment is a top priority and will remain healthy with a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2021. Recently voted the "Greenest and Happiest" nation in the world, 5th in the world for environmental policy, and is the world leader with 27% of its landmass under natural protection and produces over 90% of its electricity from renewable sources.  Sustainable practices continue to be a focus to protect the environment.

Location and Access
Access to Costa Rica for visitors and retirees has never been easier. There are two international airports: Juan Santamaria in San José, and Daniel Oduber in Liberia. Many cities like New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Charlotte, and Fort Lauderdale offer direct flights. Additionally, many cities from around the world offer non-stop flights. Prices are reasonable, and travel times from the cities in the United States are relatively short. For example, it is only a five-hour flight from Newark, New Jersey. Nearly every major airline has routes into Costa Rica.

Welcoming Culture
So many of us have felt the welcoming nature of the Costa Rican people; without this, it is next to impossible to ever feel truly comfortable retiring or relocating to a foreign country. One only has to stroll through a weekend farmers market to see the blend of expats and Costa Ricans greeting each other with mutual respect and curiosity. Locals are very respectful and helpful, especially when you stammer through your beginner Spanish. The warm and welcoming people add to the feeling of security when seeking retirement in a new location.

Meeting Other Retirees
When retiring or relocating to Costa Rica you are joining a community of people who all share the common trait of seeking new, exciting, but safe adventure and opportunity. The people we speak to each day, almost unanimously agree that it has been easier to strike up a conversation and find friends in Costa Rica than in our home countries. It is still a place where you will know your neighbors and they will open their arms to you. This ease of forming quick connections can help to alleviate culture shock and gives one a base from which to explore.

Who Retires or Relocates?
Is retiring or relocating to Costa Rica for you? The reasons for retiring or relocating to Costa Rica are varied: perhaps philosophical, political, financial or purely strategic. Three key attributes seem to be paramount for choosing to retire or relocate abroad:

  • A sense of adventure
  • Patience
  • Open mindedness

Proper research and education are the safeguards against the surprises that can derail a dream.

Research and Education
These may be driving factors for retirees and expats, and are important to consider when making your investment decision:

  • Over 4 million already have left, and the numbers have risen sharply over the last 5 years.
  • Many people cannot afford their current lifestyle anywhere in the U.S. Rising income and property taxes, losses in the stock market, rising healthcare costs, losses in home value, and etc.
  • Pace of life: It is becoming more difficult to find a sense of tranquility in the U.S. Work hours are longer, real wages have declined, and work benefits continue to shrink.
  • Unless one has the money to live in Southern California or parts of Hawaii, it is nearly impossible to find a comfortable and affordable year-round climate in the United States.
  • The U.S. has lost its luster: Only 9% of Americans think the country is on the right path.
  • Ready for a change: The average American family moves every 7 years, and the average worker stays in the same job for only 5.


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