Articles Related to Colombia



The utilities figure for each of our 21 budgets is straightforward; groceries and entertainment, much less so. If you shop at local markets and stick to a basic, local diet, your monthly groceries bill could be US$150. If you shop at U.S.-like grocery stores (which exist in every place on my list below) and want to eat like you ate back home (prime rib, Entenmann's, and French wine), your monthly food bill could be two, three, or four times US$150.

Likewise, entertainment. Our Index budgets include amounts for eating out once a week and going to the movies a couple of times a month, say, or perhaps taking one in-country trip per month to explore your new home. You could, if you wanted and your budget allowed, eat out four nights a week and take international vacations twice a year.

On top of the overall cost of living wherever you decide to retire you'll have the cost of housing. I recommend renting first, to give yourself a chance to get to know your new home and determine if it is, in fact, the right place for you. For each of the 21 top retirement havens on our Index list, therefore, we indicate an average cost for renting a one-bedroom, one-bath residence in a neighborhood that would be appealing and appropriate for a retiree.

After you've been in residence for a while, you may decide you like the place well enough to commit long term with an investment in a home of your own. Buying a piece of real estate in another country can also offer the potential for return, from capital appreciation over time and from cash flow if you decide to rent the place out when you're not using it yourself.

Therefore, for each of the 21 destinations on our Retire Overseas Index list, we also figured an average cost per square meter for the purchase of property. This is the best way to consider this. In fact, breaking down a location's property market to an average cost per square meter for a particular kind of property is the only reliable way to compare that location's property market with the property market anywhere else, the only apples-to-apples strategy.

In Nashville this week for our annual Retire Overseas Conference, we'll be sharing the results of this year's Retire Overseas Index, including the monthly budgets, the rental costs, and the average per-square-meter cost to purchase real estate for all 21 destinations featured...and a few others, to boot.

Here's a sneak preview for some of the destinations being featured...

In the Americas:

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Monthly budget: US$2,055
Rent per month: US$1,000
Purchase per square meter to purchase: US$2,000

City Beaches, Panama

Monthly budget: US$2,440
Rent per month: US$1,200
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,900

Cuenca, Ecuador

Monthly budget: US$1,010
Rent per month: US$300
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,100

Granada, Nicaragua

Monthly budget: US$1,040
Rent per month: US$500
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,500

Medellin, Colombia

Monthly budget: US$1,530
Rent per month: US$650
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,050

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Monthly budget: US$1,910
Rent per month: US$850
Price per square meter to purchase: US$2,490

In Europe:

Algarve, Portugal

Monthly budget: US$1,500
Rent per month: US$615
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,960

Barcelona, Spain

Monthly budget: US$1,725
Rent per month: US$1,085
Price per square meter to purchase: US$5,500

Pau, France
Monthly budget: US$1,930
Rent per month: US$1,285
Price per square meter to purchase: US$2,300

In Asia:

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monthly budget: US$920
Rent per month: US$400
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,100 (note that foreign ownership of real estate is restricted in Thailand)

Dumaguete, Philippines

Monthly budget: US$910
Rent per month: US$350
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,200

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Monthly budget: US$660
Rent per month: US$300
Price per square meter to purchase: Foreigners can't own property

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What brings us to Nashville this week? Our annual Retire Overseas Conference!

For years, friends have encouraged me to visit Music City. Finally, I was able to engineer a good reason.

We arrived yesterday, and I can tell you that my friends' reports did not embellish or overstate. This is a fun town. Live music everywhere.

It's not too late to make plans to join us here for what is going to be the biggest retire-overseas event of the year, this Friday through Sunday at the Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel.

In addition to the three-day Retire Overseas Conference Aug. 29–31, we're also hosting a first-ever Retire Overseas Expo the day before (Thursday, Aug. 28), from noon until 7 p.m. This half-day special event is open to the public, an ideal way to dip a toe in the retire-overseas waters, and, best of all, absolutely free for Live and Invest Overseas readers. Regular admission is US$25. However, simply confirm at the door on the day that you're a Live and Invest Overseas reader, and you'll be granted full access at no cost.

One way or another, therefore, I say: Get thee to Nashville. Dozens of correspondents and expats from around the world will be convening here today through Thursday so they can be on stage with us throughout the weekend to help showcase the world's top retirement havens for the nearly 300 registered attendees.

Come on down and join the fun.

Details of the Retire Overseas Expo taking place Thursday, Aug. 28, are here.

Details of the Retire Overseas Conference taking place Friday, Aug. 29, through Sunday, Aug. 31, are here.

See you soon.

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May 20, 2014

"Kathleen, I enjoy your information on life overseas as an alternative to potential chaos at home. I'm in my mid-80s now and probably not going to repeat what I did 30 years ago, which was moving to Mexico for 15 years, successfully publishing an English-language tourist magazine, and thoroughly enjoying the lifestyle...for a while.

"Based on my experience, I think your advice falls short in certain respects: the involutions and convolutions of financial aspects in the expat's country of choice. For example, many destinations, like Mexico, have their own problems from which newcomers are not exempt. Peso devaluations such as we experienced during the Echeveria and Lopez Portillo administrations decimated bank accounts. Meanwhile, the beaches were pristine, the margaritas tasty, and the fishing excellent. Almost everything else was affected by the established custom of 'mordida,' or gratuity, exacted by government employees!"

--Louise C., United States

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Once I saw the school, though, and Lucas explained the method of teaching, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision. That was Friday. By Monday, I was having second thoughts. Stay with strangers I'd never met in an area I'd never visited just outside Medellin, Colombia? I wondered if I had lost my mind. Early dementia.

On the contrary, thanks to my decision I gained a new family who took me in to their home and their hearts, shared their lives with me, made me welcome, and assimilated me into the culture.

The whole experience was so interesting, never boring. I learned Spanish, but I also learned about Colombian customs, the festivals, the gastronomy. We sang and translated songs by Ricky Martin and Shakira; we watched the "X-Factor" in Spanish. Not at all what I had expected.

I had a lesson on how to use the metro from Juan Pablo, the 15-year-old son of my family. I was taken to the aquarium, the Botero Museum, the outdoor sculptures. We visited Jardin. Jardin is four hours from Medellin; it took Lucas two hours to get there. That's his driving.

Jardin is a colorful colonial town with brightly painted houses and hanging flower baskets built around a central square. We did a tour of a coffee farm, visited a handmade chocolate store, and saw chivas (the old hand-painted buses) carrying sacks of coffee and boxes of plantains on their roofs.

We visited a trout farm, saw an authentic old flower finca, attended a tango evening, saw the beginning of the Christmas lights (which are phenomenal)...

This was my experience learning Spanish.

A remarkable introduction to the wonderful people and culture of Medellin. I am so glad I had the opportunity.

Phyllis Doppelt

Editor's Note: Phyllis is an attendee at this week's Live and Invest in Colombia Conference. Yesterday, she shared her personal experiences to date in Medellin with those assembled.

Phyllis' entire presentation was recorded, along with all presentations of this two-and-a-half-day program. These will be available in two weeks' time as our all-new Live & Invest in Colombia Home Conference Kit. You can reserve your pre-release copy now at a discount of more than 50%.

Do that here now.

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You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader, 

Where is the best place in the world to retire?

That's a tricky question to answer, so I suggest coming at this from a different angle. Rather than trying to identify the world's top retirement haven, consider instead who's best suited to retire where.

A short list of top retirement options in the Americas right now would include:
  • Cayo, Belize
  • Medellin, Colombia
  • Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • El Cangrejo, Panama

Which one of these places is the best choice? It depends on who you are.

Who Should Retire To Cayo, Belize?

Belize is a retirement, a tax, and an offshore haven. This is a sunny country where the folks speak English and value their freedom and privacy. Belize is easy to get to from the States, and the people living here are welcoming and hospitable once you've arrived.

On the other hand, this is a small country where the infrastructure is most kindly described as "developing."

The cost of living can be affordable, even low, but not if you want to live a more developed-world lifestyle that would mean buying lots of things not produced locally. Anything imported comes at an inflated price.

My favorite part of Belize is its Cayo District. No infrastructure, limited services and amenities, and little market demand could be interpreted as negatives, but, in Cayo, these things are a big part of the appeal. Once you get to Cayo, you don't mind that there's no infrastructure. You don't mind that the culture is more concerned with country living than consumerism.

You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord
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“If I had to start over today,” Lief said, “I’d scrape together whatever nest egg I could, and I’d invest in a rental property, something that would generate enough cash flow to pay my bills. I’d live as cheap as I could and put aside every dollar of rental cash flow I could until I had accumulated enough to purchase a second rental property...and so on. 

“After I’d built a small portfolio of cash-flowing rental investments, I’d make an agricultural buy—timber, say, though that is a very long-term investment. You can get much nearer-term yields from coconuts, coffee, cocoa, and bamboo, all of which I’m either already invested in or looking at closely right now. 

“If it were just me, I’d continue living super-cheap, saving every possible dollar for additional cash-flowing investments. However, it’s not just me. My lovely wife makes sure that at least some of my income is diverted into non-cash flow-producing investments—like summer vacations and new living room furniture,” Lief continued with a smile in my direction. 

“Where would you make your first buy?” our friend wondered next. 

“If I were making the first investment of my career right now,” Lief replied, “I’d be shopping in Panama City or here in Medellin. Both are good markets for generating rental cash flow.” 

“I want to get rich,” our young friend interjected. “Where could I make more money quicker? In Panama City or Medellin?” 

Lief and I looked at each other. 

“It’s not easy to get rich quick investing in foreign real estate,” I offered. “Frankly, I don’t believe it’s easy to get rich quick investing in anything, but focusing your investment efforts on foreign property means adopting a long-term perspective.” 

“Right,” Lief agreed. “It’s very possible to realize an immediate return from a foreign property investment. That’s one reason I recommend rental properties—you can get a cash return right away. However, rental cash flow isn’t going to make you rich, at least not quickly. And the return from an agricultural investment is even less immediate. It takes 20 years to realize the return from an investment in teak, for example. So you’re making those kinds of buys for different reasons—for diversification and, mostly, to build legacy wealth. 

“But none of this is a formula for getting rich in a year or two or even three, thinking realistically. Global property investing is a way to get rich slowly. However, it’s real wealth, not paper wealth. It might take you five or seven years or longer to build a portfolio. I’ve been at this for more than two decades now. I’ve built wealth, yes, but I didn’t do it quickly. 

“When I was closer to your age,” Lief continued for our young friend, “I shared your eagerness. Like you, I wanted to get rich quick. That thinking led to the biggest mistakes of my investment career. I think of those now as my ‘greed’ buys, and they cost me big-time. 

“Now I’m not tempted by the idea of striking it rich or hitting it big time. Now I’m very happy to buy for a reasonable annual return. I look for a minimum of 5% to 8%.” 

“Is that what you’d be looking for in Panama City or Medellin if you bought today?” our friend asked. 

“One reason I like those markets is because it’s possible in both of them to beat my minimum return expectation. Buy the right thing for the right price in either city, and you could see annual cash flow of 10% to 15%. In today’s world, that’s nothing to sneeze at.” 

“Where do you see bigger upside potential?” our friend continued. 

“I see Medellin as a market for steady growth. Property values have appreciated in the three years since we invested here, and I believe they will continue to do so, but, again, at a slow, steady rate. 

“Panama City, on the other hand, is a boom town. It has seen one boom, which was followed by the slowdown of 2008/2009. Now I think we’re leading up to another boom. About two years ago, prices in Panama City began appreciating again, slowly. When the Canal expansion project is finalized, though, I think we’ll see another pop. This will happen in 2015, and not only Panama City but the entire country will benefit. The Canal expansion is a big deal. 

“I see more dramatic upside potential in Panama than in Medellin for two other reasons, as well. First, Medellin is still suffering from the Escobar Factor. This misperception will continue to keep the average foreign retail investor away for some time. We still get readers asking about Noriega in Panama, so Medellin’s got a ways to go before it will shed this stigma. 

“The other reason Panama offers more upside is because it’s still the Wild West. Real estate in Panama, including in Panama City, is a cowboy’s marketplace. In Medellin, on the other hand, the real estate industry is more developed, more sophisticated, and more controlled. Prices in Panama are all over the place. It’s impossible to say what something ‘should’ cost. It’s a free-for-all. That kind of chaos creates opportunity.” 

Kathleen Peddicord

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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