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How To Retire Overseas, The Book

“Kathleen, I have purchased and read your book, ‘How To Retire Overseas.’ I’m wondering why you did not include Costa Rica?”

Ron B., United States

Costa Rica is a good overseas retirement haven case study. About three decades ago, when I began recommending it to readers, this country decided to make a business of the foreign retiree. The Costa Ricans invested in a formal and successful advertising campaign, targeting Americans primarily.

Tens of thousands of would-be retirees from the States took the Costa Ricans up on their invitation and relocated for this phase of their lives to the land of the Ticos to take advantage of tax breaks, special retiree discounts, great weather, and, especially, the super-cheap cost both of living and of owning beachfront real estate.

Nevermind, these retirees told themselves, that the country is undeveloped and the infrastructure lacking. With a cost of living this low, who are we to complain that the roads are pot-holed and the bridges crumbling?

Along with the retirees came the investors and the speculators. Fast forward a couple of decades, and Costa Rica wasn’t so cheap anymore, neither its cost of living nor its beachfront real estate. Meantime, while prices had risen dramatically, the infrastructure hadn’t improved at all. The infrastructure in Costa Rica today is, by all accounts, no better than the infrastructure in Costa Rica when it rolled out the foreign-retiree welcome mat all those years ago.

As “A.M. Costa Rica” reported recently, the country’s “deplorable road and bridge conditions have created a recipe for disaster.

“Roads in Costa Rica,” the article continued, “are much the same as they were 30 years ago. However, during that time, the population has doubled and so has the number of cars on the roadways. Obsolete traffic circles are still used in San Jose, and a minor traffic accident can cause jams of up to five hours. For a country that wants to become part of the developed world, Costa Rica has to address governmental institutions plagued with problems and delays. The problem, of course, is that the country is broke.”

Costa Rica is not ready for real-world business, yet it’s been charging real-world prices for its real estate for some time. That’s the primary reason why, about eight years ago, I took the country off my list of the world’s top retirement havens.

I’ve returned to the country a few times since, and each visit has only reinforced my position. This country is noticeably more expensive than Panama (the country with which it is most often compared), yet the level and standards of services and infrastructure are far less developed and less reliable.

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