We’re receiving so much reader mail that I’m going to address some of it here now:
“Recently I have heard that Costa Rica is getting tired of Americans and foreigners in general. We visited four years ago and found it lovely, but it seemed to us that the cost of living was only slightly less than in Wichita, Kansas, where we live! We had thought of retirement there, but it seems unlikely now. Please advise.”
— Richard S., United States
Costa Rica is perhaps the world’s best-known overseas retirement haven, but that is not to say it is the best place to retire overseas.
At one time, in the 1980’s, it probably was. Back in the days of its famed pensionado program, the country worked hard to attract foreign investors and retirees. It was too successful. Foreigners, especially Americans, came in big numbers, and the landscape changed…I’d argue for the worse.
No question, the cost of living and of real estate increased dramatically. Costa Rica can still make sense (if you’re relocating with children, for example, for it boasts perhaps the best international schooling options in the region)…and its weather can be better than that in Panama, the country with which it is most often compared.
On the other hand, Costa Rica right now comes with big downsides. Crime, including crime against foreign residents, is a growing problem, and, as you point out, dear reader, the cost of living is not as appealing as it once was.
Plus, the pensionado program is no more. And, generally, traveling in this country today, you get the feeling that the Ticos just don’t want you there. They want your dollars (or euro or sterling), by all means…but you? Well, why don’t you spend what you’ve come to spend and then move on.
I’ve been traveling to Costa Rica for more than 20 years. I was a great fan of the country through the mid-1990s. My most recent visits, though, have reminded me why I adjusted my position.
For more on the pluses and minuses of expat living in Costa Rica, take a look at this report from Correspondent in that country David Stubbs.
“Kathleen, you ask about the definition of the word manana. Here you go:
“Manana means, ‘Relax, nobody is dying here. Slow down, take it easy. You’re going to give yourself a heart attack. Tomorrow is another day.'”
— Peter M., United States
“We live in western Canada after living for a while in the States. I think you are aware that the States is going down in a big way, and Canada will not be far behind. Corruption and greed seem to be big factors in this.
“I just read your latest newsletter, and I appreciate the insights into a number of places. Most of them Latino. I took some courses on Central and South America when I was in college some 50 years ago. So I know about the kind of Spanish that came over to pillage and loot and then stayed to enslave. Skipping forward to today, the Latino countries are a mixture of descendants and immigrants. Most have not escaped a mixture of greed and corruption, and the patrons usually rule.
“You are very high on Panama. Yes, I know the Teddy Roosevelt story and the building of the canal along with the puppet governments. My wife thinks of the bugs and snakes, of course.
“My question is this: How about a stable government that doesn’t rip off expats and where there is a more moderate climate? We just want a peaceful place with enough activity so we can enjoy our retirement years. Spanish we can learn, manana we can learn to work with, and the rest we would have to experience.
“Belize has an English orientation, but that is all I know about it except for the crocs and the snakes and of course the bugs. How about a little more specific data?”
— Paul Perrault, Canada
We’ll keep at it, dear reader, providing as much data as we can day by day. For more complete reports on the particular places we’ve identified as offering the best options for overseas retirement, I urge you to subscribe to our Overseas Retirement Letter.
Meantime, yes, Belize could make sense for you and your wife. Take a look here for the happy tale of one fellow reader who is already soaking up the good life in this English-speaking Caribbean nation.
No country in the world is 100% greed- and corruption-free, Belize included. Still, one of my favorite things about Belize is that the government in this country, while perhaps greedy and corrupt like any other, is largely ineffective.
I’d say that the best thing you could ever say about any government is that it interferes with your day-to-day life as little as possible. That’d be a fair way to describe the Belize government.
P.S. Yes, I am still bullish on Panama. See below.
“Do you have any contacts for Croatia? Detailed information regarding starting a company there, moving there, taxes, health insurance, medical care, etc.?
“I am an EU citizen and also my kids, but my wife is American.”
— Peter J., United States
In addition, go here for a complete guide to living and investing in the country in general.
“Wow! That’s the most aggressive report you have ever written. I wish Bermuda and Gibraltar were more affordable. I want out of scam USA, but where to go?
“Thanks for your newsletters.”
— Shaun M., United States
You know our current top recommendations, dear reader, I’m sure. To recap:
Keep reading for more.
They Pay You To Do What?
December 1988: I’ve got no job, no money, and seemingly no prospects.
July 2005: I’ve got the most glamorous job in the world, enough money to give me a very comfortable lifestyle, and the prospect (no, the certainty) of all-expenses-paid trips to China, Estonia, Barcelona, Malaysia, the Cape Verde Islands…
How did I become a globetrotter who stays in luxury hotels, dines out on gourmet meals, and knows how to order beer in at least 15 languages?
Easy. And you can do it, too.
Tourism to Panama increased 13% in 2008. This after three previous years of similar growth, year on year. All current metrics indicate the trend is continuing into 2009, worldwide financial meltdown notwithstanding.
One reason Panama’s tourist trade is weathering the global recession so well is because its tourist market is diversified. About 20% of all visitors to this country come from the States. This is the biggest percentage of tourists from any single country…yet it means that the market is only one-fifth made by Americans.
In second place is Colombia, which provides about 13% of Panama’s annual tourist traffic. The country sees good tourist traffic from other regional neighbors, as well, especially Venezuela. And direct flights with KLM and Iberia (from Amsterdam and Madrid, respectively) and charter flights from Finland are contributing to expanding tourist traffic from Europe.
What’s more, it’s not backpackers seeking out this country’s beautiful coasts and bustling, bursting-at-the-seams capital city. Panama is increasingly attracting the well-heeled, especially from elsewhere in Latin America. People from this part of the world with money to spend used to travel to Miami to spend it. No more. Changes in U.S. visa requirements and increased hassles navigating U.S. airports and airport security are motivating Latino shoppers to spread their wealth around a little closer to home. The number-one destination of choice among Latinos for a shopping spree in the Americas today is Panama City.
For her part, Panama City is working hard to supply this expanding market. MultiPlaza mall recently opened a new wing. This is where shoppers from around the region (and yours truly) now can come when in the market for the wares of Cartier and Hermes, Tiffany and Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Prada, Burberry and Jimmy Choo…