10 Reasons not to Retire in Costa Rica

Jaco Costa Rica

Lots of people flock to Costa Rica to retire; after all, it’s a beautiful country, with a lot going for it. But then, on the other hand, lots of people say “Sure, retire in Costa Rica, but only retire, don’t do business there – just retire.” There have been many people who have been deeply disappointed by their experience of retiring in Costa Rica. For others, well, they just adore living there; they say that it would be your own fault if you don’t love it! Talking to those who have had their bubble burst after returning back from Costa Rica, many reveal they became fed up. Many just stay on in Costa Rica and stay unhappy.

Listen to 10 reasons why people say you shouldn’t retire in Costa Rica

The best advice is always to look on the bright side, but still, you can’t bury your head in the sand. Just in case you didn’t know it, but Costa Rica was declared the happiest place on earth a few years ago. But let’s look at some negative things that don’t make people smile that much:

  1. They say it doesn’t feel like home and when they get there they hanker after the good ‘ole days. You need to really have researched well before you make such big moves.
  2. It’s not as cheap as lots of people make out. Most comparisons done reveal that if it is cheaper, it is because the assumption is that when you retire you give up the more expensive flashy lifestyle and live a more basic and cheaper lifestyle.
  3. Sad, but true, but crime and corruption are getting worse and that concerns the residents. Some go so far as to say the legal system has become almost ineffective.
  4. Health care does cost less but insurance like Medicare and some other U.S./Canadian insurances are not accepted. And on top of that, emergency medical care is very rudimentary, putting some of the better hospitals within about 5 hours away.
  5. Sometimes the traffic can be so bad it might even be faster to walk across the central valley, and this really gets to people – because you shouldn’t see traffic jams in paradise!
  6. The government in Costa Rica is looking for ways to generate tax revenue on foreigner’s pensions and other income. Even if you become a resident of Costa Rica, you still have full U.S. tax obligations. This is a concern for many.
  7. Bureaucracy is big, for example like registering your car, it’s a huge rigmarole.
  8. If you do decide that Costa Rica is not for you, in the end, it can be almost impossible to sell your property again without suffering big losses.
  9. And if you decide to rent your property out, it might not work out well at all. On top of that, property management can be pretty expensive; even unreliable.
  10. Expats want their family and friends to visit them, but it’s actually expensive and inconvenient for them to come, compared to other places.

Every now and then, you do hear people saying, “It’s not what I expected.”

Consider these wake-up call thoughts before you just pack up to retire in Costa Rica

Maybe you can benefit from other people’s mistakes –

Ensure you buy or rent your home in the right community

Lake Arenal Costa Rica
  • Maybe you didn’t do your homework properly – you saw on some ex-pat forums how happy people seem to be; you found an agent and bought what you thought was your dream home in your dream environment. Then you wake up one morning and you are bored, you don’t have great neighbors, you think you made a mistake. And you bought the place at a high price too – now how are you going to sell it without suffering losses? You might even have bought a place at what you thought was a bargain price. Later on down the line, you discover this was not the right location for you, and you are missing some of the much-needed amenities you were used to once.
  • Learn: Maybe rent first and try different locations first before buying.

Have you changed your lifestyle?

  • For many future ex-pats, living in paradise means palm trees, white sand, turquoise oceans, and sipping piña coladas. They envision having late breakfasts with cool ocean breezes nudging them awake; maybe spending the rest of the day at a golf club, or lying on the beach. After all, retirement is one big party, right? And when you look again, the savings have just disappeared! You figured out that the lifestyle you dreamed of was way over your budget! Now you have to live on Social Security.
  • Learn: Retirement and life is not a party unless you have millions stashed away someplace. You need to plan how you will use the money you have to make the best retirement you can with the money you have within your budget.

Don’t count on wrong information

  • You’ve been searching the web, reading about how to retire in Costa Rica. Without ensuring all the facts are right, you have arrived and found out too late that your information you were reading about was way out of date and post a few years back! In fact, you have to pay much higher taxes than you thought, and you have discovered that you actually need a much higher income than what you have to apply for residency status. Neither will your health insurance cover you in Costa Rica. That medicine that you were using in the States, too, you can’t get it in Costa Rica!
  • Learn:  Make sure you read up to date information. Before retiring to Costa Rica, make a list of reasons you think it is important to move to Costa Rica, doing detailed research on these very important topics. Don’t base your knowledge on what you read about on the forums; it’s better to hire professionals who are much more clued up.

Now suddenly you have too much time ahead of you with too little money

  • It might sound fantastic, sure, all that free time – after all, that’s what you’ve been dreaming about and saving up for, to get to this point – where you can just relax and enjoy life – some shopping, some hobbies, a bit of travel? Sounds too good to be true – but did you consider how all these wonderful things can start adding up big time?
  • Learn: Before you retire and make moves, make lists of all your hobbies, plans, and other things you want to do. Then make your retirement budget, basing it on the list you have before you. Even include the unexpected expenses so you have some extra money or activities to play around with.

Thinking that you simply stop working

  • You’ve worked hard all your life and your spouse did and you believe when it comes to retirement, you will just stop working. Do you realize how difficult this is to do for many? To suddenly wake up and stop working can be a huge adjustment. It can cause stress and depression, even illness because now you are in each other’s faces all day long with not much to say to each other. And watching the sunset and drinking piña coladas can be loads of fun in the beginning, but it might not be what brings you fulfillment and joy in the long run.
  • Learn: Before retiring, look out for other options of part-time work in your own profession, or start a new hobby that you can turn into a little business of your own. What about teaching English to the poor, or helping the locals out with their things. It can be very fulfilling to give back a little to your new country, or you can create your own extra income.

When all is said and done

Costa Rica is a tropical paradise – boasting postcard-like beaches and different types of climate to suit everybody’s tastes! Apart from that, it is relatively safe and not as expensive as some other warm climate retirement destinations.

As long as you have done your homework and researched the possibilities of retiring there, Costa Rica can become the perfect place to relocate to. Naturally, you have to know the good, the bad, and the ugly before you make a big decision, but when you have made the right preparations, it might turn out to be your dream come true!

Recent Posts