The three best retirement spots in
By the Retire NOW
in Costa Rica staff
Among the biggest gripes of expats in Costa Rica
is the cost of living.
Overall the country continues to be a top
retirement refuge for North Americans. It is
rated sixth in the world by the third annual
InterNations Expat Insider 2016 survey that
asked opinions from more than 14,000 expats all
over the world.
Costa Rica would have been higher on the index
except that the country scored 43rd place in the
personal financial category and 48th out of 67
countries in cost of living.
The concern about personal finances comes
despite some organizations promoting the country
as a cheap place for retirement. Some of these
organizations are more interested in selling
books and filling seminar seats.
Costa Rica still ranks as one of the best places
for expats to live in Latin America along with
Ecuador and México in the survey. Brazil,
Argentina and Peru come in at the bottom of the
Latin American ranking.
InterNations says its survey is one of the most
extensive studies ever conducted to explore the
general living situation of expatriates.
Rather unsurprisingly, most of the Latin
American countries do well in terms of
friendliness, but Ecuador and Mexico also rank
in the global top 10 for personal finances and
the cost of living.
Just 39 percent of Costa Rican expats say in the
survey that their disposable income is more than
enough to cover their daily expenses, compared
to 48 percent globally.
In fact, 46 percent even say the cost of living
is too high. The country is not all bad news,
though. Family life in the country is rated
generally positively. None of the respondents
rates the attitude towards families with
children negatively, or do any expats say they
are unsatisfied with family life in general. Of
course climate is a real plus.
Health care in the country is also considered
positively by those who moved to Costa Rica: 79
percent say the quality of medical care is good
compared to a significantly lower 62 percent
around the world.
The InterNations organization did not explore
the reason for Costa Rica’s higher cost of
living, but one reason is the central banks
effort to control inflation. The bank has been
fixing the dollar-colon exchange rate for years
rather than letting the value of the dollar be
determined by the market.
This has hurt expats, tourists and exporters who
receive their payments in dollars. The current
exchange rate is 545 colons to sell a dollar and
557 colons to buy one. The central bank has
spent millions to hold the line on dollars
despite a growing national deficit.
Another reason for the higher cost of living
here is the generosity of agreements that the
government has made in the past with the various
public employee unions. For example, the
agreement with the state-owned public petroleum
importing monopoly has caused the price of
gasoline to be the highest in Central America at
$3.93 a U.S. gallon.
The impact of Costa Rica’s environmental
policies are hard to calculate, but there is no
doubt the policies that protect the forests,
beaches and oceans have an effect on local
prices. For many expats this is a good thing.
The top rated country in the InterNations survey
is Taiwan, but the distance from North America
is a problem, as is the language.
A recent major earthquake in Ecuador may have
changed the opinion of that country in the eyes
of expats. México gets high marks for being
cheap, too, but the continuing drug violence
there has concerned many expats and potential
-- Sept. 3, 2016