Last week we interviewed two expats, Bob and Jill Montgomery, who are already living in San Ramón, Costa Rica.
This week, we sat down with another couple, John and Bea, who currently live in Indianapolis, and are in the process of building a home in San Ramón.
I remember how nervous I felt transitioning to a new country. In 2006, when I moved here, I had only one Spanish class under my belt – today I am almost fluent. Back then I remember worrying that no one would help me in case I was making the wrong choices, or that I would get involved with the wrong people – today I have many new friends, both Ticos and Gringos, to thank for making my transition easier and more enjoyable.
Some of you reading WeLoveCostaRica.com might be contemplating retiring here full time, or are possibly interested in dividing your time between your home country and this one. John and Bea will continue to live in Indianapolis six months of the year, spending fall and winter months here in the Central Valley where temperatures are typically between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many people find six-month intervals ideal for continuing to spend quality time with friends and family back home, while still taking advantage of all that Costa Rica has to offer.
John and Bea have also invested in land here as a way to hedge against the more-troubled world markets. In fact, the IMF has recently forecasted the entire world economy will, for the first time in 60 years, contract for the fiscal year 2009 (as reported by the BBC).
It also forecasts that while Europe, the U.S. and Japan will lead the fray in net losses, developing countries will actually grow this year and beyond. It’s no wonder so many future-expats are using their IRA accounts to secure land in Costa Rica today. The consensus is that if the economy continues to deteriorate in the U.S. and Europe, owning a retirement property here will dampen the blow substantially. And, if you decide in the future that Costa Rica is not for you, land here will continue to hold its value.
In this week’s interview we will focus on the reasons to live in Costa Rica part time and learn the pros and cons of doing so. We will also take advantage of the financial insight John will provide us. He was the Chief Accounting Officer of the U.S.’s largest publicly traded real estate development company, Simon Property Group, which has 386 properties and 263 million square feet of leaseable space around the world.
It should be reassuring to many to find someone in his position with an extensive track record in real estate finance to be “sold” on Costa Rica. Bea, a soon-to-be retired software acquisition and contract administrator, will also give us her perspective for why she’s giving Costa Rica a try. You will soon find out how her former skepticism has molded into enthusiasm as she transitions into her new life in her home away from home.
Retirement to Costa Rica Interview – March 25th, 2009 with John and Bea from Indianapolis, Indiana who are moving to San Ramón, Costa Rica. Ages: 61, 56.
1. What prompted you to consider having a second home in Costa Rica?
John: We were interested in a warm climate, but Florida, Arizona, and Texas didn’t really appeal to us. Plus, we had heard the cost of living was much less in Costa Rica. It sparked our interest. I had read a small article in the Indianapolis Star that led me to convince Bea we should take a real estate tour here.
Bea: It was my husband really. I was willing to listen, but I was very nervous about the idea of living and investing in a foreign country. However, I have cruised the Mexican Riviera and absolutely loved the ambiance there, the relaxation. So, I was willing to give Costa Rica a fair shot.
2. Who’s more enthusiastic about living here part time, John or Bea, and why?
John: I’m probably more enthusiastic about it – maybe not now – but initially, absolutely. We can no longer do a lot of things we were able to do physically, but I want to enjoy my retirement years. I’m thrilled to be able to be in a place where I can be out of the snow and take in the gorgeous scenery in Costa Rica.
Bea: I think I’m equally as enthusiastic now. At first, I was very skeptical–I admit it. But we’ve made friends already. We’re able to enjoy the sunset and enjoy good food with interesting people who have unique and interesting backgrounds. You have an immediate connection with these people–there’s a common bond. I didn’t realize I related to people from Canada and Europe–but we’re here, expats living in Costa Rica. I also love the birds… LOVE THEM!
3. Why Costa Rica and not Mexico, Panama, or Nicaragua? John: Stability. Just turn on the news. It’s all about political stability. And, there’s reasonably sound infrastructure here – utilities, etc. I would never do this in Mexico, Panama or Nicaragua.
Bea: For me it’s the same – stability. In Mexico for example, sometimes I felt uncomfortable walking in the streets. I felt intimidated by the begging. I was also saddened by how young the children were on the streets. I saw a lot of extreme poverty – I haven’t seen that here.
4. What are your biggest concerns about living here 6 months of the year?
John: Missing friends and family in the States. I also think there will be a period of adjustment – the culture shock. I’m sure some of the conveniences we have back in the States will be missing here.
Bea: Missing family and friends as well. Some of the birthday parties, various holidays with the family. It’s going to be tough. We’re definitely happy to be sharing our time though. It’s not as if we’ll be gone forever. We’ll be back in the States half of the year.
5. What do you see as the pros and cons for living here part time versus full time?
John: The pros would be the ability to maintain relationships in the States. I also like the weather in Indianapolis during the spring and summer. And, having a home in two parts of the world makes it a lot easier to travel more. I’m excited to see more parts of the world.
Cons: It would have to be maintaining two homes as opposed to one. There are also travel expenses, among other things for having two homes.
Bea: I like the food here, but I would also miss the food in the States. It’s nice to be able to change up a bit. I also love having two completely different kinds of scenery. There is something special about where we live in Indy, and there’s something special here. It just makes life more enjoyable.
Cons: It gives us something to concern ourselves with when we’re in one home and not the other. We have to make sure the house is maintained, and nothing goes wrong. It will be a new adventure for sure.
6. What were the biggest surprises you found here?
John: The biggest would be how accommodating the people are. They accept you for who you are. I didn’t feel like I was being attended to after docking from a cruise ship. It feels real. I honestly was nervous the people would be more standoffish. But it’s simply not the case.
I was also surprised to find that while there is rain during the rainy season, that there aren’t direct hurricanes–sure beats living in Florida. Although, I’m not too thrilled about seismic activity!
Bea: I was surprised how many people spoke English, or at least were trying to… I’m studying Spanish, but it’s refreshing that the people here are trying to make it easier for us by speaking English. It makes the transition so much easier. I couldn’t believe how many restaurants had menus in English. Also, the variety in selection of goods for building our home.
On the flip side, I was taken off guard at first by the roads. It can be a bit comical, but they are definitely not as bad as you read about. The roads in the mainstream areas are good. It’s all part of the fun.
7. Why did you choose San Ramón?
John: Well for one, Preston, you were living here. We became friends right away. It was also the climate. Bea and I are not beach people – we don’t like heat and humidity – we wanted a more moderate climate.
Bea: San Ramón meets our lifestyle better. I like to hike, and walk without feeling exhausted. The air is very fresh. I also didn’t want to be surrounded by tourists. We aren’t looking for hustle and bustle. We want to be in a relaxed environment.
8. How do people react when you tell them you’re going to live part time in Costa Rica?
How do you respond? John: “WHAT? ARE YOU NUTS??”
Bea: Our response is you have to go there and experience it before you can explain it. It’s not quite as big of a deal as some make it out to be. (So far at least!)
9. How will living here part time affect your relationships with your family and friends in the U.S?
John: While I will miss them for sure, I’m confident the friendships will be maintained. Close friendships don’t dissolve over something like this. Our son lives in California. I’ve got family in Kentucky. We don’t see all of our family on a regular business because they don’t live in Indy. We’re living in a transient time. Costa Rica isn’t much different than living in a different State.
Bea: We expect to have more visitors! While people think we’re nuts for doing it, they all seem to want to come visit us. Hopefully they won’t stay too long (jokingly). We had to schedule time to visit our family anyway. We don’t really believe it’s going to have THAT much of an impact.
10. How will living here part time affect you financially?
John: Well, the cost of living is much lower in Costa Rica. There’s less reason to buy unnecessary things. We’ll buy less clothes and convenience items. Food and entertainment here are much less expensive. We certainly won’t be spending $2,400 a year on heating during the winter. We’ll be leasing our home in Indy while we’re here. That will pay for the high property taxes and insurance while providing the element of security. Our property taxes in Costa Rica are next to nothing. There’s also no need for heating or air conditioning in Costa Rica.
Bea: I agree the cost of living is much less here. We will, however, have to maintain our home in Indy… but, overall we’ll save money. We’ll be getting free sunsets, bird-watching and howler monkeys versus two movie tickets and popcorn and a drink for 35 bucks – not to mention the exorbitant dinner-out expenses. There’s also more opportunity to do more community work with the money you have. John and I are excited to work with the local community, get involved.
11. What are you invested in, in Costa Rica? House/business/land?
John/Bea: We are currently building a home. We’ve also invested in a building lot in an up-and-coming area in Magallanes.
12. Are you having any regrets about your decision thus far? John: No, no regrets. There’s still some angst, but no regrets thus far.
Bea: NONE. None whatsoever. We still need more time to see how this all plays out, but to date, we’re just happy we’ve done this, especially with the economy the way it is back home.
13. What do you recommend to people considering Costa Rica for retirement or a second home?
John: I would recommend people look into it. There’s a comfort level you can maintain here at a much more reasonable cost without reducing quality of life. I also still think there’s opportunity here for investment. There’s real value here. Also, if you decide in the future it’s not for you, I think the market is more stable in Costa Rica. It shouldn’t be as difficult to sell your home or investment land as it is in the States right now.
Bea: Well I would recommend they get their butts down here. Spend some time here before passing judgment. Worst case, you’ll enjoy the sites and meet some great people. You need to have an open mind. I never expected this to be a realistic retirement option, but it is.
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Written by By Preston A. Gitlin in San Ramón. If you would like to contact Jeff Hickcox and Terry Mills, our recommended Costa Rica Realtors about moving to this increasingly popular area, please use the simple form below:
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