Bob Lux sold his business at 62 and retired. But he soon found that Social Security and the small pension he drew from a job in his younger days wasn’t cutting it in the U.S. His wife Stacy went back to work full-time, he was working three days a week, and they could barely make ends meet.
“I found I could move down to Costa Rica with my Social Security and pension and live very comfortably,” explains Bob.
The perfect year-round climate and friendly and welcoming community of expats and locals was a factor, too.
The Lake Arenal region in particular attracted Bob because he grew up near New York’s Finger Lakes, which have a very similar look.
In short, it was the complete package.
The only thing left on their checklist is residency. They’ve chosen the pensionado program, which is the most popular among retirees.
Costa Rica’s Retiree Program
To qualify you simply need a guaranteed $1,000 a month coming in from a pension and/or Social Security. If you’re married, it’s only $1,000 per couple. And you must stay in the country at least four months out of the year.
“It’s a straightforward process,” says Bob. “But be sure you do your homework and get all your documents before you move down.”
Retrieving birth certificates or police records can be tough from thousands of miles away. And going through the mail or flying back periodically can be time-consuming and expensive.
Bob learned that lesson when a birth certificate got lost in the mail and delayed his application a couple of months.
But everything is sorted out now and in the hands of their attorney, who was referred to them by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. Since their application is in process, Bob and Stacy can stay in the country legally without having to leave every 90 days to renew their tourist visas. It cost about $4,000, including attorney, government application fees, as well as the bond held by the government to pay for air travel if you’re ever deported.
Money well spent to avoid dealing with the government bureaucracy, says Bob. (The cost varies from $650 to $2,000 per person, depending on who you hire. Remember, cheaper is not always better, so ask a trusted source for recommendations.)
Although it is possible—and much cheaper (about $250 per person for government application fees, plus small fees for each document submitted) to apply for residency on your own, it’s not straight-forward.
Advantages to Becoming a Retiree in Costa Rica
A huge advantage of the pensionado program is the national health system, known informally as Caja. You’re required to join but can also have private insurance.
About $50 (depending on your age and other factors) a month per person gets you free health care from highly-qualified doctors (most of whom also have a private practice) in what are considered some of the best facilities in Latin America. Doctor visits, long-term care for chronic illnesses, surgery, emergencies, it’s all covered.
This low-cost medical care was a big draw for Bob and Stacy. The couple were paying nearly $1,300 a month for insurance back in the States.
Editor’s note: Did you know about the health care discounts retirees get in Costa Rica? What other secret retiree discounts in other locations don’t you know about? This video reveals everything.