Costa Rica, Once Again the Happiest Place on Earth

If you’re thinking about retiring overseas, you’re likely searching for information. There’s a lot of that out there…

Maybe you want to make your retirement savings go as far as possible. Maybe you never want to shovel snow again. Maybe your kids have flown the nest and you’re finally ready to embark on that big personal adventure. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of living at the beach and you’re looking for an affordable way to do it. Maybe you just want to live in a happier, more relaxed place than where you live right now.

The reasons really don’t matter, because dozens of overseas destinations can check any one of those boxes…and a few can check all of them.

Now…you might simply throw a dart at a map and try to aim for someplace in the tropics. But most of us want a little more solid research behind our decision to move abroad.

Of course, the research I like the best is on the pages of International Living. That figures, since my wife, Suzan, and I have been living and working abroad for International Living for 17 years now and have personal experience with almost every country in the current Top 10 of IL’s Global Retirement Index.

But there are other sources of info as well, and what I especially like is when the picks of those other sources match up with the Index.

For example, when the number one country on IL’s Global Retirement Index and the number one country on the Happy Planet Index match up.

The Happy Planet Index is put together by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the U.K.’s leading think tank promoting social, economic, and environmental justice. And in the latest Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica topped the rankings as the happiest place on earth.

People who live in Costa Rica are happy. That’s just one of the many reasons Costa Rica earned the top spot as the world’s best retirement destination in the latest International Living Global Retirement Index.

That designation didn’t come as a surprise to me. Suzan and I were married in Costa Rica in 1997, and we’ve gone back there nearly every year since, so we know first-hand a lot of the reasons for Costa Rica’s top rank in both the International Living and Happy Planet indexes.

Here’s how Happy Planet explains Costa Rica’s top ranking:

“Costa Ricans have higher wellbeing than the residents of many rich nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., and live longer than people in the U.S. This is achieved with a per capita Ecological Footprint that’s just one third of the size of the U.S.’s.

“Costa Rica is a world leader when it comes to environmental protection. 99% of electricity used in Costa Rica comes from renewable sources, and the government is far ahead of many wealthier nations, having committed the country to becoming carbon neutral by 2021.

“Since abolishing its army in 1949, the country has reallocated its defense budget to funding education, health, and pensions. The culture of forming solid social networks of friends, families, and neighborhoods is another likely factor in Costa Ricans’ high wellbeing.”

That seems pretty clear to me. People in Costa Rica live longer, use less resources, make time to nurture relationships, and the government spends its money on education and health instead of the military.

What else would you expect from a country where the national motto is “Pura Vida?

The reasons Costa Rica tops the IL Global Retirement Index fall in line with these observations, although IL offers more detail with an expanded set of criteria.

But the upshot is the same: Costa Rica ticks a lot of boxes for anyone looking to retire overseas, especially if you’re looking for a place to live happily.

Anybody out there not looking for the happiest place on earth?

Keep throwing those darts.

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