Living Rich in Costa Rica for Much Less Than the U.S.

When Riley Jesson first mentioned that he wanted to get out of the rat race, his wife Samantha was unsure. Both of them were advertising executives in San Francisco and she was making a name for herself climbing the corporate ladder.

They were on great career paths…but they weren’t happy. So they decided to go in 2008. They had traveled to Costa Rica several times and—like many others—they fell in love with the people and the climate.

With a much lower cost of living, they thought they could become self-employed and live a more relaxed life. They figured they could get by with freelance work and remote online side jobs…but they did much more than “get by…”

“Our cost of living was so much lower we no longer needed that much money,” Samantha says. It only took a year for them to realize that they didn’t both need to work.

So, Samantha let her freelance contracts go to pursue being a full-time mom. Riley has a couple of business partners in the U.S. and together they run a news website. Riley’s job is to monetize it through placing ads.

The couple settled in Atenas in the Central Valley where high-speed internet is easy to access and the climate is spring-like. It’s a convenient place, with doctors, pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants all nearby.

Samantha and Riley found their house by asking around locally. They live in a 4,000-square-foot home with four bedrooms and four bathrooms. It also has a pool and costs $1,000 per month. Their neighborhood has beautiful homes with well-maintained gardens.

“We couldn’t ever afford a home like this in San Francisco or almost anywhere in the States,” Riley says. “We live bigger for much less.”

While still in advertising, Riley enjoys the freedom of working from home. He’s able to spend lots of time with his kids, something he couldn’t do in the States. And his family enjoys the freedom that comes from a significantly lower cost of living.

As coffee lovers, finding the perfect, fresh cup is not a problem. Atenas is a small, coffee-farm town. Local farmers and roasters produce beans for some of the largest U.S. chains. The entire area lives and breathes coffee…and the climate is perfect for the crop.

“Costa Rica is like the States years ago,” Riley says. “Our kids can ride their bikes around the neighborhood without us being afraid. We don’t worry about our kids like we did in San Francisco.”

The Jessons find Costa Rica’s culture very supportive of families. Often several generations will live together and neighbors watch out for one another. Because Atenas is so small, they always run into people they know in town. Shop owners and friends ask about their kids by name.

“The only drawback to knowing everybody is that you can’t be in a big hurry,” says Samantha. “We just allow for some extra social time.”

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