Fran and I recently had the
privilege of meeting Sharon Lumley. Sharon works as a
registered nurse in the intensive care unit of a suburban
Dallas Texas hospital. Having helped others for over
thirty years, Sharon is eagerly looking to "pull the plug"
and retire within the next year. However, like many
Baby Boomers, today's economy has severely impacted her
ability to retire in the United States and live the life she
always dreamed. With a projected monthly budget of
$1000-1300, Sharon is looking to Costa Rica as a way to
achieve her retirement goal.
Fran and I just spent three
days with Sharon, helping her to determine if Costa Rica
would work for her as her retirement destination. While it would be nice to live in
a 2000 square foot condominium, overlooking the Pacific
Ocean, Sharon realizes that some compromises need to be
Like anybody looking to retire
overseas, differentiating between one's needs vs.
wants is paramount. Establishing a realistic
budget, based on one's actual needs is critical.
Sharon's criteria was
ambitious yet achievable:
Rent a small 1 bedroom
apartment or house, fully furnished for $400-500 per
month (including electric).
Live within walking
distance of the beach
Food budget should average
no more than $150 per month while maintaining her
Rely on public
transportation to get around
The area should support a
strong expat community
Even though in excellent
health, close proximity to high quality healthcare is
Over the course of three days,
we took Sharon to meet several of our friends who either
live that very lifestyle or who own rental properties that
meet her requirements. We saw everything from a one
bedroom apartment with private sundeck for less than $400 a
month, 50 feet from the bus stop to a 1 bedroom basement
apartment with a pool and a view of the Papagayo Gulf,
renting for only $600 a month. That place even
included electric, internet and satellite TV. So
finding a place to live did not appear to be a problem.
The cost of food in Costa Rica
can make or break a budget. If one has a penchant for
all things gringo, be prepared to shell out the big bucks at
the checkout counter. The great news for Sharon
is she is a vegetarian. On the third day of our tour
we took her to the local farmers market (La Feria) located
in Liberia. Sharon was like a kid in a candy shop when
she saw all the fresh fruits and veggies at prices that were
a fraction of what she was paying back in Dallas. The
vendors there even offered her free samples of things of
which she was unfamiliar.
We also visited three
different supermarkets (super mercados). Each market
catered to a different segment of the population ranging
from totally Tico to a market you swear was located in the
suburbs of Arlington Texas.
For the most part, the prices
also are representative of their surroundings. But as we
quickly learned, even the most expensive store was running
30% off discounts on selected items that made it the clear
choice for certain products.
The two most important items
one needs to insure survival is shelter and food.
Sharon learned that both were well within her budget.
Assuming she can rent a nice
place for $500 and maintain her $150 monthly budget for
food, that leaves $350 a month available for extras like a
cell phone ($7.00), dining out twice a month ($50), Buses
and taxis ($75) and $30 for National Healthcare (once she
becomes a resident). That still leaves over $150 a
month which is still available within her $1000 a month
So, for the next year, Sharon
plans to add to her war chest by working extra shifts and
socking away as much money as possible. In addition,
she plans to sharpen her language skills by taking some
Spanish courses. The real proof will come when she
moves here. Will she be able to live within her
budget? That will be the big question, but at this
point in time, Sharon's head appears to be sharply focused
on being able to retire here and living Pura Vida!
Fran and I were skeptical
whether or not Sharon could live in the Playa Hermosa
(Guanacaste) area of Costa Rica on such a limited budget.
However, early analysis points to a strong likelihood of her
succeeding. Her attitude is great and her adventurous
spirit will go a long way in helping her succeed. The
good news is, if Guanacaste proves to be too expensive,
there are lots of other places for her to explore.