Oct 18 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – October 19, 2014

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:


Retire for Less Visits Nicaragua

Cascada Blanca

Cascada Blanca

We’re on road! After spending the first 5 days of October in Las Vegas at the International Living Conference, we went home for two days and then headed right back out for our first-ever trip to Nicaragua. We started out with six days in Matagalpa at a hostel, then continued on to Esteli. Both Matagalpa and Estei are in the northern highlands of Nicaragua, with weather similar to our town of San Ramón in Costa Rica. We are taking private Spanish lessons here in Esteli for just under two weeks and will move on to Granada for several days before returning home at the end of the month. We’ll have lots to report on our trip, especially about “retiring for less” in Nicaragua, so stay tuned!


Our September 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2014_SeptWe knew in advance that we were not going to meet our goal of spending $2,000 per month in September. We came in at $2,366.02, but hopefully, with some months coming in under budget, our monthly average for 2014 will still be below $2,000.

September is always a big month for car expenses. Our car insurance payment is due in September. And it’s also the month that we are scheduled to report to RITEVE for the annual car inspection.

LogoRiteveThe inspection itself costs less than $20, however, Paul always takes our car to the mechanic first, to check over and fix or replace anything necessary, and that’s where the expense lies. This year, for the first time, we didn’t pass RITEVE. We had a tire which had worn unevenly and we knew that we’d eventually need to replace it but thought it would pass inspection. It didn’t. So we bought two new tires and returned to RITEVE the following week, which cost an additional inspection fee of $9.32.

Here’s the breakdown of what we spent for transportation in September ($1=533 colones):

Car Repair and RITEVE: $473.78RITEVE-CR

  • Catalytic converter, brake shoes, labor: $181.99
  • Oil change: $46.20
  • RITEVE (1st inspection): $18.63
  • Two new tires: $217.64
  • RITEVE (2nd inspection): $9.32

Other Car/Transportation Expenses: $412.79

  • Car insurance (liability & emergency road service-6 months): $149.58
  • Gas: $228.64 (higher than normal because we got a 3rd fill-up on the last day of the month)
  • Parking & Tolls: $1.88
  • New batteries for car alarm fobs: $7.50
  • Car wash: $14.07
  • Taxi/bus: $11.13

Hardware/Household Expenses

We’ve been having larger than normal water bills for the past couple of months so we asked Oscar, the caretaker for our rental house, to check it out. He found a leak under the house and bought the necessary plumbing supplies to fix it. The supplies cost $17.35 and there was no labor charge to us. Though this is a rental, we have no problem paying for minor repair expenses, especially since the labor is covered by our landlords.


Personal Care Expenses

This is the only other category with notable expenses. First, our house-sitters brought us some toiletries we requested from the States which we can’t get here. Cost: $38.00.

The other personal care expenses were mostly mine (Gloria). Since we were going to be heading to Las Vegas on October 1st to exhibit at the International Living Conference, I wanted my hair to be in good shape. I ended up having not one, but two, appointments in September (one at the beginning of the month and the other at the end of the month) for a cut and color, at about $22.50 each time. I also had a pedicure the day before we left which cost $15.00. And Paul got a haircut for the bargain price of $3.75.

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months:
















In the Mailbag


Our last newsletter on healthcare and health insurance generated a LOT of discussion, both on our website and on facebook.

We received the following comment from a reader about “In the Mailbag: Regarding Getting Residency in Costa Rica and Joining the Caja.”

A good friend, who has been a PT for many years, recently had a cardiac event that had him in need of medical attention. His physician (private) had him transported to the (new!) CAJA hospital in Heredia on an emergency basis. He recieved excellent care there for the next six days. On discharge, he was given a bill that was a bit above $8,000. It was never “free” but it was very reasonable for the services recieved. He has made arrangement to pay this in two installments and has already done the first.

The lesson I take from this is that it is not foolhardy to expect to rely on the CAJA for emergency attention BUT expect to live up to the reality that you must also be prepared to pay your way.

This can be important for those who are remaining in the country while their applications for residency are slowly grinding their way through the system. However, if you arrive with a on-going and non-emergency need for medical services, be prepared to use the private sector and pay accordingly while waiting. The CAJA cannot address those issues.

Our experiences as residents with the CAJA have been very favorable although we do make use of the “medicina mixta” for some things – usually to speed things up. As always, your experiences will vary with where you choose to live. Just like with the weather here.

On facebook, we posted a link to our article, “Why Are People Leaving Costa Rica.” Here are some of the comments:

Rachel D. commented:

I think the hardest part of it for me would be the nieces/nephews/grands, but I already live far away from them, so I don’t see them often in person anyway now. I still have to fly to see most of them. The closest are an 11-hour drive away. If I could fly to see family here, I could still fly to see family from CR.

As for the challenges of living in a different country, I agree with that last sentence – it’s not about the destination, it’s about the adventure. I’m sure there would be frustrating elements, but I’d much rather deal with those than deal with the frustration of asking “why didn’t I do that when I had the chance?”

Dana J. wrote:

Its not just the people who are now eligible for Medicare that are returning. Recently talked to a younger couple who came here because health insurance had priced them out of the market in the US. Now, with the ACA (ObamaCare), they can afford to get insurance back in the USA, and they will be close to family as well as being able to find better paying jobs than they had before. Health insurance is a huge factor in peoples lives.

David Y. wrote:

I have always described Costa Rica as a hard paradise. I have been a frequent visitor for the last 17 years, and have made significant investments there, but would not describe it as easy. Worthwhile challenge, certainly. Interesting contrasts to the United States, absolutely. It also occurs to me that those who can do well in Costa Rica, were probably doing pretty well back home, and it makes since to me that at some point they might choose to return there, or never give it up altogether. I feel privileged to be able to come and go from my home in Costa Rica and my home in the States, and expect that I will continue to do so. What always impresses me upon return to the States, is how easy it is to do things here. And how relatively affordable things are here. I think it is the challenge of living in Costa Rica, and the locals remarkable patience and resilience in dealing with them, that attract me to the country in the first place. Not to mention Verano from January to May.

Regarding our article Applying for Permanent Residency in Costa Rica, a reader posted the following comment:

Good information Paul. We did the same thing about 18 months ago and have only progressed up to the “Resolucion Firma” stage. Please post your progress so we can compare. Do you plan to use their web tool to check on the application or will you revisit Punterenas? Also, do you know the location of any other Migracion offices that can also process this application? We know of La Uruca and now Punterenas but there may be others. La Uruca is swamped.

We responded to his questions with the following:

We will definitely post our progress. We plan to use the online tool to check the progress, probably after about 3 months. They told us in Puntarenas that it would take 3-4 months. I don’t know if they have other offices but I would imagine the info is on the Migracion website somewhere. Let us know what happens with yours as well. Can you define “Resolucion Firma?”

And his follow-up response was:

The various steps are defined here.

I take the “resolucion firmas” status to be that our application is still “in the works” and is waiting on someone to sign it. The website advises that I should check every 15 days to see if any progresshas been made. The next step is “resolucion notificada”, meaning that the resolution has been signed and is ready to pick-up (or has been faxed). Then an appointment must be made for the actual cedula (pictures, fingerprints etc) issuance.

In a discussion about the cost of living in Costa Rica, Rob E. wrote:

Sometimes I think of the opposite question of what it costs not to move to CR – staying in a boring job, declining health from lack of exercise and fast food, not being as happy as I can be. It seems like there is a “cost” of not being where you are happy. Say one has 20 years left, the real question is where and how do you want to spend the remaining time.”

And from Gilbert, the following note:

Thanks a million times and congratulations for your this so informative site. I enjoy reading it and absorbing these precious tips. I have visited CR last year (2013) and fell in love with the country and the people. We are planning another visit early 2015. My plan is to be a ”happy expat” like so many. Enjoy life … Pura vida.”

Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, & Quepos – September 2014

Costa Rica Rainfall Map

The rainy season continues with heavy rainfall in parts of Costa Rica, while drought conditions continue in the northwest. In fact, it’s the worst drought that Guanacaste has experienced in more than 50 years. You can read more about it in a recent Tico Times article, “Costa Rica declares national emergency over drought in northwestern province of Guanacaste.”

You’ll notice that we show rainfall and temperatures for four towns in Costa Rica. This isn’t weather forecasting. We report after the fact to give you a much better picture of the weather in each of these areas.

You can still click on the map to the right to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns you are interested in. Remember that the areas shaded in darker blue tend to be higher and also the places most expats choose to live.

Paul’s San Ramón Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for September:

  • We had an amazing rainfall total for September: 48.1 inches! This was the wettest September we’ve had in 6 rainy seasons in Costa Rica. In the town of San Ramon, three miles away, they had much, much less. To get an idea of what this kind of rainfall looks like, watch this quick video we took while living at the cabinas.
  • Micro-climates abound. There are 11 distinct micro-climates in Costa Rica but rainfall totals can even change from ridge to ridge and valley to valley in Costa Rica.
  • We were in Las Vegas October 1st through 5th to exhibit at the International Living’s Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference. On October 8th, we head out for three weeks in Nicaragua, so we will miss most of October in Costa Rica. October is traditionally the rainiest month in our part of the country. Thanks to our house sitters, Jim & Diana, for making this possible and for tracking rainfall and temperatures during our absence.
  • costa-rica-map_cropped4Total rainfall in 2013 was 110.95 inches in our area of San Ramón.

Lance T’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for September:

  • In Atenas, September this year was certainly wetter than September last year – 18.3 inches of rain and only 2 days without rain this year – compared with 13.8 inches of rain and 11 days without rain last year.
  • Consistent with increased cloudiness, overnight lows tended to be a bit warmer and daytime highs tended to be a bit cooler.
  • Despite the rain almost every day, there was only one day when the sun didn’t shine at least part of the time.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 63.84 inches in our area of Atenas.

John’s Nuevo Arenal Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for September:

  • September and October are vacation months for tourism businesses, with fewer tourists and slower traffic.
  • Often, even during the rainy season, we have glorious, sunny days here on Lake Arenal. Rains are more predictable in the afternoons and evenings.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches in our area of Nuevo Arenal.

QueposLance M’s Central Pacific Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for September:

  • It has been a interesting month with the weather teasing us with a cool day then sending us back into the furnace the next day.
  • Our landlord has the government permits to teach a gun safety course and employs a couple of instructors to teach it. There is a firing range on the property so after you take the course and pass the written test you must go to the range and fire a weapon. This is where the police, coast guard, and just recently the swat team do all their qualifying. It does get quit noisy at times but our landlord gives us plenty of notice so we can go into Quepos to get away from the noise.
  • Since we live along the palm grove, we at times have oxen visit us to munch on the grass. The gentleman that takes care of them will show up on his mule with his dogs to herd them back down to where they belong. They also have a mule named Houdini that has figured out how to lay on his side and shimmy under the fence to get out and come up and get in with the horses and try to hide among them. There is always something going on when you live on 40 acres.
  • We are planning a border run later in October to do some shopping. The prices at the border are much cheaper than where we live.
  • The Quepos area of the Central Pacific receives approximately 140 inches of rain per year.
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.



Our San Ramón Weatherman, Paul Yeatman

Meteorology has been Paul’s lifelong hobby.  As a child, he devoured books about the weather and earth sciences vigorously. Later, he took a few college courses in meteorology, and still later, he served as a meteorologist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam.  Now, Paul gets to practice his avocation in Costa Rica, albeit on a very small scale with just temperature and rainfall data, probably the two most important factors regarding the weather. He wanted to include weather info on our website to help people decide where to live, although weather is just one of many factors to consider in determining where to relocate. Current weather data is from our current home at about 3,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón. Weather data prior to December 2012 is from our previous home at about 4,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón.

Our Atenas Weatherman, Lance Turlock

Lance and his wife, Diana, moved to Costa Rica about 2 years ago after living 30+ years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver and environs). They live in the Central Valley near the town of Atenas and are at an elevation of about 2700 feet. They have no need for air conditioning or heating. Overnight low temperatures are comfortably cool (low 60’s). Daytime highs can be relatively hot (high 80’s, low 90’s), but rarely uncomfortably hot.Lance started to keep track of daily temperatures and rainfall in order to have factual ammunition to help disabuse friends, relatives and acquaintances of any misconception that the weather must be like that of a tropical jungle.

Our Nuevo Arenal Weatherman, John Nicholas

After many visits to Costa Rica, John and Cathy Nicholas moved from New York to Costa Rica in 1991.  They chose Arenal for its sacred, majestic beauty, its lush wildlife, its relaxing lifestyle, and its proximity to activities and sites such as the Volcano Arenal and the beaches. They own the B&B, Chalet Nicholas, which has been in operation since 1992. Temperatures and rainfall are measured at Chalet Nicholas which is located at approximately 2,200 ft. elevation and 1 mile west of the town of Nuevo Arenal.

Our Playa Mantapalo Weatherman, Lance Miller

LanceM2I was born in a very small town in northwest Iowa and raised on a farm. When I was 18, I joined the service, in which I spent 22 years before retiring in 1990. For the next twenty three years my family and I lived in south central Pennsylvania. After having a stroke in 2012, I was unable to work and that is when my wife and I began talking about retiring. Thanks to your newsletter and a website we found about San Isidro, we began looking at Costa Rica. We came down in March 2013 and looked around for a week. Went home, packed up, and moved here in April. We settled in a small village called Playa Matapalo which is located between Quepos and Dominical. We later moved to Quepos. The word Playa means beach. It is so nice to lie in bed and listen to the ocean. Pura Vida. We will continue the weather info next month.

Related Articles:


Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica

Our newest tour is the Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica. When asked what he liked best about June’s healthcare tour, one of our guests wrote, “the wide variety of places we saw, the experts that Paul HCTOUR_030arranged for us to meet and talk with, and an emphasis on all aspects of health, not just doctors and hospitals. Mental health is just as important as physical, if not more so.” HCTOUR_008 We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over five years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. We’ve learned the system and have been referred up the ladder to see specialists in the maze that is the Caja system. Gloria’s even had surgery here. Our blend of personal insights and on-the-ground experience combines to answer your questions about whether or not Costa Rica’s healthcare system could meet your individual needs.

HCTOUR_004 But, while it is focused on healthcare, you will learn a lot more about living and retiring in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Most of the second day of the tour takes place in the town of San Ramón where we live and use the services. And you will come to our home for lunch that day to listen to two of our featured speakers. Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. Our goal is to show you the possibilities and to try to demystify Costa Rica’s healthcare system. Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sample Itinerary: You’ll visit:

  • At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)HospitalMexico
  • An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
  • A senior living retirement community
  • CPI language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare and some basic medical Spanish.
  • Our local hospital here in San Ramón
  • A local EBAIS (community clinic)
  • A local private medical and dental clinic
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!

EBAISStaffYou’ll learn:

  • If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needs and put your mind to rest, once and for all, about this sensitive subject.
  • About the public system and how it works, about the private healthcare system, and how you can use a combination of both to your advantage.
  • About the EBAIS – where healthcare starts in Costa Rica.
  • Approximately how much you would pay for Caja.
  • About medical tourism in Costa Rica.
  • About home health care in Costa Rica.

Introductory prices: $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.

Please contact us if you are interested in booking this tour. Space is limited.

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Seven Compelling Reasons to Invest in Coopenae

(Updated October 7, 2014)

We’ve been banking and investing at Coopenae for several years now and have been extremely pleased with their customer service and investment CD rates. Here are some good reasons to consider investing with them:

  1. Rated by “Fitch Ratings” (international bank rating): Short term rating at: ‘F1+ (cri)’ the best possible rating. Long-term rating at: ‘AA (cri)’ expectation of very low risk; the risk differs very little from the Financial Institutions with the highest rating possible.
  2. It´s the largest Cooperative (similar to a credit union in the U.S.) in Costa Rica, the largest in Central America, with more than 92.000 members, the 4th largest in Latin America, the 4th most profitable private financial institution in Costa Rica, the 3rd largest private financial institution in C.R. (Equity) and has over 48 years in the domestic market.
  3. The “overall rating” by the State Supervisor SUGEF is 1.10, while the best rating possible for any public or private financial institution in Costa Rica is 1.00.
  4. Credit Default Rate of 0.68% and Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 20.5% (June 2014) which means your money is there when you need it.
  5. Recently Coopenae became the 1st Cooperative in Central America to receive a loan from the World Bank.
  6. Audited by recognized international companies: Peat Marwick, Deloitte, Price Water House Cooper.
  7. Several expats all over the Country are already members of the San Ramón Branch. We provide personalized service and offer the best market interest rates for certificates of deposit.  Today, 11.50% net interest rate for a 5 years colones CD.

Your first point of contact:

Asdrúbal Zamora
C. R. Expats Investment Executive
Cell Phone (+506) 8811-1602
Corporate Email: azamora@asesorcoopenae.fi.cr

View and download Coopenae’s corporate presentation here.

DisclaimerThe articles on this website are intended to provide general information only and have been prepared by RetireforLessinCostaRica.com without taking into account any particular person’s objectives, financial situation, needs or preferences. Our readers should, before acting on this information, consider the appropriateness of this information regarding their personal objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend investors obtain financial, investment, or legal advice specific to their situation before making any financial investment or relocation decision.

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