For those approaching retirement age (or already there), places like Costa Rica are looking better and better. Over the past 10 years the number of U.S. citizens over 65 has grown from 36 to 40 million. The availability of public services has already declined and nursing homes have reduced the number of Medicaid admissions. In 2003, 79% of U.S. citizens retiring had total assets of less than $45,000 and yearly incomes—including pension and social security—of less than $15,000. That's not much money to live on, at least in the United States. But $15,000 a year goes much further in a place like Costa Rica.
In Costa Rica, anyone 45 years or older can apply for the easy-to-relocate retirement system set up by the Costa Rican government. Qualified retirees are eligible for benefits including specific tax exemptions and incentives. Best of all, you do not have to pay tax on your retirement income in Costa Rica.
It is important to know that you cannot just come here and live. Just like your home country, you must apply for and receive legal residency. For those of you on a pension or social security, the current requirement is that you have an income of $1,000.00 per month that comes from a permanent source. That can be social security, a government pension, military pension, annuity, etc.
We recommend that anyone considering a move to Costa Rica, or any country for that matter, first come here and travel as a tourist. The longer you can stay the better. It is important that in addition to knowing the logistics of establishing residency and making the move, you get a little taste of what life will be like.