Luck, Hard Work, and Retiring Overseas

Not too long ago I took a vacation in Costa Rica. I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast. A single mother was running it with her 19-year-old daughter. The mother doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak Spanish. With hand gestures, we were able to communicate — I suspect she understands English more than she speaks.

I was feeling pretty good about having my tourist dollars help a minority-owned small business until Friday evening when the real owners showed up. They arrived in two separate cars; one of them was a Lexus LX470 full-size luxury SUV. They also brought a maid, who cooked for them.

Although their arrival totally blew my fantasy of helping a struggling single mother, I was able to talk to the owners, who speak English. It turned out that they were a hardworking couple before they became capitalists who earn their living from their money as opposed from their labor.

They worked in the United States for nearly 30 years before they returned to their home country. The husband worked as a security guard; the wife as a nurse in nursing homes. They sent home money they saved and kept buying land over the years. Now they own many acres of land. The value exploded due to tourism.

Luck and saving money diligently both played out to their favor. Others would probably say buying land is super high risk but it paid off for them. If I can choose between luck and smart, I would choose luck. However because I can’t count on luck, I have to take the slow road saving money. If that couple didn’t save money like crazy, they wouldn’t have the money to invest to begin with. When they had money, they were able to take advantage of more opportunities, like getting a loan to buy the B&B in a tourist area and making more money off it, whereas the single mother and daughter could only work for wages. The rich gets richer and all that.

This encounter also piqued my interest in retiring overseas. It seems you can boost your living standard by quite a bit if you retire overseas. Cost of living is so much lower. When I went to the bank to get cash, I saw a sign specifically targeted at Social Security recipients. It must be quite common for Americans to retire there. I will look into that option when I’m ready to retire.

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  1. Random Poster says

    “It must be quite common for Americans to retire there.”

    I would say so, judging solely by the number of House Hunter International shows on HGTV that are filmed in Costa Rica.

  2. KD says

    I would say you may not get a “grand” deal by moving when you retire simply because many people have already moved before you boosting the cost of living there. But still, you may be able to get a deal simply based on the cost of living and the exchange rate.

  3. Ted Valentine says

    For me, being away from family and friends is too high a cost of living for retiring in a foreign country.

  4. ctreit says

    Where in Costa Rica did you go? – I just came back last week. We met an older American couple who was looking into retiring there. They looked at some projects on the Caribbean side. But there are no bargains to be had there anymore. If you want to be close to the ocean, it will cost you a pretty penny.

  5. Zack says

    When you thought the B&B was “minority-owned,” was that because you were aware that Costa Rica is 80% white? Dark-skinned people are a majority in most of Latin America.

  6. Harry Sit says

    Zack – The mother and daughter were of African descent. It was apparent they were the minority. According to Wikipedia, Blacks make up only 3% of the Costa Rican population.

  7. Scoot says

    maybe a little too close to Hugo Chavez for me to live there. what kind of military does Costa Rica have?

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