Robert Parker in Bali

Robert Parker in Bali
blog contributor Robert Parker Surfing Bali

Monday, January 27, 2014

Costa Rica with an Ex-Pat Pensionado Purpose!

John enjoying a surprise swell in the late afternoon, Juno Beach, Wed. 1/ 22/2014
Today- 12 days before we leave for Costa Rica, which I'll chronicle on this blog as it happens, I'm also going to include details of the process of becoming a "Pensionado" in Costa Rica, a form of residency that John and I have decided to do.  We think that our experience will definitely help others because it's confusing (!!!).  We haven't an exit date yet for moving there but the paperwork is so detailed and time exhaustive, we will have it in the can, or at least to the place where we can go legally, when we finally decide to do this crazy thing!


I never finished the last 4 days of my last Costa Rica post. Mostly because we hit the Tamarindo area for the last bit of the last trip and it failed to inspire-literally.  We'd been there once before- shortly after we first met actually, and we'd had an amazing time.  BUT...Tamarindo compared now to other parts of the country is a disappointment in the waves, the beach crowds, the local attitude, the absurd meshing of really expensive restaurants and hotels to the extreme poverty.  YUCK! It doesn't feel like community and we really hated it.  I did have an interview for a teaching job though at a private school not far from Playa Grande and we would've taken it had it been offered.  But, they decided to hire in house and we breathed a short sigh of "Nyah" followed by a huge sigh of relief.   We definitely crossed this entire area off the list of potential, future retirement choices.  Sorry Tamarindo, but you get plenty of exposure and you are a place where folk can start a business easier than the wilder places, so that will net you plenty of other fish.

We've been talking since we met about living the dream, leaving the states and pursuing surfing, art, and just being together in paradise.  We tossed around several places.  Ecuador is supposed to be a really good spot for ex-pat surfers.  Bali calls to both John and I constantly!  But these spots didn't make the grade because of the cost of travel to and from.  We have kids and grandkids and my Mom is still with us.  Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama are not cost prohibitive for air travel.  Panama is supposed to be cheaper than Costa Rica for products, etc. but some investigation into that country kept are heads in CR.  Panama is supposed to have more political and police corruption, Nicaragua has the bandito issue.  A friend of mine who runs Rancho Chilamante there is widely respected and loved, yet he still runs afoul of the country's issues with being a Communist state. Let it be said here that CR has it's issues too and we aren't going with vapid, fairytale expectations!

But  Costa Rica it is.

I began the exhaustive Internet surfing, gathering info.  There are several ways to become a resident of Costa Rica.  From  

Costa Rica offers many alternatives for legal residency. Here are the most common and those that affect the majority of people moving here:
• a pensionado is defined as a person receiving a lifetime pension such as social security, state retirement benefits, military pension. or someone who has purchased or owns a lifetime annuity guaranteeing an income (for life) of no less than $1,000 US per month. While this residency is most common for older folks, there is no age limit. We have many retired military retiring here who are in their forties and are qualified pensionados.
• a rentista is a foreigner with a guaranteed income stream (rare) or who makes a deposit to a Costa Rica bank) in the amount of $60,000 (more common).
This deposit is the rentista's money and is paid out to him at the rate of $2,500 per month for 24 months. This residency is for two years after which it must be renewed (another 60,000) or you must leave the country. This new residency allows people to learn if they really enjoy living here.
• an investor, who has at least $200,000 or more invested in Costa Rica
• if associated while doing a foreign government assignment or an international mission.
• representante a person who is an executive of a company doing business in Costa Rica. Many restrictions apply.
The pensionado and rentista programs are the easiest and most popular methods of establishing temporary residency in Costa Rica. They are called temporary because both have expiration dates and must be renewed in order to stay here. After three years of either you have the right to “upgrade” to permanent residence. This implies at least ONE renewal after two years. Some residents, especially rentistas, can and should convert to permanent residency after three years to avoid a third large deposit of $60,000. Permanent residency implies permanency... not true. Permanent residents must also regularly renew their residency.

Well, we qualify under the "Pensionado" status.  My 24 years of teaching in Nevada paid off with a retirement plan that is quite generous. We won't be living in luxury, or even as one net spot termed it by incomes: "Well Off'.   We'll be: "Upper Class by South American Standards"  level.  Not sure where that puts us on the scale of "American Standards" where I think we are probably Low Middle Class.  But good waves everyday?  No work?  Fishing and shopping in green markets for our food.  Affordable health care( as of this post, John's is still covered at work- mine is $400 per month!  Costa Rica CAJA health care will run us about $100 per month for both of us!)  Priceless!  John won't have to take his social security till the latest, most lucrative age and we will do just fine- not fancy, but that's not us anyways.  And I'll be getting $500 a month social security down the road too from 8 years of working in a bank before becoming a teacher.  Plus we each have little 401K's tucked away.  We count ourselves pretty lucky to be the tail end of a generation where  some benefits are providing us with these choices.  Our kids, their kids- not so lucky! 

Important note here: People who used to just pop over to Panama or Nicaragua every three months as perpetual turistas are now often required to go home to their country of origin instead.  

One "Hitch"?  John and I weren't married and neither of us really cared to do it again, full commitment to one another notwithstanding.  I emailed SEVERAL companies who help establish residency to find out if they honor legal partnerships in Costa Rica.  Not one answered my question until I found Great Sunrise Enterprises on Craigslist Costa Rica. Kevin McNamee answered immediately and we decided to use them as our liaison for the legal process.  He'll Skype with you, answer questions and send a monthly newsletter with ex-pat details, new laws, etc. ALL without receiving a cent.  So that's why he gets our money.  You have to have someone to do this for you!  It's just too legal crazy and too many hoops.  Kevin has been doing this for decades and we feel good about him handling our paperwork, choosing the lawyers and everything else that goes with this insane process. we did have to get married because I'm the only one with the "guaranteed" monthly salary at this point and CR does not recognize "domestic partnerships".  

Hitched: Dec. 31st, 2014 at the courthouse in North Palm Beach.  

Next post: Starting the paperwork and what the hell is an Apostille?

Ending with a little video that was shot the other day on the above mentioned mini swell that unexpectedly came through Forida last week. SUP Surfing in Jupiter Beach, From the air!  John is paddling out at 1:18 on the video- shot by a drone!- and he is followed by my tiny figure on the shore with our black lab who is insane for the ocean as she jumps in chasing her toy.  Yes she is going with us when we move.

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