Value-priced ORGANIC lots in San Ramon

Imagine lots for only $4 a square meter!  This isn’t just raw land but a fully developed community with all services.  In Organic Views, just five minutes from downtown San Ramon, you’ll find a few remaining OCEAN-VIEW lots from $55K to $68K.  Come take a look before the community is sold out:

http://www.crcommunities.com/OrganicViews.html

Boomers Tour–New 2011 Dates

Interested in Costa Rica? Well, after five years of “bringing boomers to Costa Rica,” the folks at “Boomers in Costa Rica” are making some changes to the tour in keeping with the new economic realities (i.e., lower prices for one thing!). They will be unveiling their new site in the next few weeks (www.boomersincostarica.com) but in the meantime, below are upcoming tour dates. Make a note of them and look for the new website soon:

March 28 – 30
April 11 – 13
May 9 – 11
June 13 – 15
July 11 – 13
August 8 – 10
September 19 – 21
October – no tours
November 7 – 9
December 5 – 7

Pura Vida!

Pacific Hills SOLD OUT!

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Hills is sold out.  Thank you all of our home site buyers and supporters!   Take a look at the “Organic Views” tab, a small 8-lot property just up the hill from Pacific Hills in the Magallanes section of San Ramon.   Four lots remain.   The same stunning views and VERY reasonably priced.

Look for our newest project, “Organic Heaven,” soon!  You won’t believe this project–it’s special.  Coming soon!

10 Ways Retirement Abroad Can Help Keep You Young

Susan Beverley

Escape From America Magazine

We’re all well aware of the term ‘having a bad hair day’ – after all most of us have suffered at least one of these in our lifetime, even you men out there reading this!  But as time takes its toll on our bodies and the stresses of life catch up with us, have you ever caught sight of yourself in the mirror and though ‘oh my goodness, I’m turning into my mother/father/great aunt Ethel?’  If you have, then you’ve experienced a bad age day!

None of us are immune to such an occurrence because sometimes the weight of the world we live in can really drag our energy levels down, and this can immediately be reflected in less than luminous skin, lifeless hair, tired eyes and deepening frown lines.  But who wants to look in the mirror and see an aged parent staring straight back at them?

Fortunately, for retirees who have managed to shake off a lot of their previous stresses by making the move to a paradise abroad, bad age days needn’t be a regular occurrence because turning back the years and keeping old age at bay begins with feeling young at heart.

Those of us who have made the bold move to live a better life in retirement, to go in search of a better climate, an improved lifestyle, a lower cost of living and a more laid back pace of life have taken the most important step on the road to a happy retirement…and in this report today I’m going to show you 10 ways that your new life abroad will help enhance your wellbeing.  In other words, here are 10 ways that your new life will keep you looking and feeling younger!

  1. A warm climate, like the one many retirees choose to live in, encourages the body to sweat out toxins, and naturally anyone living in a hot country finds themselves drinking more water.  Water is critically important to stop skin from drying out and to prevent the body from becoming dehydrated.  Dry skin is sad skin and a bad age day nightmare – so keep yourself topped up with water and avoid dehydration as a result.  Have a glass with your breakfast and before your meals, and don’t forget to take a glass to bed with you in case you get thirsty in the night.  By the way, if you drink a glass of water before meals this has the added benefit of making you feel fuller and ensuring you don’t over eat and add on extra weight through excess calorie intake!
  2. Oily fish is often easily and affordably accessible if you’re living in a seaside paradise in retirement – and oily fish is high in Omega 3, one of the body’s essential fatty acids that helps keep your brain alert – and Omega 3 has also been shown to help prevent heart disease.  Clearly oily fish is therefore another essential element in fighting some of the effects of older age!  Make sure you indulge at least 2 or 3 times a week and enjoy oily fish as part of an overall healthier diet.
  3. Buy in to the laid back lifestyle you’re living in and learn to rest!  Whether you take a daily siesta like the locals do, or you just take some time out in the day to meditate or put your feet up and enjoy a nice cool drink, make sure you have an enforced period of rest every day.  You need to de-stress and quite literally take the weight off your feet to aid circulation and to let your mind, body and spirit relax!
  4. Leading on from this point, as we get older many of us experience disturbed sleep patterns – and did you know that a survey of older Americans done in 2003 showed that the healthier a respondent was, the more regular sleep pattern they enjoyed!  So, developing a healthy sleep pattern is important.  It’s just not true that the more we age the less sleep we need – however, it is true that some people can ‘survive’ on very little sleep!  But the keyword here is ‘survive’ – if you want to be healthy, you need to get a decent night’s sleep every night.  If your bedroom is too hot you will find it harder to sleep.  If you drink too much caffeine or alcohol in the afternoon and evening this can affect the quality of sleep you get.  You can ‘catch up’ on sleep, and power naps can refresh you – but ideally you need to do everything you can to ensure that every night you’re sleeping well.  Address any issues head on, and if this means you sleep in a separate bed alongside your spouse, (because sleeping apart can help some people get better rest), then so be it for the good of your health.
  5. The sun ages and damages our skin – and yet it has beneficial effects for our general feeling of wellbeing.  So, we all need to learn to stay safe in the sun no matter what age we are, and thanks to Cancer Research UK there’s a very simple code to follow – the SMART code…Spend time in the shade when the sun is at its most intense between 11am and 3pm.  Make sure you never burn your skin.  Aim to always cover up with a hat, sunglasses and a t-shirt.  Remember to take extra care with your grandchildren and their delicate skin and Then use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF 15.
  6. Don’t lose that loving feeling – don’t take your spouse or partner for granted because research has proven that the more active your positive thoughts are about your partner, the more loving your relationship will be.  In other words, you need to consistently and consciously appreciate each other and remember what it is about your partner that you love if you want to keep your love active and alive.  Living in a new nation is a challenge, and one you will be working through together – so use the experience to draw you closer and reinforce the loving bond between you.
  7. Leading on from that, a study by the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland has shown that having regular sex can lead to you looking up to 10 years younger!  The survey showed that respondents who found time for sex at least three times a week had a more youthful complexion and were healthier.  In part this is because sex is a calorie burning exercise that pumps oxygen round the body and therefore boosts the circulation and the supply of nutrients to the skin, and in part for women at least, sex helps trigger the production of a particular human growth hormone that helps keep them looking younger!
  8. If you prefer alternative forms of exercise, living in a warm country can make swimming one of the most desirable pursuits – and fortunately, swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for older bodies.  It is a non-stress form of exercise that burns calories, builds strength, aids flexibility, stamina and even balance, and it works your heart and lungs, helping them stay healthy.
  9. Before retirement how many of us were able to implement essential changes to our lives that we knew would make us feel better and perhaps live even longer, but which required concentration, dedication and that most precious of all commodities – time?  The honest answer is that few people have the time when they are working and meeting the monthly mortgage etc., to allocate any time to themselves.  But retirement is all about you now!  It is your time in life.  You have raised a family and/or put years of your life into a job and a profession, you have paid your taxes and saved your money, you have dedicated years of service to other things and other people.  And so now, the time that you have is your time.  And it’s time for you to implement the 4 key changes to your life that could extend your life by up to 14 years!  The 4 key changes are – stop smoking, cut your alcohol intake, develop consistently healthy eating habits and take up regular exercise.  Researchers at Cambridge University in England have shown that adopting these 4 goals and winning the healthy lifestyle battle can add up to 14 years to your life expectancy.
  10. The final top tip for international retirees is that dog owners live longer!  In many nations in the world pet ownership is a luxury that families cannot afford – which is why in Central American nations, Mediterranean countries and across Asia for example, (all popular destinations for Western retirees seeking a better life), dogs and cats are stray animals roaming free and fending for themselves.  Many expatriates want to do their bit to support and improve the new community they live in, and one of the most popular ways adopted is taking in and taking on a stray and sorry for itself animal.  The good news is that according to research from Queens University in Ireland, dog ownership can encourage better health and a longer life.  So, my final tip for you if you want to avoid bad age days is take in a stray dog!  Not only will you be doing your bit for the local community and for the hound in question, but you will be doing your bit for the improvement of your health!  The research from Ireland proves that dog owners are healthier because they get more exercise and therefore have lower blood pressure and cholesterol.  What’s more, having a dog can lead to an increase in social interaction which is good for our mental wellbeing, and regularly stroking a dog and enjoying their loving and loyal company can reduce stress levels.

In Conclusion…

There are many easy ways we can improve the quality of our lives and the health and wellbeing we enjoy.  In retirement when we have more time to dedicate to ourselves we should make it part of our everyday life to do that little something that will improve the way we feel.  It’s your life – so go on and enjoy living it!  Don’t let a bad age day catch up with you and leave you feeling low!  Having taken the positive and bold decision to retire overseas and see more of the world, why not also take the positive and bold decision to get the very most out of every single day.

About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com.  She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005.  She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.

FAQs: From Health Care to Crime 13 essential questions you must ask before retiring abroad.

Barry Golson
AARP Magazine

Can I live comfortably on Social Security?

In much of Latin America, the answer is yes, especially for couples receiving two Social Security checks. Monthly costs in the region’s less expensive countries, such as Nicaragua and Belize, are typically about $1,500. A smart idea: rent a home before buying one—be sure you like where you live before making a major financial commitment.

In the more developed countries of Europe—and even the pricier parts of Latin America—you may need an additional source of income. You can find low-cost living in the regions we’ve reported on, especially in Spain and Portugal, but you’ll need a minimum of $2,000 a month for frugal comfort in Europe. Some expats insist they live on far less—or far more—but $2,000 is a reasonable figure for people of average means. Books and websites touting a new life abroad for $900 a month aren’t always realistic.

How good is the health care?

Better than you might think. In Latin America you’ll find good-to-excellent private, low-cost care in and around big cities. Mexico has a progressive health care policy, with clinics established in even the smallest villages and first-rate care in cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City. Panama City has very good health care; in fact, many Americans fly from Miami to Panama City to get inexpensive medical treatment. Even in poor countries such as Nicaragua, competent private care is available in the capital city, Managua, at a fraction of the U.S. cost. Doctors’ visits in these countries can be $30 and drugs are inexpensive, many available without prescription.

In Europe, French medical care is considered the best in the world. You must be a legal resident to be eligible for nonemergency care. If you pay into France’s “social security” and pay French taxes, you get great care for the rest of your life. Italy, Spain, and Portugal also have excellent care and strong national systems. The chief complaint about nationalized health care everywhere is long waits for nonemergency treatment. Private care—common among expats everywhere—is prompt.

Some key things to know about health care abroad:

1) You can’t use Medicare. That can be a deal breaker for some. Expat organizations are lobbying for the use of Medicare in Mexico, though it’s not expected to happen anytime soon. A good percentage of expats in Mexico make regular “Medicare runs” back to the States, so bear that in mind when you choose a locale. (And keep up those Part B payments, folks!)

2) You can join most national health care systems. They’re subsidized and sophisticated in Europe, basic in Latin America. And while you can’t always find a U.S. insurance policy that covers you abroad, you can get reasonably priced international insurance that will cover you for serious problems. (BUPA, a European-based insurance company, is the most common.)

3) Many doctors speak English. They are generally available at private hospitals, and many of them have trained in the United States.

4) The hospitals are good. In Europe, they range from good to superb. In Latin America, as medical tourism increases and more retirees migrate from North America, hospital care is slowly improving. Costa Rica is a major destination for medical tourism, for example, and its hospitals are good. You can check with Joint Commission International, the hospital accreditation agency (www.jointcommissioninternational.org/) for hospitals abroad that meet high standards. (Mexico currently has eight.)

What will I owe in taxes?

Expats receive a $91,400 exemption from the IRS for all income earned while living abroad. Interest from your savings, dividends, pensions, or annuities are not exempt—it must be earned income.

Here’s the bad news: The United States is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens anywhere they live on their worldwide income. Fortunately, the U.S. government has agreements with many countries that prevent expats from paying income tax both to their adopted home and to the IRS. Yes, the only sure things for Americans are death and taxes.

What about foreign taxes?

Taxation abroad can be complex and subject to change. In general, property taxes are very low in Latin America, but capital gains taxes can be hefty. Property taxes in Europe are similar to those in the U.S.

Many Americans are unfamiliar with the VAT, or value-added tax. In Europe a 15 to 21 percent VAT is tacked on to nearly everything you buy, with the exception of such staples as food. Some Latin American countries have similar sales taxes, but they’re often ignored.

As for taxes on income and capital gains, consult a local tax attorney. Let’s say that again: Consult a local tax attorney. Don’t use the Internet—hucksters selling their services are common. Visit the country, talk to expats, and ask for a professional with experience in taxes. In France, for example, you enter a labyrinth of taxation, with higher taxes than Uncle Sam’s. Do your homework.

Do retirees get special senior benefits?

U.S. foreign residents of a certain age—it varies, but can be as low as 45—typically receive the same benefits as local seniors. In Europe, standard senior benefits are similar to those in the United States. (Europeans retire considerably earlier than Americans, though that is changing.) In Latin America, special benefits for foreign retirees—tax breaks and lower import duties on personal belongings, for example—can be generous, with Panama a prime example.

How do I collect my Social Security payments?

Many expats have their Social Security and pension checks deposited into their U.S. bank account and withdraw money at local ATMs (at the most favorable exchange rates) as needed. New federal regulations—part of an effort to track down drug and terrorist transactions—have made it difficult for U.S. expats to open an account abroad, and in some cases to keep their accounts open in the States. The inconvenience has led some expats to renounce their American citizenship, a drastic move.

What residency requirements should I expect?

Generally, the main requirement is proof of income. The government wants assurances that you won’t become a ward of the state, or take away a local job. Your income requirement varies from $600 a month per couple in low-cost countries to as much as $2,000 a month and more elsewhere in Latin America and Europe. You also have to prove you’re healthy and have no criminal record. Each country has its own hoops you’ll jump through to become a legal resident, so study the official government sites and take your leads from local expats. Many hire a local “facilitator” to walk them through the process.

Can I own land abroad?

The short answer is yes, though you’ll need a good lawyer to help cut through the red tape. One major exception is Mexico: Within 50 kilometers of a coast or 100 miles from a border, foreigners may not own land outright. Instead, coastal expats rely on bank trusts; the bank holds the title in trust for you. You have all the rights of a property owner, and can buy and sell the trusts. In other Latin American countries, some land is restricted (you can’t own an island in Panama, for example) and some property may have murky documentation. In Europe, ownership has its own red tape, but buying a house is comparatively straightforward. Building a house, however, is severely restricted in some European locales, such as Italy. Let’s say it once more: Consult a local attorney.

Are the crime rates high?

Europe has a lower crime rate than the United States does, but in much of Latin America, burglary and robberies are a problem for expats and prosperous locals. Violent crimes are rare in major tourist and expat locations, and though you may see gruesome shootouts between drug gangs on the news, the drug wars are largely limited to rougher urban neighborhoods and highly dangerous border cities. If you take the same commonsense precautions you would take in any American city, you can live a safe, low-stress life.

Will I have to learn a new language?

English is the world’s second language, so in the countries we’ve spotlighted in print and online, most people will understand you. But the farther you get from cities and expat enclaves, the more difficult it becomes if you only speak English. If you live in a gated community of Americans, you can probably get by without ever using the local language. But where’s the fun in that? Knowing at least the basics of a local language will enrich your life abroad immeasurably.

Can I get domestic and garden help?

In Latin America, yes. Service in these low-cost countries remains very reasonable: $15 per day for a maid or gardener is common. Domestic service in Europe is rare for the average expat.

Can I see American television and movies?

Europe gets American movies after the United States does, many dubbed. Latin America also gets U.S. movies after they open here, but illegal bootleg videos are frequently sold on the streets. As for TV, the U.S. networks are generally not available abroad, though specialty cable channels via satellite are everywhere. Figuring out how your satellite dish can pick up U.S. signals is a major expat sport.

Can I buy my favorite American foods?

Yes, many are available, but at a considerable markup. Best advice is to stick to local products and food. If you don’t like the local food, what on earth are you doing there?

Tourism In Costa Rica Grew 3.96% In First Half Of 2010

Inside Costa Rica

Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rica’s Tourism Board – has an optimistic outlook for this year, expecting to reach two million visitors for 2010. The optimism is based on the 3.96% increase in tourism the first half of this year as compared to the same period in 2009.

According to date by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (Costa Rica’s immigration service) the number of tourist arrivals from January to June 2010 was 1.124.044. In contrast, during the first half of 2009, 1.025.460 tourist arrivals were recorded.

Given these figures, the executive director of the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles (CCH), Pablo Solano, despite the increase in tourist arrivals, the average occupancy rate reported by his membership has risen slightly over last year, averaging 60%.

Solano addedthat the hotel operators are positive that increase will continue due to the ongoing efforts by the Chinchilla government to attract more visitors to Costa Rica.

Tourist arrivals from the United States is still the most important market for Costa Rica, showing a 10% increase for this year, for a total of 468.172 visitors, 43.218 more than the first six months in 2009.

Sala IV Studies Legality Of Approval Of U.S. Warships and Soldiers To Enter Costa Rica

Inside Costa Rica

The magistrates of the Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) agreed to study if legislators contradicted the Constitución Política (Constitution) in authorizing the entry to Costa Rica of U.S. military ships and personnel.

The Sala IV (Constititutional Court) action follows the filing of an appeal by legislators of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) who voted against the approval of July 1, which authorization was granted by a majority vote of legislators of the Liberación and Liberatio parties.

The acceptance by the Sala IV magistrates means that they will look into the legality of the Legislative action in approving the admittance of 46 warships, 200 helicopters and 7.000 marines of the United States Navy, which will be carrying out joint patrols with Costa Rica authorities, against drug traffickers.

Legislators of the PUSC argue in their filing that the legislature should have allowed separate discussion for each war ship, citing article 121, paragraph 5 of the Constitution as their basis for the appeal.

The Sala IV said that it has agreed to the study but it would not be suspending the approval.

Both the president of the legislature, Luis Gerardo Villanueva and the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, are interpret that the authorization will continue, although official reports indicate that none of the soldiers or ships have entered Costa Rica.

Normally, when the Sala IV accepts an appeal, in the case the authorization, would be suspended until the court resolves the matter.

USS Iow Jima The First To Arrive
While the Constitutional Court studies the matter, the United States is preparing to move ahead on schedule with the first warship and personnel to arrive in Limón on August 20.

According to the U.S. Navy, the USS Iow Jima will be the first to enter Costa Rican waters. The ship has a crew of 73 officers and 1009 enlisted, in addition to 500 marines, 150 medics, 50 engineers and 100 volunteers.

The mission is to provide support to the Limón hospital, providing services to at least 1.000 outpatients daily and mobile medical services to at least 250 people daily in Bribri and Siquirres.

Meanwhile the marines will be holding at least 100 land operations, though, according to the U.S. Embassy in San José, the marines will not be armed, as the mission of the marines is to provide training to Costa Rican police and first aid in the remote areas of the region.

The USS Iow Jima also carries six H-46 helicopters and supplies. The Embassy said that there will be no Harrier fighter jets on board.

For now there is no plans yet for the arrival of other authorized vessels.