International Real Estate, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Forbes Says 'Consider Colombia' … We Agree
By Staff News & Analysis - January 16, 2015

Colombia is 8th best country for retiring: Forbes … US economy magazine Forbes has placed Colombia 8th in a list of 25 global destinations for foreign retirees. Colombia was bettered only by Ecuador in the South America region. The influential US publication recommended 25 countries to retire to based off the annual International Living "World's Best Retirement Destination for 2015″ report. The annual report endeavors to rank nations based off their ability to offer a cheap, healthy and relaxing escape after a lifetime of work. Forbes named Colombia's cost of living, health system, climate and biodiversity as the primary reasons for its impressive ranking in 2015. – Colombia Reports

Dominant Social Theme: All these countries are wonderful places and appropriate for retirement.

Free-Market Analysis: Over and over magazines churn out reports on the best places for retirement. The suspects are usually much the same names from year to year.

But we are never to know all the variables, or why the countries place where they do in these rankings. In the case of Colombia, the country ought to rank higher, in our view, especially compared to some of the countries that come before it in this particular list, such as Mexico, Spain and Ecuador.

Colombia's big problem has been the so-called War on Drugs and the FARC revolutionary group that has sought radical/socialist change for decades as well as right-wing paramilitary groups. In an article published just today, the BBC notes:

The Colombian government and the country's largest left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), are trying to end more than five decades of armed conflict. The two sides started holding formal peace talks in November 2012 in the Cuban capital, Havana. …

The two sides say occasional setbacks are inevitable but stress they are committed to seeing the process through to the end. …

The government and the Farc rebels each have a high-profile team in Havana. The government's team is led by former Vice-President Humberto de la Calle. Also part of the team are retired generals from the military and police forces ….

The guerrilla team is led by Ivan Marquez, a member of the Farc's secretariat, its highest body. Leaders of key regional Farc command groups are also in Havana, including … hardliners …. Analysts believe their presence in Havana shows the rebel group is united behind the peace process.

Cuba, the host country for the talks, and Norway, with its ample experience of participating in conflict resolution, are acting as guarantors.

Agreement has been reached on three broad points, but under the terms of the negotiations, they will not be acted upon until a final peace deal has been signed. …

As the FARC confrontation winds down, the last big hurdle to Colombian growth is mitigated. The hot money flowing around the world is already aware and is beginning to flow into Colombia, bidding up properties and industry alike.

This is not exactly the bottom, but close enough to it. The race toward higher valuations has already begun and will doubtless continue. High Alert, having identified this trend long ago, has announced the development of the Terra Viva community in Colombia. The community has been well received and interest is expanding.

Here's more from the Colombia Reports article …

Forbes noted the low cost of living for retirees in Colombia as a key reason, stating that a couple could live comfortably for just US $1,200 per month.

The report identified the health system of the country as "one of the best and most affordable" and a key reason it is an attractive and popular destination for foreign pensioners.

"You can get treatment comparable to that found in the United States in any large or medium-sized city," said the report.

The report also noted that, according to the World Health Organization, Colombia has better standards on health issues than both the United States and Canada.

The natural beauty of Colombia when combined with a year-round tropical environment (Medellin was long ago dubbed "The City of Eternal Spring"), low cost of living and range of activities from surfing to swimming to hiking to mountain climbing make Colombia a desirable destination.

Some of the other destinations that Forbes mentions via International Living leave lingering questions. We're not knocking the choices, but these countries have notable weaknesses as well as strengths.

Countries like Ecuador suffer from considerable discontent among native Indian populations. Others, like Panama, are highly Americanized, certainly in Panama City. In Mexico, US influence is considerable and growing stronger.

We would tend to favor countries where expats – especially Western expats – don't stand out so much. In Malaysia, as in Cambodia, etc., you can never get away from your culture, skin color, etc. Some people don't mind. Some do.

Spain is an odd choice for a top destination given its sociopolitical turmoil. Spain, more than most other European countries, has been struck hard by Euro-turmoil that has put up to 50 percent of its youngsters out of work. Spain is beautiful, but it's not cheap and it has got a long way to go to work out its problems.

When you are searching for a second home, you ideally want everything in one bundle, if possible: beautiful surroundings, local farming to supply healthy food, an active and inviting culture and, of course, security and a world-class infrastructure that will support even the most sophisticated business pursuits.

It is Colombia, in our view, that offers a second-home destination that "checks all the boxes" when it comes to your important investment. If by any chance, your second home becomes more important because of difficult events in your home country, you'll want to feel that you have done all that is possible to find the appropriate additional domicile to assure your peace of mind.

After Thoughts

Which brings us back to Colombia. If you're looking for a safe-haven destination abroad, you ought to consider this inviting and increasingly peaceful country.

Posted in International Real Estate, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
  • This article is mostly right on. I moved to Colombia 8 years ago and haven’t looked back since. I have to tell you, from personal experience, the medical care here is second to none and is incredibly affordable. I pay (converted from Colombian Pesos to USD) about $50 per month for full coverage for both me AND MY FAMILY. Doctor visits are about $1 USD and, if you’re hospitalized, you’ll pay nothing (personal experience). However, there are some drawbacks all should be aware of.

    First, to be able to function here, Spanish is an absolute must. If you live in the big cities (especially Medellin), you can get by with knowing mostly only the basics. But, to live in areas much smaller, you’ll need to be pretty close to fluent in Spanish.

    Taxes… The tax laws here are nearly as onerous as those in the US. If you become a permanent resident and live here for more than six months out of the year, over a two year period, your income is subject to Colombian income tax. Also, no one wants to admit it but, if you become a Colombian citizen, your worldwide income is taxable, just like in the US. I know all the articles say only Eritrea is the only other country with that policy but, I’ve read the tax law here and it is very clear. The upside is, everyone here “avoids” taxes, so, for now, it’s not a problem.

    Also, the US government has an enormous influence on the Colombian government, especially since they signed the free trade agreement. The CIA, DEA, and IRS are all over this country! And, don’t expect very much help from the US embassy.

    In the past eight years, the COP has fluctuated between about 2600 and 1600 COP’s to the dollar. Lately, it’s been around 2300. So, you’ll need to get used to the idea that the local value your retirement check will be all over the place.

    Driving here can be a real nightmare. There are far more motorcycles (called motos) than cars and the cyclists are incredibly imprudent. You’ll notice lots of folks missing a leg or an arm. They love to pass you on the right hand shoulder of the road. So, if you plan to turn right, make sure you look in the right side mirror for moto coming up to pass.

    Petty theft is rampant. So, the advice is to never carry very much cash on your person and find a secure spot to carry your credit/debit cards. In the large cities, like Medellin, Bogota, and Cali, their are large gangs that operate in collusion with taxi drivers to kidnap riders and force them to empty their bank accounts, using their debit cards. When they’re done with you, they dump you in some very unsafe places. So, if you come to visit the large cities, make sure you only take taxis you’ve ordered over the phone. Be very wary of just hailing one driving by, especially if you’re alone.

    Finally, I know the author is making a strong case for future peace between the FARC and the government but, most Colombians have not so much confidence in the process. There have been a lot of FARC attacks in the north and southwest of the country, even recently. Personally, I wouldn’t put much stock in a peace agreement, until it’s actually signed and has proven worth more than the paper it’s written on for awhile.

    All that said, in all my travels, I can say with all sincerity, Colombia has been the very best. The beautiful scenery defies description, the people are warm and friendly, and the cost (at least currently) is very low. I love it here. The only thing that would drive me away would be the arrival of too many gringos to Americanize things.

    BTW, I am officially an “old fart” and I find lots to do here on a very low budget.

    • jsmith

      You forgot to mention gringo real estate agents Merrill. They have more than doubled or tripled the cost of houses in the beach areas. At least that’s what I see happening in Costa Rica.

      • Real estate prices are definitely climbing (my house has
        appreciated 100% in 6 years), but still very reasonable. But, for now, there are relative few
        gringos here and damn few of them are real estate agents. I lived in
        Costa Rica for a couple of years, before moving on the Colombia, and I
        can tell you I was very disappointed with Costa Rica. The gringo real
        estate agents and developers in Costa Rica have managed to totally
        destroy that country. Besides, the state medical system sucks there.
        The only place you can get decent medical care is at Cima Hospital in
        San Jose. If you happen to live near any of the Pacific beaches, you’re
        a very long ambulance ride away from good emergency care, unless you
        can cover the cost of a medical helicopter. I still have a nice beach
        property there, I’d be happy to sell you though.

        • Diocletian

          Squatters’ “rights” laws prevail in Costa Rica, making one’s unoccupied real estate an easy target. Panama doesn’t have such rubbish laws.

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