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Lower cost of living

The couple got married in Costa Rica in 2016 and had an incredible experience while preparing for the wedding in the tropical country.

“I was eating more, I was moving more, and I just really felt like I was healing while we were here,” said Ward-Hopper, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that same year.

After losing their Houston home in 2017, the couple grappled with an extremely competitive housing market, and ultimately decided to move out of the country.

About a year later, they signed a one-year lease on a two-bedroom house in the middle of the jungle near Playa San Miguel, paying just $500 a month to rent seven acres of property.

By comparison, the median rent in Houston for a two-bedroom house is $1,700, according to Zillow.

Ward-Hopper says that it took some time to adjust to their new environment — noting encounters with “jungle creatures” like snakes and insects — but insists they live better in Nicoya than they ever did in the U.S..

Last year, the couple decided to move to a three-bedroom house in Nicoya to be closer to their daughter’s public school, which is tuition-free. They say they spend about $2,900 a month on their monthly expenses, which includes $628 for rent and utilities and $1,200 for food — their biggest expense.

“We spare zero expenses when it comes to our food,” Ward-Hopper added.

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Exploring their passions

Ward-Hopper and Hopper say they used to make about six-figures working as a research analyst and mortgage broker, respectively, but they’re now pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams for less money instead.

“The biggest change, financially, coming from the U.S., is being able to work for ourselves,” Ward-Hopper said.

Ward-Hopper juggles multiple part-time jobs as a health and fitness coach, a Spanish teacher and a host for wellness retreats. She also recently self-published her first book.

Hopper, 43, on the other hand, runs his own remote logistics business, and together, the couple earned about $30,000 last year.

“We make less money, but we’re still living pretty comfortably,” Ward-Hopper said. “Our money definitely goes further here than in the U.S.”

The couple also maintains that while Costa Rica will always be their home base, they intend to do some traveling as well — with locations like Colombia, Ghana, Tanzania and Europe on their bucket list.

A better lifestyle, with affordable health care

The birth of the couple’s second child in Costa Rica provided the family an opportunity to apply for permanent resident status and obtain government-run health-care coverage. This program covers all medical procedures, appointments, hospital visits and prescription drugs.

The couple says they spend about $83 a month on their family health-care plan. But even beforehand, their out-of-pocket medical costs were negligible compared to how much they’d have to shell out in America — a country known for having one of the highest costs for health care in the world.

“I remember one visit I had to the emergency room for chest pains and anticipating a bill that would cost thousands of dollars, as it would in the U.S., and it was less than $200,” Ward-Hopper recounted.

Despite pausing cancer treatments prior to her wedding and vacation in Costa Rica, Ward-Hopper’s doctors no longer detected cancer cells in her body as of 2017.

She’s been living cancer-free ever since, which she attributes in part to her lifestyle and diet in Costa Rica.

“Health-wise, I did a complete 180 after moving here,” Ward-Hopper said. “I healed both physically and emotionally.”

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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