Earning U.S. Wages From a Resort Town in Costa Rica
“All you need is good internet and you can work from anywhere in the world.”
When Brittany Braucher from Springfield, Missouri heard these magical words from her employer, it opened up the opportunity for her and her husband, retired firefighter Gerry Koeneman, to move overseas.
Brittany has been working as an accountant for a construction management company since 2015. “I remember we were watching House Hunters International. My husband said, ‘We can do this.’ I told him I wanted to live by a beach. We started researching places near the beach with good international schools, since at that time [my son] Cooper was in third grade,” she says.
Back then, Brittany had been abroad just twice: to Cancún and a two-and-a-half week trip to Costa Rica in May 2016. The latter had made a big impression, and she discovered there are a number of international schools with good reputations on the northwest coast of Costa Rica, known as the Gold Coast, in Guanacaste province. Ultimately, they settled on Costa Rica International Academy, since they could live in the popular resort town of Tamarindo, a 30-minute drive away.
“We decided to sell everything—our homes, furniture, cars—and we made the move in July 2017,” says Brittany. “I am fortunate to have forward thinking bosses who are flexible. All I need is good internet and to be mindful of the time zones, because we have clients from Arizona to Georgia. So, my day starts at 5 a.m., but usually ends by 3 p.m. Everyone at my office knows I’m in Costa Rica, but for the clients I interact with, they do not need to know where I am located.”
Brittany keeps a U.S. phone number so clients do not need to call internationally. She has an international plan with Sprint, which includes texting and data.
The family rents a modern, furnished condo in downtown Tamarindo. “Fortunately, I have a specified area for my office, which came with a desk. Work provided a laptop and a monitor and the Microsoft Office software I use,” she says.
Brittany oversees the company’s payables/receivables, payroll for 45 employees, and its small business loan. “I put in 20 to 60 hours depending on the week. I am salaried—it does not matter how many or few hours I work as long as I get my work done,” she says. “And I am always available to answer emails Monday through Friday. Occasionally I have to do video meetings with the office. I use myfreeconferencecall.com, and with clients I go through Zoom. Or Skype for one-on-ones.”
Gerry applied for Costa Rican residency through his pension so Brittany did not need to acquire any sort of work visa. And since she works for a U.S. company, her only tax requirements are to the IRS.
As the cost of living is lower in Costa Rica, Gerry’s pension covers all their daily expenses, while Brittany’s salary goes toward Cooper’s private school and travel money, as well as growing their nest egg. “I remember the challenges of being a single mom. I am good at saving money,” says Brittany.
Despite the current COVID-19 situation, Brittany has seen a minimal impact on her industry. “Construction is considered essential in all states that we work with. A couple of clients have reduced staff because they are publicly traded. So, we’re seeing a slight slowdown, but nothing major,” she says.
Having successfully made the transition, Brittany has these words of advice for someone considering continuing their career from abroad: “Do not procrastinate. If you can get it done, do it. Learn to be flexible. For an accountant this has been a challenge. Also, with being flexible you must be disciplined. Just because this is a place where people are on vacation, it does not mean that you are. Even if your company is in the U.S., meet up with other people who are working remotely. Keep up with your industry. Remember, if it doesn’t work out, you can always move back. Nothing is permanent. Everything is figure-out-able.”
By Kathleen Evans