Why Retire To Belize?
Many of us dream of living in a Caribbean paradise, perhaps after retirement. For those wishing to make this dream become a reality, Belize is waiting. Located along Central America’s east coast, baby boomer retirees have discovered the small, warm island nation of Belize to be a welcoming paradise. In fact, Belize does more than just welcome retirees from certain areas- it provides incentives to them to move to the small nation. These will be discussed further in this article.
Small-Town Feel in the Country of Belize
Once known as British Honduras, Belize is home to just under 390,000 residents, most of whom are quite welcoming to Europeans, North Americans and others who visit and decide to call Belize their new home. Some Belizeans even have lived in other countries for work and then have moved back to Belize in their retirement, making them even more personable and hospitable to baby boomer retirees from elsewhere.
Diversity is the norm in Belize, with many cultures and languages mixing. From Mayans to Creoles to Garinagu to Mestizos to German-speaking Mennonites, a variety of peoples have populated Belize. English is the primary and official language in Belize, making it even easier for new North American retirees to fit into the culture.
Topography of Belize
Located along Central America’s Caribbean coast, Belize is home to the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef system in the world. Called “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies” by Charles Darwin in 1842, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to 500 species of fish, 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species and hundreds of species of invertebrates. It’s no wonder that the Belize Barrier Reef is the nation’s top tourist destination, or that baby boomer retirees who move to Belize enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving among the reefs.
Of course, baby boomer retirees heading to Belize can’t settle on the coral reefs. Most retirees who choose Belize as a retirement destination are beach lovers. Many decide to live on Ambergris Caye, also known as “Temptation Island,” made famous by the reality television program “Survivor.” The Belize Barrier Reef can be accessed from Ambergris Caye, so marine life enthusiasts can enjoy exploring this wonder of nature. Beware, however, that Ambergris Caye is a very popular tourist destination in Belize, so retirees who do settle here must learn to share their little piece of paradise with visitors.
The Cayo region of Belize, on the other hand, lies within the country’s mountainous interior area. It is the largest district within Belize and has more protected land than any other area of the country. Cayo contains the largest underground cave system in the western hemisphere and is a big attraction for those seeking an eco-tourist destination. Rivers, rolling hills, farmland and rainforests can all be found within Cayo, giving baby boomer retirees who settle here many types of outdoor activities from which to choose.
Other areas within Belize that attract baby boomer retirees include Corozal, in the northern part of the country near the border with Mexico, offering less expensive waterfront property along the Bay of Chetumal; Caye Caulker, a smaller island about a half hour from Ambergris Caye; and Placencia, a seaside town along the Caribbean Sea about three hours south of the more heavily populated Belize City.
Belize’s Climate and Weather
For baby boomer retirees who like it hot and balmy, Belize is the perfect retirement destination. Belize has a typical Caribbean, subtropical climate, with an average temperature countrywide of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and average humidity of 80 percent. Temperatures closer to the coast may experience gentle sea breezes and feel a bit cooler. Higher elevations in inland Belize may also feel refreshingly cooler. There are just two seasons in Belize: dry, from December to May, and rainy, from June to November. Rainfall in Belize averages 50 inches per year, with far less rain measured in the Cayo district (where they experience about 15 inches of rain per year).
Cost of Living in Belize
The cost of living for baby boomer retirees in Belize depends upon where they settle in the country. For example, rent for smaller homes in Corozal range from $250 to $500 per month, while mortgages on larger homes average $1000 per month. It is clear that baby boomer retirees can live in Belize on much less than what they would spend at home, especially with the incentives provided to them by Belize’s government (which is described in the next section).
Belize’s Qualified Retired Persons Program
The Qualified Retired Persons Program in Belize (commonly referred to as QRP) offers an exemption on taxes to qualified persons and is a major attraction to many baby boomer retirees looking to settle in Belize. Qualifying for the QRP is fairly simple. One must: be at least 45 years old, show that you can deposit at least $2000 per month (or $24,000 annually) through a retirement pension or regular income either to live on or invest in Belize, and spend at least one month of the year in Belize. The spouse and children under age 18 of a QRP may also be included in the program for an additional fee. The benefits of being a QRP are outstanding: QRPs pay no import tax when brining personal items into Belize during their first year, including automobiles, planes and boats; QRPs pay no tax on capital gains or international income from sources outside Belize; and QRPs may maintain an international bank account and/or an offshore international business company without being taxed. QRPs cannot work for a company with offices in Belize but may still work online doing work for clients/companies in other countries with non-residents of Belize.
Belize is currently looking into making it simpler and more streamlined for QRPs to become permanent residents or citizens of Belize, should they so desire. If a QRP maintains his or her status, every five years, he or she can receive an exemption on import duties/taxes on vehicles.
Other Options for Retirees to Legally Stay in Belize
For those who don’t qualify for the QRP program, other options exist. The Tourist Card allows the holder to stay in Belize for 30 days at a time and is renewable for a fee ranging from $25 to $50, each month, indefinitely. As of 2017, United States citizens with valid U.S. residency, however, don’t need a visa to travel to Belize for stays up to 30 days. They must prove that they intend to leave Belize in 30 days (through receipts or return air tickets).
Financial Reasons to Retire to Belize
In addition to the attractive QRP program, which appeals to many if not most baby boomer retirees who choose to move to Belize, Belize offers great financial privacy and safety. It is a place in which many open what is termed an “offshore bank account,” or an account held in a country other than one’s home country, for financial and/or legal advantages. Opening a bank account is therefore a simple, straightforward process in Belize.
Because the pace of life is much slower in Belize (some retirees who have settled there affectionately call it “Belize Time”), many baby boomer retirees discover that the cost of living can also be much less, while still enjoying a higher standard of living, if one simply makes a few adjustments. Retirees who have learned to take advantage of local suppliers, farmer and vendors can save money on everyday foods and goods. Homes that are built using locally sourced materials and labor are much less expensive as well. Beachfront property is much less expensive in Belize than “back home,” making the beachfront paradise that many retirees have dreamed of easily attainable. Many retirees find that, by using these money saving methods they have more money left over for things that might be considered “luxuries” back home, such as employing gardeners, cooks and maids.
Using the Belizean government’s guidelines of $24,000 per year in the QRP program, one can surmise that most U.S. citizens can live comfortably in Belize on that amount annually. With no income tax and a very low property tax, the only tax that expatriates in Belize must pay is the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the country’s sales tax. This applies to mostly everything except for some medical goods and foods.
Transportation and Technology in Belize
The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, located in Ladyville, Belize, offers direct flights from many major airlines, including American, US Airways and Southwest Airlines. Buses run all over the country and are sometimes a better mode of transportation than driving on what may be old, antiquated roads and highways. There are just four major paved two-lane public highways in Belize, with other paved roads being privately maintained
Technology is still behind the times in Belize, unfortunately, with Internet service spotty. Within major cities such as Belize City, Internet service is more reliable, while it remains poorer across other areas of the country.
Belize’s Health Care System
Belize is not renowned for its great health care system. In fact, health care in Belize is far behind the times when compared to that of other countries. Many baby boomer retirees who settle in Belize end up going back to the United States or nearby Mexico for major health care concerns.
Normal sicknesses and ailments can be handled at hospitals and medical centers in Belize’s larger cities. Just remember that most of these require expats to pay privately, as a non-citizen’s health care insurance will not be accepted. This is another reason why many retirees choose to return to the United States for major health-related treatments and procedures, where they are still covered by Medicare.
Baby boomer retirees are visiting Belize in droves, and many are ultimately deciding to make a permanent move to Belize. The country’s subtropical climate, retiree-friendly incentives, and laid-back pace of life all call to retirees who are tired of the rat race and want to live better lives in their golden years.