According to International Living Magazines’ Annual Global Retirement Index 2019, Belize is ranked 14th (right behind Italy) as one of the best places to retire.
As they have done every year since 1990 for this index report, the magazine interviewed their expat correspondents from around the globe to gather data on categories like buying and investing, renting, benefits and discounts, visas and residence, cost of living, healthcare, infrastructure, governance and opportunity (for generating income), climate, and more.
Belize’s overall final score across all categories is 80.8, a mere 8.1 points difference between itself and the number one contender on the list, Panama, which scored 88.9 points overall across all types.
Let’s take a brief look, in detail, at some of the main qualities that make Belize such a standout choice for retirement.
Visas and Residence
Belize is considered one of the best programs globally for retirees because of their Qualified Retired Person Program (QRP). This program has only two requirements: 1) you must be at least 45 years of age, and 2) you must have a verifiable monthly income of $2,000 US. That’s it.
Not least of the program’s most appealing offerings is that it facilitates the expat transition process into your new country by helping you get legal residency. To boot, it provides you with some budget-stretching tax advantages, including paying no income tax on earnings outside of Belize!
Belize also allows you to come and go as you please, not requiring you to attain a visa every time you wish to re-enter.
As a Central American country able to boast a stable economy, Belize enjoys one of the lowest inflation rates globally. Its banking industry has a reputation for providing dependable services internationally. The US dollar is accepted everywhere, except for government transactions. So there are no transaction fees for using an ATM or a credit card linked to US funds. The exchange rate of Belize dollars to US dollars has been pegged at 2 to 1 for decades, so calculating prices is a breeze, which comes in handy when looking at housing costs and expenses.
Cost of Living in Belize
There is no question that living in Belize can be expensive. However, with careful planning and a little bit of creativity, it’s possible to maintain a comfortable lifestyle while living on a budget. Here are a few tips to help you stay within your budget:
1. Live modestly This may seem like a difficult goal, but it’s actually one of the most important things you can do to save money. Instead of impulse shopping or overspending on unnecessary items, try to stick to basic needs and avoid spending unnecessarily. This means eating at home most nights and limiting your trips to the shopping mall.
2. Cut back on your expenses If you’re trying to save money, it’s important to be realistic about where your money is going. One of the easiest ways to save money is to make sure you’re not spending too much on unnecessary expenses.
This includes things like rent, utility bills, and groceries. Try to live as cheaply as possible and watch your savings grow over time.
3. Be smart with your money Another way to save money is by being smart with your finances. This means setting up a budget and sticking to it, even when times get tough.
Try not to use credit cards unnecessarily or spend unnecessarily on high-interest loans. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your money is going towards more important things – like saving for retirement or buying a home.
Real Estate and Other Investments
Considering that the minimum monthly income requirement for qualifying for the QRP program is (per person) $2,000 US, it’s easy to accept that a retired couple can live pretty comfortably in Belize on a budget of $1,500 US per person month.
Belize Real Estate MLS estimates the following average monthly expenses: Rent $500. Car expenses $ 100. Electricity, water, telephone and internet $400. Groceries $300. Medical $100. Entertainment $100.
If you choose to rent, a primary home can cost you between $250 – and $500 US per month. If you decide to build a new house on the many lots available for sale in the country, costs can start as low as $50,000 US.
Belize law is founded on British Common Law, so it is similar to the legal systems in Canada and the US, and expats enjoy the same property rights as the locals. This is according to the Belize Constitution.
In Belize, you can purchase a beachfront lot for between $30,000 and $100,000 US, with a lot 2 streets behind the oceanfront costing about half the price of oceanfront property.
Healthcare is always a primary concern wherever you are in the world. It would help if you made enquiries specific to your coverage needs, but generally speaking, routine medical procedures are affordable and, many times, free. There is minimal paperwork and typically low wait times, and prescription drugs, when available, are usually provided at a discount or free.
Apart from the low-cost healthcare, Belize offers a low-stress lifestyle and natural, locally grown produce and unprocessed, locally cultivated meats and seafood. These amenities alone have been known to improve overall health and wellness, reducing the need for medical interventions. The plethora of outdoor activities in the unpolluted, warm ocean air only adds to the list of health benefits of living in Belize.
English, English Everywhere
Last but not least, the fact that English is the official language of Belize places its head and shoulders above other countries on the list of best places to retire in the world. If you come from the United States or Canada, you do not need to learn another language. All of the street signs, official documents, menus, and media are English. No other Central or South American country can provide such a luxury.
Belize is a former British colony, and although Spanish is widely spoken, it’s English that runs the show. If you happen to have school-aged children relocating with you, the school system is also in English and is very well-regarded.