Belize is one of the best countries to retire abroad. It’s one of the few places where you can live in a Caribbean beachfront community on a low budget and take advantage of tropical jungles and lively cities. English is Belize’s official language, so you can also enjoy the charm of living in Central America without feeling like a fish out of water. Here’s Benzinga’s guide on how to retire in Belize.
Cost to Retire in Belize
The cost of living in Belize is around 31% cheaper than living in the U.S., according to Numbeo. The currency exchange rate is $0.50 to the Belize dollar. Choices in housing and transportation can make a big difference in the monthly cost, but a cost-conscious couple can live well on $1,200 a month. Here’s what $1,200 per month can cover if you choose to live in Belize.
|Expenses||Cost per Month|
|Telephone and Internet||$97|
|3-Bedroom Apartment||$574 ($348 outside the city)|
The monthly cost to retire in Belize is well within the average Social Security benefit payment of $1,400. But living with only $200 above your monthly budget can be financially risky. (You would have more peace of mind — and fun! — with a more robust retirement savings amount.) Needless to say, it’s important to have a savings cushion against unforeseen or unplanned expenses.
Requirements to Retire in Belize
Belize’s visa requirements are simpler compared to other countries’ visa requirements for expats. You can do it 1 of 2 ways. You can apply for permanent residency or Belize’s Qualified Retired Person’s (QRP) program. Each option has some notable differences.
Before you apply for permanent residency, you must live in Belize for 50 consecutive weeks within a calendar year. You can be out of the country for 14 consecutive days during that period. There are no employment restrictions. You must hold a valid tourist card or visitor’s visa until your application is approved. The program requires you to:
- Submit the written application.
- Take an HIV test.
- Present an official certificate of a criminal background check.
- Provide 2 personal references from people you have known for 1 year or more.
The QRP program has a much quicker processing time. There isn’t a 52-week waiting period or travel restriction. You can have QRP approval within a few months. This Belize retirement visa option requires you to:
- Be at least 45 years old.
- Prove you have a reliable income of a minimum of $2,000 per month. The income can come through Social Security, retirement accounts or annuities.
- Not work or operate a business in Belize.
How to Get a Visa to Live in Belize
You must contact the Immigration and Nationality Department Ministry of National Security and Immigration in Belmopan City, Belize, to get a Belize retirement visa. You can reach the department on its official website. Submit your Belize retirement visa application in person. The application fee is $1,000 per person if you’re a U.S. citizen.
Does Belize Have Retirement Benefits for Foreigners?
On February 18, 2019, the Belize Social Security Board changed its regulations to allow foreign nationals to register for a Social Security card. This entitles qualified foreign workers to the same retirement, disability and death benefits as Belize citizens.
You must submit your application with your valid passport and work permit if you qualify. Permanent residents and Belize citizens must present a birth certificate. The $26 registration fee doesn’t apply to permanent residents and Belize citizens.
Here are the requirements for the Belize Social Security retirement pension. You must:
- Be 65 years old or older.
- Have made 150 payments to the pension system.
- Provide a summary of your employee history.
Places to Retire in Belize
There are many wonderful places to retire in Belize, but it’s important to know exactly what you may want out of your retirement. See if these Belizean locations match your ideal retirement location.
Placencia stretches along a peninsula to the south of Belize City. On the eastern side, 16 miles of picturesque beaches line the shores of the Caribbean Sea. Placencia provides stunning views of the Placencia lagoon and the Maya Mountains to the west. The southern portion features a township with bistros, shops, coffee houses, banks and a harbor.
Expatriates make up the majority of Placencia’s population. Although this area has gained in popularity, housing costs are still affordable.
Corozal is a town in northern Belize near the Mexican border. It sits alongside Chetumal Bay. Most expats live at the tip of the town’s northern area, Consejo Shores. Waterfront property is cheap there. You can find some decent apartments for $300 to $500. Most items and services are less expensive than other parts of the country. Corozal could be your match if you cherish peace and tranquility. Most expats live at the tip of the town’s northern area of Consejo Shores.
Ambergris Caye — San Pedro
Living is so easy on this island. People typically nix cars in favor of bikes, walking or golf carts. San Pedro is the only town on the island. It only has 3 main streets: Front Street, Back Street and Middle Street. The atmosphere is casual and the people tend to be friendly.
The town is full of small shops, informal restaurants and bars. The dress code involves straw hats and sandals. As you can imagine, the nightlife is very active on this island of 10,000 people. Ambergris Caye has one of the largest expatriate populations in the country.
How to Save for Retirement Now
Saving $200,000 to retire in Belize in 15 to 20 years is very possible. The trick is finding an investment vehicle that yields around an 8% return. To help your search, Benzinga provides a rundown of the most prominent investment options for you.
401(k) and IRA Plans
401(k) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are similar because they offer tax-deferred savings. Each has its own eligibility, investment requirements, benefits and drawbacks.
A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. It provides a way for you to invest a portion of your pay before taxes. You won’t pay taxes until you take money out of the account. For more details, visit the IRS overview of 401(k) plans.
- Employees have a generous yearly $19,000 contribution limit. You can contribute up to $25,000 if you're 50 or older.
- Employers can contribute matching funds and limit this to a certain percent of your annual contribution.
- Limited investment options
- Possible high fees
- Income limits
Financial institutions offer IRAs as a way for individuals to save for retirement. There are 3 types of IRA plans:
- Traditional IRA: A traditional IRA is a type of individual retirement account that allows your earnings to grow tax-deferred. This means you pay taxes on your investment gains only when you make withdrawals in retirement. Traditional IRAs are especially attractive if you want to reduce your tax bill.
- Nondeductible IRA: A nondeductible IRA is a retirement plan you fund with after-tax dollars. In other words, you can’t deduct contributions from your income taxes as you would with a traditional IRA. However, your non-deductible contributions grow tax-free. Your income may be too high for a traditional IRA, so you may want to opt for a nondeductible IRA.
- Roth IRA: A Roth IRA allows you to contribute a certain amount of after-tax dollars each year. Your earnings in the account grow tax-free. Distributions after age 59½ are exempt from taxes.
You can invest in mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, bonds or other securities from any provider you choose. However, you can only invest $6,000 per year — $7,000 if you’re 50 years or older.
There are other plans (particularly those for the self-employed) that allow you to contribute more money each year (such as SIMPLE IRAs and other types of retirement plans).
Stocks, Mutual Funds, ETFs and Index Funds
Buying stocks gives you a share of the ownership in a company. Stocks have the best potential for growth. From 1973 to 2016, Standard and Poor’s average annualized return was 11.69%. There is a greater potential for losing money, so it pays to seek professional help with common stock investing. Compare online brokers.
Mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index funds allow you to benefit from the earning power of stocks with less volatility. Mutual funds reduce the risk of buying stocks and bond investing by pooling your money with others to create a diverse portfolio. Financial professionals manage these funds.
ETFs are professionally managed funds that investors trade like stocks. They offer a diversified portfolio that focuses on a specific market, industry or asset group.
ETFs offer special exposure in the stock market and index funds mainly offer broad exposure. These mutual funds track a particular stock index. If you decide to invest in an ETF fund that tracks the Dow Jones, the fund will hold stocks that mirror the position on the Dow Jones in the market. Learn more about these investments by reading about all the best investments for retirees.
Finding the right investment vehicle for you is important. How can the methods help you save up $200,000 in 15 or 20 years? Consider this easy strategy with this simple formula. (Contributions + Compound Interest) x Number of Contributing Years = Total Return.
This chart shows how the formula works at an 8% interest rate over 15 or 20 years.
|Your Monthly Contribution||Annual Interest Earned||Number of Contributing Years||Total Contributions||Total Interest on Contributions||Total Return from Savings|
The big boost to your savings is a result of compounding interest. This means you’ll add your interest earned to your total contributions each year after the first. As you can see from the chart, you can more than double your total contributions in 20 years. Plus, you won’t have to contribute as much each month.
Retirement Advisor Spotlight: Facet Wealth
When you need help figuring out how to retire in Belize, tap into Facet Wealth, an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) with technology-enabled financial planning services.
Facet Wealth focuses on minimizing fees, streamlining wealth management costs and maximizing diversification so you keep more money in your pocket.
You’ll pay flat fees at Facet Wealth, which covers comprehensive financial planning based on the services that will best suit your needs. You won’t pay fees based on assets under management (AUM) or on commissions.
Plan to Retire in Belize
Put a plan in place so you can retire in paradise. Belize offers an excellent option for budget-conscious retirees (or even if you have plenty saved for retirement). The most important thing you can do is know what you want and plan in advance. Retirement will be here before you know it.