International Living Postcards—your daily escape
Dear International Living Reader,
It's official—Belize is one of the easiest places to retire (according to a recent issue of International Living magazine). It's English-speaking, has a low cost of living, and no taxes. And it's in the Caribbean.
In fact, it's probably the last place where you can still get affordable Caribbean real estate.
Dan Prescher, back from a research trip to Belize's coast and islands, shares what he discovered below.
Managing Editor, IL Postcards
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Caribbean Paradise: The Easiest Country in Central America
By Dan Prescher
Belize is one politically stable little Central American country that makes it easy – whether you're looking for an escape a few months a year or a full-time getaway.
It's easy to enjoy yourself here. With miles of tropical coastline, the second-longest barrier reef on earth, some of the best diving and snorkeling on the planet, lush forests and mountains, immense natural preserves, vast river and cave systems, and a wealth of important Mayan archeological sites, there is always something to do in Belize.
The fact that it's affordable only sweetens the deal.
On the island of Ambergris Caye, for instance, an air-conditioned, two-bedroom, one-bathroom 900-square-foot house near the main village of San Pedro costs just $135,000. A mile and a half south of the village at Royal Palm Villas, one-bedroom ocean-side condos with 24-hour security, pool, and air-conditioning list for $149,000.
(For the sake of comparison: You'll pay more than $800,000 for a fairly average condo in Bermuda...and more than $600,000 for something similar in St. John on the U.S. Virgin Islands. )
Formerly British Honduras, Belize is a true Caribbean paradise. And it offers several important pluses for anybody looking to ease into a move abroad.
First, English is the national language. You'll be talking to store keepers, real estate agents, taxi drivers, bank tellers, and waiters in a language you already understand. Even more importantly, any contract you enter into if you decide to rent a place or purchase a home will be written in English, which just simplifies your life.
Second, the Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at two-to-one, and the U.S. dollar is commonly accepted in Belize. That means no tricky currency conversions to deal with.
Third, the tax situation in Belize is easy to manage. No taxes on foreign-derived income. No capital gains tax. No corporate tax. No inheritance tax. Simple.
Fourth, the population of Belize is a little over 300,000. That's not the population of the largest city in Belize...that's the entire country. And Belize is only 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. What that means is that it's easy to find the people, offices and resources you need to get things done.
Fifth, Belize has its Qualified Retirement Program, and you don't have to be retired to take advantage of it. If you're at least 45 years old and have a monthly income of at least $2,000 from a pension or annuity (including Social Security), you can qualify. This allows you to bring all your personal goods to Belize tax-free.
About the Author: Dan Prescher has been writing for International Living since 2001, when he and his wife, Suzan Haskins, left Omaha,Nebraska in search of adventure and warmer climes. Today they travel frequently to Belize and beyond but spend part of the year based in Cotacachi, Ecuador.
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