Articles Related to Belize

Maybe you've noticed that there are no foreign franchises, including no fast-food franchises, operating here in Belize City. That's a remarkable thing in today's world...until you remember that historically Belize City just hasn't been home to enough population to support a lot of trade. I understand that McDonald's is finally planning to open its first restaurant here. I wish them luck.

Some countries restrict foreign investment in retail activities. A non-Panamanian can't open a shop in Panama, for example, where retail is "protected." Professions such as doctors and lawyers are also restricted to Panamanian citizens.

One way to choose where to locate your business would be based on incentives. Many countries have free trade zones, for example, where you can bring stuff in, process it, and then export it tax-free. Panama has the Colon Free Trade Zone. Belize has several established zones but also allows you to set up your own free trade zone if you want. If you wanted to start some business that needed to be in a particular part of Belize (because of localized supply of materials or labor, for example), you could apply to establish your own free trade zone in that spot. Same in Nicaragua. In fact, if your interest is export—that is, an operation where you're not selling locally but would be creating jobs—you'll find that most countries offer benefits to help.

Another business incentive to consider is residency. Many countries offer residency visas to anyone interested in starting a business, thereby creating jobs, in the country. Colombia, for example, has an attractive and affordable start-a-business, get-a-visa program. The minimum investment requirement is only US$33,300. Panama has a business investor visa, too, but it, by comparison, requires you to invest at least US$160,000 and to employ at least three Panamanians.

Tourism-based businesses are often incentivized, and many countries have government agencies that are specifically focused on developing foreign investment in tourist-related activities—hotels, dive shops, whatever. In Nicaragua, for example, the group is ProNicaragua. The incentives are typically to do with taxes—a ten-year tax exemption, say, giving you a nice window during which you can reinvest proceeds in growing your business without having to skim anything off the top to pay your tax bill.

Kathleen and I left the States years ago to start a business in Waterford, Ireland. Why Waterford? Because that was one of three markets the Irish Development Agency (IDA) was focused on developing. By agreeing to base our business in Waterford, we qualified for both a reduced rate of corporate tax and cash incentives for every Irish employee we hired up to 15.

Those were nice perks, and definitely they were the reasons we chose Waterford. However, we had targeted Ireland based on bigger-picture agendas. We wanted to be in Europe, for personal reasons, and we identified Ireland as a low-cost place to operate the kind of business we intended to operate. Our first years running our publishing business in Ireland, our labor cost was less than half what it would have been in the States.

The easiest kind of business to operate offshore is a one-man (or -woman) virtual show. A consultant or a writer, for example, can run his business from the beach in Panama, the mountains of Argentina, or a country village in France.

If you intend a virtual business that requires staff, then, as with a bricks-and-mortar operation, some places make more sense than others and some places don't make sense at all. We don't recommend starting or basing a business in France, period, unless you just really want to live in France. As a doing-business choice, this country belongs at the bottom of any list (thanks to the cost of doing business, the labor laws, the bureaucracy, and the taxes).

Panama is perhaps the best place in the world to base a virtual business that requires staff. That's why we're in Panama City right now. When we decided to launch the Live and Invest Overseas business seven years ago, we knew we'd have to move from France. We chose to relocate to Panama because of its affordable English-speaking labor force, its business infrastructure (banking, Internet, etc.), and its jurisdictional approach to taxation. Organize your operation correctly, and you can run a business in Panama tax-free.

Once you've decided where to base your offshore business, your next challenge is to develop the infrastructure it will require. Where will you bank? How will you move money around to where it needs to be? How will you process orders? How will you and your staff get paid? The answers to these questions differ depending on what kind of business you want to operate and in what country you decide to base it.

Again, we chose Panama in part because we knew it provides the kind of infrastructure we'd need. Open up a Panama corporation, and you'll be able to open a Panama bank account to support without much trouble.

One key piece of the infrastructure we require for our business in Panama is a merchant account. When we launched the business, we weren't able to get one; however, after a couple of years and a track record, we were finally approved.

What did we do in the meantime? We used PayPal. We worried initially that this might limit our ability to sell. Would our customers find it odd that the only way they could purchase from us was through PayPal? Maybe it reduced our trade some; we'll never know. But it meant we were able to be in business and to build the track record, again, that we needed to be approved eventually for a merchant account.

The other big-picture item you need to address is employees. If I had to name just one reason why we chose to build our business in Panama rather than Europe, it'd be employees. Labor laws around the world favor the employee over the employer much more so than they do in the United States, and nowhere is this truer than in France. In the United States, you can operate on a hire-at-will, fire-at-will basis. As one U.S. attorney we used to work with put it, "You can fire someone because you don't like the color of his tie."

Try that in France. You can't fire a guy in France even if you've got video footage of him stealing from you.

Things are a little better for the employer in Panama. We've had to fire several people over the past six years, and, in each case, we were able to do it with minimal wear and tear. Bottom line, you pay them off.

The other thing to know about employees in some countries is that you pay them for 13 months of work every year. In Panama, for example, everybody gets one month of vacation each year...and a "13th-month" bonus equal to one month's pay. You just factor it into your cost of doing business...

Lief Simon

P.S. Today's essay is excerpted from Lief Simon's "Doing Business Offshore" presentation at last week's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit, in Belize City.

The complete audio recording of this talk, as well as every other presentation from the two-and-a-half days of this special event, are being edited and bundled to create our new Wealth Building and Diversification Kit.

You can reserve your copy of this everything-you-need-to-know-to-go-offshore bundle here now pre-release for 50% off the regular price. This discount remains in effect through Sunday, Nov. 2 only.

Continue reading: How To Qualify For Residency In Belize

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The rentals market in Cayo is thin. You can shop for weeks or longer and not find a place to rent that'd qualify as comfortable by North American standards. All the would-be retirees interested in trying Cayo on for size are competing for a relative handful of suitable rental properties. The demand for quality rentals is heating up.

At this week's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit in Belize City, developer Phil Hahn, with more than a decade of experience building in this country, presented a new investment offer that addresses this growing need. Phil has launched a phase of his riverside Carmelita Gardens community where he is building a cluster of turn-key rental units to be known as "The River Club."

Carmelita Gardens is a planned sustainable development where every house will be self-sufficient through the use of alternative energy and rainwater catchment systems. This is the first master-planned off-grid development in Belize, and it's not just the off-grid element that makes the community sustainable. Carmelita Gardens has been planned to include communal gardens and orchards so that every homeowner can grow his own food if he'd like. You could farm and garden all day every day if you wanted and live completely off the land...or you could be a "weekend gardener," growing some fresh vegetables to complement your weekly visit to the grocery store. It's up to you.

Having a mile of river frontage gives residents at Carmelita Gardens access to water activities, as well as a nice breeze to help cool things off on hot days. Now, along the river, on one of the river village lots, Phil has decided to build a group of 15 cottages intended specifically to serve as rentals.

These one-bedroom, one-bath River Club homes will help meet the need for rentals both in Carmelita Gardens and the greater Cayo region. Many owners at Carmelita Gardens are starting construction of their houses and need places to stay when they visit to check on progress. Some would prefer to live on the property full time while their houses are under construction. Right now, only one of the handful of finished houses at Carmelita is available for rent, and it's full much of the time.

Elsewhere, options for accommodation are mostly US$250-a-night jungle resorts and lower-end hotels and hostels. The new eco-rentals at Carmelita Gardens will fill the gap and offer an upscale, comfortable place to stay for a reasonable cost.

In theory, you could live in one of these 512-square-foot River Club cottages; however, they have been designed as rentals and with the investor in mind. They will be built using the same sustainable technology as all other structures at Carmelita Gardens, including solar electricity, treated catchment water systems, and eco-friendly septic. Each unit will come fully furnished and with appliances installed, ready to rent.

Of the 15 units available at River Club, 7 have been reserved. The remaining units start at US$76,500. Property management will be in place, and projections are for cash flow to begin within 18 months.

Based on current and expected demand and assuming a reasonable nightly rate, the projected annual yield from these units is 10%. Plus, owning one of these River Club units would give you a ready place to spend time in one of the world's most appealing get-away-from-it-all destinations.

If that's something that appeals to you...and you're in the market for a good rental investment opportunity...I'd recommend following up on this quickly. As I said, inventory is limited.

For more information on Carmelita Gardens and The River Club, you can get in touch here.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. We've been recording every presentation of this week's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit, including Phil's on his new River Club investment opportunity. Even if you couldn't join the group in Belize, you don't have to miss out on all the intelligence, recommendations, advice, and strategies being shared.

These audio recordings will be edited and bundled to create our first-everWealth Building and Diversification Kit available pre-release for 50% off the regular price through Sunday, Nov. 2 only. Details are here

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That was the starting point for Lief Simon's opening remarks Wednesday morning. These meetings in Belize City this week are not about woe are we. These meetings are about solutions, strategies, and opportunities.

How can you survive the ups and downs of today and tomorrow, of markets, economies, currencies, and political regimes, when you can't predict them and you sure can't control them?

Spread yourself around so that you're not at the mercy of any one of them, so that no particular down is fatal for you. It is the only sensible course of action, elegant in its simplicity but intimidating, too, when you're standing at the starting line.

You've read about this idea before, I'm sure. It's often referred to as the "Five Flags" strategy. In fact, it can translate as six or seven flags or maybe only two or three.

I couldn't tell you what level of diversification you require. That depends on your circumstances and your agendas. Big picture, the objective is to disperse your assets, your investments, your business, and your lifestyle across borders so that they're all as insulated as possible from outside threats. How far and wide should you spread? That depends on how much you've got and what you ultimately want to do with it.

That said, Lief made one universal recommendation yesterday morning out of the gate:

"The easiest and best way to get started at this," he told the crowd in Belize City, "can be to open a bank account in a different country. This is a low-key, no-risk first step that will allow you to begin to get your bearings in the offshore arena and that will facilitate further steps toward realizing your ultimate diversification strategy, whatever that evolves to be."

Lief then, with the help of one of our favorite offshore bankers, a professional with more than 30 years' experience managing and directing banks in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas, walked the group through the thinking that should go into choosing where to take this first step.

That is, where should you think about opening a bank account offshore?

It depends on why you want the account.

If you're planning to relocate to a new country, then you need a personal operating account in that country, this to facilitate paying local expenses. Likewise, if you make an investment in rental property in another country, you'll want an operating account in that jurisdiction. Otherwise, you'll be reduced to withdrawing money from the ATM and then going with cash to the electric company to pay your bill each month.

If you're forming a corporation or starting a business overseas, you'll need a bank account to support it, again, in the country where the corporation is operating.

The other kind of account you might want offshore is an investment account. This can be a place to park capital, an opportunity to earn dividends, and a means to investing more globally than may be possible through your U.S. investment account.

If you're opening a bank account offshore for practical purposes (because you're planning to live, own property, or run a business in that place), then the "where" is straightforward. Not so if you're interested in opening an investment account offshore. In this case, the where is dictated by the bank's minimum investment requirement, fee structure, and customer service, as well as by things like whether the bank makes it possible for you to send an international wire transfer without visiting a branch in person and whether it provides debit and credit cards for the kind of account you're thinking of opening.

In this case, the where can also come down to: Which bank will open an account for you?

In this post-FATCA age, it is harder than ever and harder all the time to open an offshore bank account, especially if you're an American. Lief and his colleagues made specific recommendations for banks that are still interested, FATCA notwithstanding, in working with Americans, then detailed the requirements and the processes for opening accounts with them.

This week's program has been built around a series of panel discussions conceived on the Five Flags strategy and intended to help those assembled think through their own global diversification plans with the help of pros with many, many years of experience at this.

First flag, banking...next flag, residency...

More from the scene tomorrow.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Of course, we're recording every presentation, including the series of Five Flags panel discussions so that, even if you couldn't join the group in Belize, you don't have to miss out entirely on all the intelligence, recommendations, advice, and strategies being shared.

These audio recordings will be edited and bundled to create our first-ever Wealth Building and Diversification Kit.

While Lief Simon's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit continues in Belize, we're making this new program available pre-release for 50% off the regular price. Details are here
 

Continue Reading: Hydroponics And Organic Gardening In Cayo, Belize

 
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Here are other reasons we like Belize as much as we do:
  • It's a quick flight away from North America. It takes 2.5 hours to fly to Belize City from Miami or Houston...
  • The climate is subtropical. Temperatures range from 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the region...
  • Belizeans mind their own business but are also warm and welcoming to travelers and expats. This is a friendly country where it's easy to feel at home...
  • Belize is an easy place to establish yourself. You can show up and settle in. Seriously, it can be that simple. Renew your tourist visa every time it expires for a year, and you're a legal resident...
  • Belize, though, also offers a more formal residency program, called the Qualified Retirement Person (QRP) visa, that comes with tax and other benefits of the kind typical of pensionado visas throughout the region...
  • As the language is English, Belize can be an easy place to do business. Folks here speak English and write contracts in English, too...
  • Belize is an easy place to set up a corporation in the form of this country's tax-free International Business Corporation, or IBC...
  • No restrictions are placed on foreign ownership of property, the property purchase process is straightforward, and there are no squatter's rights...
  • You don't have to worry about exchange risk. The Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of 2:1, and U.S. dollars are interchangeable in the country. If you arrive with U.S. dollars in your pocket, you don't ever have to change money if you don't want to...

My favorite part of Belize has always been its interior Cayo region of rivers, rainforest, and Mayan ruins. However, I do also appreciate the quintessential and affordable Caribbean lifestyle on offer out on Ambergris Caye. This little white sand-fringed island is home to an established and growing expat population in San Pedro Town and has long been my favorite place to kick it in the Caribbean, as they say.

Infrastructure isn't Belize's strong suit; however, this country has figured out a great air system for crisscrossing it. You can get from the Cayo to Ambergris, from Placencia to Corozal, and from Belize City to anywhere with the help of frequent, quick, and affordable in-country flights. I guess they thought they had to do something given the limited options for getting around down on the ground.

I've often shown up at the airport and bought tickets on the spot for flights leaving within the next 20 or 30 minutes for wherever it was I wanted to go. I've even had the experience, more than once, of the airline holding a flight for me when I called to say I was on my way to the airport...almost there...please can you wait? It's not that I'm special. They do it for anyone if they can.

Belize's super-easy approach to traveling around it by flying over it has given me an idea. We've bought a piece of land in Cayo where we're planting trees and gardens and building a farmhouse. What if we coupled that with a little beachfront condo out on Ambergris? We could hop a flight from Cayo to the beach anytime the inclination struck...and rent the place out when we weren't using it ourselves. The rental market in San Pedro is active and expanding, and I like Belize in general as a place to park capital long term.

Lief and I are returning to Belize later this month to scout current options.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Today we open registration for our 2015 Live and Invest in Belize Conference. In fact, our January 2015 conference will be two events—the same program offered back-to-back to allow us to accommodate more interested readers than ever. Our Belize conferences sell out every year.

We've doubled capacity this year; still, we expect the event (that is, both events) to sell out. For sure, by this time next week, all VIP places for both events will have been filled.

If you'd like to join us in Belize to see for yourself all that this unassuming little country has to offer, I urge you to reserve your place in the room now.

Full details of the program we're planning are here.

You can reach our conference team with your questions by phone, toll-free from the States at 1-888-627-8834...or internationally at +1-443-599-1221.

Continue Reading: Driving From The United States To Belize

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I followed the boy up the side of the nearby mountain, through the bush. When it began to rain, the trail became slick, but the boy continued on, so I did, too. He used his machete to cut branches and growth from the trail we followed. Finally, he pointed with his machete toward the ground. I followed the machete's point and saw a small hole in the muddy earth. "The cave," the boy said. "Do you want to go inside?"

"OK..."

The boy lay down on the ground, on his stomach, then reached into the hole with his two hands, then his arms, and then he pulled himself through the mud and was gone.

I stood on the side of the hill, in the rain, in the mud, and considered my options. Really, I had only one. I got down on the ground the way I'd seen the boy do and slithered hands and arms first through the hole.

On the other side was a cavern with ledges along both sides. Up ahead was the boy, waiting for me. A little farther inside the cave, I was able to stand up. The boy, now upright, too, led me on, from the first cavern to a second one and then a third. All along the sides were ledges littered with clay pots, most in pieces but some whole. I confirmed with Mick later that these pots were Mayan artifacts.

"The country is lousy with them," he told me. "The Smithsonian and others come down and catalog as many as they can, but there are just too many. They're everywhere in the caves."

In the third room, the biggest, the ceiling of the cavern reached cathedral height. In the center of the circular area was a big, round, table-shaped rock. The boy and I stood in silence staring up and all around, then he said we should go before it got too late.

I followed him back to the first cavern and then watched as he hoisted himself up and pulled himself through the small opening. If he can do it, I guess I can do it, I thought to myself and hoisted and pulled until my arms were through and then the boy helped drag through the rest of me.

Back out above ground, the rain had stopped, but the hillside was wet and slippery. We slid and scrambled back down toward the boy's family's home, just in time for dinner.

The boy's family was seated around a handmade wooden table situated outside, alongside the door to the house. The mother was serving when we approached but stopped when she saw me. I was head to toe red mud. The lady went inside her house and returned with a small bar of soap. She handed the soap to me and pointed down the hill in the direction of the river.

I walked down the hill to the river and waded in to my knees. I bent over and splashed water on my arms and legs then used the soap to scrub off the worst of it. Rinsed and a little more presentable, I returned to the family dinner table.

After dinner, the boy walked me to the room next-door and said good night. I slept on the floor, on a straw mat, with the windows open to the breeze and the night sounds. I was immediately asleep. The next morning, after breakfast, Mick's man returned to take me back to Chaa Creek.

That was my introduction to this country.

Arriving in Belize City for my recent visit all these years later, Lief, Jack, and I walked out from the international airport and headed in the direction of the one-room rental car shop on the other side of the parking lot. As we approached, a friendly lady walked toward us extending her hand in greeting.

"Hello, I'm Marilyn. This is my husband Eddie."

I looked over to Lief for help. Had this couple been sent by local friends to greet us? Were we supposed to give them a ride somewhere? Who were Marilyn and Eddie?

"Here, let me help load your bags into the back of the SUV," Eddie offered.

"Then you can come inside with me to fill out the paperwork," Marilyn added.

Ah, these were the rental car agents. They'd been standing in the parking lot with our rental car waiting for us to show...even though our plane had been two hours delayed. Marilyn and Eddie had walked across the parking lot to check in with TACA to confirm our arrival time...then they'd brought the car out front and hung out around it until we appeared on the scene.

"I wonder if they stand out in the parking lot waiting to greet every customer," I said to Lief later.

"Maybe. Best I could tell from their website, I think their rental fleet consists of a half-dozen cars," he said.

We set out from the airport along one of the country's three paved highways. When the paving ran out, we bumped and jostled over a rutted thoroughfare of exposed limestone that I think takes the prize for the worst road I've ever traveled.

Turns out, our lodge wasn't at the end of that road, as Lief had thought. So we got to drive the worst road I've ever seen twice that night, 30 minutes in and then 30 minutes back out to the main highway.

Going in and then coming back out, we had to cross a plank bridge.

"Do you think that bridge can accommodate this vehicle?" I asked the first time we approached it.

"Where's your spirit of adventure?" Lief replied.

He had a point.

Belize is Belize. A land for the intrepid. I spent the next two weeks remembering and rediscovering that. In return, Belize helped me to reconnect with my own intrepid soul.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Every January for the past four years, we've hosted Live and Invest Overseas Conferences in Belize...and every January for the past four years, these events have sold out, usually well in advance. Each year we create waiting lists that have grown, some years, to include hundreds of readers.

So this year we're trying something new.

We will open registration for our January 2015 Live and Invest in Belize Conference tomorrow. However, this time, we're planning not one event, but two, back to back.

Infrastructure, as you know, isn't Belize's strong suit. The only hotel in Belize City with the staff and services we require to put on a successful event can accommodate no more than 100 attendees. So, wondered Conference Director Lauren Williamson when putting together our 2015 calendar, rather than limiting attendance to the first 100 as we have every year in the past, why not hold two Belize conferences, one after the other. This way, we can accommodate 200 attendees.

Lauren contacted our team of Belize speakers, all of whom responded in the affirmative. Great idea was the consensus...so that became our plan. Two Live and Invest In Belize Conferences in January 2015.

As with all events, we'll launch these two conferences to those on our Belize pre-registration list first. If you haven't yet put your name on our Live and Invest in Belize Conference pre-reg list, you have one more chance to do that right now.

Then you'll be among the first to be alerted as soon as registration is open and we're ready to sign you up.

We have doubled our capacity this year, but, based on experience, we still expect to sell out. If you're interested in joining us for these once-a-year Belize occasions, I urge you to put your name on the pre-registration list now...and then to watch your inbox for news that registration has opened.

For our part, we'll look forward to meeting you in sunny Belize next January!

Continue Reading: The Importance Of Renting Before Buying When Retiring Overseas

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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