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Whether you’re looking to retire early or are steadily approaching the traditional retirement age, you may wonder what retiring in Belize may cost.
You may also wonder if Belize is really a good choice. Yes, it is. For starters, Belizeans speak English. Also, because it’s a developing country, the U.S. dollar is stronger there than at home.
Unfortunately, many people overestimate what that means. These people end up moving to Belize with high hopes only to realize they cannot keep up with the cost of living.
Don’t make the same mistake. We’ve done the research to find out exactly how much you need in your bank account right now to move to Belize. The complete cost of retiring in Belize.
You’ll also learn how to live on $2,000 per month.
The Cost Of Immigration
One of the big reasons we set our monthly estimate at $2,000 is the Qualified Retiree Program. It requires a monthly income of at least $2,000.
You should also set money aside for the following fees:
- Non-refundable application fee of $150
- Applicant program fee after acceptance of $1,000
- For each qualifying family member, an additional fee of $750
- Fee after receiving QRP Residency Card of $200
- Annual renewal fee of $50
A bachelor can expect to pay $1,350 upfront for residency as a retiree. A married couple would pay $2,100.
Some people complete the process on their own. Those who rely on legal services may end up paying up to $5,000 for all immigration costs.
As for the actual move, you can buy passage aboard a cruise ship for under $500 if it leaves from Florida or Louisiana ports.
The cost of airfare to Belize depends on where you fly in from. You can catch a flight for under $500 in California. Expect to pay closer to $800 from states that are further away, such as New York.
Shipping Personal Items
Ideally, when you retire in a foreign country, you downsize significantly. The best situation involves you moving with just a few suitcases.
If you plan to set up a house in Belize with your old belongings, you may decide to ship them. The cost of doing so varies based on a number of factors:
- Cubic footage of the shipment
- Packing options, such as crates
- Shipping by sea or air
Most companies are tightlipped about their shipping costs until they complete a survey of your home or the items you want to move.
Some estimates we’ve seen show that you can ship enough belongings to fill a 20-foot container for under $5,000.
Note that you currently pay no taxes or duties on one shipment of personal items and one motor vehicle.
If the initial costs are starting to look a little high, consider the savings on real estate. There are some Americans who plan to retire in Belize like royalty. They end up spending as much or more on housing in Belize than at home.
Then, there are more frugal Americans who choose Belize for the cost savings. These retirees can spend up to 75% less than the cost of rent or a mortgage in the U.S.
Buying vs. Renting
Location and size play an important role in housing costs. Expats report paying rent as low as $200 in rural villages and as high as the thousands in cities and popular tourist destinations. That said, the average cost of renting is around $700 per month.
Most people who buy seem to do so in full. They may sell their homes in the U.S. to afford this or may dip into retirement savings. Some may also build.
You can buy a beautiful home outside of pricey tourist areas for anywhere from $75,000 to $200,000.
Building costs range from $30 to $60 per square foot. Property taxes are typically less than $100. Prices can double and triple for large homes in popular tourist destination areas.
Those who can buy prefer to do so to get rid of the monthly payments. Even if you cannot buy upfront, you may find owning more attractive if you’re sure you want to stay put.
The tourist areas may seem too expensive to live in for most retirees. However, they may provide the perfect opportunity for owning an investment property.
From beach houses on private islands to villas in the cities, there are plenty of opportunities for becoming a landlord or Airbnb host.
This may help to supplement your income. Still, it’s important to rely on trusted local expertise to guide you when investing in real estate.
You don’t want to end up purchasing property that looks great but is difficult to find tenants for. Working with someone who knows the area well is best.
Airbnb estimates that hosts can earn roughly $2,056 per month if they offer an entire place that rooms four guests. This is based on the expectation of only 15 nights rented per month at the going rate.
Making extra money on the side to supplement your pension or Social Security check is a great idea. How far it stretches depends on your spending habits.
Additional Living Expenses
No list detailing the complete cost of retiring in Belize would be complete without living expenses.
To save on utilities, take a good look at the conveniences you may need. Electricity costs about the same as in America, but you need air conditioning a whole lot less. Gas is about $25.
You can get cable TV for as low as $25 with the usual channels you might expect. You can spend as little as $20 per month for call and text via prepaid phone plans.
The cost of internet is a little high because of the lack of competition. You could end up spending anywhere from $70 to around $200 depending on where you live and the speeds you choose.
Where you live may also dictate whether you need a car or not. Most people prefer to use public transportation. You can pay $25 per month for a bus pass.
If you decide to buy a car, a Toyota Corolla may cost around $30,000. Maintenance and gas should add an extra $300 per month.
It’s not surprising then why most people rely on public transportation. Ideally, you move to a community where everything is walking distance away from home.
Finally, you can hire household help for around $3 per hour. As you get older and less active, this may come in handy to keep the home in order.
For the most part, Belize saves you money when purchasing goods and services. Note that 50 cents in American money equal $1 in Belizean currency.
Here are some of the expenses you may come across in Belize translated to USD. How this compares to your costs in the U.S. may depend on where you live and your quality preferences:
- Three-course meal for two at a restaurant — $36
- One pint of domestic beer — $2
- 12 oz bottle of water — $0.89
- One dozen eggs — $1.87
- Gym membership for one adult — $28.42
- One ticket for the movies — $7.48
When you become a qualified retiree, you’re required to deposit $2,000 per month in a Belizean bank account. The good news is that banking in Belize is safe.
Belizean banks adhere to strict standards. They get audited once and sometimes even twice per year to ensure compliance.
Even so, if you’ve become accustomed to living on credit in America, you may want to reconsider this in your new home. Interest rates are often high and the loan-to-value ratio are around 50%.
This is one of the reasons people tend to purchase real estate in full when they can instead of relying on a mortgage.
So, can you really live on $2,000 per month in Belize? Yes, you can. In fact, people who live frugally in more rural parts of Belize get by on far less.
Adventurous bloggers living in small villages report monthly budgets of around $600. Meanwhile, many couples get by on around $1,200.
At $2,000 income per month, you meet QRP requirements and can live comfortably. You can use the following budget to cover expenses and save:
- $700 for rent
- $300 for groceries
- $200 for utilities
- $200 for savings
- $200 for entertainment
- $150 for cable and internet
- $150 for miscellaneous
- $50 for calling and text
- $25 for public transportation
- $25 for hired help
As long as you cut expenses and set money aside for a rainy day, retiring in Belize can be an inexpensive dream come true.
So there you have it, the complete cost of retiring in Belize. Will this English-speaking paradise be the site of your overseas adventure?