“How I Regained Control Of My Retirement”
A few years ago, I decided it was time for me to give up the rat race. I had worked many decades in the Northeast United States, and the brutally cold winters were beginning to take their toll on me (and my knees).
It was time for a major change in my life, so I retired. I received a small pension… no gold watch, though.
I started thinking about downsizing to an apartment. When I began looking around for a one- or two-bedroom apartment in a quiet neighborhood or a retirement community, I was appalled at the rental rates. Plus, everywhere I checked, the total of my modest pension and my Social Security check put my income just over the threshold to qualify for a subsidized break on the exorbitant rents.
In some cases, the rents would have taken my entire Social Security check—and these weren’t even in the most luxurious developments.
I found the situation to be the same all over the United States. The states with warmer climates were even more expensive.
I wondered what I would do, what options I had.
Then, in July 2013, I had an opportunity to travel to Belize. My group visited the Cayo District and stayed in a little village near San Ignacio for a week. It took me a couple of days to get used to the heat and the humidity—and the dusty, rocky roads we walked on. But it didn’t take long to get used to the exceptionally friendly people and the feeling of peace that pervaded every corner of the country. Wherever we visited, we were invited in and offered something to eat or drink… hospitality extraordinaire.
I had a chance to stop in bustling San Ignacio, and I felt like I belonged. I wasn’t treated as a stranger or a foreigner but welcomed wholeheartedly. I realized then that I had found my new home… I was just hoping I could afford to live there.
When it was time to leave, I simply didn’t want to go. And when I landed back in the States, I felt I had left my heart back in Belize.
I started researching the affordability of living in Belize as soon as I got home. I went online and checked out everything I could. I even contacted expats who had already made the move there from all over the world. From what I could see and was told, affordability was possible… quite possible.
Even my knees were smiling.
One- and two-bedroom unfurnished rentals, often with fenced-in yards, were advertised at BZ$400 to BZ$600 (US$200 to US$300) a month. Good options at these prices were available both in town and in less populated areas. I also saw properties for US$1,000 or more per month. These included modern amenities and conveniences and sat on nice-sized lots. There were plenty of choices both for renting and buying, and none stayed on the market long.
A year later, in September 2014, I was at the airport again on my way to Belize, this time with a one-way ticket and two suitcases.
I quickly found a great house to stay in for just US$300 a month in Punta Gorda in Southern Belize until I found my permanent home.
The minute I closed out all of my affairs in the States, I rid myself of a dozen bills associated with my former lifestyle—meaning I finally had some discretionary income. I used the next few months in Punta Gorda to put some money aside and leisurely check out the rest of Belize.
Everything I had read and heard was true. I could find and rent an apartment easily for about US$400 a month pretty much anywhere in the country. I saw plenty of options in that price range in plenty of towns around Belize—some of them beachfront, right on the Caribbean coast.
After several months, I decided on coastal Corozal town as the place I wanted to settle long-term, partly because it is only 9 miles from Mexico, where there are plenty of Americanized shopping outlets and even a movie theater.
I headed up to this northern part of the country to find a home of my own. I hired a guide to show me around, and, over five days, I saw everything on the market, from a beautiful retirement community to properties in and just outside of the bustling little town.
I found exactly what I was looking for, and the price was wonderfully affordable. The lovely one-bedroom, fully furnished apartment was situated on a resort property and included access to the swimming pool.
I now have my dream house in Corozal just a few meters from the beach. The cost is just US$700 per month including utilities.
My combined monthly expenses are less than my Social Security check—which, even when combined with my pension, couldn’t have supported me anywhere in the United States.
Now, my pension check is my own.
I used my first one to buy my own gold retirement watch.
For my birthday, I treated myself to a handmade sundial… I figured I need one as I’ll be spending a lot more time in the sun.
That’s the end of this story… but only the beginning of my wonderful, exciting, and affordable new life in Belize.