Your Time to Retire to Belize Is Now!
Although you may have thought that retirement was still a long way off, the time to retire to Belize is now. The Belizean government has a program in place that could let you move to this quirky, Central American location as early as age 45.
With Belize being poised to be a major retirement mecca for expats from the U.S. and the UK looking for tropical ambiance with English being the official language, this program – the QRP – may be changed or limited in the future. Taking advantage of the chance to retire to Belize now is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
Being located close to the US makes it easy for retirees to transition from a life in the states to a less hectic lifestyle in Belize. Living in Belize is more than just a change of residence; between the cultural richness, natural beauty, and friendly citizens, Belize can provide much more than one might expect.
The QRP – The Gateway to Retirement in Belize
As an enticement for foreigners to relocate and invest in Belize, the government established the QRP (Qualified Retired Persons) program. Under this program, there are minimal requirements that have to be met and, as discussed above, real financial benefits that can be obtained.
The basic requirements are that a) the applicant is over 45 years of age; b) the applicant can prove a monthly income (from any source) of at least $2000 USD; or c) the applicant arranges to deposit in a Belizean bank the sum of $24,000 on or before April 1st of each year for their own care and maintenance.
One of the most unique features about the QRP is that it does not bear any relationship to how many days you spend outside the U.S. or inside Belize. This can be a great advantage for those who are “perpetual tourists”; travelling to many places or only staying a limited number of days in Belize itself.
A second unique feature is that the age limit is only 45. Clearly, you don’t have to be of retirement age to qualify for QRP status.
While this law has been in effect for over a decade, there has been some talk in Belizean government circles about limiting the number of applications per year, raising the dollar limit required, or other changes. As a result, now is the best time to take advantage of this program before any changes are enacted.
Why the Choice to Retire to Belize Makes Sense
With all of the potential options that an expat retiree could choose, why does the choice to retire to Belize make so much sense? There are a number of reasons that support the “Belize option.” The major ones are listed below:
Money Does Matter
While Belize is not the most inexpensive choice for retirement, the value you receive for the money you spend is well worth it. For example, the average for utilities (electric, water, heat, and garbage) is around $88 per month. The prices in the metropolitan areas such as Belize City and the capital city, Belmopan, may be slightly higher.
Rental units can also be reasonable. The country average can range between $200-$700 per month; again higher rates will be found in the larger, more popular areas. It is important to note, however, that the number of rental units is small and, as a result, desirable properties may be at a premium – both in terms of location and price.
Belize has a well-developed infrastructure with the kind of modern amenities you would expect in the U.S. Cable television, high speed internet service, and cellular phones are all readily available and much more moderately priced than their North American counterparts.
Taxes Aren’t “Taxing”
One concern for retirees is having to pay taxes, both on their imported personal goods, as well as on passive income from pensions. As an incentive to bring expats to Belize, the government has put in place the QRP – the Qualified Retired Persons – program. (More on that below.)
This program permits those qualifying as a QRP to import, absolutely tax and duty-free, their personal belongings as well as a single “approved means of transport” (motor vehicles, boats, and light aircraft) for their personal use. This is markedly different from other Central American countries, where import duties and taxes can run in the thousands of dollars.
Income, either earned or passive, received from sources outside Belize, by QRP individuals, is totally exempt from all taxes and levies. For those retirees receiving income from 401(k)s, or other pension instruments, this can be a tremendous savings.
Real estate taxes are very straightforward. For residential property, the tax rate will be between 1% and 1.5% of the value as set by Department of Natural Resources. Additionally, there is a 25% discount on property taxes for Senior Citizens (over 65) which certainly is a great incentive for expat retirees.
Real Bargains in Real Estate
The Belizean real estate market suffered from the same pressures as the rest of the globe in 2008. Although the market has rebounded, prices for residential properties (both stand alone and condominium) are still quite reasonable. Looking at a selection of what is available can give you a good perspective on how much your home in paradise may cost.
There are no restrictions on non-residents buying or owning property in Belize. Since the Belizean legal system is based on English Common Law (like the U.S.), as compared to the Napoleonic Code which forms the basis of other Latin American legal systems, the rights and obligations involved in property ownership are easy to understand. It also helps that the laws are written in English.
Healthier and Less Stressful Living
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits you will receive when you retire to Belize is having a more relaxed lifestyle. This more casual approach to daily living, while requiring some adjustment when appointment times tend to be more like approximations than confirmations, ultimately lead to a less stressful way of looking at the world. Less stress does equal better health.
With so many outdoor activities, you will find yourself far less sedentary than you might imagine. The readily available supply of fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables, all locally grown, are a welcome improvement from the over-processed food that make up far too much of American diets.
Learning More About Retiring in Belize
There are some facets about retiring to Belize that should be given consideration. It is important to remember that Belize is coming to the “expat retirement table” somewhat late in the game, as compared to other countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama.
As a result, the laws governing residency and retirement may change. Keeping abreast of these changes can be an important part of your relocation process.
While the developed areas of Belize have modern amenities and infrastructures, the more rural areas may not have the same level of services. If a more rustic lifestyle is not to your liking, your search should be limited to those more popular areas.
There is no substitute for actually going to Belize and enjoying its wonders for yourself. Plan a trip, not just as a vacation, but as a scouting mission to learn about the place that you’ll want to retire in.