How to Retire Comfortably for Under $1,500 a Month

Retire at any age to an exotic, easy-going life in the Caribbean.

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Jason and Elizabeth Pearce moved from Canada to Belize three years ago. They bought a piece of property on the sea. A year later, they built a house. Today, they live in a beautiful Santa Fe adobe-style home with gardens all around.

[See 10 Places to Reinvent Your Life in Retirement .]

The pair lives very comfortably, without wants or financial worries. They’ve had no trouble making friends in their new community because the folks in Belize speak English. They eat out three or four times a week. They barbecue lobster and filet mignon at home. They have reliable Internet to keep them connected to the outside world. By choice, they do not have a television. “I used to think that the news was important,” Jason explains. “But not anymore.” The retired couple has a maid and a gardener, each of whom visit once a week.

And here’s the best part. Jason and his wife are living on their Social Security income alone. In fact, they’re living on Jason’s Social Security income alone. Elizabeth’s Social Security check goes into savings each month.

[See 7 Affordable Places to Retire Abroad.]

Everyone’s spending habits are different, but here’s a sample monthly budget for a couple living a comfortable expatriate lifestyle in Belize:

  • Rent: $300
  • Utilities, telephone, and Internet: $500 (Your biggest expense in this country.)
  • Groceries: $150
  • Health insurance: $50
  • Entertainment: $100
  • Car expenses: $300
  • One of the most appealing things about Belize as an overseas retirement choice is that it can make sense even if you’re nowhere near conventional retirement age. Through Belize's Qualified Retired Persons program you can establish foreign residency as young as age 40.

    Belize is a beautiful little country. It's a peaceful, eco-tourist retreat home to more than 540 species of birds, 4,000 species of flowering plants, and 700 kinds of trees. Nearly 40 percent of the country is protected as parkland and natural preserves. Belize boasts the second-largest barrier reef in the world. This incredible underwater resource teems with colorful fish, coral, and unusual marine life, making the waters off this country's coast a fisherman’s and diver's paradise.

    [See 6 Reasons to Retire Overseas.]

    Despite all these natural attractions, Belize has managed to remain largely off the world’s radar. It’s a small country of about 350,000 people. It’s also a young country, having gained independence from Great Britain in 1981. There are a lot of market niches waiting to be filled. Living here, you’ll discover that life can be not only super affordable, comfortable, and adventure-filled, but also full of potential.

    Retirees in Belize are finding many interesting and sometimes lucrative ways to fill their days. Lara Lennon moved to Belize from Philadelphia in 2006 and developed a luxury swimwear line, Lemon Crush Belize. “Sitting on a friend's porch in San Pedro chatting about this and that in our tropical lives, I realized something: There existed nowhere in Belize a place to shop for dress bathing suits, the kind glamorous enough for a beach wedding or special enough for a honeymoon,” Lennon says.

    Lara’s swimwear is now featured in luxury boutiques in Belize and internationally. Starting a business takes drive and determination, Lara admits, but she has found the experience in Belize rewarding. "Best of all, I’m right where I want to be—with my friends on a Caribbean island, enjoying life,” Lennon says. "Only now in better bathing suits."

    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.