08 Mar Belize or Costa Rica: Where Will We Retire?
My wife and I are doing a lot of research on where we’d like to spend our golden years. As I write this article, in 2018, both of us are 54. We’re thinking about where we’d like to plant seeds for our future. Belize and Costa Rica are definitely on our horizon as possibilities, if not to retire, definitely to invest.
Recently I visited The Reserve, in the Stann Creek District of Southern Belize. The Reserve is a stunningly beautiful, gated community. More than 14,000 acres of lush landscaping encompass this master-planned community which boasts a marina, a beach club, an equestrian center, and two beachside restaurants. Hundreds of Americans have already purchased lots in The Reserve, and many expats are there now, happily building their dream homes. While visiting, I took many amateur photos and videos that I published on an Instagram page I created to chronicle my search for investments in paradise:
I’m currently negotiating with the developer to purchase two lots in the development. Whether or not we choose Belize as our retirement destination, we recognize The Reserve as an awesome investment opportunity for reasons I’ve written about elsewhere.
In addition to considering Belize, Carole and I continue to explore other potential paradise locations. In May, I’ll visit Costa Rica.
With our 10-year horizon for retirement, we have time to assess all options before we reach our mid-60s. Now is the time for us to think about the lifestyle we want to live, and to assess different options for that preparation.
We’ve always thought creatively about how to prepare for our future, living in accordance with the 10-year plans we set. Without creative thinking and careful planning, we’d be like millions of other baby-boomer couples who are tethered to 401k plans, IRAs, and social security hopes. That’s not us. We refuse to believe that the stock market and bond markets are the only ways to prepare for an active retirement. Living means being active, taking responsibility, seizing opportunities as they open, and creating our own opportunities. We see many opportunities in Costa Rica.
We enjoy dramatic, natural beauty, wherever we can find it. We want to build our lives in an eco-friendly paradise that includes oceans, beaches, rain forests, savannas, rivers, and lagoons. Belize certainly fits that profile, and I can attest to it from what I experienced at The Reserve. From what I’ve read about Costa Rica, we’ll also see coastlines and mountains and dense jungles. I’m looking forward to my visit in May and to reporting on what I learn.
I’m scheduled to fly into San Jose in late April. Just an hour away from the famous “cloud forests” in the Central Highlands. Reports on Costa Rica suggest that the cloud forest is one of the most scenic parts of the country, offering a cool retreat from the topical zones. According to the official website of Costa Rica, the forests “offer spectacular mountain peaks that give way to sweeping views of coffee plantations and volcanoes.”
With Costa Rica’s cascading waterfalls, brightly colored foliage—plants, orchids, ferns, and abundance of mosses—I’m looking forward to stepping into one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. It’s my understanding that Steven Spielberg chose Costa Rica to film many of the lush scenes from the movie Jurassic Park.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the famous La Paz Waterfall Gardens in the Central Highlands. Many bloggers have published photographs of the lush, natural landscape. Thehy describe hiking on well-maintained and accessible trails, swimming in lagoons that are fed by waterfalls and rushing rivers. Those travel bloggers detail what they saw in butterfly farms, hummingbird galleries, and wildlife exhibits.
But Costa Rica offers more than cloud forests and waterfalls. My investing interests there are diverse. For example, I’m as drawn to Costa Rica’s modern cities, with the many cultural attractions, reliable infrastructure, and one of the highest-quality health care systems in Central or South America. Of course, I also want miles of white-sand beaches and a tropical climate that will likely be easier on my body as I age. With high-speed Internet and 4G cellphone service, Costa Rica is popular with retirees who search for an awesome quality of life and a rich cultural experiences.
I’m convinced that both Costa Rica and Belize offer marvelous investment opportunities. International Living ranked highly in its report on the world’s best retirement destinations, but it’s not the cheapest option for retirement. Carole and I have been working hard for decades. If we were looking for the cheapest option, we’d consider Zambia, Cambodia, or far-away places like Thailand. But those countries don’t compare to the tropical paradise of Costa Rica or Belize.
We love the idea of planning for our retirement in an eco-friendly, peaceful country where our income will stretch much further than in the USA. Still, we want to remain close enough to the United States so that our family and friends can visit. The stable political environment and the fact that Costa Rica is already popular with expats eases any anxieties we have about investing or living there. We’ve read that more than 20,000 Americans already make their home in the tropical paradise.
We like places others have overlooked or never considered. It’s exciting and keeps us from settling for a “Well-this-is-all-there-is” state of mind as we age. We are enthusiastic about building our retirement in a tropical paradise, where we can hike, fish, swim, and explore in a Garden-of Eden beauty.
Staying active will keep us young.
When I return from Costa Rica, in early May, I’ll publish photographs on the BuyInternationalParadise Instagram page, and I’ll write a report of what I learn.
I’m expecting to find the same kinds of opportunities for purchasing land that I found in Belize. I’ll find a Costa Rican community where other expat Americans are building their homes. I’ll look for the types of amenities that provide the best opportunity for our investment to appreciate. As in Belize, I expect lower labor costs in Costa Rica. By finding skilled labor that doesn’t require American wages, Carole and I will be able to employ skilled locals to build an amazing house or two that will serve us well as investments.
With opportunities for eco-tourism, Airbnb, or selling the property to others who want to retire, we anticipate an attractive return on investment of more than 20%. Equally important, we’ll avoid volatility that has become so common in the stock market, or unappealing yields in the bond market.