BELIZE, September 10, 2014 — It seems like practically everyone is retiring overseas these days. In a day and time when international expats are the new Florida snowbirds, you may be wondering how you can differentiate yourself in retirement and whether or not you can find (and afford) to blaze a trail through a new tropical frontier.
Have you considered buying an island?
Before you dismiss the idea as being completely far-fetched and unattainable, check out a few of the reasons island ownership is completely feasible and, in many cases, the absolute best option for today’s retirees.
Island ownership is extremely affordable in places like Central America.
Just like any real estate, the price will vary greatly depending on the location, as well as any infrastructure and amenities in place. But overall, island property in the Latin tropics is incredibly cheap compared with similar properties in the rest of the world.
Photo by Viva Tropical
Not only is the land itself often a bargain, but the cost of living in those countries is also usually a fraction of what it takes to live in North America. And for the same or, in many cases, a much higher standard of living. Take for example the services of a domestic helper, which in most Central American countries can be had for as little as $300 per month for full-time help.
In addition to the already low cost of living, many Central American nations offer attractive discounts and other benefits to retirees of any age who qualify for their pensioner’s visas. For Example Belize has a very reasonable cost of living. Some of the best cost saving perks include everything from utilities, property taxes, insurance premiums and domestic labor.
Speaking of health care, it’s also incredibly affordable and easily accessible in most major cities throughout the region. In most areas you’ll find clean, modern medical facilities and are of good quality.
Photo by Cloud103
You can fly to your island in two and a half hours and immediately feel worlds away.
As an increasing number of North American tourists and expats discover the islands of Central America, so grows the number and size of the airports available to receive them. As a result, getting to and from your remote island home has never been easier.
Many of the more populated islands like Ambergris Caye, Belize, have their own regional or even international airports. You can even own property in a more isolated place like Boca Chica, where access is as easy as a direct international flight to David, Panama, followed by a 45 minute drive and then a 10 minute boat ride to your own island.
This easy access also makes it incredibly simple to find the consumer goods and services you need. Take for example Boca Chica, Panama, where you can use the recently widened four-lane highway to David when it’s time to take your boat to a mechanic for maintenance.
Then there’s Roatan, Honduras. “We have an international airport that makes getting here from North America a breeze,” says Steve Hasz of Roatan Life Real Estate. “Once you’re here, you’ll find several supermarkets that sell local and international products, four banks, a number of professional services, a gym, and pretty much anything else you’d expect in a top-notch Caribbean destination. But, if you still can’t find what you need, all you’ll have to do is take the hour-long ferry over to the mainland for a few more consumer options.”
It’s even easier to virtually access your friends and family back home.
We’re living in a world that’s highly saturated with technology and instant connectivity, and that’s no less true in Central America than in many much more developed parts of the world. Cell phone service is readily available throughout most of the region, as is Internet access.
Take, for example, Panama. Due in part to its longstanding U.S. military presence, it’s ranked as the second best country in all of Latin America for technology and internet penetration. Services like cellular and landline telephone service, high-speed internet, cable, and satellite service are both reliable and affordable.
With so many ways to connect, there’s no reason to ever feel disengaged from the grandchildren or friends back in the States. Even from your remote island, you can easily spend time catching up on their lives (and vice versa) via video chat, then shut off your computer and enjoy the sounds of nothing but the monkeys and toucans overhead.
Island living offers a wealth of opportunities for enjoying an active, healthy lifestyle.
It goes without saying that physical activity does much to improve your health. But did you know that it matters very little what those activities are? It isn’t necessary to spend hours at the gym to stay fit in retirement (especially if you’re relatively sedentary the remaining hours of the day). On your island property you can get your exercise the natural way, just by enjoying hobbies like gardening or working around the house.
Those who spend time in nature are found to be twice as likely to be active than those who spend most of their time indoors. And, accordingly to recent studies at England’s University of Essex “green exercise” is even more beneficial as it also improves your mental health.
Other health benefits to island living include the perks of getting a moderate amount of Vitamin D, which can reduce conditions ranging from cancer to osteoporosis and heart disease, as well as improve sleep. Access to fresh, organic produce like avocados, mangoes, and coconuts also provides a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals.
Island living is also proven to help keep your brain young.
The positive effects that being in nature has on your mental well-being are also well documented. Clearing your mind of distractions can improve focus, creativity, and memory. What’s more, the healthy habits inherent to island living (i.e. an active lifestyle, better eating habits, and reduced exposure to chemicals and pollution) have been proven to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 90%.
Yet another way to improve your cognitive function and stave off your dementia risk is to learn a foreign language. Not only does becoming bilingual delay at-risk individuals’ Alzheimer’s risk by 5 years (longer than any drug on the market), it’s a great way to immerse yourself in your new culture.
If those reasons aren’t enough to convince you to buy an island in Central America, then you can always do it for the cool factor. Sure, you and I know that owning an island can be relatively inexpensive and hassle-free. But no one else has to.
Go ahead and choose a destination to serve as the ideal setting for your life’s second act. Tell a few Florida-bound friends at your next cocktail party, and watch their jaws drop. The ease of all the details can be our little secret.