When Couples Disagree About Where to Retire

Kathleen Peddicord

James and Sue were torn. As James prepared to conclude a successful career in the computer industry, the couple faced the big "Where to Retire?" question. James and Sue love the beach and the sea and thought the Caribbean could be their dream retirement location. On the other hand, the couple appreciates the quiet, simple life, and liked the idea of retiring "off-the-grid" in a rural setting. Realizing that the only way to make a decision between these two different lifestyles would be to try them on for size, James and Sue took off for scouting trips in Panama and Mexico, where they looked at both coastal and farm choices. But nothing felt right.

Then they planned a trip to Belize. Instantly, they both knew they'd found the country where they wanted to launch this phase of their lives. The fact that English is the primary language in Belize was a real plus. In addition, as James and Sue put it, "We just felt immediately at home."

The good and the bad news was that Belize offers both of the two lifestyle options they had been trying to decide between--Caribbean beach and, in the Cayo region, many good choices for a back-to-basics, self-sufficient lifestyle in the country. Again, they were torn.

And, again, James and Sue decided that the only way to make a choice would be to spend time in both locations. They started on Ambergris Caye, Belize's most developed Caribbean destination, and home to one of the most established communities of foreign retirees anywhere in the world. The sand, sea, and sun were everything they'd been dreaming about. But the couple decided that Ambergris Caye seemed too expensive for them, at least for full-time living.

So James and Sue traveled back to the mainland and inland, to the Cayo. "It was like returning to 1950s America," James says. "Right away, we recognized the simpler, less complicated lifestyle we'd been imagining. We even found a handful of off-grid developments where people just like us were building solar-powered homes, cultivating community gardens, and embracing a very self-sufficient lifestyle."

James and Sue bought a riverfront lot and began designing a custom home to build on it. Construction is now under way. "One of these communities we found is on a river," James explains. "We thought that this might help to make up for not being on the sea. As much as we liked all that the interior of Belize seemed to have to offer, we couldn't help but think about the beach life we were giving up."

James retired last year, and as soon as their new house is completed, the couple will be able to relocate to Belize full-time. Now that the pieces for their Belize adventure are coming together, James and Sue are realizing that they aren't going to have to compromise their retirement lifestyle at all. They'll be able to enjoy both of their dream retirements.

"We'll live in the Cayo, but we'll also be able to spend time regularly near the sea," James explains. "Ambergris was too expensive an option for us when we considered a budget for retiring there full-time, but our life in the Cayo will be much more affordable. So, living in the Cayo, we'll be able to escape to the Caribbean regularly. It's only a quick trip away."

Sue is happy with the plan as well. "Belize offers such an appealing choice for anyone looking for a simple life. Life here still revolves around the nuclear family, and it's possible to enjoy the kind of lifestyle that is just a memory in the United States," she says. "Plus, Belize offers the best of the Caribbean, too, out on Ambergris."

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.

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