The thought of retirement can be a double-edged sword. We have worked all our lives for the opportunity to enjoy our “golden years”. Do what we want, when we want. The only schedule we’ll have is the one we make. If we make one at all. But can we afford the same lifestyle we currently have without the income stream from our job or business? My wife Shirley and I have been thinking about our retirement and doing our homework. We’ve come up with a perfect solution for us. We’re going to retire in the Caribbean.
So, how did we come up with the idea of retiring in the Caribbean? Even though we both grew up in New England, we spent many years in San Diego and could never go back to living in temperatures below 50 degrees. Maybe even 60! We visited Hawaii many times and absolutely love it there. But Hawaii would not be on anyone’s list for affordable living. Plus, Hawaii is a 6-hour trip to the west coast and another 5 hours to the east coast where our kids settled after college.
Even San Diego temperatures dip a little too low for us at times during the winter. And, we were planning for our future retirement. The cost of living in San Diego makes retirement planning more difficult. And, retiring there is extremely challenging.
Florida was the First Stop
So, in 2014 we moved to the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. If, when you think of Florida, you picture Disney World and Orlando, you don’t know Florida. We live in Largo, just south of Clearwater, west of Tampa, and north of St. Pete. We love the beach lifestyle. Enjoy warm, sunny days and the gentle Gulf breeze. And, riding our bikes along the beach while looking for dolphin. Then when the sun starts to go down, we go to one of our favorite places to enjoy dinner, a few beers, and some live music. So naturally, this is the type of place we are looking to live in our retirement.
Could we afford to stay right where we are and completely retire? Maybe. The cost of healthcare, food, and housing in the U.S. is very high compared to other places in the world. Check out the cost of living in each U.S. state. What if we could find a place that gave us all we wanted for a lot less money, and maintain or even enhance our current lifestyle? Maybe we could even retire years earlier! I’m 62 and Shirley is 52. Nothing would make me happier than giving my wife the opportunity to slow it down and live the life she’s dreamed about, without any financial worry.
How to Start Your Research
Because of the success that we’ve had in our direct selling business, the company we represent has sent us on several cruises over the years. All of which were in the Caribbean. We were able to experience enough of the culture and lifestyle to conclude that we could absolutely live there. Where exactly? We didn’t know. But we started to look with an end game in mind. We now knew that we wanted to retire in the Caribbean.
Our research led us to an online and print publication, International Living. International Living, as you might think, is all about living overseas with a heavy concentration on retiring in another country. They publish "The World's Best Place to Retire" each year. The list has locations in Europe, Asia, South America, and Central America. It’s a selection of outstanding destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money, and get a whole lot more.
On their list in 2019 are at least 3 countries we would consider. The top country on their list is Panama. Ironically, we have been researching islands in the Caribbean and Isla Colon in Panama is on the top of our list as well. The other spots are Ambergris Caye in Belize, Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, and Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic. We will be visiting each of these places over the next couple of years to determine which will be the ultimate destination.
What About Healthcare in the Caribbean?
Of course, when thinking about moving to another country there are many considerations. Healthcare, safety, housing, lifestyle, food, immigration laws and more. International Living and other online publications are a great resource for learning about all the facets of settling in and retiring in another country.
Regarding healthcare, it’s a big concern for us. A CT Scan in 2017 revealed a cancerous tumor attached to my left kidney. Both were removed and I am now completely healthy. However, I need periodic scanning done to make sure that it doesn’t reoccur somewhere else. I want to make sure there are facilities nearby wherever we move to, and that the healthcare is up to the standards we’re used to. We have been more than pleasantly surprised to learn that many Central and South American countries have a superior health care system to the U.S. And, it’s far more affordable!
However, if you want to receive healthcare covered by Medicare you can still do so and live in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is a great choice. In fact, many U.S. citizens live in exp-pat communities like Rincon on the west coast of the island.
Another focus for us is the food that we eat. We have never had a horrible diet. But after the scare with cancer, we have become very diligent with our diet. We try to eat strictly organic food. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, organic beef and chicken, and wild-caught seafood. In the U.S., it can be costly to go organic in your diet. Once again, we were thankful to learn that many Caribbean countries have access to locally grown fresh, organic food at a very affordable price.
A factor in the decision to retire in the Caribbean is the distance from the U.S. We are not interested in moving too far away like to Europe or Asia. We still want to be close to family, friends and our business interests. The furthest country on our list, Panama, is less than 3 hours from Miami by plane.
It's More Affordable to Retire in the Caribbean
The overall affordability gives many people the ability to retire in the Caribbean. People report being able to live a comfortable lifestyle for about $2,500 a month. The countries we’ve looked at in the Caribbean (Panama, Belize, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic) are no exception. I always like to estimate high. So, what if it cost $3,500 a month for food, housing, utilities, health insurance, and having fun? And, we get to live the beach lifestyle we want? I’m getting excited as I write this!
One advantage Shirley and I have is that we currently have 2 direct selling businesses that we operate out of our home offices. If we quit doing those businesses altogether when we move, our monthly recurring and residual income would more than pay our monthly bills. Add to that savings and Social Security benefits, and we wouldn’t have a care in the world.
But we can still operate those businesses when we retire in the Caribbean. All we need is cell service and a high-speed internet connection. That’s another piece of the puzzle that we were surprised to learn about. Countries in Central and South America, and in the Caribbean are continually upgrading their technology. Therefore, it’s very possible to run a U.S. based business from an island in the Caribbean.
We could work a few hours each morning after our workout. Spend the afternoon doing what we love like biking, hiking, and kayaking. Then head home to cook some fresh fish and vegetables or go to our favorite restaurant with a view of the ocean. That’s the life we love!
What Can Help You Retire Earlier?
So, it is possible to retire in the Caribbean affordably and have a better lifestyle than you might have in the U.S. If you are contemplating retirement in the next 5, 10 or even more years, you may want to consider a home-based direct selling business. You can build it part-time now. Maybe even develop it into something full time as we have. And then, take it with you to where ever you decide to retire. It could speed up the process and allow you to retire years earlier.
When we tell friends about our plan, they immediately have the same questions about safety, lifestyle, health care, etc., that we did before we did some homework. They ask, “what if you sell everything here and don’t like where you moved?” Great question. Our answer is that we just move somewhere else. Pick another island. Or, if we ultimately decide that there’s no place like the U.S., we’ll move back here. Having our two home-based businesses allows us that kind of flexibility.