Enjoying Part-Time Expat Life in Belize

When retirement rolled around for Minnesota couple Mary and John Ederer, Mary made a promise to her husband: They wouldn’t have to spend another winter shoveling snow.

The couple, college sweethearts now married 39 years, have long-loved travel. Mary credits her dad with instilling in her the joy of discovering new places.

“Granted, on our vacations, he’d take us to everything and anything along the way—the John Deere Museum (oh, Lordy, Lordy) but would also point out streetwalkers in New York City,” she says.

When Mary’s parents purchased a condo in Puerto Vallarta, she and John would visit along with their children, Emily and Hans.

“I really loved the adventure of it all,” says Mary, “I was always the map reader.”

Over the years, the couple also hosted foreign exchange students. To this day, they remain so close that they attended the wedding of one in Sweden, and travel to Germany each year to visit another.

They’ve also lived abroad for various work opportunities. They know Nicaragua isn’t a good fit for them and have learned that recognizing what doesn’t meet your needs can be just as important as finding what does. They loved Berlin, but its winters aren’t any better than Minnesota so, despite their strong German ties, it’s not a fit.

Right now, the couple are test-driving life in Placencia, Belize

Mary loves the laidback lifestyle, and the easy access to good food and their favorite restaurant, The Secret Garden. She also appreciates that, in Belize, English is the primary language, though Spanish and Mayan are also prevalent. And, despite its size, it feels safe.

“I loved Belize from the first time we came here,” says John. “It fits our needs, it’s so easy to come from the U.S.—they use the same currency and same current for electronics.

John is a great ambassador for Placencia and can wax poetic about the lovely people, beautiful weather, plentiful restaurants and grocery stores and comforts of home.

The couple enjoy sports fishing, and John reads four to five hours a day, while Mary has a variety of interests to keep her busy… “Snorkeling, sailing, fishing, kayaking, exploring Mayan ruins..”

The couple rent a townhouse in a small complex on a private island. Every afternoon and evening, you can find them exercising in the pool, laughing often, and chatting with whichever visitors or owners are in town.

The couple are funding their Belize stay through savings, investments, John’s social security, and Mary’s retirement fund. John’s on Medicare and Mary has health insurance through COBRA. They didn’t purchase additional medical insurance since they’re still so close to the U.S. that they’d expect to return home if they needed any significant medical care. So far, they have been very pleased with their telemedicine physician visits.

While their cost of living hasn’t really changed—the $3,000 a month they spend on their townhouse is about the same as their Minnesota mortgage was—here, they get so much more for the money…a beachfront home, utilities paid, a caretaker, and private boat service. Eating at their favorite restaurant costs about $40, including alcohol.

“I no longer have a budget,” says Mary. “I don’t keep track. I don’t need to. I feel like we have exactly what we need and there’s always some extra at the end of the month.”

In a regular day, John gets up at “the crack of noon” if he feels like it. Mary admits that she enjoys her time in the morning, sipping coffee, looking over the palm trees to the Caribbean from the front balcony.

The internet connection is good throughout their home so Mary can check email or play some games on her phone, call her daughter or friends, or chat with other guests until John gets up. Sometimes, they’ll go into town and stop at Wendy’s restaurant—fry jacks for Mary, stewed chicken for John. A self-declared foodie, Mary loves the options Placencia offers.

Afternoons, they’re in the pool for exercise and conversation, and go into town a couple times a week for dinner.

It’s dark here around 6 p.m., year-round, so they like to settle in early for the night, watching TV, reading, talking to relatives or friends, and making plans for adventure.

Mary says there is always at least one plan for adventure in the works—something they’re looking forward to. It’s important.

Mary travels back to the U.S. every six to eight weeks and knows it will become more frequent soon—the couple’s daughter, Emily, is expecting their first grandchild in November. She also likes to spend time with their English Springer Spaniel, Lady Bird, “a Mississippi girl who stays with our son, Hans.”

Always optimistic, Mary looks forward to the time when she and John are back in Belize, relaxing in the pool in the sunshine, safe in the knowledge they can fly back to visit (or have the kids come to them) when she wants, or they need.

Right now, part-time expat life in Belize works very well for them.

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