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Is Retiring in Panama Right For You?

It’s no secret that many Baby Boomers are worried about retirement. The average Social Security check is only about $1500, which, for most people, is not enough to live comfortably in the United States. Some financial advisors recommend that Baby Boomers keep working as long as possible. But that does not sound like much fun!

There’s a better solution!

snowbird beach

Retire in Panama where you can live on just your Social Security check without dipping into savings. A couple can live well in most areas of Panama for just $2,000 a month, including rent.  Many singles live in Panama on $1000-$1200, including rent.

Is retiring in Panama right for you?

Since 2010, I’ve been offering all-inclusive 6-day 7-night Panama Relocation Tours. I’ve helped tens of thousands of people retire in Panama. In Panama, I live a better lifestyle for less than it would cost in the United States. Because my house is paid for, I rarely spend more than $1000 a month in living expenses, including health insurance, weekly maid, weekly massage, car expenses, cell phone, internet, groceries, utilities, and two gardeners twice a week (I have a really big yard).

But, as much as I love living in Panama, I know that Panama is not right for everyone.

To help you decide if retiring in Panama is right for you, I’ve identified the 5 most important factors for someone to think about before retiring in Panama. About 65% of the people who come on a Panama Relocation Tour move to Panama. The 35% who do not are usually people who have a problem with one or more of the items below after doing some soul searching:

1. Family – Can you move away from your family?

Happy Family in Panama

If you have grandkids, aging parents, or grown children who depend on you, it might be necessary to put your desire to retire in Panama on hold for a while.

Does your whole life revolve around your grandchildren? Do you have family members who rely on you for emotional or financial support? If you answered yes to one, or both, of these, it may not be a good time to retire in Panama. Or, would flying back home a few times a year be sufficient? Because of your lower cost of living in Panama, you’ll be able to afford more flights back home to see your family. Will that be enough? Only you can decide! It’s certainly something to take into consideration. 

You can get a 25% discount on your international flights once you get a Pensionado Visa in Panama. But flights to Panama may cost more than other destinations sometimes so the cost to fly back home to see family, of for family to fly to see you, should be taken into consideration.

You can stay connected with Skype video chats to stay in touch with your family. And, with a Panama cell phone, there is no additional charge for international calls, so you can call family as often as you want. ( I pay $35.33 a month for my Panama cell phone, which includes international calling)

2. Health – Do you have a serious chronic illness or mobility issues?

Medicare Part A and B coverage is not available outside the United States. Some Medicare Advantage plans will cover urgent care or emergencies overseas. If you’re 65 or older, you’ll need to determine what your health insurance options are in Panama and the costs. This is critically important if you have pre-existing conditions because pre-existing conditions are not covered under Panama health insurance.

man in wheelchair

In Panama, you can always use public hospitals regardless of your age or pre-existing conditions. There is no monthly fee. It’s about $2 to see a general doctor or $5 for a specialist. You’ll also need to pay out of pocket for any medical procedures, which will be much more affordable.

Ideally, to control your medical costs, you will get health insurance that will cover you in Panama. There are a variety of different plans to select from. Some health insurance options have no age restrictions and will even cover pre-existing conditions after the first two years. We discuss health insurance in great detail during a Panama Relocation Tour.

You can get health insurance which only covers you in Panama or get international health insurance, which will cover you anywhere in the world. I pay $102 per month for Panama-only health insurance.  l previously had international health insurance but it’s more affordable to just get travel insurance when I travel outside of Panama.

A big plus is that many of Panama’s doctors speak English and it’s less than $20 to see a doctor even if you do not have insurance.

Even though health care in Panama is excellent, you really need to evaluate your own health situation before deciding to retire in Panama and moving away from doctors (and health insurance) you have used for many years. This is especially important if you have a serious chronic illness or if you have mobility or other handicap issues. Panama is, unfortunately, not a handicapped, friendly country.

You will also need to determine if the medications you take are available in Panama and what they cost. To help you do that, during a Panama Relocation Tour, we take you to several different pharmacies. And, you can even meet with an English speaking doctor during the tour for him/her to help you evaluate the viability of you retiring in Panama if you have pre-existing health problems.

3. Finances – How much will you have to live on if you stop working? Can you afford relocation costs?

PanamaRelocationTours.com

You’ll need to determine how much money you will have to live on when you retire in Panama. Many singles live well on less than $1200 a month, including rent. A couple should plan on $2,000 a month, including rent. This budget will not work in Panama City or Coronado, but it will work in most of the rest of Panama. During a Panama Relocation Tour, we show you a variety of different areas in a variety of different price points to help you determine the perfect place to retire within your budget.

There are initial relocation expenses to consider too.

To live in Panama full time, you will need to get a residency Visa. The minimum requirement to qualify for a Pensionado Visa is $1,000 per month in lifetime income for a single person or $1250 per month for a couple. Will you qualify? If not, there are other Visa options, but they are more costly and require a $200,000 investment in real estate or $200,000 into a 3-year CD in Panama.

It will cost about $1600 to get a Pensionado Visa. So, you’ll need to budget the expense of getting a residency Visa.

There will be initial costs involved when you relocate to Panama too. You need to determine how much cash you have on hand to cover the upfront moving expenses like getting a Visa, renting a house, health insurance, stocking up on groceries, and maybe even buying a car. This article will help you determine what your budget needs to be.

4. Patience – You’ll need to learn to embrace the “Tranquilo” mentality.

Many things are done in a different way in Panama than what you are familiar with. In some cases, you’ll think the Panama way is the better way. But sometimes you could get frustrated because things don’t happen the same way or as fast as you like. You will need to learn to be more patient.

retire early in panama

Once you’re retired, you don’t need to be in such a hurry anyway!

If you expect Panama to be just like the United States, but cheaper, you will be very disappointed.

There are many very modern parts of Panama. But not all areas are modern. You won’t find the same stores. There is no Walmart. You’ll find what you need in Panama. And you’ll find most of what you want in Panama too. There’s always Amazon for other things.  It takes about a week to get an Amazon order delivered to Panama.

The primary language is Spanish in Panama, so you will hear Spanish being spoken everywhere you go. If you live in a town with a high concentration of ex-pats, more English is spoken, and you can get by without knowing much Spanish.

You can’t expect Panamanians to speak English. Using Google Translate and a big smile, you can usually get your point across.

Your patience will be tested in Panama. Eventually, you will succumb to the Tranquilo mentality.

5. Attitude – Are you a flexible and tolerant person?

expat couple in Panama

If you retire in Panama because you really want to experience living in Panama – all while reducing your expenses- you will have an amazing adventure.

But, if you retire in Panama because you are running away from something (like politics or legal issues), you may feel bitter and unhappy every day in Panama.

Your attitude is the biggest factor of all.

In many ways, Panama is very much like the United States was in the 1960s but with high-speed internet and cable TV.

If you are flexible and can adjust to a new environment, you will love your new life in Panama. But, if you want everything to be like “back home,” you will be disappointed.

When you wake up every day to see the stunning beauty of Panama, it will certainly help put you in the right mood.  It also helps to reduce stress knowing that you can live very well in Panama for a fraction of what it would cost for a similar lifestyle in North America.

The TEST DRIVE

bus panamarelocatointours.com

The whole purpose of Panama Relocation Tours is to give you a one-week overview of what life would be like in Panama. The Tour is a way for you to test drive Panama without the commitment of relocating. A Panama Relocation Tour can help you decide if Panama is right for you and where to live in Panama. Or, a Panama Relocation tour may help you decide that Panama, and living abroad, is just not right for you. Either way, the Tour helps you decide about retiring abroad.  The information you get during a Panama Relocation Tour will definitely help you avoid a costly mistake when you retire in Panama!

Retiring in Panama isn’t for everybody.

But retiring in Panama is worth serious consideration if you are concerned about how you will be able to afford retirement and maintain a good quality lifestyle.

Retiring in Panama sure beats the alternative of working longer!

Panama Relocation Guide

Thousands of people who have been on a Panama Relocation Tour have discovered that they can live better for less in Panama. You can too!

In Panama, you can alleviate stress, get off many of your medications, meet interesting people, enjoy much better weather, your health may improve, you might even lose weight (many do), and you can enjoy a fun and active retirement.

Not a tour kind of person?

We also offer an Complete Panama Relocation Guide, which has the same information that you’d get on a tour, including reliable contacts for immigration lawyers, real estate agents/property managers, where to buy health insurance (regardless of your age), how to get your pets into Panama and much more.   You’ll also get invited to a private community forum and get details about how to do a self-guided tour in the most popular places to retire in Panama.

Panama could be a great solution for you! It’s certainly worth considering!

Join us for a Panama Relocation Tour to discover if Panama is right for you.

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Linda Rutherford says

    Do you know if retired military can utilize the VA? I been told that there is a VA resource in Panama City.

  2. Tony de WIt says

    As always, a no nonsense, straight forward explanation without the sales pressure. Thank you Jackie. Looking forward meeting you and your team in December.

  3. Karl Peterson says

    I appreciate this letter more than most. I had almost answered questions I’ve had

  4. James Marshall says

    IF I MOVE TO PANAMA I WILL WANT TO SHIP MY VEHICLE FROM TAMPA FL TO PANAMA, DO YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON WHO TO CONTACT.

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