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Q & A: Retiring to Panama

Article Summary:

The Wall Street Journal answers a couple’s question on the best method to prepare for their retirement to Panama. What should this would-be expat couple keep in mind when making the move abroad?

Photo Credit: Shoabinz

Original Article Text From Wall Street Journal via Google Translate:

Preparing to Retire in Panama. What Should a Would-Be Expat Couple Keep in Mind?

Q. My husband and I are getting tired of the political infighting and slow economy here in the U.S. We are looking to rent a place in Panama, which we’ve heard is cheap and good to retirees. But we are nervous about moving abroad. We know there will be language and cultural differences. What else should we be considering?

–New York

A. It can be daunting to transplant your life, so you are smart to take it step by step. Though choice apartments are relatively cheap—you can get a two-bedroom unit with sea and mountain views, covered parking and 24-hour security for less than $300,000, according to an ad I viewed at Encuenta24.com—renting will give you more flexibility. Plus, renting that same prime unit will cost you less than $2,000 a month.

Renting also will give you a chance to check out the lifestyle and neighborhoods to see if you fit and where. As in any new place, there are safe and not so safe places to live and visit, and you need to scout them out. Older foreigners are often the target of crime. You’ll also get a chance to visit different properties to see if they meet your standards, as not all have modern conveniences such as air conditioning and high-speed Internet access.

While it is certainly fun and adventurous to live abroad—and Panama makes it even easier for retirees with its pensionado, which gives hefty discounts to seniors on entertainment, professional services and hospitals, travel and more—I recommend that you limit your initial visit to a year before making any permanent plans. If you get homesick, you won’t be deeply rooted.

Some other things to consider:
Do you want to import your furniture? You won’t get any break on furniture prices in Panama, which are roughly equivalent to the U.S. When you compare costs, it will probably make more sense for you to rent a furnished unit and leave most of your stuff in the U.S. in a self-storage unit until you are ready to make a long-term commitment.

Can you handle the weather? Panama’s April-to-December rainy season can cause flooding that blocks city streets. The country also experiences occasional earthquakes and hurricanes.

Are you prepared medically? Although there are decent medical facilities in the capital, Panama’s famous mosquitoes still spread malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. Plus, the Bay of Panama is polluted with industrial waste and sewage and is unsafe for swimming. Check with your doctor and health insurer before you go.

Do you have your finances in order? Panamanians accept American currency, and credit and debit cards are used widely. But not every American bank’s card is accepted in Panama. Moreover, you can’t cash foreign checks there, and transferring money between banks can be costly and difficult. So before you go, have a talk with your bank to find out the best way to keep yourself solvent while living overseas.

Link to Original Article:

From Wall Street Journal

  • Gordon

    Come to Panama only if you truly love it here. Don’t come because you are running from another place. Come for the right reasons. Panama is becoming more like the USA, however it still is and always will be a 3rd world country. You need to live here for at least a year to understand 3rd world living. The mentality and standards are totally different than what you were brought up with.

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