Sept. 16, 2008
Panama City, Panama
n Rent For US$350 Per Month…
n Remember…This Is Latin
America…Nothing Ever Gets Done On Time…
n “I Could Not Agree With
You More About Merida”…
World’s Top Zero-tax Jurisdictions…
n Don’t Want To Invest A Decade Searching For Your Ideal Retirement
Haven? Don’t Worry…We’ve Got You Covered…
n Try, Try, Try, Before
Launch Your New Life ----------
"What in the world is a nice retirement-aged couple from Vermont doing in
Jay Snyder gets this question all the time.
Here’s how he responds…
Dear Overseas Opportunity Letter Reader,
New correspondent Michael Paladin spent 10 years searching for Paradise.
Finally, he settled in Antigua, Guatemala. As he explains:
“I considered Havana, Granada, Merida… Those places are great, but they’re
“I value old buildings, good infrastructure, access to a decent airport,
great restaurants, and bookstores. Antigua has all those things, plus movies,
concerts, salsa halls...and a wider assortment of restaurants than Sausalito or
“I’m 40 minutes from a new airport via a four-lane freeway. If I need
anything from Radio Shack or such, it’s in Guatemala City, population some
three-million and counting.
“The architecture? Antigua was the original Spanish capital of the region,
which, at the time, in the early 1600s, encompassed Honduras, part of Mexico, El
Salvador, and Costa Rica. A series of devastating earthquakes in the early 1700s
convinced the inhabitants to move the capital over the hill to Guatemala City,
but a few hardy souls camped out (squatted) in the ruins of the 20-plus
missions, convents, and government buildings, and, over time, the place
“Today, Antigua is some 30,000 people living in a UNESCO-designated and
-protected architectural masterpiece that is a tourist magnet for thousands of
international visitors each year. The elite of Guatemala City live here or visit
on the weekends, wandering down the cobblestone streets and admiring the chic
jewelry and clothing stores. Mayan ladies offer their weavings, and horse-drawn
carriages clatter down the stone streets. The city is protected by roving groups
of Tourist Police, who are actually helpful. The living is easy…
“A few weeks ago, I looked at houses for rent. As a single person, I didn’t
need a furnished three-bedroom place with a maid, a gardener, and parking. A
place like that goes for US$850 a month.
“Instead, I settled on the first place I’d seen. In Antigua, there is a
three-story height limit. I found a small one-bedroom third-story penthouse with
panoramic views, quiet and clean, for US$350 a month. I have excellent Internet
access, and I’m within walking distance of everything.
“Living downtown, you don’t need a car, and, in some ways, a car here is a
liability. Parking is difficult after 9 a.m. There just aren’t enough spaces.
Besides, this is a great walking town. Everywhere you go, you’re greeted by
friendly faces, and everyone you pass wishes you ‘Buenos Dias.’ There are
gourmet delis and, again, superb dining choices. The hotels are old converted
private mansions or ex-monasteries, with good prices and excellent service.
“The weather? As with San Jose, Costa Rica, we’re at 4,500 feet, nestled in a
wooded green valley surrounded by four volcanoes, one of which, Volcan Fuego,
goes off regularly in the mornings. I watch it as I sit outside on the patio
having my coffee. Nothing serious, just a few puffs of smoke rising in the clear
blue sky. In all fairness, the village at the bottom of Fuego sees boulders and
gravel from time to time, rumbling/tumbling down the mountainside, as a result
of these regular outbursts.
“The locals call their home the Land of Eternal Spring. That sums it up for
me. You need neither air conditioning nor heat. You can keep your windows open
all the time; there’s no insect problem to speak of. Neither is there any
humidity, and the afternoon breezes keep the midday sun from ever being too hot.
“Yes, there is a Burger King, a McDonalds, and a Subway, but they’re
installed in converted antique casas. You only know a hamburger joint
is hidden inside by the small sign on the exterior.
“Food is reasonably priced and fresh. A bottle of Stolichnaya is US$9. There
is a department store that offers everything from refrigerators to rigatoni.
“What’s the catch? Well, yes, there are some. Parking, as I said, is a
problem, and gasoline is as expensive as in the U.S. The streets are all
cobblestone, so you need sturdy shoes and a flashlight if you walk around at
night to avoid the uneven surfaces.
“And, yes, this is Latin America. Nothing ever gets done on time or exactly
as promised. Take a deep breath and relax. Tomorrow is another day, and it will
be as good as this one…”
P.S. Michael searched for 10 years before finding the overseas haven with his
name on it. Don’t worry. We’re not suggesting you make your own search for
Shangri-la a decade-long avocation. In fact, we’re committed to getting you on
the fast track to your new life overseas.
To that end, as you read this, our editors around the globe are preparing
editorial calendars, scheduling scouting missions, and laboring late into the
night to meet copy deadlines. When you’re ready to make the move, you need more
than we can provide in these dispatches…and more than you can come by surfing
the Net. You need someone who knows what he (or she) is talking about to take
you by the hand and walk you through the process of considering one place over
another…comparing and contrasting…identifying pluses and minuses…advantages and
I don’t know where in the world you should retire. But I do know that my
superstar team of editors, expats all themselves, can help you sift through the
mountain of information circulating about where and how to live in retirement
overseas…and help you land where you belong.
You could travel around the world in search of paradise…and that might be
fun…but it’d also be time-consuming and costly. Why invest a decade searching
for the right place to start your new life…when you could spend all those 10
years living it?
How do you get from here to there as quick as possible? That’s the objective
of our new Overseas Retirement Letter. Editor-in-chief
Lynn Mulvihill is putting the first issue to bed. Details soon on how you can
get your hands on it.
Free Live & Invest Seminars ----------
How To Buy In Latin America’s Top Havens
Free seminars in Canada this October. Speak one-on-one with real
estate investment experts about where and how to pursue your dreams of living,
retiring, or owning a second home in Latin America and the Caribbean.
More from new correspondent Michael Paladin:
your Nicaragua article the other day, and it reflects my
recent personal experience. The market in that country has been hit hard by the
ripple effect from North America. Same in Costa Rica. All those gringos who
bought second homes with their equity and 401(k)s are feeling the pressure to
sell, dump, and get out from under.
“Antigua, Guatemala, though, seems to be recession-proof, mostly because its
buyers are not North Americans but Guatematecos and Europeans.”
“I could not agree with you more about Merida,” writes
correspondent Lucy Culpepper. “We spent a very unhappy month in Progreso
to the north of Merida on the Yucatan coast. We rented a house for a month,
thinking that we might settle in the area and put our children in a school in
“It was all based on what we had read, not any experience. Everything was
wrong for us: the climate (very hot and humid), the topography (totally flat and
boring), and the squalor/poverty. We kept asking ourselves, ‘Why do so many
people come to retire here?’
“The only answer I have is, each to his own.
“Luckily, there are
plenty of places around the world to choose from, or else we would all be
settling in the same spot.
My advice definitely follows yours, Kathleen: Rent a place for a month or so
before you make a long-term commitment. In the Yucatan, there are plenty of
“I can strongly recommend an apartment rental in Progreso owned by a Canadian
http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/15073.html. And there is a
straightforward, frequent, and inexpensive (about $2 per person round trip) bus
service from Progresso to Merida.
“Our rental didn't have a pool (big
mistake). The owners of Oasis Del Mar (the link above) invited us to use their
pool, which was a godsend with two children; it was extremely hot in May, and a
particularly nasty 'red tide' kept us out of the sea.
“We have a motto
as a result of our Yucatan experience: Try, try, try before you buy!”
FROM THE MAILBAG:
“Kathleen, I was interested in your
recent piece on international tax strategies for Americans abroad. What
would be some examples of zero-tax jurisdictions?”
-- Gilman, United States
International tax guru
Chris Rusch replies:
“A zero-tax jurisdiction is one that doesn’t tax a
corporation’s worldwide income…only income generated from sales within that
“Second, a zero-tax country doesn’t tax dividends (transfers out of your
“For example, if you form a Nevis corporation and operate an
international website, only sales to residents of Nevis are taxable. As you
probably won’t ever make a sale to a resident of Nevis, your tax liability is
“Another plus operating out of Nevis: You aren’t required to file an annual
“The same is true in the Cayman Islands, the British
Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Hong Kong,
and Panama. If you have no local sales, then you have no tax
liability…and no filing requirement.
“Because it’s not uncommon for someone to actually live and operate a
business in a country like Panama or Hong Kong (and far less common in a place
like Nevis), the tax rules in Panama and Hong Kong, for example, are more
advanced. Tax may be due if you have an office with staff, collect money
locally, or sign contracts in these countries.
“For this reason, companies operating in Hong Kong contract through offshore
subsidiaries, have their bank accounts in the Isle of Man, and travel outside
Hong Kong to sign documents.”
Chris is happy to answer your further questions on offshore corporations and
zero-tax jurisdictions. Reach him here: