Where To Afford A Luxury Lifestyle Even If You're Not A Rock Star

Jan. 9, 2013, Panama City, Panama: Panama City’s Punta Pacifica offers one of the world’s best options for living what qualifies as a luxury-level life on a non-jet-set budget.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

We report often on the best places in Panama to retire well on little, spots--on the coast, in the highlands, and in Panama City, too--where you can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle on a modest budget, pointing out that, in some parts of this country, it's possible to retire on as little as US$1,000 a month or even less.

With that budget, you'd be enjoying a good but simple life, living more like a local than an expat.

On the other hand, at the other extreme, Panama is also a place where you can enjoy what could be described as a luxury lifestyle, the kind of life you could embrace in Manhattan or London, Miami or Dubai.

The "penthouse life" you might call it, complete with waterfront two-story penthouses in buildings with saunas, spas, massage rooms, squash courts, and 24-hour concierge doormen and supported by five-star restaurants, trendy bars, and international-brand shopping (Tiffany, Hermes, Cartier, Rolex, etc.) nearby.

We spent four days in Manhattan over Christmas, indulging in that kind of life. We ate at steak houses with white-glove service, stopped for champagne cocktails, shopped Fifth Avenue, and ate US$20 hamburgers for lunch (once). By the end of the four days, Lief and I both were eager to move on. Who could afford to live like that indefinitely? Not us.

At least not us in Manhattan. However, here in Panama, we're realizing, not only is that standard of living available, but it comes at a price that many more of us can absorb.

Specifically, this kind of living is on offer on a little peninsula in the heart of Panama City called Punta Pacifica. On this spit of land, the highest-end of any high-rise towers in this city of high-rise towers have been built, including the infamous Trump Tower. In addition to ultra-modern, ultra-amenity buildings, this area has been developed to include real sidewalks (uncommon in this city), grassy medians (non-existent elsewhere in this city), park areas, and lots of trees and shrubs. As the final few of the towers to be erected here (it's a small area, so only so many buildings are possible) are nearing completion, it's also one of the least congested and quietest spots in the city. Everywhere in Panama City is under construction or renovation in some way, including in Punta Pacifica, but, again, the work in this small region is nearing an end, making it unique and accordingly appealing.

As it's a peninsula, all of the buildings have front-line water views from at least one side. All of the buildings also have all of the amenities you could ever hope for and compete with each other on this score. As I mentioned, these buildings compare with what you can find in center-city London and downtown Dubai.

Just a few minutes away is Panama City's high-end shopping mall, MultiPlaza, which has just expanded to add dozens of new internationally recognized retailers. There's the paneled wine bar in Trump Tower for evening respites and all over Panama City you'll find truly five-star restaurants, where the food, the ambiance, and the service can be compared favorably with what we recently enjoyed in New York.

All of this comes at a cost, of course. Punta Pacifica is the most expensive living option in all Panama. Per-square-meter sales prices average US$2,000 right now (except in Trump Tower, where agents are trying to get US$2,500 per meter and more...don't pay it). Penthouses rent for US$4,000, US$6,000, and more a month. Monthly condo fees can add another US$500 to US$1,000 monthly. A couple of drinks in the Trump Tower bar will set you back US$20.

However, comparable digs in comparable buildings with water views in Manhattan or London? They'd cost you multiples of what you'll spend in Punta Pacifica. This is one of the few legitimate examples worldwide of being able to buy what qualifies as true luxury-level living for a fraction what you'd spend for the same level of living in one of the world's recognized brand-name cities. If luxury is what you want but you can't afford it in the places where jet-setters and rock stars typically seek it out, this would be a very good option to consider.

Our new Panama Letter Co-editors, Denis Foynes and David Sexton, introduce subscribers to this small and unique section of Panama City in this month's issue. Even if you're not in the market for the luxury life, I think you'll appreciate what it means about Panama City's future prospects to be able to report that this lifestyle is among the many available here at a very competitive price.

Their report is being finalized and should be in subscribers' e-mailboxes shortly.

Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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