Articles Related to Residency

We're sending our son to school here. Taking our kids to the doctor. Their pets to the vet. Standing in line at Immigration to renew our residency visas. Buying and repairing cars. Shopping for groceries...insurance...

We know more about the opportunities and options available across this country than anyone else you're going to find anywhere. I don't say that to brag. It's a simple fact.

We aren't in Panama as retirees, but many of our friends are. I'd say (and they'd all agree) that, all things considered, Panama is the best place in the world right now to think about retiring overseas.

Again, I've been covering this beat a very long time. Panama as the world's top retirement haven isn't news. It's another simple fact.

Still, it doesn't hurt to take a step back and regroup on what we're talking about here. That is, following are the top 14 reasons why Panama is the world's top retirement choice:

#1: The cost of living is affordable. Outside Panama City, it remains downright cheap. You could retire to the beach in Las Tablas, for example, on the country's Azuero Peninsula, on a budget of US$1,200 per month or even less.

#2: The sun shines year-round. Panama City can be too hot and sticky for some retirees' tastes, but, again, look beyond the capital, and you find pockets of near-perfect climates in some regions. If you prefer cool mountain temperatures to steamy sea-level ones, consider Boquete or, less discovered and therefore more affordable, Santa Fe.

#3: The retiree's path is well worn. This country has been attracting foreign retirees in growing numbers for more than a decade. It offers many and very user-friendly options for establishing foreign residency if you want to live here full-time, and it is home to established and welcoming communities of expats and retirees.

#4: You can get by without speaking Spanish. I don't recommend it, but, in Panama City, you don't have to learn to speak Spanish if you don't want to.

#5: Health care in Panama is of an international standard, and Panama City is home to Hospital Punta Pacifica, the only hospital in Latin America affiliated with and managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

#6: The cost of medical care is a bargain. Like everything, medical costs are higher in Panama City than elsewhere in the country, but, even in the capital, a doctor's visit costs US$50 or less.

#7: Local Panama health insurance (which can be good, comprehensive coverage, all you need living in this country) can cost US$100 per month or less.

#8: The infrastructure is of a high standard. This is a place where things generally work. The Internet, cable TV, phone service, etc., are all as reliable as anywhere in the States. The roadways and highway systems being constantly expanded and improved. Panama City is an international banking center, meaning you find here banks from all over the world. ATMs are on every corner.

#9: The currency is the U.S. dollar, so U.S. retirees have no currency-exchange risk or exposure.

#10: Panama City is an international travel hub, very accessible from North America. The flight from Miami, for example, is about 2 ½ hours.

#11: Panama's pensionado program of special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees is the current Gold Standard. Retired in this country, you can save as much as 50% on everything from restaurant meals to in-country airfares, from prescription medicines to closing costs on your new beach house.

#12: This is a nature-lover's paradise, boasting some of the best surfing, snorkeling, diving, sport fishing, birding, hiking, and adventure-travel opportunities anywhere on earth.

#13: This is a safe, welcoming place to call home.

#14: Retirees you meet in Panama aren't losing sleep over their futures.They're embracing them.

I could go on, but you get the idea. As everyone from the AARP to the New York Times, from USA Today to, well, me has been pointing out for a long time, Panama is the world's top choice for where to think about retiring overseas.

Does that mean Panama is where you should retire?

I have no idea. Nowhere is perfect, and no one place is right for everyone.

I strongly recommend, therefore, that, if you're in the market for a place to reinvent your life in retirement (or otherwise), you should take a close look right now at what Panama has to offer you. The best way to do that is to come see Panama for yourself.

Today we officially open registration for our one-and-only Live and Invest in Panama Conference of 2014, taking place in Panama City early in the New Year (Jan. 29-31). This will be your best chance both to come see Panama up-close and, at the same time, to put all your Panama questions to the real experts.

Over the two-and-a-half days of this event, Lief and I will be joined on stage by all our in-country experts and expat friends. Our agenda is straightforward--to show you Panama. Not the travel writer's Panama, but the real Panama, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We intend to show you everything you need to know to be able to make an informed choice.

Tens of thousands of folks just like you have already chosen to retire to Panama. Many thousands of others are here starting businesses, investing in property, reinventing their lives and taking control of their futures.

Is Panama the place where you should be thinking about doing these things, too?

Again, I don't know, but come on down to meet us here in January, and we'll help you find out.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Complete details of the program we’ve put together for this, the only Panama conference we’ll be holding in 2014, are here.

Every past Panama conference has sold out. We expect this one to sell out, as well, quickly. Please, therefore, if this country is on your radar, get in touch now to make sure you’re able to reserve a place in the room with us for the most important Panama event of 2014.

You can reach our conference team (Lauren Williamson and Alexis Bates) directly by e-mail or by phone, toll-free from the United States, at 1-888-546-5169.

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"My wife Julie and I were ready for a big change,” Lee continues. “We wanted an adventure, to take ourselves as far outside our comfort zones as possible. So, when this chance came along to retire well ahead of the timeline I'd had in mind, I jumped at it." 

Lee and Julie considered many options for where to retire overseas. Finally, they settled on Ecuador. It seemed to offer everything they were hoping for. 

"Sometimes people who've retired to other countries boast that their lives in their new countries are hardly different from the lives they left behind back in the States," Lee says. "That's not the case with Ecuador. Living in Ecuador, you never forget that you're in a foreign country. For Julie and me, this was one of the biggest attractions." 

However, the most important reason that Lee and Julie chose Ecuador as the place to reinvent their lives at this stage was the cost of living. 

"As we made our plan for where to go," Lee remembers, "the reality of what we were doing began to settle in. I was only 49 years old, for crying out loud. What if we ran out of money? I began to worry about being back in the States at age 75 looking for work." 

Lee spent a lot of time running the numbers and, finally, he and Julie found the courage to make the leap. 

"We satisfied ourselves," Lee explains, "that, in Cuenca, Ecuador, the city we'd focused on, my pension would allow us to live very comfortably." 

Lee and Julie were pioneers. Two of the original Cuenca retirees, in 2001 they received Visa 1 and Visa 2 from the New York consulate when they applied for legal Ecuadorean residency. 

"We lived in Cuenca for nine months before meeting another English-speaking couple," Lee says. "We didn't mind. We were having so much fun taking advantage of all we discovered that Cuenca had to offer. This is a very cultural city, with free symphony events, museums, and annual art shows. 

"The best news, though, during those early months," Lee continues, "was the realization I had that the cost of living was even lower than I'd estimated. Cuenca enjoys great mountain weather year-round. This means no heat and no air conditioning. I had underestimated the effect of the climate on our overall budget." 

The cost of living in Cuenca has increased steadily in the dozen years since Lee and Julie first took up residence. Still, this remains one of the most affordable options in the Americas. You can rent an apartment for as little as US$300 per month. More typical is US$500 monthly. Figure a total budget of US$1,600 per month if you rent; US$1,200 per month if you own your own home. 

And you may, indeed, decide to invest in a place of your own. The cost of real estate in this city is one of the greatest bargains in all of Latin America, cheaper than in Montevideo, Uruguay; Medellin, Colombia; Fortaleza, Brazil; Panama City; or most any other Central or South American destination you might consider. You could buy a small city condo for less than US$50,000. 

Gas, too, is cheap, and Ecuador is a great place for exploring by car. Lee says that he invested in a car soon after making the move, because he and Julie so enjoyed motoring around the country. He advises figuring an additional US$150 per month if you own a car. 

One thing to remember about Ecuador is that this country uses the U.S. dollar. For an American retiree, this means it's easier to understand what things really cost; it's easier to keep track of what you're really spending, month to month; and, very important, you don't have any currency-exchange risk. You may still have local inflation to contend with, but you won't have to worry about that being compounded when the exchange rate goes against you. 

Given his extended personal experience living and investing in this country, we’re delighted that Lee has agreed to act as host for our upcoming Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Guayaquil next month. The Early Bird Discount for this event remains in effect through Sept. 26. Details on the program we’ve put together with Lee’s help are here

Kathleen Peddicord

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“At least that’s the case if you believe all the rhetoric you read online,” I continued with a smile, recognizing that we’re among the leading promulgators of said rhetoric.

“Seriously,” I continued, “Panama remains one of the best places in the world to think about living, retiring, investing, or starting a business. However, today’s Panama is a very different place from the Panama of 10 years ago. It’s a different place today even from the Panama we moved to about five years ago.

“Plus, of course, no place is perfect, including Panama. Even ‘paradise’ has its downsides,” I reminded this week’s conference-goers.

Then, in that spirit, I reviewed 10 things that anyone thinking about spending time or money in Panama today needs to know to make a success of the effort, as follows:

#1: Panama City is no longer a cheap retirement choice.

The cost of living in Panama’s capital city has appreciated steadily over the past decade. As a result, today, Panama City no longer qualifies as a “cheap” place to call home. You can live modestly in this city on a budget of US$1,500 per month, but a more realistic monthly budget for an average couple of retirees would be US$2,000.

The cost of living elsewhere in Panama, however, can be much more affordable. A couple could retire to Santa Fe, for example, in the highlands of Panama, on as little as US$1,000 per month.

#2: Panama City rents aren’t cheap either.

The lion’s share of any retiree’s budget is typically given over to rent. This is an important part of the reason why the cost of living in Panama City can be considerably greater than the cost of living many other places in this country. A retired couple will spend US$1,000 or more per month to rent a comfortable apartment in an appealing Panama City neighborhood. Meantime, you could rent a small house at the beach on the Azuero coast, for example, for US$600 per month or less or a house in the mountains around Santa Fe for US$500 per month or less.

#3: Health care in Panama is international standard and costs a fraction the cost of comparable care in the United States.

However, both the standard and the cost of care can vary dramatically, not only from one part of the country to another, but also depending where you seek care in Panama City. The Johns Hopkins-affiliated Hospital Punta Pacifica in downtown Panama City offers facilities and services like those available at any metropolitan-based U.S. hospital for perhaps half the cost. However, Clinica Einstein, located in Panama City’s El Cangrejo neighborhood, offers many of the same services in a small, friendly, clean clinic environment where doctors and nurses speak English, lab tests can be processed on site, and prices are half as much or less than those at Hospital Punta Pacifica...meaning they’re one-fourth as much as U.S. costs.

#4: Panama offers many options for establishing legal residency.

However, the great numbers of foreigners, especially foreign retirees, migrating to this country over the past several years has resulted in a backlog at the Department of Immigration that can mean months of delays getting your visa processed and approved.

A new visa option, however, created by Executive Decree in 2012, offers a short-cut. This “Friends of Panama” visa, as it’s referred to, can be processed in weeks instead of months and can even result in a work permit.

#5: Panama is not the banking haven it once was.

When current President Ricardo Martinelli signed an exchange-of-information tax agreement with the United States in 2010, he ended the country’s position as a banking haven. Still, though, Panama, home to more than 80 banks, remains an international banking center.

#6: Panama has used the U.S. dollar as its currency since 1904.

This is an important advantage for American retirees today who don’t have to worry about exchange risk.

#7: Panama is known as the “Hub of the Americas” for a reason.

This is an ideal base from which to explore Central and South America. Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport is currently being expanded from 34 gates to more than 50 gates, and Panama’s airline Copa offers regular flights to every Latin American country and is adding more routes all the time.

#8: Panama City is hot and humid year-round.

However, elsewhere in the country the climate can be very different and much more appealing. On the coast outside the capital, the hot temperatures are tempered by ocean breezes, and in the mountains around Boquete, for example, the climate is cool and crisp year-round...even chilly.

#9: Panama City is bursting with nightlife...

Including five-star restaurants, casinos, night clubs, gentleman’s clubs, sports bars, pubs, discos...

However, this is not a place to come for what you might call “high culture.” If your favorite thing to do on a Friday evening is to attend the opera or a live theater performance, Panama may not be the place for you.

#10: Panama’s program of special benefits for pensionados is the Gold Standard.

As a pensionado, you’ll enjoy discounts on most anything and everything you buy.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. My opening remarks for this week’s Live and Invest in Panama Conference were recorded

As I write, our preferred Panama health insurance agent Gonzalo de la Guardia is addressing the group, detailing their best options for both health care and health coverage in this country. 

Earlier, our recommended Panama attorney Rainelda Mata-Kelly reviewed the best options for establishing residency in this country...and resident Panama property expert Lief Simon armed conference attendees with everything they need to know about shopping for a place to live in this country.

We recorded these presentations, too...and we’ll continue to record every presentation and discussion over the two-and-a-half days of this event. When the final speaker leaves the stage Friday afternoon, our team will set to work editing the complete collection of recordings and packaging them into our all-new Live and Invest in Panama Home Conference Kit.

While the conference continues, however, this all-Panama resource is available pre-release for 50% off the launch price. Details are here.

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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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