Cost Of Living Enigmas
This month’s issue of the Overseas Retirement Letter (due in subscribers’ e-mailboxes March 15) features a full report on living, in retirement or otherwise, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.
After an extended search for the ideal place to settle…after considering and rejecting a series of other countries and regions…Contributing Editor Lucy Culpepper and her family have chosen to settle here, in the “other” South of France.
And Lucy’s report on why makes a point worth highlighting.
This cost of living thing is an enigma.
If someone asked you to name the cheapest places in the world to live, you (especially if you’ve been reading these dispatches carefully) might suggest Ecuador or Uruguay…Thailand or India…Nicaragua or China.
You wouldn’t name France. But Lucy’s firsthand account of life in a village in Languedoc makes the point that you should.
In fact, this “other” France is a surprisingly affordable place to call home. Lucy explains that a couple could live here on a budget of as little as US$750 a month if you own your own home. Or you could rent a comfortable, even charming two-bedroom apartment for as little as US$650 a month.
Meaning that, even if you rent, an American, for example, could live in this part of France on his Social Security alone.
It’s hard to argue with that.
Especially when you remind yourself what that monthly budget would be buying you—a new life…a grand adventure…in historic French wine country.
Does it get any better?
Plus, France boasts the world’s best health care (at no cost if you’re a legal resident) and, in my experience, one of the world’s top public education systems (again, free if you’re a resident).
Lucy and her family considered Panama, Costa Rica, and elsewhere in the Americas. In the end, they opted for life in the Old World.
Seeing Lucy’s report, in production now, I have to admit that, if I were at a different stage of my life (that is, if I weren’t trying to grow a business, for France is certainly not the place to do that), I’d join them.
Kathleen, I will be traveling to Panama in a few weeks and staying seven days. I have never been there before, but I want to check out some of the claims you have been writing about in the year or so that I have been reading your newsletter. I figured the only way to know for sure is check it out for myself.
“Now I need your expertise. In the short time I will be in the country, do you have any suggestions about where I should look for best prices for a home or property as a future residence? I am pushing 62 years of age. I am still in pretty good health, but, by nature, time is running out.
“I would also greatly appreciate your recommendations for economical hotels in a safe area of Panama City.”
— R.P., United States
You’re right, dear reader. The only way to know for sure if Panama makes sense for you is to come see the place for yourself.
As it will be your first visit to the country, I’d suggest you try to see key regions beyond Panama City, including the beach areas just outside the capital (especially Coronado, which can be reasonably priced, is home to a growing expat community, is an easy drive from Panama City, and has a new hospital); El Valle (which is more expensive but, in my view, more charming…plus, thanks to its altitude, it boasts better weather); and Boquete (you should see this town, which is home to the most established community of expat retirees in the country…on the other hand, it’s more developed and therefore more expensive).
Best land (mountain and river) and beach buys (the west coast of the Azuero peninsula) to be made in the country right now are in the Veraguas Province.
The market in Panama City has softened considerably in the past six months and continues to settle. This is a good time to begin looking in the capital…but not yet the time to buy. I’d say use this first visit as an opportunity to get your bearings and to identify which areas of the city appeal to you and which don’t. Make your interests known to two or three real estate agents. Explain what you want to buy, in what location, and within what budget. Then wait for the deals to come to you.
Our top recommended real estate agent in Panama City is Giulia Gonzalez, who we’ve been working with for more than five years. Reach Giulia here: GGonzalez@LiveandInvestOverseas.com.
Regarding hotels: First, make your reservations now. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find a room. While the Panama City real estate market is softening…the Panama City hotel market is not.
Second, don’t be shocked by hotel rates. They’re higher than they should be.
Here are a few recommendations for budget hotels in the capital:
- Hotel Milan, in El Cangrejo; double room US$57.75 a night
- Hotel El Prador, in El Cangrejo; double room US$95 a night, including breakfast
- Apart-hotel Las Vegas, in El Cangrejo, double room US$88 a night, including Internet