The immediate answer to the question of “why” is because I want to retire from the corporate world and do my own thing, on my own terms. I’m looking for a greater measure of freedom and autonomy.
For a long time, I figured retirement wasn’t in my future, but as I started looking abroad for alternatives to scraping by in this country in my old age, my hopes of actually living without working every day were revived. So I learned how much I would receive in Social Security at different ages, and calculated where I could live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle on that amount of money.
Panama checked those financial boxes, but so much more beyond that! First, there’s the climate – I chose the interior highlands because I overheat easily, and it’s easier to throw on a jacket if it gets cool than to try to cool off if I get too hot.
I was also attracted to the mountain area, because Oklahoma is pretty flat where I grew up, and I wanted to see some shape to the land, just to experience something visually different.
And then (back to the financial attractiveness of Panama), they have a fabulous list of discounts for those holding pensionado (retiree) visas:
- One time duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
- Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
- 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
- 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
- 25% off airline tickets
- 50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
- 30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
- 25% off at restaurants
- 15% off at fast-food restaurants
- 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
- 10% off prescription medicines
- 20% off medical consultations
- 15% off dental and eye exams
- 20% off professional and technical services
- 50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
- 25% discounts on utility bills
- 15% off loans made in your name
- 1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence
Those are some pretty attractive discounts, especially the 25% savings on airline tickets!
On the cultural side of things, I was pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of strangers. As I walked around town on my February visit, many people I passed actually greeted me with a smile and a friendly Hola! or Buenas! as we passed. It was very refreshing, and I could easily get used to that! One of my fellow tour group members explained that buenas is kind of a shorthand greeting – so instead of saying buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon), or buenas noches (good evening), a short and sweet Buenas! covers a greeting at any time of the day or night. Pretty cool!
So, for those who ask me, “Why Panama?” my answer is that I think it will be beneficial on several levels – financial (lower cost of living), social (friendly people), physical (walking more, lots of fresh local fruits, vegetables, and seafood), and psychological (slower pace, less stress and negativity). I think it will provide a stimulating framework to enjoy the later chapters of my life. And isn’t that a worthy goal for any of us? I think so!