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.

Las Lajas beach, about 1 1/2 hours away from Boquete. It’s a great place to hang out and enjoy a nice piña colada!

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!

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