“We were paying $1,000 a month for health insurance with a huge deductible. Our property taxes and property insurance kept going up…and up…and up…We would have lost our home and ‘gone under’ had we stayed in Florida.”- Ellen Cook and John JulyWork ‘til you drop or retire with dignity.This was the dilemma facing Ellen Cook and John July.Living in St. Augustine, Florida, and facing retirement, they were struggling to get by. Both self employed, they knew they’d never be able to afford their $1,000/month health insurance bill on their Social Security and small pension benefits.Not only that, but their property taxes and insurance costs kept going up and up…So Ellen and John took control. They sold their home in Florida and moved to Panama.Why do something so drastic? Panama made it well worth their while.Panama’s retirement incentive program was “the biggest factor in our decision-making process,” Ellen says, especially when it comes to mega discounts on world-class medical care.A cancer survivor, Ellen pays $1 to see an oncologist for regular check-ups and $1.50 for physical therapy treatments she needs for a knee injury.It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Panama is blessed with a year-round warm, tropical climate and gorgeous beaches. Nor that the cost of living is off-the-charts lower than Florida.”For just $135,000 we purchased a wonderful little 20-year-old house five years ago on a quiet street with a lot of space,” says Ellen. “It has three bedrooms and two baths, a living and dining area, and upstairs we have an art room. We also have a big lot with lots of palm trees, a wonderful back patio and so many songbirds.”Ellen and John are now living happily and more comfortably than everin Coronado Beach, the country’s most popular beach community just an hour from Panama City. There’s a golf course, an equestrian center, loads of great restaurants, three shopping centers with several 24-hour upscale supermarkets, and a modern medical clinic.But the best thing about living here, says Ellen, is the low price tag of it all. Sure, real estate prices have risen since Ellen and John bought their home, but their total monthly living expenses amount to no more than $1,500. That includes utilities, insurances, property taxes, internet, gas for the car, medical bills…It even includes food, “which is a big part of our spending,” Ellen says. “We mostly eat at home but we go out to dinner once a week.”Evenings out are spent at a nearby pizza place listening to live music. John is a musician himself and enjoys sitting in on occasion. He also enjoys the $1 beers, Ellen says. Their nights out rarely cost more than $20 to $25 total, thanks to their pensionado discount. (Retirees in Panama get 25% off restaurant meals.)”For a splurge,” she says, “we might fly in a friend’s private plane to Contadora and back for $45 each, pitching in for gas. This is one of the Pearl Islands, where we can rent a boat and go whale watching or snorkeling for four hours for $40 each. If we eat lunch over there, that’s another $10 each. We also like to go to Casco Viejo in Panama City and eat at a sidewalk cafe on the plaza…$25 total for the both of us.”Life in Panama is better than ever, Ellen says.”Dealing with the shifting sands of the economy in the States was very stressful,” she says, “so we’re free from all tha tnow, and it is a wonderful feeling.”More than any other destination that International Living covers, Panama is -hands down - the most popular. And there are so many reasons why…So what is it about Panama that makes it one of the world’s top retirement destinations? Besides the perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and low cost of living? A lot of it has to do with those extraordinary retirement incentives I mentioned earlier…Panama’s Pensionado Program is the most generous and appealing program of special benefits you’ll find anywhere in the world today.Best of all, you needn’t be of “official” retirement age to qualify.No matter your age, you can qualify for Panama’s PensionadoProgram — widely recognized as the best retirement program in the world. Just provide documentation of a guaranteed pension income of $1,000 a month from a government agency (e.g. social security, disability, armed forces) or corporation. If you buy a home in Panama valued at $100,000 or more, that amount is reduced to just $750 per month.As a qualified pensionado in Panama, you’re entitled to:50% off entertainment–such as movies, theaters, concerts, and sporting events — anywhere in the country50% off closing costs for home loans and more…50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday30% off bus, boat, and train fares25% off airline tickets25% off at restaurants20% off medical consultations20% off professional and technical services15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)15% off dental and eye exams10% off prescription medicinesAnd more…You’re also entitled to a one-time exemption from duties on the importation of your household goods (up to $10,000). And a tax exemption every two years on the importation or local purchase of a car. But don’t just take it from me…The AARP says that Panama is a “smart choice for retirees who want it all.”Business Week dubbed it “the New Florida.”Forbes reports, “It truly can be paradise.”And the Washington Post says:”With all of its benefits and active expatriate community, Panama is among the most affordable and appealing options for retirees.”In Panama you can have it all: a genuinely cosmopolitan capital city with one of the world’s largest financial districts…hundreds of miles of spectacular beaches…highland retreats with green valleys where the weather is spring-like, even in January and August…and did you know that there are never any hurricanes?If you crave sunshine, you’ll love Panama, where the sun shines almost every day of the year. Probably why The New York Times named it the number one place to visit in 2012.So please, don’t put off your dreams of a better, less-stressful (and lower cost) life any longer…The very best way to find out if Panama is right for you ? International Living’s 2013 Fast-Track Panama: Lifestyle and Opportunity ConferenceRIU Plaza Hotel, Panama City, PanamaApril 4-6, 2013 If you were unable to join us and discover everything you need to know about Panama in April, please check back soon to view the recordings of this information packed event.These recordings will help you decide if it’s your ideal retirement or relocation destination… Come away with all the knowledge and contacts necessary to make your move happen with confidence.