The Best Retiree Benefits in the World in 2012

There are a number of special benefits, discounts and breaks you can gain access to as a retiree overseas. In countries like Ireland, Brazil or Chile, for example, you’ll get discounts on public transport, utilities, importing your household goods and more.

But some countries stand out for the amount and quality of benefits they offer foreign retirees. Panama tops the category with an organized program of discounts and perks called the pensionado. The program is open to foreigners and there’s no minimum age requirement.

Panama, Scored: 100/100

Panama’s pensionado program, or pensioner visa program, is extremely generous.

What You Get:

  • 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, theaters, concerts, sporting events)
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
  • 25% off airline tickets
  • 25% off monthly energy bills
  • 30% to 50% off hotel stays
  • 15% off hospital bills
  • 10% off prescription medicines
  • 20% off medical consultations
  • 15% off dental and eye exams
  • 20% off professional and technical services
  • 50% off closing costs for home loans, and more…

If you become a pensionado, you’ll also be entitled to a one-time exemption of duties on the importation of household goods (up to $10,000) and an exemption every two years of duties for the importation or, better yet, local purchase of a car.

Plus, Panama’s pensionado law stipulates that anyone entering the country as a qualified pensioner is guaranteed that status for as long as he resides here. That means that even if future laws change the pensionado requirements, your status will be grandfathered in…it won’t ever change.

The Rules:

All overseas documents to be presented to the authorities in Panama must be authenticated by a notary and by the Panamanian consulate nearest you, or by a notary and Apostille. The Apostille (as per The Hague Convention of 1961) is a faster way of authenticating documents and in the U.S. can be obtained through the secretary of state in your home state; in the U.K., this can be done through the Foreign Office. In Canada, please check with the Panamanian embassy/consulate nearest you.

  • All documents must be valid (within two months of visa application) and passports must be valid for at least another year from time of application
  • Dependents: Bring a marriage certificate. However, original marriage certificates are not acceptable for the visa application if over two months old, so you’ll probably need to request a copy. If you have cdependents under 25 that you’ll be including on your application, you’ll need to bring valid birth certificate copies (not originals)
  • All visa applications require that you obtain a health certificate in Panama
  • All visas require a clean police record from your last place of residence
  • All visas require 6–9 passport-size photos (gentlemen in suit and tie; ladies in long sleeves).

In the past, the government of Panama has allowed any adult who could show proof of a monthly pension of any kind (from the age of 18 upward) to qualify for a pensionado (retiree) visa. As in the past, if you are receiving a pension from a government entity or a well-known international company, age is not an issue. You must simply provide proof of adequate income. However, if you are on a private pension, the pensionado visa is available to you if you are of retirement age (50 or older). The age of your spouse (if applying as dependent) will not be considered on the age limitation.

For many years, pensioners with a qualified pension of $500 per month were entitled to apply, but in August 2008 the pensionado requirements finally changed. Now you must draw a minimum pension of $750 and invest at least $100,000 in property in Panama or you must have a pension of at least $1,000 per month (no real estate requirement). However, there is a plus: you may now pool your pension with your spouse’s to meet the minimum pension requirement.

A big new plus: you may now pool your pension with your spouse’s pension to meet the minimum pension requirement, provided you’ll be applying together.

Ready to take your plans for a comfortable, benefit-packed retirement in Panama from daydreams to practicalities? Then this is your next step.

Ecuador, Scored: 98/100

Ecuador has a little-known retirement program that could save you thousands of dollars a year. Ecuador’s senior-citizen discount program is intended to help its own citizens. But the country’s constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens—so as a retiree, you’ll enjoy the same benefits.

These include:

  • 50% off public and private transportation within the country (including the Galápagos)
  • 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events, including movies
  • 50% off electric and water bills (below certain usage levels)
  • Free domestic landline phone service (does not include long distance and other services)
  • You’ll also get 50% off international airfares on Taca, Copa, or AeroGal for round-trip flights originating in Ecuador

Best of all, you never have to stand in line. If you’re a senior citizen, when you make a bank deposit or pay your utility bill, it’s the law that you go directly to the front of the line.

When you’re over 65, you pay lower income tax. And you get any money spent on VAT (value-added tax) refunded each month—up to about $250.

The Ecuadorian government also guarantees senior citizens access to free health care and medication, and exemption from notary and registration fees.

“All expats are able to participate in the Ecuador Social Security medical program,” explains Jack Moss who, with his wife Debbie, retired to Cotacachi two years ago.

“There are no exams necessary for those under age 60. Over 60 there are a series of medical tests, but a pre-existing condition is not a reason to be denied coverage. The premium is about $57 a month, and there is no co-pay or deductible for physician visits, hospitalization, medications, or dental visits.”

Mexico, Scored: 91/100

The Mexican government has worked its own array of benefits into law which retirees can take advantage of. With either an FM-2 or an FM-3 residence visa, you can:

  • Sign up for Mexico’s national health insurance coverage, called IMSS. This has a top rate of less than $300 a year—for both medical care and medicines.
  • Get a senior citizen’s card once you’re 60 years old through INAPAM, Mexico’s national senior citizens’ organization. With an INAPAM card from your Mexican state government, you can get discounts off a variety of goods and services, including medical care and devices; airline and bus tickets; entrance fees to concerts, museums, and archaeological sites; and even get a discount on your property taxes.
  • With an FM-3 you can bring your foreign-plated car to Mexico and keep it here. If you switch to an FM-2 you’ll need to get a Mexican-plated car.

With the FM-2 you can be exempt from capital gains tax when you sell a Mexican property, just as Mexicans are.

For more information on the various types of visa which you might qualify for if you chose Mexico, see here.

You can read full details of International Living’s Retirement Index 2012 here.

Further Reading


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