When my husband first proposed the idea of retiring early outside of the U.S., I thought he was being unrealistic. Could we really afford to retire in our 50s if we found a place where we could live on less? I was skeptical…but I’m happy to report that we’ve been living that dream in Panama for over two years now and have never looked back. Here we could actually afford to retire, live comfortably and even travel.
The little country of Panama is fast becoming a haven for retirees, younger families with children and business owners alike. That’s because it has so much to offer those who arrive with a sense of adventure, looking for a better, more affordable way of life.
With its close proximity to the U.S., Panama offers year-round tropical temperatures near the beaches and cooler spring-like temperatures in the mountain regions. It sits outside of the hurricane zone, uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, and has large populations of expats throughout the country meaning it’s easy to make new friends.
Those looking to stretch their retirement dollars like us can take advantage of Panama’s pensionado program. This program offers retirees an endless list of discounts of 15% to 50% on just about everything…from hotels, movies, sporting events, utility bills, airline tickets, property taxes, restaurant meals and so much more. It’s rightly considered to be one of the best retirement programs in the world.
Panama also offers top-notch health care at ridiculously low prices, compared to those in the U.S.
We’ve seen a local doctor for $7, and I’ve had a mammogram done for $25. My gynecologist charges between $25 and $50 and I have his personal phone number in my cell phone, and have used it a few times. Many of the doctors here were trained in the U.S., speak fluent English and they all give patients their private cell phone numbers.
The same can be said for dental care where a cleaning costs between $15 and $35. Fillings, extractions and other routine procedures can be done at a fraction of the costs too.
And as for our furry little friends, we recently took our new puppy to a Panamanian vet who charged $7 for the office visit. He gave her several vaccinations, along with some oral medications and the total bill came to around $25.
For those who love to shop, Panama is home to many large, modern malls with crazy cheap prices. Shoes for $2 to $10, shirts for $2 to $7, jeans for $5 and up, curtains for $5 to $10, costume jewelry for under $1 and decorations for your home for $2 to $10. Every time we go into one of the malls I promise my husband that I won’t buy new clothes. But then I spot a cute blouse for 99 cents, and I can’t resist!
And for food, we love the mouthwatering, fresh, locally grown produce that can be found at roadside stands.
The selection includes: sweet, juicy pineapples, mangos, bananas, plantain, papaya, watermelon, onions, potatoes, peppers, coconut, and freshly squeezed juices to match. We fill three to four bags for under $15 and have enough to last for several weeks.
Local restaurants called “fondas” offer specials of rice, beans and meats for $3 to $4. The two of us can enjoy a pizza and drink for under $5 at our favorite spot, something we could never do back in the U.S.
But though the cost of living is low here, we enjoy the best of amenities. Panama offers modern roadways, a bus system that runs through the whole country, and even a pending subway system in Panama City. High-speed Internet is reliable, and makes it easy to keep in touch with those back in the States. And, when we want to feel like we’re in the U.S. for just a little while, satellite television brings the U.S. networks in English right into our home.
Living in Panama has proved to be the adventure of a lifetime that we’ll never regret. Each day we awake in our lush, tropical paradise thankful that we don’t have to go to work. And what’s not to love about that?
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