From special discounts to front-of-line privileges, the respect for elderly citizens and residents shines through in these three countries, ranked best in the world for retiree benefits in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014.
Panama Takes Care of Its Pensionados
Year after year, Panama consistently comes first for incredible retiree discounts. With a perfect score of 100 in this category of the Retirement Index, Panama defends its title as the best place in the world where special benefits are given to retirees. No other country in the Index does more for retirees.
It’s all thanks to the Pensionado or Pensioner Program. Any adult, of any age, may apply, provided he can show proof of a monthly pension of $1,000.
The Pensionado Program is easy and inexpensive to get and it provides foreigners with permanent residence. The wide array of discounts makes the overall value unbeatable. As a Pensionado you are entitled to 50% off entertainment, including movies, theaters and sporting events anywhere in the country. That means that while everyone else is paying $5 for a movie ticket, as a Pensionado you instantly get $2.50 off.
In addition to this you will receive 30% off bus, boat and train fares; 25% off airline tickets; between 30% and 50% off hotel stays; between 15% and 25% off at restaurants; and between 10% and 20% off health care costs.
Two other big benefits of the Pensionado Program are a one-time exemption from duties on the importation of household goods up to the value of $10,000 and an exemption every two years from luxury tax when importing or buying a car locally.
You can enjoy these discounts no matter which residence permit you have. Legal residents of Panama—age 60 and over for men, and 55 and over for women—can ask for the discounts even if they are not Pensionados. This does not include the duty or luxury tax exemptions.
Ecuador: Retiree Discounts Make an Already Low Cost of Living—Even Lower
Ecuador is ranked second in the retiree benefit category. If you’re aged 65 and older and are looking for an incentive to retire to Ecuador, you’ve come to the right country. Ecuador’s constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights as citizens, so even though there is no official government program for expats, you can still enjoy the same benefits as the locals. While Ecuador has a smaller program of benefits than Panama, it is still impressive and immensely helpful.
With the over-65 discount program you are entitled to 50% off public and private transportation within the country, 50% off tickets for all cultural and sporting events, 50% off electric and water bills (below certain usage levels), and reductions in a variety of taxes, including income and sales tax.
Residence status will allow you to import your household goods duty-free. One of the most popular discounts for foreign residents is the 50% airfare reduction for international travel offered by airlines such as Taca, Copa Airlines, and Ecuador’s AeroGal. All three offer flights to the U.S. The discount applies to round-trip tickets purchased in Ecuador for flights originating within the country. The discount is available to all citizens and residents over the age of 65.
The icing on the cake of retiring in Ecuador is that citizens and residents over 65 never have to stand in line. If you’re a senior citizen, when you make a bank deposit or pay a bill, it’s the law that you go directly to the front of the line.
Costa Rica—Join the 50,000 Expats Who Have Gone Before You
Costa Rica is a popular retiree destination due to its tropical Pacific and Caribbean Coasts and its cool Central Valley. There are more than 50,000 expats living in Costa Rica and many well-established expat communities.
All residents must join the public health care system, known as La Caja, and retirees pay a very low monthly fee.
A big draw for retirees is Costa Rica’s impressive retiree program. To qualify you must have an income of $1,000 or more per month from Social Security, disability benefits, a pension, or a similar source. Only one spouse must show income, and then they can add their partner as a dependent. You must stay in the country at least four months out of the year.
The Ciudadano de Oro, or Gold Citizen, program is available to those over 65. Members get free bus rides and discounts of up to 50% on eyeglasses, medication, clothing, groceries, and more at thousands of participating retailers throughout the country.
Senior citizens and the disabled get head-of-the-line privileges at banks and government offices by law, and the same is usually extended by custom at stores and other businesses.
International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014 ranks the top retirement havens from all over the world across the most important categories for retirees. In the Special Benefits category, we consider whether retirees get a better deal than everyone else for health care, importing goods, entertainment, airfare, utilities, tax rates, residence and more.
Please remember that we measure only the very best havens. So the country that comes “last” is still one of the best in the world.
If you are a retiree looking to move overseas then you could benefit from these great discounts in any of the above countries. To read the full article on this year’s Global Retirement Index, see here.