Early Retirement in David, Panama on $2,000 a Month

Nita Sosebee and Bernie Gaider lived in Colorado Springs before moving to Panama in January 2017. Both worked over 20 years in Colorado as software developers. “We were interested in trying out an early retirement, or at least reducing our work hours. But we knew if we stayed in the States, we would need to work full-time for another eight to 10 years,” says Nita. “We also thought that moving to a foreign country would be an adventure, provide the opportunity to learn a foreign language, and be a good learning experience overall.

“Now our lifestyle is just so much more relaxed than it used to be. And eating more at home and being active has been a boon for our health. We’ve become friends with many wonderful people and our life here continues to evolve and improve.

“We chose David, in Chiriquí province, because we liked the variety that it provides. We can be at the beach, in a city, or in the mountains within an hour’s drive.”

The couple has decided to rent until they get to know the region better. “It took us a little while to figure out how we wanted to spend our time,” says Nita, “and where we should live to allow us to be active and involved. I was also working part-time for the first six months that we were here, so that cut into the time we had to explore. Now, though, we live in a great neighborhood that has shopping nearby and has two big parks that provide a great walking area for us and our dog.

“Our weekly schedule usually includes tennis, pickleball, hiking, a movie, and a day at the beach.”

“Expenses are quite low compared to the U.S.,” Nita says. “Our normal monthly expenses are usually around $2,000. Our rent is $700 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a large, fenced-in lot. We use air conditioning in each room of the house, so our electric bill runs just under $100. Water and trash is $20. We pay about $60 a month for 10Mbps internet and cable. Groceries and household purchases tend to run between $400 and $500. Phone runs us $22 ($11 each). We purchased worldwide health insurance, but many people here don’t. The policy for both of us combined is $145 a month.”

That health insurance policy covers Nita and Bernie when they travel to other countries or back to the U.S., as well as for care in Panama. “We have only seen a medical doctor for minor issues but were impressed with the amount of time the doctor actually spends with you, instead of a nurse or an assistant. The office visit was $12 without any insurance. That is not a copay. It is the actual cost of the doctor’s visit. I paid $50 for a blood test and $20 for my antibiotics,” Nita says.

“The Panama experience can vary widely, based on how much you want to spend and what your expectations are,” says Nita. “We moved into a Panamanian-style house in a middle-class neighborhood in David, and it is night and day different to the North American-style housing you can get in some of the gated communities. Of course, the related cost is significantly different, too. But mostly, don’t expect the culture to adjust to you. Do your homework, set those expectations realistically, and you very likely won’t be disappointed.”

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