Mike and Fran Smith lived in Florida and wanted to escape the constant barrage of tropical storms every season. They researched several countries and when Mike, an engineer, received his retirement package from Chevron, they decided to make Panama their permanent residence.
That was 13 years ago—and they have never looked back. Mike says, “We enjoy going for a drive on the beach one day, then driving into the mountains the next.” They feel like Panama is stuck in a romantic time period and offers a comfortable atmosphere for retirees. They enjoy the upgrades to roads, traffic lights, and health facilities that continue to improve their living conditions.
One of the deciding factors for the Smiths in moving to Panama was that the country uses the U.S. dollar as its currency. They don’t have to worry or think about an exchange rate.
When asked about their concerns for their health, Mike says that they have a healthier lifestyle here in Panama. “I love to cook. It really relaxes me and we eat mostly at home. In the States, we were always eating out and our choices were not that healthy.” They can purchase fresh vegetables from the nearby farmers’ markets. They spend about $10 to $20 for vegetables and $100 on other groceries per week. The Smiths have a farm and enjoy picking their oranges when they ready.
The Smiths lived in several places in Panama before settling down at their beach home in Barqueta Nice, a community on the black-sand beaches of the Pacific coast, a short drive from the city of David. Here, they are not burdened with huge property taxes and insurance bills, like in the States. In fact, because of their retiree status, the Smiths do not pay any property taxes. This helps stretch their pension and retirement funds a lot further. With monthly expenses of around $1,800, paid mainly from their pension, the Smiths believe that they made the right choice in Panama. “Everything is reasonable here,” Mike said. “You can afford to stay within a budget.”
Being on the beach has its challenges, but Mike and Fran owned sailboats before moving to Panama, so they understand how salt can affect the maintenance of a beach home. Mike smiles when he says, “Everything rusts here. It’s a challenge to keep up on all the maintenance but we keep the locals busy.”
Mike has also installed solar panels on their house, which can now function fully on solar power. He was determined to live a little off the grid, and is also concerned about the environment, so wants to do his part to preserve it.
Mike and Fran both enjoy fishing in the Caribbean Sea, as well as remodeling and fixing up homes. Mike likes cooking and experimenting with various recipes while Fran designs jewelry and sells it at local flea markets.