To live the big city life for less and enjoy a world-class retirement look no farther than the San Francisco neighborhood of Panama City.
I chose to live in San Francisco because of its walkability, its amenities, and just how close it is to the kind of action that makes for a great city life…and from gourmet delis to evenings at the opera, I enjoyed every minute.
A 10- or 15-minute walk away is the massive Atlapa Convention Center, which is host to a massive range of exhibitions and events. I’ve been to everything from handicraft expos to orchestra performances, book fairs, and more. (It’s hard to resist when you’re getting such bargain prices; you’ll likely spend 25% to 50% less than you might in the U.S. or Canada for similar events.)
I’ve seen the opera The Barber of Seville here for $25, and I’ve attended jazz jam sessions for free. Before a show, I always have dinner at Jimmy’s, across the street. The Greek pizza is just $7 and local lagers are $3.
I save a lot in San Francisco during the summer months of December through April, too, by attending the many free events at Omar Park. The best is Musicalion—five days of concerts in January. This year there were over a hundred artists presenting everything from ballet to acoustic guitar to blues. Friends and I went to Purolove restaurant for a gourmet meal—appetizer, main course, and juice, for just $13.50—this year. Then we sat on the Omar Park green and enjoyed live classic rock (in English, no less).
Outside of the free events, Omar Park is a lively and lovely place to be. People from all walks of life enjoy the park year-round. They come to play, picnic in the shade of massive trees, or just sit and enjoy the general splendor.
You’ll find a good range of rentals around here—some overlooking the Pacific. Many are new and available long-term for $900 to $1,600 a month. (Older ones that go for less are typically walk-ups and on busy arteries like Via Porras.)
Apartments in the $1,000 to $1,200 range come with good perks. One such unit is an 840-square-foot, one-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, near the top of a building with a rooftop pool. It boasts expansive views of the city from its glass-panel balcony. It comes with all major appliances and the building has a social area and a fitness center. Another is 1,075 square feet and in a building with a pool. Plus it’s just steps from the Omar Park. You could walk there every day to buy fruit and vegetables for much less than in supermarkets.
Similar apartments sell for $140 to $165 a square foot. But you can find good bargains for less. I liked the look of a $145,000 unit—nearly 1,100 square feet for two bedrooms and three baths, furnished. I’m talking appliances, air conditioning, LCD television…the works.
Like many others in this area, the apartment comes with a 15-year property tax exemption. The building has a doorman and a social area overlooking Omar Park.
Next to the building is a white and blue public hospital. Panama‘s public hospitals are very affordable but mostly I go to private clinics where the wait time is short. From San Francisco you could walk or take a $2 cab ride to prestigious Hospital San Fernando. A consult here runs $20 to $45. If you’re a resident retiree you pay 20% less. I’m too young for the discount, but with my insurance (about $70 a month) my co-pays are $10 to $17. Oh, and I get 20% off medication at the pharmacy next door.