7/14/21 – “For God’s Sake, Why Panama?”
FULL DISCLOSURE – Christopher Minori is not a werewolf. He is, however, a US Expat living in Panama.
Four years ago, my wife and I had an argument. That’s not to say we haven’t argued before or since, but this is one of the most important arguments of our life together (not counting the one we had where I wanted to make love on a giant pile of Oreos). My wife was 40, and I was 51. I mentioned my plan was to retire early, at 60 years old. By then, my house would be paid off, I have no debts, and my investments and 401k have done well. Should be a piece of cake for me to retire, right? Not so much.
In America, we have a terrible health care problem. Before ACA, the cost of healthcare was outrageously high. After ACA, the building blocks to make healthcare affordable for all citizens were put in place, but republicans and democrats argue so much about it, that no one is fixing the holes. Because of that cost, there was no guarantee that I could retire before getting medicare at 67. Sixty fucking seven!
I dunno who mentioned it first, but we watch a lot of International House Hunters and realized how cheaply you could retire in another country. Beach houses for $150k, home rentals as low as $300 a month. And health care that’s crazy cheap. We spoke with our financial guy; he worked out a budget and said if we could live on that, we could both retire! So we made a list to figure out where we wanted to go. The list included:
- Had to be close to the US
- Had to fit in our budget
- Had to be warm
- Had to be laid back
Immediately, UK, Whales, Canada, and Saturn were all off the list. We started looking at Ecuador, but it was too far away and they treat women like shit. I don’t mean the way Americans treat women like shit; Ecuador seems to have perfected it. From there, we moved on to Mexico. There were some nice areas, but none of them called out to us. Next, we looked at Spain, nixed it, and finally, it came down to Costa Rica or Panama. Costa Rica was a bit more expensive, a lot more touristy, and still suffers from those random T-Rex attacks, so we settled on Panama. If you look through Internet articles on the best places to retire out of the country, Panama is nearly always at the top of the list. And the Internet’s never wrong, yeah?
Next, we had to figure out where in Panama to live. We found a town called Boquete, which has one of the highest expat populations, so we could get by with English and pantomime until we learned Spanish. ¡Se muy poco español!
Also, because of the high altitude (about 3000 – 4000’ above sea level), the average temperature here is about 74f and in celsius, it’s even cooler! The people here are wonderful and laid back; I mean, really laid back. Imagine the most laid back place you can think of, and then immediately forget it, because it’s got nothing on Panama. And the healthcare– amazing. But I’ll discuss that more fully in a future post.
Four years later, our plans finally cemented, and here we are. We’re living in paradise. We’ve got our Panamanian resident cards. Wife is retired and I’m still working (that’s called “irony”, folks). I love my job, tho, so that’s really my choice and a continual salary gives me a safety net.
What I’ve learned from all this is that the American Dream is still possible. Just not in America.But if you can broaden your mind, and think outside the box, you could retire in paradise, too. In fact, I’ve got an extra room. Come on down.