Baby Boomer’s Finding Retirement Homes in Panama
The first wave of baby boomers hit retirement age in 2011. This much anticipated wave of the largest demographic born between 1946 and 1964 reaching retirement are facing serious decisions.
Per US statistics, only 54% of baby boomers have saved enough for retirement to last them all of retirement in USA. Loss of investment income or retirement savings can lessen the chances of making a full break from work and career. Many are forced to delay or abstain completely from leaving the workforce.
As retirement age looms, downsizing or relocation may become a necessity. When you begin looking for other options, a key goal may be to reduce your cost of living to stretch your nest egg for as long as possible. Planning the next phase of your life, the well educated, travelled and adventurous baby boomers may opt to retire in a new country.
60% of people in the 50 – 64 year age group, which is most of the boomer population, are now on at least one social media site. Facebook is by far the most popular social media site for baby boomers (Colorado University, 2016)
It might surprise you to learn that 96% of baby boomers use search engines, 95% use email, and 92% shop for products and services online rather than shopping in stores and shopping malls (Forbes, 2017)
This internet savvy, Google searching cohort has tools at their fingertips to easily research the best options for their retirement haven. For many, Panama tops out their list of requirements for climate, lower cost of living, and cheaper medical. Named “The best retirement haven in 2019” by International Living, many expats find their new home in the bustling city, cooler mountains or beach side communities of Panama.
Why move to Panama? Many personal factors weigh into making a significant lifestyle change. Cost of living, availability of quality health care, immigration requirements, access to international travel, stable economy, language, everything that mattered to us was researched.
As we searched in earnest for our retirement destination, we considered several tropical options. After the devastation of the 2016 hurricane season, our choices narrowed to one. In recorded history, Panama has never had a hurricane hit land. This was a significant determining factor in our decision.
A couple of visits, a quick cross country tour, and we knew we could make this work.
First of the decision hurdles passed, the next question becomes: Where do most expats live in Panama? Most retired expats choose to leave the bustle of the city, El Valle and Boquete in the mountains and Coronado in the beaches are most popular among expats. Each has significant expat communities offering many of the comforts and amenities of home.
To determine how many expats live in Panama, it is best to wait until after the national census in 2020. General estimates run between 20-30,000, largely made up of Canadians, Americans and Europeans but this is not an official statistic. With the significant population growth in Panama in the past ten years, the new census data will be interesting.
Visitors to Panama are allowed to stay in the country six months without a visa. Interestingly, you are only allowed to drive on a non-Panamanian license for three months. The visa is required to get your Panamanian drivers license. There is an option to leave the country for a few days to start the clock again but this will become an irritant after a time.
The next logical step is making your stay official. Panama retirement visa requirements are varied and dependent on the type of visa application, temporary or permanent. There are several options conducive to retirees.
The Pensionado visa is a great choice for those with a guaranteed monthly income of $1,000 USD per month in perpetuity or $750 per month with a real estate investment of $100,000 USD. There is no minimum or maximum age requirement and the benefits are significant.
You are able to import $10k in household goods and import a vehicle every two years exempt from duty.
Panama’s Pensionado program, known as the Jubilado, has numerous benefits and discounts.
Fifty percent discounts available on entertainment, closing costs on home loans, and hotel rates Monday to Thursday. Thirty percent discount on public transportation and weekend hotel bookings. Airline fares, utilities and restaurants are discounted 25%; medical consults, professional and technical services 20% and more. Panamanians and expats with any visa who meet the age requirements (women over 55 and men over 60) are entitled to and qualify for these discounts. The savings can be impressive: going to the movies is only $2.50 each, add in snacks and you still come in under $20 for an evening out for two.
Another popular visa option is the Friendly Nations visa. Fifty countries included in this group qualify for this visa which has an option to work included and can include one main applicant and dependents, spouse or dependent under 25 years old. To meet the requirements, applicant must have an employment contract, ownership of a new or existing corporation or real estate and deposit $5,000 USD (+ $2k per dependent) in a Panamanian bank.
A third option is the Self Economic Solvency or Person of Means visa. Deposit $300k USD for three years in a Panamanian bank, purchase $300k of Real Estate or a combination of the two totalling $300k to meet the requirement. This is a two year temporary visa with options to apply for permanent status as well as the right to Panamanian nationality and passport after eight years.
There are other visa options such as Large Investor, Second Passport, Professional Activities, and more not as popular with cost of living minded retiree expats. Our in-house Lawyer at Try Panama Real Estate can guide you through the steps and can direct you towards the options best suited for you and your family.
Lower cost of living, beneficial immigration and senior programs, tropical climate are impressive enticements. More expats are coming than going. A vast array of accommodations are for rent or sale, a knowledgeable agent can guide you through the search process to find the right fit and simplify the transaction. The Team at Try Panama are ready to answer any of your questions.
So when asked is Panama truly a retirement haven, if you seek a slower pace of life with less cost, available active social life in established expat communities, Panama may also make it to the top of your list.
Above and beyond all the technical details, Panamanian living is an experience. Outdoor living is one of the healthier advantages to living in the tropics.
Condos and houses alike all have outdoor areas, from balconies to bohios, often fully furnished with amenities such as running water. Being outdoors, particularly out of the city, has its own health perks. Breathing the fresh mountain or beach air, deeper sleep, reduced stress and cortisol can lead to improved well being. Retirement should be your time to chill, forget the everyday work world, breathe deeply and enjoy the next phase of life.
Consider the boomer population experienced the civil rights movement, assassinations, feminism, hippies, walking on the moon and may be the last group to enjoy consistent improvement in quality of life. Retirement is an opportunity to improve lifestyle and wellness, social interaction and engagement within the community.
For baby boomers ready for change and a bit of adventure, should I move to Panama? …becomes when can I move to Panama?