Panama regularly takes in expats and retirees from many Western countries including the United States. With its currency being pegged to the US dollar, its good power, water, air quality, and high-speed internet it is one of the best places to enjoy your retirement. In this article we will discuss the debate on weather you can retire in Panama on Social Security from the USA.
Panama offers multiple climates from the temperate mountains to the tropical Pacific region. It has most of the amenities and comforts that you would expect back home, and a huge expat and retiree community in the big cities.
Moreover, the dollar goes far in Panama that with just $1500 you could live quite comfortably, and with $2,500 you will live extremely well. Moreover, with its excellent healthcare and the world’s happiest people in 2013, it is no wonder many people are asking whether one can retire in Panama on social security.
The average Social Security benefit check in the United states in January 2017 was $1,461*. That alone for a single retiree qualifies you for the Pensionado Visa, which requires you have a lifetime pension of more than $1,000 per month. This is also the same for a couple. So, these numbers do show that you can retire in Panama on Social Security, but there may be some lifestyle changes that you may or may not be willing to make.. * Source
What a lot of people in the United States reaching retirement age are realizing, is that their cost of living has increased more than anticipated, and the monthly income that they will be provided in retirement, may not sustain the life style they currently have while working. They are looking at ways to decrease their cost of living without decreasing their lifestyle, thus looking for options to retire abroad, in lower cost of living countries.
This makes perfect sense. Why confirm your life to a lower standard of living, just so you have enough money monthly to live. Instead, find a cheaper place to live, so your monthly income goes further.
The Panama Pensionado (Retired) Visa
Panama welcomes anyone above the age of 18 to live in the country under the Panama Pensionado Visa if they can prove that they receive at least $1000 a month income for a lifetime. You could also get the Visa if you buy Panamanian real estate worth $100,000, which reduces the minimum monthly income to $750. With such a low amount to get a permanent residency visa, one could easily retire in Panama on social security. The cost of obtaining this visa for a couple, will be less than $2,000, and takes about 4 months, with a temporary visa coming in about 3 weeks.
The visa comes with the following perks:
One-time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
30% off bus, boat, and train fares
25% off airline tickets
50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
25% off at restaurants
15% off at fast-food restaurants
15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
10% off prescription medicines
20% off medical consultations
15% off dental and eye exams
20% off professional and technical services
50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
25% discounts on utility bills
15% off loans made in your name
1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence
Read more about the Pensionado Visa here.
Reasons to Retire in Panama
There are many reasons to retire in Panama but here are the most important:
Low Cost of Living
Like many Latin American countries, life is relatively cheap in Panama though it varies depending on the city you decide to live in. Nonetheless, with $1500 to $2000 a month, you should live pretty comfortably in Panama City, Boquete, Pedasi and Santa Fe. You could get rent for as low as $400 a month in the rural areas, and up to $00 a month is the expat communities. Cell service, Internet and utilities for just $85. You can ride the bus for just $0.35 and buy a whole month’s worth of groceries for just $250. All told if you have $2,000 a month lo live on as a couple, and take advantage of the Pensionado discounts, you can have all the good stuff such as gym memberships, dining out often, movie nights, beach weekends at the beach, with discounts.
The below chart will show you some example cost of budget living expenses in Panama, depending on where you live, this is for a single. For a couple, double the last 4 items on the list.
Excellent and Affordable Healthcare
Panama healthcare is probably one of the biggest reasons to retire in the country. Most private hospitals come with state-of-the-art facilities and many are associated with the best facilities in the US. For instance, the Punta Pacifica is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and is one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in Latin America.
Despite providing some good quality health care, you will pay a fraction of what you will pay were you to access similar level facilities in the US. For instance, a local co-pay health insurance plan will set you back about $150 a month for two people in their 60s, with a 25% co-pay. International full coverage plans for $175 a month each, with a $1,000 annual deductible. Moreover, you will qualify for discounts on fees, healthcare services and meds as a retiree. These prices are just estimates and examples, as everyone’s situation is different.
Also, dental care and eyecare are a fraction of the cost they are in the United States. This will also save you lots of money.
Depending on your interests, you will find that there is a lot to do in Panama. Among the activities on offer for the outdoor enthusiast include hiking, pickleball, birdwatching, zip lining, kayaking, tennis, river rafting, golf, and horseback riding. If you love the sea, Panama has tropical white sand beaches and clear blue waters for surfing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming. Panama is a photographer’s paradise with its variety of landscapes and abundance of wildlife.
Many retirees that have chosen to live in the mountains, often take weekend trips to the beach, 3 – 4 times a year. The drive is only an hour or so away, and a great inexpensive way to relax for a few days. This is like a mini vacation, that will cost a few hundred dollars to stay at a tropical beach location for a few days, as opposed to that annual weekly vacation to Hawaii or Mexico, which costs thousands.
Panama has the perfect climate that will allow you to enjoy stress-free living. Outside the hurricane zone in the north, the weather in Panama is predictability personified. The dry season temperature which lasts for the first half of the year typically has cloudless days with temperatures topping out at between 90 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even as there are many countries where you can find a low cost of living, Panama is one of those places that are excellent for retirees. Its excellent infrastructure, low cost of living, great climate, and affordable health care make it one of the best destinations if you are from the United States and are looking to retire in Panama on Social Security. But you must check things out first, as the lifestyle and culture in Panama is much different than back in the USA. And the lifestyle that you can get here, on your social security check, may not be what you are looking for.
Do remember, that the Panama lifestyle, is not for everyone, so you need to make sure that this is the place for you first. Join us on one of our Retire in Panama Tours, and over 7 days we will visit all the expat communities of panama, visit all the climates, sample the food, learn the culture, and meet with the professionals that you will need to get to know, like Lawyers, Insurance agents, real estate agents, that will make your move to this country an excellent experience.