International retirement living is very much like 50 or 60 years ago where people were first coming to grips with the idea of retiring to Florida. Instead of retiring to Florida, for example, you retire to Panama or to any of a hundred other nations. And you simply choose those and move there.
Panama has a wonderful combination of factors. It’s a democracy. The dollar is the currency, so there’s no foreign exchange nonsense, or anything of that sort to deal with. The government is very stable. It’s a free society. The Panama Canal is a wonderful source of income. It gives them economic stability.
There are certain financial advantages to retiring to a country like Panama. Generally speaking, I would say the average range is between 20% and 50% less expensive to live in Panama than in the U.S. It’s always a question of your lifestyle. It’s always possible to spend too much money. But on the whole, most Americans who go, find substantial reductions in their food costs, in their housing, and a number of different areas.
In terms of rent, there’s several different levels. You can find places, unfurnished, for $400 or $500 a month. You can find beautiful places for $2500 a month if you really want to. But there’s a wide range, and in comparison to most of the metropolitan areas of the United States, it’s substantially cheaper.
It’s not really difficult to leave family and friends behind. In today’s world, it’s so easy to get back and forth. It’s just a few hours away from the States by plane. And with the internet and email, you’re really in communication all the time.
Panama has had the Canal for so long. They have so many language groups in the country. About 1 out of every 7 Panamanians speaks English as a second language. You pick up some Spanish, they have some English. Even if they don’t speak it fluently, people find ways to communicate. It is not a great challenge.
Healthcare is excellent. It’s one of the positive factors about Panama. Their hospitals are very fine hospitals. One of the most recently built ones is an affiliate of Johns Hopkins here in the United States. So they have very top notch equipment. They have well trained doctors, trained in the United States and so forth. And the expenses are substantially lower than they are here.
Panama isn’t the only place to go. I encourage people to move where they want to go. That’s a decision that’s very personal. I don’t say that Panama is right for everyone by a long shot. Quite a few people are interested in Asia. Thailand is a very popular place. For me, it’s simply too many timezones away. It’s too long a flight. It would really be too far from the U.S. That’s why I prefer the Central America Caribbean region. There are a large number of people who move to Europe to various locations. So it’s a wide world, and there’s a lot of possibilities.
If you were interested in further researching this, I think the first thing to do is get an idea of what country might interest you. Look around the various websites that talk about different countries and then narrow in from there. When you find a place that interests you, get in the plane and go. The worst that will happen to you is that you’ll have a wonderful vacation and see something new. But you may also be finding your next home.