10 Reasons to Retire in Panama

This sunny and affordable country could be your ideal retirement spot.


Panama is the world's best retirement haven. There is a check in every box on a would-be retiree’s wish list. Here are 10 reasons you should consider retiring in this sunny and affordable country.

The cost-of-living is affordable. Outside Panama City, the cost-of-living is downright cheap. For example, you could retire on the beach in Las Tablas, on the country’s Azuero Peninsula, on a budget of $1,200 per month or even less.

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The sun shines year-round. Panama City can be too hot and sticky for some retiree's tastes. But if you look beyond the capital, you will find pockets of near-perfect climates in some regions. If you prefer cool mountain temperatures to steamy sea-level ones, consider Boquete, an undiscovered and more affordable version of Santa Fe.

The retiree’s path is well worn. This country has been attracting foreign retirees in growing numbers for more than a decade. It offers many user-friendly options for establishing foreign residency if you want to live in the country full-time, and it is home to established and welcoming communities of expatriates and retirees. Thanks to the long-standing American presence while building and running the Panama Canal, a foreign retiree can find almost any product, service, or amenity he or she might be in the market for.

World-class shopping. The Riba Smith grocery stores in Panama City resemble the big grocery stores in any big U.S. city and stock everything from Aunt Jemima pancake mix to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. There are also usually large international selections including everything from wines to imported Spanish hams. The Do-It Center carries everything you need for home repair and maintenance. The four big shopping malls are home to brand-name shops from around the world, including Zara, Ann Klein, Nine West, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfigger, Hermes, Tiffany, and Cartier.

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No foreign language required. I don’t recommend it, but in Panama City you can get by without speaking Spanish. You’ll find, though, that your retire-overseas experience will be richer and fuller and your circle of friends will be wider and more diverse if you make an effort to learn at least a little of the local lingo.

Good and affordable health care. Health care in Panama is of an international standard. Panama City is home to Punta Pacifica hospital, the only hospital in Latin America affiliated with and managed by Johns Hopkins International. Most doctors in the capital city speak fluent English. And medical care in this country is a bargain compared with the cost of U.S. health care. Medical costs are higher in Panama City than elsewhere in the country, but even in the capital a doctor’s visit costs $50 or less. Local Panama health insurance can cost $100 per month or less.

Modern infrastructure. The infrastructure in this country is of a high standard. Panama City is the most developed city in the region. This is a place where things generally work. The Internet, cable TV, and phone service are all as reliable as anywhere in the U.S. The water is potable. The roadways and highway systems are being constantly expanded and improved. Panama City is also an international travel hub that is very accessible from North America. The flight from Miami, for example, is about 2½ hours.

American currency. Panama City is an international banking center. You will find banks here from all over the world. ATMs are on every corner. The currency is the U.S. dollar, so U.S. retirees have no currency-exchange risk or exposure.

Retiree perks. Panama’s pensionado program of special benefits and discounts for foreign retirees is the current gold standard. Retirees in this country can save as much as 50 percent on restaurant meals, in-country airfares, prescription medicines, and even closing costs on your new beach house.

Job opportunities. If you’re thinking you might like to indulge your entrepreneurial inclinations in retirement, Panama stands out among the options for where to base yourself. This country is perhaps the best place in the entire world to start an international business, thanks to its pro-business President Martinelli and pro-business climate overall. The county also has a low cost of doing business, an educated, English-speaking, and highly affordable labor force, and favorable corporate tax rates and regulations.

Panama is a country on the fast track, open for business, and pushing hard toward First World status. The country’s economy is projected to expand by 10 percent in 2011 and it's citizens are enjoying continued growth and prosperity. The people you meet here aren’t losing sleep over their futures. They’re embracing them. Panama residents are building new, interesting lives in a land of opportunity.

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The county is bordered by two long coasts, one with crashing Pacific surf and the other with lapping azure Caribbean waves. Between them are wildflower-covered mountains and river-crossed jungles. This is a nature-lover’s paradise, boasting some of the world’s best surfing, snorkeling, sport fishing, and adventure-travel opportunities anywhere on earth. Yet, Panama is also a safe and welcoming place to call home.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.